You may have been seeing a lot of posts about Fashion Revolution or the hashtag #whomademyclothes this week. That’s because it’s Fashion Revolution Week! In this opinion piece, find out why you should care, as well as what you can do to join the movement and make a difference.
Fashion is a very destructive industry.
Combined, the global apparel and footwear industries account for an estimated 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions (Quantis), of which 83% is – you guessed it – apparel. That might not sound like a lot, but in a business-as-usual scenario, experts estimate that the apparel industry’s climate impact is going to increase 49% by 2030. This means that the apparel industry is going to emit today’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions from the whole of the United States of America.
Fashion takes a serious toll on our non-renewables.
Many stages in the making of garments are energy-intensive, and most of that energy still comes from non-renewables like coal. 60 percent of the material that makes up our clothes worldwide are made of plastic – polyester, nylon, acrylic, and other synthetic fibres (International Cotton Advisory Committee). With a typical wash, one study found that 700,000 plastic clothing fibres could come off, polluting our seas with more microplastics (Marine Pollution Bulletin). And that’s a conservative estimate.
Think natural fibres are better than synthetics? Think again.
Just because they come from plants and animals doesn’t mean they fare any better than their manmade counterparts. Cotton is infamously thirsty – one kilogram of it requires 10,000 litres of water to produce (Water Footprint Network). Pesticides and insecticides usage has degraded soil quality over the years, rendering what was once fertile ground useless. Cleaning silk requires many harsh and intensive treatments and chemicals. Developing countries, where much of the garment factories are located in, often lack regulations against groundwater pollution, so these chemicals end up in our waters. (Thankfully, organic alternatives exist, and though they’re not perfect, they at least help alleviate the chemicals problem.)
The fashion industry hurts the people that work in it, too.
Aside from its climate impacts, the fashion industry is also known to be associated with its many ethical violations. In February this year, Oxfam released a report detailing the living conditions of garment workers in Bangladesh and Vietnam. Almost all workers interviewed were not paid a living wage: the minimum income necessary to meet basic needs such as food, housing, and other essential needs for a decent standard of living. Fashion is also a high-risk industry for forced labour. Child labour and violent against women and children is rampant.
And this all only covers what we know.
Much work has gone into improving fashion’s planetary impacts, but the industry is still failing on transparency. The Fashion Revolution’s annual transparency index looks at fashion brands and their disclosure of social and environmental policies, supply chain tracing and impacts of their sustainability initiatives to determine their transparency scores.
The result? This year’s report – that just came out – gives the 200 major brands and retailers they researched on an average rating of only 21 percent. Carry Somers, co-founder of the worldwide, nonprofit Fashion Revolution movement, remarked: “The fashion industry still operates in an opaque manner, which is a huge barrier to change.”
We are in dire need of a fashion revolution.
Six years ago, on 24 April 2013, the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed, killing 1,138 people and injuring 2,500. The same problems that plagued the industry six years ago continue to plague the industry now. Because of our capitalistic economy, companies must chase after sales and profits to succeed, which comes at the expense of planetary health. Our natural environment and people suffer as a result of the way fashion is made, sourced, and consumed.
To commemorate Fashion Revolution Week, here’s a video breaking down all you need to know about ethical fashion, and what you can do to take part in the Fashion Revolution.
Fashion Revolution was born to turn fashion from the destructive monster it is to the force for good it can be. This week is Fashion Revolution Week – which means you get to be part of this incredible global movement to encourage fashion to do better. This week, we want you to ask brands and retailers #whomademyclothes, and find out more about the process of making what you put on your body every single day.
At Green Is The New Black, we believe everyone has the power to take action, so here are some #LittleGreenSteps you can take (courtesy of Fashion Revolution), not just this week, but every week from now on, to help create a better fashion industry:
- Turn your clothing inside out, take a selfie and ask that fashion brand or retailer #WhoMadeMyClothes on Facebook or Twitter
- Send an email to a fashion brand or retailer to find out #WhoMAdeMyClothes
- Send an email to your local policymaker to find out what they’re doing to create a fairer, safer, cleaner, more transparent fashion industry
- Try a #haulternative: purchase secondhand or ethical, swap or DIY
- Share your fashion love story: take a picture of your favourite clothing item, share the story behind it, and commit to a long-term relationship with it #30wears
- Learn something new about the fashion industry
- Spread the word about Fashion Revolution and raise awareness among your friends, family and community
- Participate in Fashion Revolution events and get involved in your local Fashion Revolution movement
We’ll say it again: we are in dire need of a Fashion Revolution. The power of your voice, together with the many others who are speaking up with you, can and should change the world. Don’t just speak up. If you can, vote with your dollar: support brands who are doing good or make more conscious choices with fashion. Because your actions matter more than you think – especially in a world where time is running out.