Usually when someone mentions the environment, I think more about recycling, having a compost bin and how often I might get in a car than I do about the amount of waste that can be produced when making one ‘batch’ of garments.
With the women’ s fashion industry alone valued at over 621 billion dollars, it follows that with such retail demand there must be consequences for the environment.
Despite the general idea that there are two fashion seasons; Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter, high street brands such as Zara and H&M are actually churning out 52 ‘micro-seasons’ a year, with up to 400 new styles a week appearing on their websites.
It is hardly secret that most brands are not exactly concerned in making their clothes last for the long haul; some are specifically designed to last two to three washes before falling apart. Cheaper brands put a small mark up on their clothing, but make their profits in shifting hordes of garments at a time.
Doing some further research, I considered the consequences of this steroid-like style turnaround and found statistics conducted by Edge Xpo. They found that second to oil, the fashion industry is the largest pollutant in the world. Additionally, it takes up to 5,000 gallons of water to manufacture one t-shirt and one pair of jeans.
While I’m sure you’re not sitting there quite as gormlessly gobsmacked as I was upon discovering this information, it does make me think back to when I’ve heard the term ‘sustainable fashion’ before and what it entails.
UN Women’ s Goodwill Ambassador, Emma Watson has been very strong proponent on this issue for the last year. As the theme of the 2016 MET Gala was ‘the fusion of fashion and technology’, Watson collaborated with designer, Calvin Klein, to craft an outfit made from 100 per cent recycled materials. The main body of the garment was made from recycled plastic bottles, as were the zips. Then, the cotton and silk components were sourced organically and ethically.
Watson went on to say in interviews that the sustainability of the garment does not end at its creation, but each part can be repurposed and reworn.
Speaking to ABC News, she said “The trousers can be worn on their own, as can the bustier, the train can be used for a future red carpet look. I am proud to say it is truly sustainable and represents a connection between myself and all the people in the supply chain who played a role in creating it.”
You can keep track of the humanitarian’s sustainable fashion journey via her purpose made Instagram account documenting the press tour of her latest film, ‘ The Beauty and the Beast’ (@the_press_tour).
As students, we may not be able to collaborate with couture designers on the regular to create items made from recycled materials – but it all starts with awareness.
Repurposing and recycling old and unwanted clothes is a great start. Charity shops are everywhere! Plus you could always cut up that hideous print pencil skirt your mum insisted on you keeping for interviews when you need a new dishcloth.
By Vicki Shadbolt