From green mobility to Greta Thunberg, the issue of sustainability is one of the major hot topics nowadays. In particular, there is a desire to act in the interests of the planet also through fashion. It is in this context that you will certainly have heard of sustainable fashion and clothing as an alternative to fast fashion.
THE FASHION INDUSTRY BECOMES SUSTAINABLE
Despite being no more than a marketing strategy for many companies, fashion sustainability is not only a trend, but a real need and an urgency to face a situation turned dramatic.
The environmental impact of the fashion industry
The apparel industry has experienced huge growth in the last 20 years: the number of garments purchased per person between 2000 and 2014 increased by about 60%. At the same time, the lifespan of clothing has been halved. This led to terrible consequences for the environment and for many people involved in the production.
From an environmental point of view, the fashion industry contributes to around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. With its long supply and production chains, the clothing sector consumes more energy than aviation and shipping combined. This is why we need to take action to reverse the model that has driven the fashion industry in recent years.
Help the environment, but at what cost?
Being sustainable often involves sacrifices and compromises. Although people are increasingly sensitive to this issue, sometimes having to change their lifestyle leads people to give up their purpose. In R3UNITE, we think that you can support ethics and sustainability without sacrificing anything. That’s why our garments are both sustainable and “stylish”, designed with an authorial vision inspired by the city culture. The city is our place and we are urban dwellers that do not want to give up the lifestyle and comforts that cities offer us.
THE ISSUE OF FAST FASHION
Fast fashion is a business model based on the rapid mass production of cheap clothing to meet the most recent fashion trends. Many brands have been successful by choosing this approach. While these brands have given the public access to fashionable clothes at affordable prices, they have also brought great changes in consumer behaviour. The public has been led to believe that a garment is ‘old’ after wearing it only a few times.
The increase in consumption caused by the fashion industry has numerous consequences. We will look below at just some of the effects this has had on both the environment and society.
The increase in waste
Waste depends on both large-scale production and low-quality garments. Quality and durability have been pushed aside in favour of cheap clothing that meets the current trend but will be out of vogue the following season. This has led to a huge number of garments ending up in landfills. To give a number, 10.46 million tonnes of clothing ended up in USA landfills in 2014.
The increase in pollution
In addition to waste, pollution depends above all on the materials used to produce the clothes.
Cotton, for example, is in 40% of all clothing and it is a highly water-intensive plant. Though only 2.4% of the world’s agricultural land is planted with cotton, it consumes almost 10% of all agricultural chemicals and 25% of pesticides. Fast fashion is based on cultivations that make extensive use of highly polluting chemicals. If not properly disposed of, these products are very risky for the environment.
Synthetic fibres, such as polyester and nylon, can be found in 72% of garments and their production generates greenhouse gas emissions.
The growth of sweatshops
And, last but not least, comes the issue of sweatshops. In order to cut production costs, companies have outsourced their labour to economically developing countries. Here the labour is much cheaper and laws are far laxer. In these countries the rise of the sweatshops, textile industries often protagonists of repeated scandals over labour conditions, including a total disregard for basic safety measures, low wages, violence in the workplace and child labour.
SUSTAINABLE, ETHIC AND SLOW FASHION: LET’S MAKE IT CLEAR
Even if the fast fashion model is still predominant, there are several newborn sustainable clothing brands and several established companies investing in sustainability. This is demonstrated by the emergence of sustainable clothing brands and the openness of well-known companies to review their offerings from a green perspective.
There are different types of sustainability in fashion and companies that want to invest in it can follow different approaches. We talk here about sustainable fashion and ethical fashion. While both maximise the benefits for the fashion industry and society, they also minimise their environmental and social impact. Although similar, the two concepts highlight different interests:
- Sustainable fashion is mainly environment-related and it focuses on reducing the impact of garments production. It involves avoiding the use of pesticides and insecticides by using organic methods. In doing so, the use of alternative or recycled materials is encouraged for both garments and packaging. Moreover, sustainable fashion pays attention to wastewater and energy use. And it can support environmental projects.
- Ethical fashion instead focuses on people and ethical issues. It pays attention to the geographical origin of the garments, the working conditions and the brand message. And it supports charitable initiatives or local communities.
More generally, the term slow fashion highlights the opposition to the fast fashion model, supporting a new vision of the industry. It fights excessive production, overcomplicated supply chains, and mindless consumption. Values shared from both an ethical and a sustainable approach.
HOW TO SUPPORT SUSTAINABLE FASHION AND WHAT WE CAN DO
As you might have guessed, 100% sustainability is not only a dream, it is just impossible. For example, you introduce microfibers in the environment just by washing your clothes. It is clear that it is not possible to eliminate the emission of co2 in fashion industrial production. But if you wish to know how to support sustainable fashion, we can give you some advice.
- Buy less. If you are really involved in the mass consumption of fast fashion think about purchasing fewer garments. You can make them last longer.
- Buy sustainable. Companies have the responsibility of not being very clear about their sustainability standards. Sometimes, it can be difficult for the consumer to understand if a garment is really produced in a sustainable way. Being informed as possible is one solution but sometimes you do not have time or possibility to do so. If this is your case, just think that probably the less transparent a company is, the less sustainable it is. And if a t-shirt costs 5 dollars it is probably not sustainable.
- Buy second-hand. Choosing to buy vintage or second-hand clothes is for obvious reasons more sustainable. This way you avoid purchasing a new garment and all the energy and materials consumption it involves. You will give new life to clothes that would otherwise be at the end of their life cycle.
- Buy local. Choosing to buy locally produced clothes as well as helping the local economy can be a guarantee that the garment was not produced in a sweatshop under unacceptable working conditions. In addition, clothing transportation is responsible for part of the emissions of toxic and pollutants substances that make the industry so harmful to the environment.
HOW TO CHANGE WITH R3UNITE
R3UNITE is a streetwear fashion brand that has sustainability as a core value. We use materials that are as sustainable as possible and fund social or environmental projects with our released collections. We are on a mission and we think that with our clothes we can make the world a better place. Both for the environment and for people.