The most imminent discourse today should by all means be the ecological and environmental catastrophe that we are marching towards with our heads held high like nothing is happening. The more I speak to people and research cause and effects and what individuals in power positions are willing to do in order to reverse the effects of our creative and not only industries on the environment the more disappointed I get with the result, which is – no one gives a shit. Or a very few do. Most people stick to the ‘the other guy will do it’ approach, or even worse ‘if they are abusing their responsibilities while making more money why shouldn’t we?’. I get it everyone wants to make a buck, but at what expense? Well, everyone not living in a cave watched the long awaited “Don’t Look Up” over this past Christmas or at least I hope you did. Regardless, for those who didn’t to sum it up: a bunch of Hollywood’s highest paid, Oscar winning actors came together in a satirical picture produced by Netflix that shines some very truthful light on the governmental approach to climate change. The story was wildly exaggerated and excessively satirical, but to our sorrow extremely resonant of the reality.
Now there are many different aspects of the disaster that us humans have inflicted on our planet, and all those points should be addressed, but I want to pinpoint the effects of the fashion industry on the environment. Non-biodegradable materials and how these are recycled and whether the people who have taken it upon themselves to recycle and sort the waste that is affecting climate change and the entire welfare of our planet are doing so.
First things first, I am a consumer, and I do not yet recycle, and I myself am trying to understand What? When? How? (a formula in media) that clearly applies here I am not a hypocrite, I am probably one of those individuals who creates more than average waste with my parties, shopping, travel and other inconsiderate habits surrounding my disgusting “luxury” lifestyle.
The fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters of the environment. More and more one hears the term sustainable fashion, and even though we use the term as it is so on trend at the moment, many of us have no fucking clue what it even means. So sustainable fashion refers to a garment produced in more sustainable (for the environment) circumstances and materials. This can be done several ways, so just because something says sustainable fashion does not mean it actually is, often companies will use that term if 5% of the production was from upcycled material. This is a big trend right now, so companies have found new ways to rebrand and increase their sales, even if it makes little difference to the environment. Although I ought to explain what sustainable fashion really means in a few words: a garment produced with as little pollution as possible, most of the time using organic natural materials (almost impossible), or recycled/upcycled materials (any non-biodegradable material that can be used over and over for a 100 years) thereby making it more sustainable. Now for this to be truly sustainable every aspect of production needs to be green, which is virtually impossible in today’s World so if you read a label that says sustainable divide by 10 as it is just ‘more sustainable’, however in order for even this to be made possible materials need to actually BE recycled. Which means the companies that take it upon themselves to sort rubbish, recycle it and sell it back – must do so. Yes, in some Countries it is more regulated, but to reverse or even just slow down the effects of pollution it must be a global effort – more about that later. Back to fashion. So, there is data that states 3 out of 5 items of clothing produced end up in landfills, now imagine how many items of clothing are produced yearly. 100 billion items of clothing are produced every year, that is roughly 33 billion items of clothing. The numbers are atrocious and scare me, yet most likely it won’t stop me from going out and purchasing garments that I like, which is the big problem with our society – back to my introductory point. A good way to reduce fashion waste is not only by rubbish companies recycling the materials but also by us consumers reusing our own garments. Whether it is renting, or re-selling (dollar or euro or maybe even crypto signs in the eyes of consignment store owners should light up), a way to take care of the issue is re-use, which is essentially what recycle means. This concerns the uber luxury brands less, as most consumers purchase Chanel, Hermes and Dior as investment pieces to pass down to their young as vintage collectibles. But anything else in one’s wardrobe that is not being used whether it is Zara or Primark can be re-used over and over or revamped into something new again.
As earlier stated, the market for sustainable fashion is booming and a lot of companies produce items with 5% sustainable processes in order to be able to add that label. But this is not the only problem there is the faux fur factor, which in reality deserves a whole separate article to begin with as cramming it all in here is next to impossible, but I believe we will revisit this topic many times over from many different angles, so I’ll just run with it. A few years ago, a big deal was made in the mass media with big brand names such as Versace and Burberry in newspaper headlines regarding them stopping the production of fur. Of course, it is a smart strategy to stop using fur in future collections given the younger generations stand against it and they are now the market to cater to, but somehow the press release suggesting this decision was out of consideration for the environment the named brands quickly switched to faux fur. Which in actual fact is a VERY popular choice amongst the uneducated young fashionistas who feel so sorry for the poor animals and they don’t buy a Versace down coat unless the trim isn’t faux fur. Unfortunately for the planet though, traditional faux fur is produced using different forms of plastic and takes thousands of years to biodegrade which means we are back to square one. We are against the chemicals natural fur pelts are dipped into for preservation purposes, but we are more than happy to wear an entire chemical substance in its stead. I would be cracking up too if it wasn’t so sad. Just to put this in better perspective, faux fur is made of petroleum, acrylic, modacrylic, polyester, etc. EW! For the record I am not promoting real fur either, yes, I do wear it, but whether I will buy it again or not is up for debate. I do still buy leather so one might ask what is the difference? And yes… once again it is a whole new subject. Perhaps fur garments can be bought also if they are recycled instead of faux fur. That seems like a more plausible choice, or unless the faux fur in question is produced from previously recycled plastic and acrylic – now that would be sustainable fashion. But who really knows?
The one thing that is certain is that lies surround the topic of sustainable fashion and recycling in general. In the EU governments are given massive budgets in order to sort their rubbish and separate and recycle the materials, and sure some part of it is done but a large quantity is landfilled. The companies given the large sums of money to purchase the necessary machines and equipment do not make further investments into the manual labour and supporting necessities needed to sort the waste and of course let’s not forget they need to pocket a chunk of change too. So, boys and girls at the end of the day it does come down to money. None of us are an exception, we all sell out for loose change. Unfortunately, money will not stop climate change.