There is no plan B

BY ANETA KOCISOVA

 

Do you ever stand in front of your wardrobe feeling lost and confused? I know the feeling. Gazing at the pile of clothes like staring into the abyss and thinking “I have nothing to wear”. Enter the savior; your everyday High Street Shop. It’s a sure bet that when you walk in, you’ll see tonnes of clothes that weren’t on the shelves the week before, anxiously waiting to occupy your overloaded wardrobe at home. And all those hardly worn clothes at home can duly make way for the new buys.

What’s more? Not only are people buying more clothes than ever before, but in order to get rid of the old ones, they are simply chucking them out.

Let’s be honest, it’s hard to resist the urge in the days of social media and the pressure of becoming famous on Instagram, instantly. Retailers are dutifully reacting to our desires by manufacturing for so called “fast fashion”, thus allowing even the not-so-rich amongst us to be stylish and up to date. As a result, we end up sacrificing on our desire for quality as it once was back in the day. And this, my friends, has ended up having a detrimental affect on our environment.

How, I hear you ask? Well, take your friendly, neighbor hood (high street) such as H&M, Zara, Top Shop et al, have started producing their clothes for single-use. One of the strategies they use is to make you feel “out of trend” after a week. To keep up with this regular, fast paced, ever changing production line, and in order to efficiently sustain a profit,  they end up using materials so cheap that they more than often prove to be very damaging and harmful to the environment.

One of the most commonly used materials is Polyester. Some of you may have noticed that Polyester causes a lot of perspiration. The reason is very simple; polyester is made from the very same materials that are used to make clear plastic water bottles.

“the fashion industry comes in as the runner up to the dirtiest in the world.”

One of these materials is petroleum. If this is exposed untreated to our air and water, not only causes significant environmental damage but also produces harmful carcinogens, and even specific health impacts on men.

Another product, which is as harmful as it is cheap, is Nylon. A by-product of producing nylon is Nitrous Oxide; a substance 10 times more potent than Carbon Dioxide, which itself has detrimental effects on our environment.

Even the soft and gentle Cotton we all love happens to come with its baggage. In order to grow cotton, farmers often heavily apply herbicides and pesticides, which often proves to be fatal in many cases. This isn’t only by direct consumption, but also indirectly through the use of contaminated land, which has absorbed the chemicals.  The chemicals also remain within the fabric for a long period of time, continuing to release its harmful toxins even when the garment is worn.

Manufacturing processes add their own woes to the final picture.

Just as we thought that fashion bloggers are the first to know of upcoming trends, its sadly the work of big corporations who are already manufacturing next years must have in their factories in some of the poorest countries of the world. On average, the process of manufacturing in the clothing industry involves around 3000 chemical compounds, each of which come with their effects on our earth and our health.

Shockingly, after oil, the fashion industry comes in as the runner up to the dirtiest in the world. This feat is only made possible by our excessive shopping and growing demand for “fast fashion”.

The effects on nature of the fashion industry can be felt the world over, but its actually the 3rd world countries that often have to deal with the environmental consequences. China, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are the premier destinations for big fashion brands to set up their factories, as the cheap labor coupled with government incentives for industry prove to be the most cost effective.

It allows companies like Primark to sell an average T-Shirt for just £1.99 and still hit a record profit year after year. We tend to see the low price tag for a T-shirt, but often fail to see the heavy cost to the environment that comes with our transaction.

The pace at which fashion is adapting to our demands (and vice versa), sadly means that the industry as we know it won’t be available to us anymore. According to McKinsey, if the pace at which the fashion industry is evolving continues, it’s footprint would result in an actual environmental catastrophe by only 2050.

The sad part is that in this era of compulsive shopping, these consequences aren’t even about the clothes anymore; it’s about the buzz, the thrill of purchasing something new. When the buzz fades, the need to buy kicks in. This gives us a temporary high, and then fades. And the cycle repeats itself; the wheel keeps turning on the path to catastrophe.

According to Greenpeace, over-consumption is now widespread. In Hong Kong, for example, a study showed that 53% of people had bought clothes, which they had never worn. China came in second at 51%, with Italy 3rd with 46%.

Perhaps if the collapse of a sewing factory in Bangladesh hadn’t killed 1150 workers, the world wouldn’t have noticed the reality of the dire process we are all a part of.

Perhaps no one would have manage to link the garment industry with the biggest man-made catastrophe in recent history; the shrinking of the Aral Sea.

Perhaps if 3.3 million people weren’t killed by air pollution in India and Bangladesh on an annual basis as a direct result of fashion factories, there would have been no need to raise awareness of this issue.

Perhaps if there is no malnutrition, anemia experienced by 99% of pregnant women, throat cancer, DNA mutation, acute pesticide poisoning due to soil toxicity in Uzbekistan according to World Health Organization.

Perhaps if all of these atrocities haven’t been happening, we would had never realized how eco or sustainable fashion is necessary.

Big fashion brands and celebrities are fighting, art schools are giving seminars about sustainable fashion, Vogue is presenting its first photo story made of eco clothing.

First pioneer of sustainable fashion was Stella McCarthy who said that: “sustainable fashion is the most fashionable thing.” You could read in November’s Vogue issue her interview about how sustainable fashion can be “sexy” and “how technology can save us.”

Other big brands are not an exception. Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Donna Karan, or Nike. Donna Karan started making clothing where silk is violence-free and there is no need to kill mulberry silkworms, Calvin Klein made waste material usable, silk-like material called cupro that is a regenerated cellulose fiber that is produced by treating cotton cellulose with cuprammonium salt.

Nike uses flyknit technology that produces 60 % less waste than traditional cut-and-sew methods. They reduced almost 3.5 million pounds of waste since 2012 and it took them 11 years to develop this method.

Did you know that Brits wear only 70% of clothes that are stored in their wardrobes? The rest 1.7 million is stored in our wardrobes unused. We keep our clothes for maximum 3 years.
The latest statistics show that European households produced almost 6 million tons of textile waste in one year. Almost 80% of it ended up at the landfills.

How can we effectively combat the consequences of “fast fashion” . Invest in quality rather than quantity
. Opt for eco-friendly materials
. Be curious – always find out where your clothing comes from

. Visit second hand shops, you’d be surprised what gems are often uncovered
. Recycle your used or unwanted clothing – give to those in need.

Change comes from an individual. If we all start taking responsibility for ourselves, then humanity as a whole will end up preserving on Mother Earth that has given us the most beautiful thing itself: life.

Let’s not kill it off !

Source: https://www.cataloguemagazine.com.au/feature/the-ecological-disasters-caused-by-the-fashion-industry https://news.nike.com/news/sustainable-innovation https://www.ecoout tters.co.uk/blog/fast-fashion-the-destruction-of-developing-countries/ https://fashionunited.com/news/fashion/greenpeace-study-shopping-does-not-make-you-hap- py/2017051515846

L'Affaire Magazine