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Fashion: one of the most polluting industries on the planet

Fashion is one of the most polluting industries on the planet. Fashion was once a small scale production method, in the 18th and 19th centuries. But, today, and in the last two decades the speed of fashion has rapidly increased. Moreover, the manufacturing processes involved to create garments has resulted in continuous pollution. As well as this unethical labour practices have been used all over the world.

Different generations are becoming more aware of the devastation it is causing. As a result of this there are many goals that fashion businesses are putting in place.


Where to begin! Buying clothes has become a weekly, or even daily ritual for people. Clothes have become a lot cheaper, meaning that the items are often disposed by the following year. This may be because of the poor quality, or just because they’re not in trend anymore. But, we have to stop and think. Surely this isn’t sustainable in the slightest!? According to an article by Business Insider “up to 85% of textiles goes into landfill each year”. That's enough clothes to fill the Sydney harbour each year. Mind-blowing!

Although, this is just one of the problems. The composition of materials for clothing has changed. With polyester being a dominant fabric in the industry. As a result, hundreds and thousands of microfibres are released into the oceans every day. Whilst we may not see it ourselves. This is the equivalent of billions of plastic bottles accumulating worldwide.

It’s devastating to see the effects this has had on birds, fish and other animals all over the world. In 1997, Charles Moore founded an island of plastic, known to many as the ‘Garbage Patch’. This island is bigger than Texas. You’re probably thinking this must be mostly plastic bottles. But, micro-plastics make up 94% of this patch.

Due to this devastation taking its toll on the planet. It is important for businesses within the fashion industry to start thinking of ways to reduce their impact. Many retailers are incorporating strategies to reduce pollution into their brands.

The ‘Grace Beverley’ Strategy

For example looking into the new sustainable brand, Tala. Grace Beverley was aware of the damaging affects gym wear was having on the planet. She took this idea into consideration. And, created an athleisure brand, Tala. Her products range from leggings, to head bands. All made of 92% up-cycled materials.

However, her aim is for them to be 100% up-cycled. Brands are now having to take a conscious approach in the industry. With many start up companies thinking outside the box to reduce pollution. People are therefore in competition to be the most sustainable.

The Ethicality of Fashion

There has always been many issues when it comes to the ethicality of fashion. And, as we can’t see the people making our clothes, people are often not too bothered. Moreover, after reading the book Fashionopolis. It has opened my eyes to a side of fashion I never really saw before.

It is important for people in the industry to choose ethically when sourcing materials and manufacturing garments.

With the devastation of Rana Plaza back in 2013. Where over 1000 people were sadly killed in the collapse of the building. Retailers known to have sourced clothes from their included, Primark, Matalan and others. Unions have had to put initiatives into place so that the factories can’t take advantage of their workers. However retailers often don’t know what’s going on in the factories and tend to turn a blind eye.

“A fully renovated, safe factory could go back to being unsafe overnight” Gutierrez, The Guardian, 2018

This is an interesting quote from The Guardian. As it conveys how factories are still bending the rules even with initiatives in place. The fashion industry must do more to protect their workers. And, we should also take into consideration where we are buying our products from. Surely it is unjust for us to buy clothing from people who are unfairly treated?

Retailers & Philanthropy

As you know already, it is always important to give back to society. There are many people starving and homeless around the world. Therefore, retailers need to think of ways to help. For many years, various fashion brands have set up charities. Alternatively, they have given donations to existing charities.

Today, philanthropy is generally apart of retailers corporate strategy. As there is a growing importance for it.

Reading a Drapers article from 2019 opened my eyes to what retailers are doing. For example, Anthropologie are doing a collaboration with a charity this year. Traid (based in London) is a second hand clothes shop that will collab with the brand. With a pop-up store selling vintage and pre loved garments. This also shows their environmental awareness. As they are encouraging people to buy second hand clothes.

Other brands have taken different approaches towards Philanthropy. FEED, a business set up by Lauren Bush. Is a brand that wants to “change the world”. With over 700 million people hungry everyday. Every product FEED sells, provides school meals for children. They have given 111, 350, 327 meals so far. Isn’t that inspiring!

Food for Thought

After writing this article, it’s made me think. It really is crucial for Fashion Retailers to consider these 3 areas for development. I wanted to finish by giving you something to think about. Do you need that new top? Or is it just a want. Can you find it on Ebay or Depop? Second hand items are just as perfect.

With all these thought provoking issues, we must stop and think. Questioning our clothing choices. Where they have come from. Sustainability, ethicality, philanthropy. It is something we should be considering everyday.


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