Sustainability is a term that refers to the practice of productive habits which contribute to a healthier, cleaner environment in order to combat climate changes. Sustainability is something that anyone can do, including the fashion industry.
Evolution of the Fashion Industry: From Handmade to Fast Fashion
Fashion industry cannot be avoided. Others wear clothing out of necessity, while others do so as a form of luxury or expression. Fashion has impacted everyone’s life for centuries, no matter what their situation is.
At one time, people used to make clothes by hand using fabric and needles.
As time progressed, people began to seek out local artisans and craftmen to provide clothing for all seasons. Everything changed when the Industrial Revolution began in the 1800s.
Clothing was made more affordable and accessible than ever before thanks to the widespread use of machine-made clothing. The iconic styles of the eras and decades are etched in history.
Internet boom in the 1990s and 2000s was the biggest change to fashion since the Industrial Revolution. Fast fashion and ecommerce have forever changed the fashion industry.
Fast Fashion: The Rundown
Fast fashion is a business model where clothes are mass produced — usually copies of runway looks — using a cheap, expedited supply chain. The goal is to get the newest styles in the hands of customers as quickly as possible.
Workers are exposed to toxic materials, poor working conditions and cheap labor due to the rapid production process.
Fast fashion has been blamed for many of the negative environmental effects. This part of the fashion industry is not at fault, but what happened to fast fashion was a result of the luxury industry.
Fast fashion is simply a copycat of runway trends. Fast fashion companies produce mass-produced copycats of runway looks in just a few weeks.
What is the problem? The clothes are made of cheap polyester and dyed with toxic textile dyes.
Fast Fashion: Polyester and Pollution
Polyester is a synthetic material made primarily from petroleum. This fossil fuel emits harmful carbon dioxide emissions. The world’s most popular textile fiber, it has surpassed cotton.
The fashion industry is not a small one. It is estimated that the market for polyester will reach $174.7 Billion in the next 10 years.
Polyester is also not an easy material to produce. The production of polyester requires a lot of energy. In 2015, 282 tons carbon dioxide were reported to have been used.
The fashion industry is the second largest contributor to air pollution and water contamination in the world.
The entire industry is a part of a complex chain reaction, which begins with toxic materials, which release microfibers and microscopic plastics into the air and water, causing pollution that harms humans, animals, and even the ecosystem.
Fast Fashion: Today’s fashion, tomorrow’s landfill
Fast fashion changes trends quickly because it is so fast produced. The lifecycle of an item of clothing doesn’t end when it is time to swap out the old trend for a new one.
According to the EPA’s figures, clothing waste in the United States amounted 13 million tons during 2018. Around 70% of this waste was disposed in landfills, not recycled. Both companies and individuals generate this waste.
What is sustainable fashion?
Fashion is an industry that has a large portion of unsustainable products. Some companies are moving towards more sustainable fashion practices in order to positively contribute to the environment.
This refers to practices that aim to pay a living wage to the garment workers and reduce the carbon footprint.
Carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases that an entity emits. Net zero means eliminating all harmful products that contribute to climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.
What is the future of fashion industry?
Four reasons Sustainable fashion Matters
- Reduces waste
The fashion industry would reduce waste if it adopted more sustainable practices. Fast fashion has the problem that materials of low quality, such as polymers, deteriorate with washing and wearing.
This clothing cannot be upcycled into another piece of clothing once it has been used. These materials produce methane as they decompose in landfills. This can take 200 years.
The fashion industry could use more sustainable fabrics for clothing and reuse discarded garments to create a new one, rather than having to start from scratch.
- Reduce harmful emissions
When it comes to emissions, the first thing that may come to mind is factories with visible smoke. This is not a bad picture but it isn’t the only one.
Fashion industry has a large carbon footprint due to the energy required to produce the raw materials as well as the materials that are used.
- Conserve water
Fashion industry that is not sustainable uses a lot of water and has been shown to pollute the water.
Clothing uses 93 billion tons of water every year. Pesticides are also used in the production of clothing, which can pollute water nearby. This water then finds its way to lakes, rivers, and oceans.
This pollution is reduced by:
- Create water budgets to limit water consumption during production.
- Prioritizing organic and non-toxic materials that don’t require water or add toxins to runoffs.
- Conserving the ecosystem
When toxic chemicals get into the water they affect the entire ecosystem. Animals who drink the contaminated drinking water could become sick. The animals that eat these animals may also become sick. The food chain continues until the now toxic animals reach the human dinner table.
Fashion brands that are environmentally conscious use sustainable, chemical-free fabrics and monitor their water pollution.
Many brands have also pledged to be vegan and cruelty-free. This means that they use alternatives to leather and fur so as to not use any materials derived from animals in order to preserve the biodiversity of the ecosystem.
Three ways that the industry could become more sustainable
Fashion industry has a responsibility to promote healthy habits and create sustainable clothing for a healthier planet. It’s good to know that there are many ways companies can play their part.
- Waste not, want not
15 % of fabric ends up being thrown away or thrown on the ground. To combat overproduction, many designers have adopted new practices.
The following strategies are included:
- Geometric designs that make use of every inch.
- Create garments from scraps.
- Virtual sampling in 3D
- AI Product Image Analytics
- More body types can be scanned by mobile body scanning
- Use materials with care
The technological advances and discoveries continue making many more resources accessible for sustainable use. Many designers and businesses have committed to using recyclable materials and more sustainable manufacturing processes.
- Rent, upcycle and thrift
Upcycling is the process of reusing or repurposing material to create something new. In the fashion industry, repurposing old garments or materials into a new garment is referred to as upcycling.
The upcycling of fashion is eco-friendly because it reduces waste, reuses materials that would otherwise decompose on a landfill, and reduces toxic emissions from manufacturing and transportation.