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Fashion and Climate Change

In 2023, young people are dressing to impress and always looking for instagram-worthy outfits, despite the increasing price tags, but at what cost to the planet?

Fast fashion names such as PrettyLittleThing, Oh Polly and Missguided are all too familiar to the young consumer, contributing to the 92 million tonnes of textile waste produced each year. It is estimated that the fashion industry alone is responsible for 2 to 8% of all global C02 emissions, as well as consume 215 trillion litres of water each year. Various global supply chains means goods have to be transported across vast distances for multiple stages of production.


As the majority of clothes produced on a mass-produced scale are made with non-biodegradable, environmentally taxing materials such as polyester and nylon, which are derived from fossil-fuels, they are not sustainable in the long-term and are damaging to the planet. An example of this is vegan leather, which was widely marketed as a eco-friendly alternative to natural leather, yet due the petroleum-based plastic nature of the product, is not any less detrimental. Substituting these raw materials for plant and animal based textiles like cotton, linen and leather, albeit still harmful, is a more renewable route for the clothing industry.


Alongside this, second-hand shopping has also increased in popularity, with more and more people wanting to express individuality and stray away from fast-fashion trends. This is not only beneficial for consumers, but also for the environment, as there is less demand for the fast-fashion that produces waste and emissions. Trends are known to circle back and eventually become stylish again, encouraging consumers to value longevity and quality in clothing products, which has become more apparent following the Covid-19 pandemic and current cost of living crisis. This is even more prominent amongst students who live on a tight budget with social pressures to dress trendy.


Upcycling clothes has become another effective method in combatting climate change within the fashion industry. Re-dying, patching, embroidering, cutting, or completely repurposing items of clothing is a unique way to design customised pieces that can be a further expression of the wearer's personality, which has become popular amongst young people. The creativity that goes into upcyling has been inspired by the likes of Depop and Vinted, where a plethora of second-hand clothes are showcased daily. With more and more people opting for one-of-a-kind upcycled pieces over fast-fashion items on these platforms, the demand for fast-fashion as a whole is decreasing, thus improving upon the negative impacts of the fashion industry.


With social media being so popular and influential, the fashion movement has spiralled in a way it has never been able to before, leading fashion brands are now encouraged to focus on transparency within their core values. Consumers are increasingly conscious of their carbon footprint, and highlighting the brand's contributions towards sustainability and becoming environmentally friendly can attract consumers, giving them an advantage over vintage trends. Furthermore, trends are now fuelled much faster through social media, creating more incentive for brands to design and produce new clothes. This is worsened by micro-trends, which come and go in fashion at a rapid rate, which encourages purchasing for single use rather than long-term. Even with the trend in second-hand shopping, large retailers attempt to mimic the vintage, rugged aesthetic, on a large scale.


However, this has caused the term 'greenwashing' to come into play, in which brands exaggerate the extent of their commitments to become 'green'. Although users are becoming less susceptible to greenwashing, it can be difficult to decipher the truth when leading fashion brands such as H&M, Zara and Nike all participate in false claims in improving their carbon footprints. This makes it difficult to distinguish what action leading brands are taking, especially as there is no legal accountability.


To read more on this issue, here is another Mindless article on greenwashing in fashion that may be of interest: https://www.mindlessmag.com/post/green-washed-fashions


Although consumers are moving in a more sustainable direction, the same cannot be said for the corporate fashion giants causing vast amounts of damage. Yet Patagonia, an established clothing brand, have taken an important step in fighting climate change, and have set an example for other businesses to do the same. As of 2022, Patagonia made the decision to donate all profits to climate change charity, the Holdfast collective, which protects biodiversity, supports communities and decision-makers that want to build towards a greener planet.


This step has set a new industry standard and raised consumer expectations for what large companies should be doing to improve the state of the planet, which combined with digital efforts inspiring second-hand shopping will begin the demise of fast-fashion.



















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