I start the year on a serious note. Our focus is understandably on Covid and the devastating impact it has on our lives as individuals, businesses and global implications. However, a disaster of equal magnitude is hurtling towards us, namely the destruction of our planet.
If you share my passion for fashion, we need to understand the contribution garment production makes to the pollution of our environment. Ignorance is no excuse, and the world relies on every individual to make a positive impact in reversing global warming.
Sustainable fashion takes into account not only the production process of a garment, but also the socio-economic costs. The product life cycle of a single garment has many stages with each stage potentially having a negative impact on the environment and the social and cultural impact on the workforce.
The statistics reflecting the number of garments we consume each year is eye watering with an increase of around 400% from twenty years ago. Furthermore, fast fashion clothes last only half as long as the items we would have purchased twenty or so years ago. It is nigh impossible for fast fashion to have any consideration to the social and environmental impact they have.
When we think of environmental pollution, images of oil refineries and coal burning power stations pumping many noxious chemicals into the atmosphere come to mind. We do not think of fashion producers in the same way. Yet, they are one of the most environmentally damaging industries. They pollute all aspects of the environment; air and soil not to mention one of the biggest users of an ever-decreasing natural resource, namely water.
As consumers it is our responsibility to consume in a more sustainable manner, which in turn will put pressure on the manufacturers to produce more sustainably. The most obvious place to start is to buy mindfully and buy only what we really need.
When we do buy, buy from ethical producers and garments of better quality and timeless designs. The latter do not go out of fashion. Quality garments are more durable and will last much longer than that of cheap garments. You will also gain a much lower cost per wear with quality clothes. Look at the labels and where possible, buy garments produced with mono-fibers as these are much easier to recycle.
Buying new clothes are also not the only way in adding to your wardrobe. There are opportunities for swapping or renting clothes as well as purchasing first loved clothes.
Furthermore, take loving care of your clothes, including reducing the amount of time you wash your clothes. Find a good dressmaker to mend and make alterations if it is not part of your repertoire. This will reduce the amount of clothes you have to get rid of eventually. Get creative and upcycle your items to give it a new and fresh look. Adding a scarf or any other accessory has the ability to transform any garment. Borrowing from the Slow Food Movement, Slow Fashion encapsulates much of what made that trend successful: awareness, responsibility, quality over quantity, protection of cultural identities, choice and information. More about this topic next month.