This week (19th – 25th April 2021) is Fashion Revolution Week, an annual event to raise awareness of the social and environmental issues associated with the fashion industry. Fashion Revolution was started as a response to the Rana Plaza tragedy in 2013, when 1,134 garment workers were killed in a factory collapse in Bangladesh. But has anything changed in the last 8 years? Are there signs that green really could be the new black?  

“What is ethical fashion? It’s a confusing term. Sometimes it’s easier to define by what it isn’t – and unfortunately, that is most of what can be found on the high street.”

Safia Minney, founder of People Tree and ethical fashion campaigner

Fast fashion brands would have you believe that the future is green, with new eco campaigns and initiatives hitting the headlines on a seemingly daily basis. Just recently, Primark launched their ‘Primark Cares’ campaign, endorsed by Laura Whitmore, and H&M enlisted Maisie Williams to announce their new ‘Looop It’ drive towards a ‘circular fashion future’. On the face of it, these programmes may seem like a win for the planet, however take a second look and you’ll see that underneath the greenwashing that little black dress is still very black.

Globally, factories are currently producing between 80 billion – 150 billion garments a year, with fast fashion brands driving overconsumption by releasing up to 20,000 new designs a year. H&M alone sells an estimated 3 billion garments a year. Primark claims to be on a sustainability journey, but their plan includes targets like doubling the number of garments made from recycled materials to 40 million a year and increasing the number of ‘sustainable’ cotton products to 60 million a year. 

If green really was the new black, we’d see these brands setting targets to reduce sales, close stores, and reduce resource use altogether – simply switching to supposedly more environmentally-friendly fabrics is not the answer.

“Fashion shouldn’t cost the earth.”

Environmental Audit Committee

Polyester is now the most commonly used fibre in clothing, and whether recycled or not, it’s responsible for clothing and textiles being the number one source of microplastics in our oceans. When we think about plastic pollution your outfit isn’t exactly the first place you might look, but synthetic fabrics shed tiny plastic fibres every time you wash them – up to 700,000 in every single wash! A recent report even showed evidence that this has been found on the sea bed and in the Arctic, where up to 90% of plastic pollution was man-made microfibres. 

So next time you see a fast fashion chain announcing their latest “sustainable” collection made from recycled plastics, stop and think twice about what this really means. Instead of another glossy celebrity ad campaign, we need radical change at an industry level. As long as fashion lives to promote the new and brands target growth at all costs, sadly green will never be the new black. 

Be Curious!

But that’s not to say we can’t green our own wardrobes!

“Everyone can do simple things that make a difference, and every little bit does count.”

Stella McCartney

Luckily there are loads of easy things we can all do to reduce our closet’s carbon footprint, as well as using our power as consumers and citizens to fight for the change we want to see. 

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world

Nelson Mandela
  • Follow Fashion Revolution, Fashion Act Now, and the Conscious Fashion Campaign on social media for info about the environmental impact of our wardrobes, and ideas for how you can get involved and help make a difference.
  • Watch The True Cost documentary to learn more about the damage being done by the fast fashion industry. 
  • Read “To Die For: Is fashion wearing out the world?” by Lucy Siegle, “How to break up with Fast Fashion” by Lauren Bravo, and “The Conscious Closet” by Elizabeth L Kline.

“Buy less, Choose well, Make it last.”

Vivienne Westwood
  • Use the Buyerarchy of Needs: take a second to stop and think before you shop and consider whether you really need the item at all, and before buying new try swapping, renting, buying second-hand or vintage, upcycling or making. 
  • If you do decide to buy new, avoid fast fashion and instead try and support small independent, local, or ethical makers – the Good On You app rates companies according to their sustainability practices so is definitely worth a look. 

“Care for your clothes like the good friends that they are”

Joan Crawford
  • Look after your clothes: store them carefully, repair any damage, wash garments with care (meaning only when needed, follow the label’s care instructions, cold wash at 30°, avoid using a tumble dryer or dry cleaning).
  • Buy a ‘Guppy Friend’ laundry bag to catch microfibres from the washing machine. 
  • Check out the Love Your Clothes website and social media for great tips on caring for and mending your clothes.

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