“The biggest issue is the way people shop and the fast fashion climate today. This may sound like a small thing, but it is one of the biggest environmental issues today. Clothes that are made of plastic are not degradable, only the natural fibres are,” says Gabriella Lundgren. A Swedish stylist currently living in London and an advocate of educating consumers on how to buy clothes that are environmentally friendly and last longer.
“People today need instant gratification, meaning they want something and want it right away without thinking the buy through. Most of the time it’s the actual buy that makes them ‘happy’ and not the item itself,” she continues. “I love shopping and buying things, but the problem is that we tend to buy pieces of bad quality, that we only wear once and throw away, this is insanity.” “If I look at my dad, he stills repairs his wool socks, instead of buying new ones each time he [has] got a hole” in them.
Indeed, fashion is an industry that produces tonnes of clothes each year. It creates the desire in consumers to buy the seasonal “must-haves,” and once these clothes are worn a few times, they are thrown away for a new trend. This cycle may seem harmless or fun for most consumers, but fast fashion leaves a pollution footprint on the environment.
Toxic textile chemicals like sulfur, copper, mercury and synthetic dyes are routinely used in the production of clothes and contaminate waterways around the world. Leading to various diseases in humans. A 2017 study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group and Global Fashion Agenda predicts that by the year 2030, the amount of waste the industry creates will hit 148m tonnes, its carbon footprint will increase to 2,791m tonnes and water consumption will grow by 50%, which is 118 billion cubic metres.
The problem does not only affect the planet and its natural resources. It has a direct impact on people that work in factories. Especially, in emerging economies like India and Bangladesh. According to Remake, a conscious consumer movement founded by Ayesha Barenblat, garment workers earn less than the minimum wage at three dollars per day, to make the clothes we buy from retailers. In addition, 80% of workers are women between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five who sometimes have to work under unsafe conditions to feed their families.
“I love shopping and buying things, but the problem is that we tend to buy pieces of bad quality, that we only wear once and throw away, this is insanity.”
Unsurprisingly, the industry cannot turn a blind eye to such facts. Eva Kruse, the president and CEO of Copenhagen Fashion Summit, which promotes sustainable fashion encourages brands to adapt their production processes by using raw materials which reduce carbon emissions, recycling old items to produce new products and cleaning up their supply chains. Fashion designers like Stella McCartney have also managed to create luxurious collections, using ethical procedures and inspired others to follow suit. For example, Gucci decided to ban the use of fur in all its future collections, last year as part of its sustainability plan. Meanwhile, high street retailers like H&M have introduced a fair living wage strategy with the aim of having an “improved wage management systems in place” by 2018.
But Lundgren argues that with small steps and the right knowledge, everyone, including consumers can also create change. “When I have a private customer to style I talk about how to shop, and how to make the right purchases. It might sound expensive to invest in good pieces, but trust me, you will end up saving money in the end and saving the environment,” she expresses. “I always think through my buys [and] check the care label to see what [I am] paying for. The material, the logo, or design and have knowledge [of] how to take care of my pieces so they last longer.”
Although Gabriella acknowledges that it may take a long time and a lot of work before the industry achieves real change, she is hopeful that 2018 is the year that fashion,”will take many steps to save nature.”
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