The 2016 Resort Collections are currently showing in New York City.
The world clothing and textile industry reached over $2,560 trillion in revenues. It is the excitement of so many new and creative ways we can transform ourselves that makes fashion such an addictive and stimulating draw.
There are more than 7 billion people living on earth and they all need something to wear. According to Tree Hugger http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-fashion/25-shocking-fashion-industry-statistics.html it would take 672 years to count only 3 articles of clothing per person if you tallied one per second. Most of us have many more than 3 articles of clothing.
There are no statistics on how many garment industry workers exist in the world. It is in constant flux to meet seasonal and market demands.
Garment production is often the first step in emerging economies. The labor intensity on all levels of the industry, employing mostly women, has a staggering environmental and social impact.
The challenges are:
Sustainability starts at the drawing board by making choices that create the least impact on resources and people. Few designers go beyond seasonal, market trends and aesthetics.
Working conditions in an international industry with complex supply chains. Living wages, overtime, cheap child labor, workplace safety and human rights are very difficult to locate let alone monitor across so much cultural and economic diversity.
Making yarn into fabric, skins into leather, and plants, worms or petrochemicals into fibers uses an intense amount of natural resources and chemicals.
Transporting resources, materials and garments all over the world often times criss crossing continents multiple times makes for an irresponsible industry abundant in immeasurable greenhouse gas emissions .
Growth and Price. All businesses need to grow. Clothing just keeps getting cheaper. The demand for cheap clothing has become an expectation. Competition is fierce.
Consumer care of their clothes. Consumers need to care for their clothing in environmentally conscious ways to reduce water use, reduce drying time, reduce dry cleaning, reduce water temperature, reduce number of times cleaned, repair worn garments, recycle used garments, and repurpose all textiles.
Animal rights. Animals skins, wool and down are often supplied in unsustainable ways. Demand is huge for exotic skins, endangered species, horn, bone, fur, angora, silk, and cashmere as they all become materials used in the competitive “deliver more for less money” contemporary designer level.
Conscious Materials Marketing. For example, Polyurethane is marketed as “vegan” leather but it uses solvents that require protective gear during manufacturing. Fine lamb skins became smaller and smaller due to the high demand and then shortage of baby lambs. Etc., etc., etc.
Supply chain visibility to inform the customer where all levels of the garment are processed would take an awful large care and content label.
Ethical Trading. Many factories supply many brands so all companies need to comply with set standards to eliminate moving orders and constantly changing factory names when wage requirements increase or compliance rules get more strict.
Water scarcity, use and waste in producing clothing is mainly due to growing cotton, the world’s most popular fiber, and dying fabrics and yarns. Making and wearing clothing is a water intense process over the entire life of the garment.
Chemicals are used in every stage of a garment’s life such as pesticides, fertilizers, dry cleaning solvents, dyes and dye fixatives, finishes, machine lubricants, stain removers, detergents, petrochemicals and their processing chemicals.
Pollution of air and water is not regularly monitored in light of the economic and employment benefits involved in clothing and textiles.
A Close Loop model involves products, components, or materials re-purposed into the same product or used by the same company. A Circular Economy is an economic model that is regenerative by intent and design. Clothing and Textile companies are starting to realize the cost benefit over the long term.
The following companies and organizations are involved in Sustainable Clothing Initiatives:
Nike, Esquel, Walmart, H&M, Levi’s, Adidas, and Burberry to name the large ones. There are many more.
Animal Welfare & Material Ethics
Better Cotton Initiative (BCI)
Better Mill Initiative
Ellen MacArthur Foundation
Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI)
Fair Labor Association (FLA)
Fair Wage Network (FWN)
Fur Free Alliance
International Labour Organisation (ILO)
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
Partnership for Cleaner Textiles (PaCT)
Sustainable Apparel Coalition Textile Exchange Higgs Index
Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC)
The Climate Group
World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC)
How You Can Help:
- Care for your clothing with awareness. Use lower water temperatures, less drying time, and clean less frequently.
- Buy detergents that are eco friendly.
- Read fabric content and care labels.
- Reuse, repurpose and recyle all textiles. They don’t belong in landfills. Many green markets now have textile recycling booths.
- Check out Audrey Supple Maker Faire “Fashion on the Make” to learn how many people it takes to make a designer dress. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kJYBnniNgk
- Google any of the above companies and organizations plus sustainable clothing to find out how they are involved.
- More and more boxes are placed in public areas to discard unwanted clothing and textiles.
- H&M is involved with all of the above organizations! They have boxes in all of their stores for no longer wanted garments. Check them out!!