As you've probably gathered from my recent blog posts my work this semester has focused a lot on sustainability within the fashion industry. It is a subject I have been interested in for a while but learning more about the reality of how and where our clothes are made has really made me want to change the way I shop for the better.
The fashion industry uses huge amounts of resources: water, energy, chemicals, oil, the list goes on, but it is also responsible for terrible pollution from the use of pesticides and dyes as well as the exploitation of workers around the world.
|Water Pollution caused by textile dying|
We all know that Primark is bad but the reality is many of the high street chains people perceive as offering better quality and ethics don't, Zara for example, despite charging much more for their products were recently at the heart of a scandal involving the use of slave labour in their factories. As consumers we have very little concept of where our clothes come from or how they are made and what I have realised from my research is that often companies don't know either due to the complex supply chains in the fashion industry.
3% of Hong Kong's daily textile waste
I am as guilty as anyone of shopping and not thinking about what it is I am buying, what its made from and who they are made by but I've decided that I need to change my shopping habits.
There are a lot of ways to wear more sustainable clothes, the most obvious one is to buy less and wear what you already have. If you think about the amount of energy, resources and time that goes into each garment you own it makes no sense to leave half of them in the back of your wardrobe and then throw them straight into landfill.
Another way to be more sustainable is to buy from charity and vintage shops. Reusing clothes means your are consuming less virgin materials and making use of what has already been produced. Another great idea is upcycling, either by adapting your old clothes or buying from companies that remake second hand clothes. A brand I really admire are Goodone who produce beautiful clothes from second hand clothes and industrial waste fabric, the designs are really modern and wearable, breaking the stereotype of what 'ethical' fashion looks like.
|Goodone AW 2012 collection|
There are a lot of companies out there that are doing a lot to improve how sustainable they are, one of the aspects of this is improving the tractability of products so consumers know where their clothes have come from. Nurmi are a band that really focus on this element of their business producing garments that not only are low impact but can be traced back to their source. I really love their jeans which are made from hemp and organic cotton and produced in Finland.
Unfortunately buying sustainable fashion is more expensive than high street clothing and in reality a lot of people will choose the £2 Primark T-Shirt over the more expensive organic cotton, ethically sourced version. But on the other hand by cutting back on the impulse buys in the Topshop sale you will save money allowing you to invest in better quality clothing that doesn't cost the earth, that's my plan anyway!