Is Fashion a villain for our planet?
“Fashion fades, style is eternal.” — Yves Saint Laurent.
Most of us are familiar with this famous quote by Yves Saint Laurent and have used it many a time as a caption to our Instagram posts posing in our new Zara dress or new pair of H&M jeans. But what most of us are not familiar with is the striking question, Does fashion really has a fading effect on our planet, or Does our ever-increasing want for new fashion trends leaves an eternal mark in degrading our planet?
Being a fashion lover myself and having been exposed to these shinning armors of different fashion brands, I also feel the rush to add the next best-looking blazer to my closet and am even more allured to acquire it when it’s on sale. Yes, at some point in our lives we all have fallen for these temptations produced by the fashion industry. We have never felt the need to question the industry before adding numerous apparel and accessories to our carts at one click. But why is it now so that Fashion is being questioned? Is Fashion really the villain?
The definition of Fashion as mentioned in Wikipedia goes by, Fashion is a form of self-expression and autonomy at a particular period and palace and in a specific context, of clothing, footwear, lifestyle, accessories, makeup, hairstyle, and body posture. The term implies a look defined by the fashion industry as that which is trending. What is important to highlight in this definition is ‘defined by the fashion industry as that which is trending’. Fashion was always a form of self-expression and the freedom to express was never toxic to the planet but what is bearing fruits of toxicity to the planet is the lifestyle we are subjected to attain by the fashion industry. The ever-changing trends or ‘Fast Fashion’ is what has been living in most of our closets playing the part of the villain. Fast Fashion is a huge downhill for the trajectory of our planet’s life and we will discuss it in deeper magnitude in our further posts but now let us scan through the alarming data about the damage caused by the fashion industry to our planet.
The fashion industry consumes one-tenth of all of the water used industrially to run factories and clean products. To put this into perspective, it takes 10,000 liters of water to produce one kilogram of cotton or approximately 3,000 liters of water for one cotton shirt. Furthermore, textile dyeing requires toxic chemicals that subsequently end up in our oceans. Approximately 20% of the wastewater worldwide is attributed to this process, which accumulates over time. After finding this, I dug into my closet to find half of it to be cotton. That left me dumbstruck at the amount of water I have sucked into my wardrobe from my planet and that is just me out of the 7 billion.
I might have sighed at that moment but certainly, the next fixture on my mind was the amount of clothes being produced over and over. Due to the affordability of clothing and the decreasing attention span consumers have been put through by the industry, there are tons and tons of clothing produced over the years, and let me give you a heads up, the numbers are in billions. What is more damaging is the waste produced due to this increasing graph of consumption because from personal experience I can that I might not wear the same t-shirt maybe after wearing it 10 times and here we are not just speaking about t-shirts or ourselves, here there is this whole industry making and disposing of clothes. You might argue that it helps our economy but the cost paid by our planet cancels out every possible growth of the economic graph. Landfill accumulation and incinerated clothing are becoming reasons for health hazards faced by humankind and its environment also.
As reported by McKinsey & Company, the global apparel and footwear industry produced more greenhouse gases than France, Germany, and the UK combined in 2018, totaling 2.1 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions — approximately four percent of total global emissions. Without significant action, the figure could rise to around 2.7 billion tonnes a year by 2030. This is a red light for the fashion industry as an increase in carbon footprint has direct consequences on climate change, affecting the rise of global temperature. The fashion Industry might bring trend-setting winter wear to the streets but that might become a fad soon if it does not work upon decreasing its carbon footprints on the planet.
These were some of the brief points which have hit the alert button for the consumer in me. Following the question posed by the title of the post, I as a fashion lover and consumer just have one thing to offer that as a consumer it is not about the answers but it is about the questions. If we make ourselves aware and ask the relevant questions to the industry, I am more than sure that the industry will be forced to devise better answers. And I am glad that we have started that and there is a word ringing through the fashion industry now — — Sustainability.
I will leave you with that word for now and until the next post let’s pledge to become aware consumers of this society.