Whether you call it fashion or keep it simple and say the garment industry, this huge section of the global economy is booming, and it’s not good news for the climate.
Perhaps you’ve heard the term ‘fast fashion?’ This model implies that just like fast food, fast fashion is cheaply made, not good for people, and equally bad for the environment. The fast fashion model has seemingly gathered speed over the last few decades, and shows no sign of slowing down.
According to Fashion for Good, a brands incubator in Amsterdam, the fashion industry is going to grow by 63% by 2030, and the fashion industry will take up 36% of carbon budget in 2050 in the form of growing, harvesting, processing, dying, and shipping textiles around the globe. I found these numbers to be truly shocking!
Our current model – like so many other extractive industries – is a take/make/dispose model, a linear industry that is wasteful and harmful in various ways. Isabelle Laurencin, Director of the Fashion for Good-Plug and Play accelerator program, and Emma Scarf, Ventures Analyst, whom I saw speak at ClimateLaunchpad last week in Edinburgh, explained that an industry growing this fast is going to collapse onto itself at this rate.
Fashion for Good-Plug and Play was born from a unique Partnership between Fashion for Good and Plug and Play with the purpose to find, accelerate, and invest in solutions that can transform the textile industry into a circular and sustainable model. They work closely with major corporations like adidas, the Kering Group, C&A, Galeries Lafayette, Stella McCartney, Target, PVH, and Zalando in addressing their sustainable innovations challenges and support their engagement with startups.
Why the Fashion Industry Needs a Sustainability Solution
Additional stresses of the fashion industry includes the dying of textiles. Not only are the dyes used for clothing toxic to humans, about 20% or the world’s water pollution comes from the dyeing and finishing industries. These operations use huge amounts of water – about 43 million tons used each year.
Creating a more circular model for the fashion industry needs to be a key focus of all brands in the coming years. A more circular vision for the fashion industry includes reducing the amount of items we purchase, reusing those that we do buy (most items are used only a few times before being trashed or donated, the industry term is ‘low garment utilization’), refurbished or repaired (which includes buying higher quality things that CAN be refurbished or repaired), and then recycled, of course, by donating or repurposing the items once they are no longer good enough to wear.
But even before you make clothing purchases you have the opportunity to make an impact. You can avoid fast fashion, and choose more sustainable brands, like Patagonia and PACT, both of which offer truly sustainable materials and transparency in operations. Another key thing you can do is to adopt a more minimalist wardrobe: not only does this reduce your decision fatigue of choosing what to wear each day, it also requires fewer items in your closet.