If things don’t change soon, the fashion industry could use a quarter of the world’s remaining carbon budget to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius by 2050, and use 35% more land to produce carbon fiber. 2030.
Although it sounds incredible, it is not. Over the past 15 years, the production of clothes has doubled while the length of time we wear those clothes has decreased by almost 40%. Falling prices have seen people buy more clothes than ever before while spending less money in the process.
It’s not sustainable. Something has to give. In our recent report, we propose the idea of a wellness wardrobe, a new direction for fashion in which we prioritize human and environmental wellbeing over the ever-increasing consumption of disposable fast-fashion.
What would that look like? This would mean that each of us would reduce the number of new clothes we buy by up to 75%, buy clothes designed to last and recycle clothes at the end of their life.
For the sector, this would mean tackling the low incomes of the people who make the garments, as well as support measures for workers who may lose their jobs in a transition to a more sustainable industry.
Industry sustainability efforts are simply not enough. Fashion is accelerating. Fast fashion is replaced by ultra-fast fashion, releasing unprecedented volumes of new clothing into the market.
Since the start of the year, fast fashion giants H&M and Zara have launched around 11,000 new styles combined.
Over the same period, super-fast fashion brand Shein released an impressive 314,877 styles. Shein is currently the most popular shopping app in Australia. As you might expect, this acceleration produces a huge amount of waste.
In response, the fashion industry has come up with a series of plans to tackle the problem. The problem is that many sustainability initiatives still put economic opportunity and growth ahead of environmental concerns.
Efforts such as shifting to more sustainable fibers and textiles and offering ethically conscious options are commendable. Unfortunately, they are doing very little to address the sector’s rapidly increasing resource consumption and waste generation.
On top of that, violations of the labor rights of supply chain workers are rampant.
Over the past five years, the industry’s problems of child labour, discrimination and forced labor have worsened globally. Major garment-producing countries, including Myanmar, Cambodia, Bangladesh and Vietnam, are considered at “extreme risk” of modern slavery.
Here’s what we can do to remedy the situation.
1. Limit resource usage and consumption
We need to have serious conversations between industry, consumers and governments about limiting the use of resources in the fashion industry. As a society, we need to talk about how much clothing is enough to live well.
On an individual level, this means buying fewer new clothes, as well as reconsidering where our clothes come from. Buying second-hand clothes or using rental services are ways to change your wardrobe with less impact.
2. Develop the slow fashion movement
The growing slow fashion movement focuses on quality of clothing rather than quantity and favors classic styles over short-lived trends.
We need to give renewed attention to repairing and caring for the clothes we already own to extend their life, for example by reviving sewing, mending and other long-lost skills.
3. New trading systems
The wellness wardrobe would mean moving away from existing fashion business models and embracing new systems of exchange, such as collaborative consumption models, cooperatives, non-profit social enterprises and B-bodies. .
What is that? Collaborative consumption models involve sharing or renting clothes, while social enterprises and B-corps are businesses whose goals go beyond profit, such as ensuring decent wages for workers and minimizing or eliminating environmental impacts. environmental.
There are also methods that do not depend on money, such as swapping or borrowing clothes with friends and altering or redesigning clothes at repair cafes and sewing circles.
4. Diversity of clothing cultures
Finally, as consumers, we need to foster a diversity of clothing cultures, including incorporating knowledge of Indigenous fashion design, which is focused on respect for the environment.
Exchange communities should be encouraged to recognize the cultural value of clothing, to rebuild emotional bonds with clothing, and to support long-term use and care.
Moving from a perpetual growth model to a sustainable approach will not be easy. Moving to a post-growth fashion industry would require policymakers and industry to introduce a wide range of reforms and reimagine roles and responsibilities in society.
You might think that’s too hard. But the status quo of constant growth cannot last.
It’s better to act to shape the future of fashion and work towards a wardrobe that’s good for people and the planet – rather than letting a tidal wave of wasted clothing eat up resources, energy and our budget. very limited carbon.
(This article is syndicated by PTI from The Conversation)