With an increasing shift towards conscious consumption worldwide (for both worker and planetary benefits) there are increasing reasons to opt out of disposable fashion and look for more sustainable fashion brands with strong social and environmental responsibility.
While price accessibility may be a reason for shopping the high street, how you treat your clothes, how often you wear and how often you make new purchases can still influence your impact on the planet.
Disposable (‘wear-it-once’) fashion is one of the next big environmentally-damaging topics and for us there are 3 major reasons to opt out of the ‘too-much-clothing’ epidemic and instead put our purchasing power into clothes that you will wear ‘forever’ and sustainable fashion brands.
There is an innate lack of respect for workers in the mainstream fashion industry. As recently as 2015, 10% of the fashion world’s workers and their families were living below the international poverty line of €1.8 per day1. If a brand talks about ensuring their workers are paid at least the minimum wage in the country of manufacture, they are doing the very least that is required by law, and don’t deserve to be congratulated.
Furthermore, the industry has, on average, 5.6 injuries per 100 workers each year – the fashion supply chain exposes garment workers to concerns ranging from factory fires, to exposure to hazardous chemicals, to working overtime1.
As a major driver of economic prosperity in developing countries, the fashion industry is well placed to make a difference by improving social conditions.
What You Can Do:
If you believe that workers in the fast fashion industry should be treated with respect, working in a safe environment and paid fairly, choose brands who are producing their clothes ethically, locally and perhaps even handcrafted.
We require brands we stock at CONTENT to actively put the workers front and centre of their ethical initiatives to improve lives and the industry. But you can also look for initiatives that certify this, like the Fair Trade, Fair Wear Foundation which ArmedAngels have been part of since 2015.
Workers in the fashion industry should be treated and paid fairly, and you could vote for this kind of working environment through the brands you choose to purchase from. No factory worker should have to wear diapers because they aren’t allowed a toilet break.
It takes up to 3,000 litres of water to make just one t-shirt, and up to 10,000 litres for a pair of jeans. A study undertaken by the Global Fashion Agenda found that in 2015, 79 billion cubic metres of water was consumed by the fashion industry, and it was projected to increase an additional 50% by 20301.
The amount of water being used in the fashion industry is not the only concern. We also must think about the synthetic chemicals leaching from materials that pollute water throughout production. It is estimated that around 20% of the world’s industrial water pollution can be attributed to the treatment and dyeing of textiles, resulting in millions of gallons of chemically infected waters. Clare Press, fashion journalist and the author of Wardrobe Crisis said “In some cases farmers can actually predict the colour of the season by looking at the colour that the rivers are running.”3
Additionally, consumers are responsible for even more water consumption through washing clothes (get our guide on how to do laundry sustainably). As water scarcity worldwide becomes more extreme, it’s conceivable that we may be forced to choose between material production and clean drinking water. No clothing is worth the sacrifice of clean drinking water.
What You Can Do:
When shopping online at CONTENT, look for our badges CO (Certified Organic) and CM (Certified Materials) to view the brands that are reducing their impact on waterways, and our RI (Resource Innovation) badge for brands that are recycling waste water to clean it and reuse it.
To reduce the water-print of our own wardrobe, when buying new clothes think about buying second-hand or looking for up-cycled clothing that has been made from recycled garments and fabric (see The R Collective instore) – keeping already existing materials in circulation and reducing the need for more resources.
Choosing organic cotton over regular cotton is another way to reduce your wardrobe’s water impact. Organic cotton still uses a lot of water, but is grown without the use of the usual chemicals and therefore doesn’t contribute to water pollution in the same way. Always seek out brands using GOTS certified dyes and treatments.
Read our guide on how to do laundry sustainably for simple hacks to make this household chore better on the environment.
Today, an average consumer throws away an individual garment after 7 uses, and about 95% of clothing that ends up in landfill could actually have been recycled. Fast or as we like to call it, ‘disposable’ fashion, lures consumers into believing they constantly “need” the latest looks, fostering a throwaway culture.
Not only is there a huge amount of textile waste produced from throwing away garments that end up in landfill, but the clothing manufacturing process is also creating waste in the way of microfibres from certain materials. For example, polyester uses the same material found in plastic bottles so when you wash clothes made of polyester, thousands of microplastics end up in washing water and eventually, waterways. Get our guide on how to keep microplastics in washing clothes out of washing water.
What You Can Do:
Look for our badges RM (Recycled Materials), UP (Up-cycled garments) and WI (Waste Innovation) when shopping online for the brands that have reducing waste as part of their ethos.
When buying new clothes opt for durable investment pieces made from high quality materials that will last longer. Reuse your clothing for as long as possible, which may include mending and repairing to maximise its life. Stay tuned for our mending and embroidery events, coming soon.
There are also companies who have initiatives to take back used clothing and upcycle the material into new garments – for example, Mud Jeans are a denim brand who take back jeans, shred them into small pieces (if they can’t be donated to charity) and mix them with organic cotton to make new jeans. Deadwood leather jackets are made from rescued deadstock leather, repurposed vintage clothing and upcycled post-production waste.
And lastly, donate anything you’re done with to a second-hand store for them to resell onto a new owner, or host your own clothing swap with friends.
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- Global Fashion Agenda and the Boston Consulting Group. (2017). Pulse of the Fashion Industry. Retrieved February 12, 2019, from: http://globalfashionagenda.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Pulse-of-the-Fashion-Industry_2017.pdf.
- United Nations Environment Programme. (2009). UNEP Yearbook – New Science and Developments in our Changing Environment. Retrieved February 12, 2019, from: https://www.preventionweb.net/files/8358_UNEPYearBook2009ebook1.pdf.
- ABC News. (2017). Fast fashion: Rivers turning blue and 500,000 tonnes in landfill. Retrieved February 12, 2019, from: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-28/the-price-of-fast-fashion-rivers-turn-blue-tonnes-in-landfill/8389156.