Sustainable Fashion and the Fight Against Fast Fashion’s Environmental Impact

Sustainable Fashion and the Fight Against Fast Fashion's Environmental Impact
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Sustainable Fashion and the Fight Against Fast Fashion’s Environmental Impact

Reading Time: 2 minutes

As the fashion sector doubles its production, the environmental cost of fast fashion becomes more evident. Sustainable fashion is gaining traction as circular production models and up-cycling practices gain momentum.

Let’s just call ‘fast fashion’ what it is: not sustainable fashion. While the truth is obvious to anyone has been paying attention, ‘fast’ puts a desirable spin on a number of reprehensible practices. The only thing about unsustainable fashion that should be fast, is its demise.

Fashion can be sustainable

It can certainly be more sustainable. While many industries that operate at fashion’s scale were beginning to change their practices to improve their image at the turn of the millennium, fashion doubled down on the environmental degradation and cheerfully added human rights abuses in the name of ‘fast fashion’. They actually went backwards.

Things are beginning to look very different now.

In Barcelona, the Sustainable Fashion Association is leading the charge towards more sustainable practices in the fashion industry. The association’s up-cycling brand has already re-used 30,000kg of donated denim fabric, converting it into other products such as bags and purses, or re-spinning it to create a new fabric for their fashion collection.

While natural fibres like cotton are easier to recycle, Spain alone discards 23kg of clothes per person annually, with only 12% of that amount recycled. A quick note here that there are plenty of people in the world who don’t even own 23kg of clothes. Recycling is just one step towards sustainability; the fashion industry also needs to reduce resource consumption and pollution during the fabric-making process.

Josep Moré, CEO of a textile finishing and dyeing industry, is working on reducing resource consumption through machinery digitalization that controls water and carbon emissions. He is also developing an ecological dyeing system. However, he laments that the fashion industry is not willing to pay more for sustainable practices.

Mar Isla, Chair of Circular Economy and Sustainability at the Pompeu Fabra University, emphasizes that consumers must also play a role in reducing clothing waste by making conscious buying decisions.

The fashion industry has a significant discrepancy between where clothes are consumed and where they are produced. Approximately 80% of the production comes from Asia, while most clothes consumption happens in the West.

The production model is also characterized by inequality. The current trend of fast-fashion and low-cost clothing promotes consumerism and has led to the problem of casually throwing away products. To address this issue, there is a need to change the way people consume and to be more mindful of their buying choices. When a T-shirt costs $9 or less, it raises questions not only about sustainability, but also transparency and ethics in the fashion industry’s supply chain.

Calling out fast fashion for what it is – unsustainable – might help consumers make the right choice, but, ultimately, designers, small producers, and researchers need to work together to implement more sustainable and circular fashion practices.

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