Fast fashion industry: a sustainable future
24 April 2019 | Written by La redazione
The textile sector is one of the most impactful at environmental level with aspects that also affect the ethical and social spheres.
Eco fashion, recycling and fair trade are new approaches to fashion, a sector that needs a profound change given that, according to the latest report drawn up by the United Nations, it is the second most polluting industry in the world, after that of oil. The fast fashion garments, that is all those that are produced quickly and economically, emit pollution at every stage of their processing, from production to disposal, to washing.
Speaking of sustainable fashion means dealing with environmental, ethical and social factors.
The environmental impact. The fashion industry produces billions of apparels every year, a surplus of articles that when remain unsold is burned causing significant carbon dioxide emissions. Synthetic fibers have the worst effects on the environment, plastic materials derived from oil are not renewable resources; materials like artificial fibers and viscose: fabrics of this kind, like nylon, elastane and polyester are not biodegradable and, with the washing, they release tiny fragments – the infamous “microplastics” – that from the washing machine’s discharge end up in rivers, lakes and seas, accumulating in the water causing significant environmental damage.
According to the IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, between 15% and 31% of the microplastics present in the oceans, in fact, derive mainly from washing in the washing machine.
Another risk factor caused by the materials that make up these tissues is bioaccumulation, a process by which microplastics enter our body from the skin and in the long run can increase the likelihood of serious pathologies.
Even the apparently preferable natural fibers should not be underestimated. For example, wool production causes important methane emissions: greenhouse gases come from livestock, which accounts for about 10% of global emissions. The most commonly used natural fiber is cotton but it is treated with fertilizers and pesticides. It would be better to choose garments made from bamboo or linen fiber, more sustainable alternatives as they have rapid growth and need less natural resources.
In Italy there are strict laws on the use of potentially harmful products, but the danger comes from abroad: customs inspections fail to stop all imported garments.
Fashion reuse and recycling. To address this dramatic situation, the “Green” fashion is born, an eco-sustainable trend: not only thanks to the use of low-impact materials, such as the aforementioned linen and bamboo fiber, but also by rediscovering the value of creative recycling. Many today see the possibility of giving new life to fabrics a real possibility for the future of the sector: not only niche brands have moved in this direction, but also some big brands have started to pay particular attention to the topic. Among these is The North Face which, with the project “The North Face Renewed”, offers renewed articles on the market, coming from rendered, defective or damaged clothing. The recycling of materials for fashion could be a second possibility not only for clothes but also and above all for our planet.
Recycling as a means to safeguard the planet these days is put on display in an exhibition, “Susteinable Thinking”, in Florence, at the Salvatore Ferragamo museum. One of the sections is completely dedicated to sustainable fashion, various approaches connected by a single fil-rouge: the second life of waste materials. From dresses obtained from fishing nets to those made with 3D printers, passing through t-shirts composed entirely of orange peel fibers.
Fashion Revolution Week. Reversing the trend is possible and that is why a campaign for sustainable fashion is underway on 22 April. The initiative is promoted by Fashion Revolution, a non-profit community made up of designers, academics, writers, entrepreneurs, politicians, retailers, marketing operators, producers, workers and all the fashion lovers who believe in a sector that values all the components of this industry: people, the environment, creativity and profit. With this initiative Fashion Revolution invites people to wear a garment on reverse, take a picture and post it on the main social networks using the hashtags #WhoMadeMyClothes and #FashRev.,
Carry Somers, co-founder of Fashion Revolution stated on its website: ” When everything in the fashion industry is focused on profit, human rights, the environment and workers’ rights are lost. This must end, we have decided to mobilize people all over the world to ask questions. Discover. Do something. Buying is the last click in the long journey that involves thousands of people: the invisible workforce behind the clothes we wear. We don’t know who are the people that make our clothes anymore, so it’s easy to pretend not to see and as a result millions of people are suffering, even dying. ”
Exploitation of human capital. Fashion Revolution Week aims to make consumers aware of the working conditions of the fashion industry, to guide more and more people towards the choice of sustainable clothing with respect for people.
The textile sector, in fact, is one of the industries that most exploits the work of human beings and that violates fundamental rights, through very low wages, lack of security and health risks, contractual precariousness. Most of the big brands of fast fashion have their clothes packed in countries where labor costs are low, mainly in Asia, creating huge quantities of poor quality clothes that often remain unsold.
The world of fashion, like so many other sectors, must change, from the technological, ethical and social point of view if it wants to survive in a world that is increasingly in need of change.