Every minute in the UK we buy nearly 2 tonnes of clothing – thats the equivalent to 15,760 T-shirts.
It takes roughly 4.7 million litres of water to produce all those clothes. Thats enough water to give everyone a shower in the city of Bath.
And 59 tonnes of CO2 – the same as 500 car trips from London to Edinburgh.
All because of our unhealthy trend for fast fashion – retailers practice of producing cheap clothes as quickly and as frequently as possible.
Since the prices on these items are so low, they encourage consumers to buy en masse without thinking too much about their purchases. The result is that retailers are majorly overproducing. Consumers are buying clothes they dont really want and definitely dont need just because theyre inexpensive.
But this comes at a cost. A huge cost.
As fashion journalist Lucy Siegle points out: Fast fashion isnt free. Someone somewhere is paying for it. That someone is a marginalised garment worker. That somewhere is our own planet. Retailers are engaging in a dangerous race to the bottom in terms of forced labour and environmental concerns. As this happens, Fast Fashion is bringing a storm of human rights violations and environmental destruction on a global scale.
In the UK, every minute we throw away 570kg of clothing – the equivalent of 4,380 T-shirts. Enough to clothe every rough sleeper in London four times over.
According to a recent study, 43% of UK consumers throw away clothes after fewer than 10 wears, with 70% citing clothes losing their fit, feel and colour after fewer than five washes as the main factor behind this.
But the fashion industry is starting to take note.
CEO of Matches Fashion Ulric Jerome says: There is no longer any doubting the responsibility that we all have in the fashion industry, and how we urgently need to collaborate to really bring about systemic change.
By 2030 global apparel consumption is projected to rise by 63%, from 62 million tonnes today to 102 million tonnes — equivalent to more than 500 billion additional T-shirts. As a retailer we know that our responsibility is to work with our brand partners to understand their ways of working, and help and support them wherever we can to champion positive behaviours, from ensuring fair working conditions in their supply chains, to celebrating artisanal production and using lower impact materials.
Matches might be in-the-know, yet the same cant be said for all brands.
According to a poll by Fashion Revolution, of 219 brands, 91% of brands did not know where their cotton was grown, 75% did not know the source of their fabrics, and only 50% could accurately trace where their products were cut and sewn.
The lack of visibility and understanding within the apparel supply chain directly translates to a lack of accountability. And this lack of accountability subsequently enables the extreme environmental disregard that we are witnessing today.
The apparel industry creates huge demand for cotton. In fact, cotton farms represent nearly 50% of all irrigated land and are responsible for nearly 24% of all global insecticide use and 11% of all pesticide use.
But its not just the brands that need to be aware – the consumer does too.
According to secondhand retailer Patatam, the appetite for second hand clothing is increasing. Women now more than ever are willing to shop more responsibly, with 64% saying theyd happily buy second hand and preloved items, up from 45% in 2016.
And as the conscious Gen Z generation continues to gain financial independence, this trend will only continue.
There are loads of reasons to switch to sustainable fabrics.
And long gone are the days of ill-fitting, loose linen sacks that were the only option to be good to the planet.
Sustainable fashion looks so good you cant tell the difference.
Here are seven cool, sustainable brands to buy and treasure forever:
1. Labo Mono
After looking online for a good waterproof jacket that was both comfortable when cycling and didnt look like a typical cycling jacket so he could wear it any time, designer Ali Namdari quickly realised his choices were almost nonexistent. And the few jackets on the market that were typically in-between looked plain and were far from sustainably made.
So, he created his own.
Each one of Alis Urban Jackets is created using 30 plastic bottles.
The bottles are collected, washed, shredded, melted into fine yarn, and woven to become Labo Monos recycled polyester fabric.
This not only helps plastic bottles start a new and actually useful life, but also help to make huge savings on water, energy, and CO2 emissions.
An eco-friendly, PFC-free polymer waterproofing is then sourced in Germany and applied to all Labo Mono jackets.
This high-neck sweater is made from Brugnolis bio-based fabric.
The fabric is made from the patented 100% bio-based polyamide (sourced from castor bean with no impact on the food chain neither animal nor human) and is created using a dedicated production process that limits CO2 emissions.
The result is a fabric with super stretch and comfort, quick drying, anti-bacterial, chlorine and solvent resistant.
This new brand launched their store in Canary Wharf in April, but you can also buy the £128 jumper from their online store here.
These sustainable swim shorts are made out of 15 recycled plastic bottles, with the goal of ridding the ocean of plastic contamination.
Founder Zak Johnson is an avid kite surfer and scuba diver and has seen first-hand the devastation that plastic is causing the oceans ecosystem.
He says: Over the years I have seen more and more plastic in the ocean that is spoiling the ecosystem. By investigating the two major issues of ocean plastic and the damage that the fast fashion industry has caused, we realised that we can make a product that not only looks great but also has a huge impact on our global environment, while making a difference to everyones lives.
To make the garments, the firm collects and sorts plastics and removes labels, lids before cleaning the bottles to remove any contaminants.
The plastic is then passed through a machine which turns it into small plastic flakes. The flakes are then run through another machine that uses a worm screw to push the flakes through heated pipes that melts the plastic flakes into a thick liquid. This molten polyester is then ready to be turned into yarn.
An extruder that looks like a machine with multiple shower heads (with multiple filtration layers inside each head) turns the molten recycled plastic into a fine yarn that is gently cooled and spooled.
Its this recycled yarn that is made into the into the fabric. At this stage, the fabric undergoes a series of processes to soften the fibres and give them water repellent properties.
Its what NAECO say makes the fibres soft yet durable – and also makes for good UV protection, longevity and stain repellent properties.
Prices start at £185 at their online store here.
4. Pursuit The Label
These bikinis arent just sustainable, theyre reversible.
Produced in their London factory, this luxury sustainable swimwear brand transforms recycled ocean waste into luxury sculpting swimsuits and reversible bikinis. The fabric is a form of nylon made entirely from consumer waste, such as fishing nets and old textiles.
The print you can see on the bikini is exclusive to the brand – created digitally as its one of the most environmentally friendly ways to print, since it uses the least water in the printing process.
Plus, all their packaging is made from recycled cardboard.
Prices start at £55 and products can be mixed and matched. For more info, visit their online store here.
An easy way to recycle your clothes
First Mile have just launched their RecycleBox service in a bid to help combat the UKs waste crisis and disappointingly stagnant recycling rates.
The textile recycling service encourages consumers and workplaces to easily recycle everything. Simply:
1. Order a RecycleBox online or use your own
2. Fill it with your items to be recycled
3. Book a collection online
4. Your materials are recycled
And, if no solutions exists for recycling, your materials go to RecycleLab so a new recycling solution can be found.
Visit their site here for more info.