In just recent years, the fashion industry is quickly arisen to become one of the most polluting industries in the entire world that brings a disastrous impact on the environment. Despite many penitential backers, especially the fast-fashion brands putting their weight behind practising sustainable and ethical fashion, yet they are the main culprits for creating a huge waste problem in terms of overflowing the landfills across the world. It is believed that the wastage will outlive the following generations of human civilization.
What makes the leading fast-fashion brands to gain legions of followers? By offering product ranges at low prices to lure the consumers for the sake of achieving a very profitable yet unethical business. Sadly, the consumers are clueless about the contribution to their favourite brands are indirectly bringing more harm than good to the environment.
To highlight just how fast-fashion brands are ruining the world, Malaysia generates more than 2,500,000 kilograms of unwanted fabrics each day, which usually sent into the landfills. Textile waste in Malaysia makes up to 5% of daily municipal waste, according to Kloth.
Nevertheless, there is still hope in the horizon, as can be seen by the increase in demand for sustainable and ethical fashion.
While breaking away from the fast-fashion mould, many sustainable fashion brands provide products that are sustainably and ethically made to reduce the carbon footprint with their best effort. Not to mention, these brands have gone ahead to show the world that ethical fashion can be a profitable venture. They also offer stylish and wearable design but never about dull and depressing clothing. Sustainable does not mean boring.
So, what is sustainable fashion?
Sustainable fashion is an emerging design philosophy and movement that push for clothing, shoes, and accessories to be manufactured sustainably.
The future could be bleak if other fashion brands don't join hands to implement sustainable and ethical fashion. That could lead to more problems such as human will be suffering in unbearable pollutions while animals are entirely vulnerable to the critical conditions caused by the inconsiderate acts.
Why should we go hand in hand
The reason for us the people and brands to participate in urging for sustainable fashion is simple - to lessen the environmental problems.
Let's look at the issues generated by the fashion industry and what should we do to help to alter the planet as their consumers.
Fashion industry emits over 1.26 billion tons of greenhouse gases every year. That is more than the combination of shipping and airline industries. And the worst part is, people are unaware of this severe issue that induces global warming.
What should we do:
Choose natural fibres over synthetic ones, which require toxic chemicals and high energy used in production. Natural fibres, on the other hand, derived from plant-based and shows positive impacts on both the environment and consumers, to name a few:
Derived from the flax plant. Linen is a durable, high absorbency, and non-allergenic fibre.
The most widely-used natural fabric in the world. It is soft, breathable, durable, and hypoallergenic.
LENZING™ TENCEL™ branded lyocell fibres derived from a sustainably managed forest. The wood-based fibres have naturally pleasing drape, and soft, silky hand-feel. TENCEL™ is well known for its high breathability and ensuring lasting comfort for sensitive skin.
Reduce consumerism – cultivate the habit of buying less clothing. It would be a difficult change in controlling purchases from the start, but we could try by choosing high quality, and long-lasting apparels that reduce the craves.
We, as the consumers need to extend the lifespan of each clothing instead of discarding them so quick by wearing less than 5 times. Learning the essential skill of repairing or upcycling clothes help to reduce carbon footprints as well as recycling them.
In the United States alone, over 15 million pounds of textile waste is generated annually, excluding imports. On average, each person throws away 70 pounds of textiles each year, of which 95% is recyclable.
Additionally, in the United Kingdom, there is around $46.7 billion worth of unused clothes in the wardrobe.
The fashion industry is also responsible for about 20% of global water waste. According to Cotton Inc, 290 gallons of water is required to grow high yield conventional cotton to produce a single t-shirt while 1,135 gallons for a pair of jeans.
In China, over 2.5 billion tons of water is discharged every year, making the textile industry among the top 3 water wasting in the country.
Also, 15% of fabric that is brought in as raw material usually ends up on the cutting floor.
The waste from the fast-fashion industry also pollutes the ocean and affects marine lives, inducing microplastic pollution. The shocking fact is that 1/3 of the microplastics in the sea, which are difficult to be seen, come from our washing machines. The microfibres (microplastics) shed from synthetic clothes are then drained away to the wastewater treatment plants. Unfortunately, they escape from the filtration system because they are too tiny to be entirely collected. Thus, they are ending up in the rivers and oceans, even in our ecosystem.
Many fashion brands have committed to becoming socially conscious brands, and some of them embraced this change by shifting to support sustainability.
Example of these brands includes:
Reformation by Yael Aflalo, a fashion startup that produces sustainable, trendy clothing and is backed by celebrities like Emma Watson and Megan Markle.
Luxury brands have also responded to embrace the change by going green and investing technology to offer sustainable fashion. For example, Kering announced to start manufacturing sustainable products across its 16 luxury brands. The organization focused on reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emitted in transportation and distribution as well as business flights, fuel and energy emissions by 50% in 2025.
Stella McCartney is also a well-known sustainable fashion brand and is part of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition who uses high environmental standards in producing their products. The brand ensures to use recycled polyester, regenerated cashmere, and organic cotton for the product range. They are also mindful of the labour conditions and animals welfare in dedicating to the commitment of ethical and sustainable practices.
The examples above indicate that sustainability and profitability can co-exist in the fashion industry.
It is crucial to change the constant clothing consumption mindset into making more conscious choices in buying less and choosing sustainable clothing over fast-fashion. Besides, we must know the clothing materials while purchasing because we could be contributing to microplastic pollution by our decisions. It is about our social and environmental responsibility to build a better future for our dear planet.
1. "Keep Fabrics out of Landfills". Kloth
2. "Fashion Industry - UN Pursue Climate Action for Sustainable Development". United Nation Climate Change
4. "Textile and Garment Recycling Facts and Figures". The Balance Small Business
5. "A New Textile Economy: Redesigning Fashion's Future". Ellen MacArthur Foundation
6. "Cotton Today". Cotton Inc
7. "Fashion Industry Waste Statistics". EDGE
8. "The Microfibre Issue". #WhatsInMyWash?
9. "Care: Environmental Responsibility". Kering
10. "How Ethical Is Stella McCartney?" Good on you