Throughout the years, plastic use has risen and fallen as we've learned more about the crisis we face through global mass production. Fortunately, some online and street clothing shops have recognized this, creating products with longevity and quality, focusing on sustainability.
Brands such as Patagonia, EILEEN FISHER, Levi’s, and Rothy's are an example of some of these, focusing on sustainability. Emphasising the importance of it within our generation. More brands are joining this eco-friendly 'trend' as (88%) of customers are looking for this, building a more sustainable society.
Why did we start using plastic?
Within the fashion industry, plastic has revolutionized the way we deliver and produce our clothing. In the '50s polyester was introduced into men’s suits which built the path to synthetic fibres becoming a core part of our everyday clothing. From our skinny jeans to our socks, synthetic fibres are in almost all of the clothing items we own. In fact, most new fabrics are made of plastic – up to 64% of them. But why? Why did we start using plastic within fashion after all this time without it?
For many reasons actually - introducing plastic into fashion meant prices went down, significantly. If we compare silk to polyester and wool to acrylic we can see prices go up to almost £80 difference because of production quality. But unlike natural fibres, plastic production doesn't have a finite production capacity. This means we can afford to make a lot more of it, making it more appealing to brands globally.
In addition to this, materials with synthetic fibres are much lighter compared to natural fibres. This makes delivery costs a lot cheaper with material being able to stretch a lot more. But despite these advantages, they pose a threat to our environment through microfibres, biodegradability, and our carbon footprint.
Why do we need to stop?
Microfibres are a type of plastic which are smaller than 5mm in size. These can include parts of synthetic fibres that shed when washing them, parts of plastic bottles and bags that break down in the sea, and microbeads within some costumes. On top of these harmful products, fashion can be harmful to our environment through carbon emissions when shipping products.
These are dangerous to our environment as too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causes climate change. Data shows that fashion production releases 10% of the world’s carbon emissions and is responsible for 20% of all water pollution worldwide. If the industry continues this way without change, it will produce 26% of the world’s carbon footprint by 2050. These statistics are shocking and the need for change is clear, but how can we help?
The easiest answer to this is to start being conscious of what we are buying. Investing in more sustainable fashion brands and checking what exactly is in our clothes. Which is easier said than done. The rise of social media and influencers has led to everchanging trends amongst all ages around the world. However, not all people can afford certain clothes from specific brands, meaning a gap in the market was created for fast fashion.
Fast fashion plays into the idea that outfit repeating is a fashion faux pas and that if you want to stay relevant, you have to sport the latest looks as they happen. Because of this, fast fashion plays a major contributor to the overproduction and consumption of synthetic fibres, making fashion one of the world's largest polluters. Brands such as ASOS, Boohoo, PrettyLittleThing, and Zara are contributors to this, but this is not aiming to make you feel guilty for purchasing from there. The responsibility of these poor labour conditions, the low pay, the high speed of production, and the large environmental impact, land squarely at these brands’ founders’, directors’, and shareholders’ feet.
What brands are sustainable and what are some alternatives to fast fashion? Luckily, sustainability is trending and more fashion brands are embracing this, creating more sustainable clothing which is also affordable. Globally, brands have begun to recognize the dangers plastic has on our environment, with many brands making a difference albeit small or large.
From changing to paper bags to using natural fibres, the responsibility is on all of us to collectively make a difference. This can be through small ways such as bringing your own bags to shops and washing your clothes less often, to buying from more vintage stores instead and focusing on buying from sustainable brands.
Examples of some of these are: