What a year for Earth Day 2020. On 22 April, we will be observing the global theme of this year, “Climate Action”. While we’re inside, the world outside is changing dramatically and drastically. The best thing we can do for the planet, as we’ve long known, is nothing at all — letting nature breathe while we wipe away any carbon footprints left behind in the earth.
The fashion industry has been a major factor in global warming. It comes in second to the oil industry as the largest polluter in the world. Untreated toxic waste waters from textile factories pollute rivers, over a trillion litres of water is consumed in production, the quality of soil is massively degraded — just to highlight a few key problems.
Where ethics and morale are concerned, the fashion industry has not always led by example either. We can’t forget about Hermes alligator farms or a couple of years ago when it was revealed that Burberry was burning old stocks of unsold products to stop them from being sold off for cheap. Thankfully, that era for Burberry came to an end shortly after under the current reign of Ricardo Tisci, as the House adopted a fur-free policy.
One could argue, and one as such as Anna Wintour has, that faux fur is not the knight in shining armour coming in to save the world. The production of faux fur itself is problematic due its use of polluting petrochemicals in production, and synthetic fibres that seal into water supplies. Even so, more and more brands are seeing both sides of the argument and making the decision both for themselves and to meet the demands of a growing eco-conscious market.
This leaves key players like Tom Ford, Michael Kors, Versace, Coach, DVF, Gucci, and Jimmy Choo — joining the fur-free movement in no particular order — working alongside scientists to compose faux fur and leather textiles with minimal impact on the environment. Stella McCartney deserves a special mention for choosing to go leather and fur-free since its genesis. Gucci, a more recent brand on board, is embarking on a 10-year sustainable strategy which includes ArtLab, the company’s futuristic centre of industrial craftsmanship and experimentation laboratory for leather goods and shoes.
Unfortunately, it looks like fashion as a collective isn’t hitting the mark just yet. According to the World Economic Forum, 10% of the world’s total carbon footprint comes from the apparel industry, while also coming in as the second largest polluter of fresh water globally; contributing pesticides, washing solvents and dyes in manufacturing, along with micro plastic.
What we can hope for, is the continuous effort and hope from our the industry. But by no means does the responsibility solely rely on fashion brands. As fashionistas on the sideline our role in the movement is also a big one. Fast fashion is problematic for many reasons, in relevance here its incredibly high volume and speed of which it churns out apparel. At home, it begins with consumer demands. If we can shift out support to ethical brands and fashion houses with funds committed to research and development of eco-friendly textiles, both the “good guys” win — consumers take home quality, timeless and thoughtful pieces.