Sustainable fashion also goes through the return to some traditions using craftsmanship. Uncover also the impact the textile industry has on the environment.
When Karl Lagerfeld said, “Don’t dress to kill, dress to survive”, you might not have imagined that, now more than ever, we are living in a time in the history of Mankind where it’s paramount we know how to dress to survive.
During the second half of the XX century, fashion has become one of the main industries in the world. As such, fast fashion, the expression to categorize quick fashion industrially, has heavily contributed, on a large scale, aiming at massive export, oblivious to social and environmental impacts.
Following the oil industry, fashion is the second most polluting in the world. We must stop thinking about new approaches to producing and consuming clothing. Harriet Vocking, the Eco-Age sustainability consultant’s strategy director, advises that before buying a clothing item, let’s ask three important questions: “What am I buying and why?”, “What do I really need?” and “Will I use it at least 30 times?”.
Some facts on slow thinking
We introduce you next to some data from the World Resources Institute that help us think about the future of fashion.
1. Fashion industry produces 20 clothing items per person per year. 140 billion new clothing items every 365 days. 383 million clothing pieces per day: 4,4 thousand pieces per second.
2. Since 2000, European fashion brands have gone from merely two new collections per year to 24.
3. Fast Fashion makes over 92 million tons of waste per year. Globally, annually, around 90 million clothing items end up in landfills. Items made of non-biodegradable fabrics can remain in landfills for up to 200 years.
4. In 2050, the fashion industry may be responsible for 26% of the total carbon emission in the world.
5. The annual quantity of microfibers released into the oceans during laundry washing is equivalent to 50 billion plastic bottles. The problem aggravates because around 60% of clothes use polyester. This compound doesn’t decompose in ocean water. A 2017 report from the same source shows that 35% of all the existing microplastics in the ocean are composed of synthetic fabrics, such as polyester.
6. Making one pair of jeans produces as many greenhouse effect gases as driving a car for about 130 kilometers.
7. 2700 liters of water are necessary to make one cotton t-shirt, enough for the average basic needs of consumption for a person for two and half years.
Slow fashion. From crochet to macramé
Slow fashion’s concept was designed as an opposition to fast fashion and as a more sustainable alternative, fed by social concerns related to working and environmental conditions and the industry’s impact on the environment.
There’s a defense of betting on local products and workforce; small and medium scale production; the diversification of the supply; fairer prices, and the promotion of a socio-environmental awareness. Kate Fletcher, the woman behind the slow fashion designation, clarifies: “slow fashion is to plan, produce, consume and to live better. Slow fashion isn’t based on time but rather on quality (that encompasses time). Slow is a different approach, through which designers, buyers, retailers, and consumers are more aware of the impact of the products on the workforce, in the communities, and the ecosystems.”
When the British diver, winner of the gold Olympic medal, Tom Daley was photographed doing crochet (which he named his “secret weapon”) during Tokyo’s Olympics, many smiled and several others felt truly inspired. During the pandemic induced by Covid-19, the world had time to rethink many concepts and habits. Fashion designers were not the exception realizing the emotional value of what was made by hand, as well as its not-as-secret “weapon” potential, yet highly effective in slowing down the speed of everything, including fast fashion. Knitting, embroidery, cross stitch, macramé, and beads came rushing into our homes, taking up space and prominence in the present time where everything was, in fact, slowed down.
Nylon magazine has named this new trend the return of craftsmanship as craft core. Prompted by a mix of reflection and nostalgia, our grandmothers’ hobbies and habits went from being out to being absolutely in. It was an uphill climb from that point on, where they held prominence in 2021’s spring/summer runway shows featuring Chloé, Valentino, Bottega Veneta, Marni, Fendi, Christian Dior, and Alberta Ferretti.
The apparel items produced while respecting slow fashion’s values are usually unique and many times rooted in the culture where they come to fruition. The use of exclusive techniques of certain cultures helps to preserve and spread its beauty. Instead of using chemical products and artificial fibers that drain natural resources, natural fibers are the go-to. Consumers have the chance to spend their money accordingly to their personal values. By paying a higher price tag for those items that were made with more time and care, there is a simultaneous contribution for fairer payrolls and work schedules.
Producing high-end items takes its time, but it’s worth the wait. The positive impact of buying apparel produced using this approach is infinite. It’s time to consider the values we would like to wear.
The circular economy is trending
Every year, around 59.000 tons of clothing items that were not sold or used arrive in Chile, coming from every corner of the world. In the Atacama Desert, known for its magnificent volcanoes and salt flats, the landscape is now made of mountains of fabrics. The images shocked the world when they were revealed at the time of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change COP26.
According to the World Economic Forum, the circular economy, based on the principle of the 3Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle), is seen by the investigators as a more effective solution to mitigate environmental issues that arise from the fashion industry. Here are some of the expected changes, for the upcoming times, according to the WEF.
1. Renting and selling second-hand clothes
In 2021, approximately 36 billion dollars were spent buying second-hand clothes and around 30 billion in fast fashion. This difference will tend to increase as sales platforms, renting, and second-hand negotiation grows (in number and users). This paradigm change has one other significant impact since consumers start to face their clothes as a type of investment.
2. More effective stock management
Some fast fashion companies have been adopting management software that allows them to keep low stock levels. Reducing stocks is beneficial for the brands, from a financial perspective, and for the environment.
3. Tailoring clothes
Despite nowadays, tailors have become a somewhat endangered species, there will be a growing tendency for the (re)surfacing of tailoring and fitting clothing items services. It’s already common seeing renowned brands, like H&M, for example, offering services of tailoring and readjustment of clothing items.
4. Growing use of recycled materials
Did you know that nylon used in stockings can be chemically recycled and transformed into new underwear items? Currently, we are recycling less than 1% of the clothes we wear. H&M is one of the brands that has announced that it intends to use 30% of recycled materials in its products by 2050.
5. Redesigning jeans
Jeans are the most difficult clothing items to recycle. Nowadays, brands like Lee or Guess Jeans, among others, have been testing new designs and processes to facilitate the recycling of jeans.