The future of Fashion

Illustration: Jack Holland

Illustration: Jack Holland

The enduring appeal of fashion is that it can be whatever consumers want it to be—a means of self-expression, a celebration of originality and fine craftsmanship, or a temporary pleasure. But today, there’s no escaping that it comes with the burden of knowing it’s among the world’s most polluting and wasteful industries.

Today more companies are turning to recycled materials as a way to reduce their environmental impact, or maybe just to earn kudos from their customers. Following a United Nations initiative, 250 major brands pledged to cut single-use plastics from their supply chains and replace them with natural or recycled ones.

This was once a water bottle, now it’s a parka

According to recent reports by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, global textile production has more than doubled in the past 15 years, while the average shopper holds on to clothing for half that long. Over 85% of discarded clothing in the U.S. ends up in landfills, and this cycle of make/use/waste comes at a considerable cost—the industry generates more greenhouse gas emissions than do international maritime shipping and aviation combined, says the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. And that’s saying nothing of the unethical labor practices that have plagued many of the world’s fast-fashion and luxury brands.

The message seems to be getting across to fashion brands, which are starting to pay more attention to sustainability and working to reduce their impact on the environment. A number of new, eco-friendly fashion brands have appeared on the market in recent years. The outdoor clothing brand Patagonia, for instance, is probably the first name that comes to people’s minds when they hear the word sustainable fashion. One of the first companies to start making clothes out of recycled plastic bottles, Patagonia now offers only two fabric options for its products, either 100 per cent organic cotton or a blend of recycled cotton and recycled polyester.

Will it be enough to offset the fashion industry’s tremendous environmental impact? Probably not yet, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Consumers can also do their part by calling for companies to adopt sustainable practices and refusing to buy from those that fail to do so. Actions speak louder than words – and the time to act and save our planet is now.

Illustration: Jack Holland
Sources: Fortune - Wired - Richard van Hooijdonk