The fashion industry is one of the biggest sources of carbon emissions on the planet. In fact, The World Bank notes that it’s at fault for 10% of global emissions and wastes enough water to sustain five million people every year. And all this has far-reaching repercussions across the globe, especially for vulnerable populations in the global south.
From destructive droughts and depleting resources over Southern Africa to worsening typhoons and other natural disasters in Southeast Asia, it’s undeniable that we’re now feeling the environmental consequences of unsustainable industry practices.
But as everyone is now slowly shifting their focus on how to practice sustainability in fashion, we’re starting to see some promising solutions. In this post, we’ll take a look at the current trends that will shape the future of sustainability in fashion.
Upcycled Fabric Waste
In the UK alone, at least 350,000 tonnes of clothes go to landfills each year. This amount of waste is mostly credited to the huge demand for fast fashion and quick turnover of trends. Furthermore, the huge demand for textiles also affects those from the production line. Our post ‘Noisy Fashion’ notes that the job satisfaction rate for those employed in textile factories is below satisfactory due in part to the excessive noise levels they experience daily.
To help combat this, a lot of designers around the globe are starting to upcycle textile waste. These include used clothing and fabric scraps which will essentially be considered as raw materials. While today’s upcycling efforts are being done on a smaller scale, we will soon see this practice go widespread as the technology for processing fabric waste advances.
Slow Fashion Movement
In an effort to push back against the devastating effects of fast fashion, small fashion brands are now advocating for slow fashion. In a nutshell, the slow fashion movement is characterised by designing, manufacturing, and consuming garments with longevity and quality in mind. Along with this, it also tries to create clothes at a slower pace, mitigate the environmental impact of production, and to fairly compensate those who are involved in the process. On the whole, slow fashion aims to create the most ethically positive impact to the consumer, the manufacturer, and the environment.
In the UK, small brands like Ilk + Ernie and Thought are leading the slow fashion movement. Other than using sustainably sourced fabrics like hemp, bamboo, and surplus fabric, these brands also have limited releases which lessen the chance of unused and unsold garments. Despite the high price points of these brands due to the effort and planning surrounding manufacturing, their high-quality garments will stand the test of time.
Sustainably Sourced Textiles
Thanks to technology, brands of today can mindfully craft clothes that have less of an environmental impact compared to synthetic textiles. Most of our clothes are made with polyester, nylon, and acrylic — all of which pollute our oceans. As we wash clothes made with synthetic textiles, hundreds of thousands of small plastic fibres are released into our waterways. And eventually, this will all reach the ocean and become toxic to wildlife.
This is why there’s a dire need for innovations in the textile sector. Other than go-to sustainable fabrics like hemp, lotus, and stinging nettle, food wastes from apple, mushrooms, and pineapples can be turned into vegan leather substitutes. Since breeding cattle also creates a ton of carbon emissions, leather alternatives will push back the production for the real thing. Moreover, unconventional food by-products like coffee grounds can be turned to a yarn that has anti-odour properties, has UV protection, and dries 50 times faster than cotton.
All in all, the growing awareness for the negative impact fashion has on the environment has helped ease up the demand for fast-fashion. But in order to push these initiatives to success, consumers have to make a conscious decision to purchase only from sustainable brands. Sustainability isn’t a one-way street and both manufacturers and consumers play a part in making fashion a more sustainable industry.
Written exclusively for Aweimagazine.com