Runway to Change
Fantasy and novelty are at the heart of fashion as an art form. They are also at the heart of fashion as a business. The multibillion-dollar industry is driven by retailers striving to keep consumers buying into a relentless cycle of new trends. But what are the consequences of all these clothes? It takes 400 gallons of water to grow and produce the cotton for one shirt and 1,800 gallons of water for just one pair of blue jeans.
Fortunately, there has been a growing awareness around fashion’s lack of sustainability—even within the industry itself. The Eco Fashion Week in Vancouver, for example, brings sustainable designs to the runway. It also aims to educate industry insiders and consumers about eco-friendly practices in manufacturing and consumption. Another example is the Slow Fashion Movement, which sets its sights on restructuring the entire industry into one “where societal behaviour is not in conflict with natural resources, and the fashion industry can carry on without compromising the health of the people and our planet.”
A new generation of designers is making sustainability a priority. In the Philippines, designers are turning to sustainable materials and partnering with local artisans and textile suppliers to build local economies. Taking cues from the Food Commons, organizations such as Fibershed in California are working to build a bioregional network of local fibre farmers and producers to integrate vertically from “soil to skin.” A sports apparel brand recently launched a line of board shorts made out of post-consumer plastic bottles. Each pair will divert approximately 11 plastic bottles from the landfill.
A radical approach to sustainability has been proposed by a successful, high-end denim company, which recommends rarely washing its products to promote both water conservation and superior denim aging. They also believe jeans should be worn until they fall apart, and offer repair services to customers and take back old jeans for recycling.
Labelling initiatives signifying that garments have been made sustainably and ethically also point to shifting practices and raising consumer awareness. While we are still battling with a culture of consumption in a world of finite resources, transformation is taking place.
How can we accelerate this process? Is there room for LEED-like standards and regulations in the fashion industry?
[Top Image: Aveda]