With the worldwide anti-plastic movement well underway, there seems to be an industry that is often overlooked for its environmental impact and poor sustainability: fashion. Behind its luxurious façade, lies a sinister ecological threat…
Highlighted in a recent BBC documentary fronted by Stacey Dooley, ‘Fast Fashion’ is exactly how its sounds: the rapid transition of designs from the catwalk to the high street. The problem? Emphasis is on the quickest and cheapest production possible, whatever the human or environmental cost.
By renewing their collections up to twice a week, mainstream chains generate enormous amounts of waste with millions of tonnes of clothing ending up in landfill every year. In July, Burberry admitted to burning £30m of old stock, instead of selling it off cheaper, to protect the brand’s upmarket label. For the countries hosting the factories supplying these chains, this constant demand for new fashion has resulted in devastating environmental consequences.
In the documentary, Dooley visits Indonesia, one of the many developing Asian countries which is known for its textile manufacturing and vast global exports. Here, one of the country’s largest and most important rivers is now one of the most polluted in the world thanks to the textile industry. At various points along this 300km stretch of water, sits water pipes that connect factories, some of which produce clothes for the brands we know and love, to this river. Pumping out litres of waste, chemicals and dirty water each day, the river is now contaminated with heavy metals such as mercury and lead, which are known to disrupt and damage the development of the brain. Yet the most heartbreaking thing isn’t the environmental damage, it’s the fact that thousands of families use this contaminated water for everyday use.
As a fully-confessed fashion lover and one who never strays from a good bit of retail therapy, this documentary was hard-hitting. It seems this is a never-ending cycle: brands produce clothes unsustainably, people buy them, new clothing lines are launched, old items end up in the bin. We will always be tempted by freshly stocked rails and influenced by social media stars with their latest hauls; hence, I know that along with millions of others, my shopping habit will continue.
So, what else can we do to try and break this cycle and stop a worldwide environmental issue from spiralling out of control?
Browse round the charity shops in the town – despite their poor reputation, I have found some amazing items in charity shops at tiny prices. There are also numerous vintage fairs which take place in Rubix throughout the year, as well as Guildford Cathedral. So keep an eye out for those!
To avoid clothes ending up in landfill, try and hand old clothes down to family members or swap unwanted items with friends. Make the most of H&M’s recycling scheme and receive a discount off your next purchase, or alternatively, there are often clothes collections run by charities.
Simply try to shop less! As a society we need to learn that it is okay to wear something more than once, and not only will you save money, but also the environment. Follow @fashioninflux on Instagram or her YouTube account to get inspiration on how to wear one item in various ways. Or you can customise unwanted clothes, for example, an old pair of jeans can be ripped, dyed or studded to create a totally different pair. You can even use old t-shirts as towels to dry your hair – they help tame frizz and are gentler on dry, damaged hair.
Text by Ella Gannon
Picture research by Juliéy Pham; featured image from Urban Outfitters.