The ability to represent who we are and what we like in a way that is unique to us is made possible by fashion, which is an essential component of our life. A great deal may be learned about a person’s identity and ideals from the clothing they choose to wear. It is possible that fashion is also a form of artistic expression because it gives us the opportunity to explore with a wide variety of colours, patterns, textures, and styles.
The way we present ourselves to the world, as well as how we feel about ourselves, can be influenced by the clothes we wear. Boosting our self-assurance and making us feel good about ourselves may be as simple as putting on a well-loved outfit or a piece of clothing that is on the cutting edge of trend.
The fashion industry is responsible for the employment of millions of people all over the world, making a substantial contribution to the economy of the entire planet. It is an industry that is always changing in order to accommodate fluctuating consumer preferences, changing fashions, and changing seasons.
The fashion industry shifted from a slow-paced, seasonal model to a more rapid, mass-production based structure in the 1950s and 1960s, which is when fast fashion got its start. Fast fashion is fashion that is produced in large quantities and sold quickly. In the 1990s and 2000s, the rapid spread of fast fashion was made possible by globalisation and the surge in technological advancement. This made it possible for clothing to be produced at a reduced cost in poor nations and delivered around the world in a couple of weeks thanks to these two factors. The emergence and rapid expansion of fast fashion brands like Zara, H&M, and Forever 21 has provided customers with an approach to maintaining a fashionable appearance that is both economical and convenient.
Fashion and environmental sustainability are often at odds with each other. The fashion industry is a major contributor to environmental pollution and waste, due in part to the fast pace of production and consumption and the use of synthetic materials and toxic chemicals in the production process.
The following is a list of the most important ways in which the fashion industry has an impact on the environment:
Consumption of resources: The fashion industry places a significant demand on a variety of resources, including water, electricity, and raw materials, such as cotton, wool, leather, and synthetic fibres like polyester. The manufacturing of these materials may result in adverse effects on the surrounding environment, such as the polluting of water sources, the clearing of land for agriculture, and the release of greenhouse gases.
Consumption of water: Water is used in various stages of the production process for fashion, including the growth of raw materials, the dyeing and finishing of fabrics, and the manufacturing of garments. One single pair of jeans, for instance, may require as much as 7,000 litres of water throughout the manufacturing process. The excessive water use of the fashion industry can exacerbate existing water scarcity and contribute to environmental degradation in regions where fresh water is already in short supply.
Energy consumption: The fashion business is an energy-intensive industry, with the creation of synthetic fibres like polyester requiring enormous quantities of energy. This results in the fashion industry’s overall high energy consumption. Energy is needed not only for the retail outlets that sell clothing but also for the washing and drying machines that people use in their homes. Transporting clothes is another energy-intensive activity.
Waste and pollution: The fast fashion model, in which clothing is made rapidly and inexpensively and is subsequently discarded after only a few uses, has contributed to an increase in the amount of clothing waste. The majority of these garments find their way into landfills, where it can take decades for them to be broken down. As our clothing addiction grows, the fashion industry’s use of hazardous chemicals is expected to become much more difficult. According to the 2017 Pulse of the Fashion study, apparel consumption is expected to increase by 63% to 102 million tonnes per year by 2030. We know that the fashion industry wants to showcase new colours every season,” and “every time you have a new colour, you’re going to utilise more, new kinds of chemicals, dyestuffs, and pigments.” After wet textile processing, the cheapest way for companies to dispose of unwanted, chemical-laden wastewater is to dump it into adjacent rivers and lakes.
Climate change: The emissions of greenhouse gases that are produced by the fashion industry are a significant factor in the acceleration of climate change. Large volumes of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are produced during the manufacturing and shipping of garments, both of which are factors that contribute to the acceleration of climate change and global warming.
The manufacturing of textiles and the trade of textiles play an important role in many nations that are still developing, and they are frequently a substantial source of both income and employment.
In order to lessen their impact on the environment and further the cause of sustainable development, it is essential for textile manufacturers in developing nations to implement eco-friendly and socially responsible business strategies, such as cutting back on the amount of water they use, cutting down on the amount of trash they produce, and employing environmentally favourable inputs. Governments and international organisations can also play a part in helping the manufacture of sustainable textiles in developing countries. This can be accomplished through investments in technology and infrastructure, the building of capacity, and the adoption of laws that effectively punish those who commit climate crimes.
The following are some significant modifications that can assist in making the fashion sector more environmentally friendly:
1. Cut down on wasteful overproduction: The fashion business is infamous for producing far more goods than necessary, which results in a significant amount of waste. The creation of lesser numbers, planning for longevity, and using data to predict demand are three ways in which brands can cut back on overproduction.
2. Make use of sustainable goods: Utilising eco-friendly materials such as organic cotton, recycled polyester, and Tencel can considerably cut down on the negative effects that the fashion industry has on the surrounding environment. Alternative materials, such as vegan leather and mushroom leather, are also an option for brands to investigate.
3. Participate in the circular economy: The model of the circular economy encourages the reuse and recycling of products and materials, which lowers the amount of waste produced and the demand for virgin resources. Circular business models can be adopted by brands, and some examples include rental, resale, and repair services.
4. Decrease Your Use of Water: The fashion business is a large consumer of water, particularly in the manufacture of cotton, and you should take steps to reduce your use of this resource. Using procedures that are more efficient, installing closed-loop systems, and investing in new technology are all ways that brands can cut back on their water consumption.
5. Decrease your “carbon footprint”: The textile and apparel sector is accountable for a sizeable portion of the world’s emissions of greenhouse gases. Switching to renewable energy sources, streamlining supply chains, and engaging in carbon offsetting programmes are all effective methods for companies to lessen their overall impact on the environment.
6. Raise the level of transparency: Today’s customers are more curious than ever before about the origin of their clothing and the process by which it is manufactured. Sharing information regarding a company’s supply chain, production processes, and environmental effect is one way for companies to raise their level of openness.
7. Encourage responsible consumption: In addition, consumers may play a part in making the fashion business more environmentally friendly by becoming responsible shoppers. The promotion of sustainable fashion options, customer education regarding the environmental impact of their purchases, and the offering of incentives for environmentally responsible behaviour are all effective ways for brands to encourage responsible consumption.
In recent years, consumers have developed a greater awareness of the detrimental effects of fast fashion and have begun searching for alternative options that are more environmentally friendly. The dominance of fast fashion has been challenged by slow fashion, second hand clothing, and sustainable businesses, all of which have shown that there is a rising demand for a more responsible and sustainable approach to the fashion industry.
To put an end to the cycle of rapid fashion, consumers need to make more conscientious purchasing decisions, as well as changes in the practises of the fashion industry. The following are some actions that can aid in mitigating the impact of it:
1. Buy Less: Purchase fewer items, prioritise quality over quantity, and invest in timeless pieces.
2. Buy used clothing or trade clothes with friends to extend the life of your present garments.
3. Promote Sustainable Brands: Look for brands that prioritise sustainability, fair labour practises, and supply chain transparency.
4. Clothing Care: Wash and preserve your garments properly to lengthen their life and reduce waste.
5. Campaign for Change: Raise awareness about the negative effects of fast fashion and campaign for change using social media, letters to corporations, and donations to organisations trying to make the fashion industry more sustainable.
To make the fashion business more sustainable, all stakeholders, including companies, customers, governments, and industry groups, must work together.