“50% off Christmas party wear; 2 for 1 on Christmas jumpers; SALE MUST END SOON…”
As I browsed the sales, looking at the offers on shoes, dresses and bags, it had me thinking – how are fashion brands able to offer such low prices and at what cost to the environment? After some research, I found that the fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world, after that of oil. It’s responsible for almost 20% of global waste water and around 10% of global carbon emissions. Whilst the industry is currently valued at more than £1.89 trillion, employing over 75 million people worldwide, and is of huge global cultural and personal significance, the substantial environmental impacts should not be ignored.
A significant cause of this is fast fashion, whereby clothing designs move quickly and cheaply from the runway to retail stores. This is both a product and cause of growing consumer appetite for cheaper and ‘in-fashion’ products. However, it demands cheaper, quicker production and shipping methods and at lower quality and price, which encourages consumers to wear these items for minimal times before disposing of them in exchange for the newest trends. In addition to the environmental detriment, fast fashion is associated with dangerous working conditions due to unsafe production processes and hazardous substances, as well as unjust work conditions and low pay.
With many of us finding our diaries filling up with Christmas functions and get togethers, we can often find ourselves guilty of purchasing new items to reinvigorate our wardrobes during the festive season.
Sustainable fashion movement
At a time where fast fashion is the norm, how can we reduce the wider implications of the impact this is having on the world? It all starts with raising awareness. Sustainable fashion (or “ecofashion”) is a growing movement towards creating and consuming clothes in a more sustainable way. Sustainable Fashion Week took place from 11th – 19th September 2021 and was the UK’s first fashion week dedicated to promoting sustainable and ethical fashion. The event aimed to generate action from the ground up, starting with how we can instil new, more sustainable fashion habits. It acknowledged that changing the industry is essential to meeting the UN’s 2030 targets to reduce carbon emissions by 50%.
What can we do to support eco-fashion this Christmas?
In addition to supporting events such as Sustainable Fashion Week, there are daily ways, not just at Christmas but all year round, in which we can support eco-fashion, including:
- Buying clothes from countries with stricter factory environmental regulations;
- Choosing organic and natural fibres with low water consumption (i.e. linen and recycled fibres);
- Buying fewer, higher quality items;
- Keeping clothes for longer and recycling items (including donating to charity); and
- Shopping with sustainable brands.
If we all start by making these small changes and shopping more sustainably this Christmas and beyond, we can help tackle the detrimental environmental and social impacts of this extensive industry… and, even more aspirational, to encourage it towards a more sustainable and considerate approach.