There are around sixty million people that work in the fashion industry, yet somehow we seem to have forgotten that clothes are made by people. Each garment we choose to buy and wear has the capacity to impact dozens of lives. The origin of the product, how it is consumed and finally disposed of can either positively or negatively impact entire communities. If you’re a consumer and you care about the world then you have a responsibility to think more about the impact your purchasing has. Fortunately, demand has incredible power and it will be the rise of the conscious consumer that brings about much-needed change.
An argument I often hear is that the extra cost of supporting ethical fashion brands is a luxury people simply can’t afford. While I’d argue that buying quality garments that will last is actually a more affordable way of living there is an even simpler solution regardless of budget. We simply need to consume less.
The women who make Little Yellow Bird uniforms
Traditionally clothing was made to order, a system that minimised waste and a method Little Yellow Bird is proud to employ when making our uniforms and workwear. With fast fashion retailers pushing new trends multiple times throughout the year and increasingly clever marketing tactics designed to encourage spending, it’s unsurprising that fashion is now the second dirtiest industry in the world.
We’ve created a society which replaces clothing for style reasons rather than necessity, we now consume more than 80 Billion pieces of clothing each year and we purchase 400% more than we did 20 years ago. With over three-quarters of our unwanted clothing being dumped as textile waste or incinerated, the issue of what to do with our used products has become just as important as how we create the original garment.
The majority of our clothing ends up as textile waste sent offshore
Clothing is a necessity and I’m not suggesting we stop buying clothes entirely, just that the current rate and quantity is unsustainable. The majority of discarded clothing is still in completely usable condition. Of clothing donated to charity, only 20% is sold with the majority being exported as textile waste to developing countries. The influx of second-hand clothing in developing countries has destroyed local economies, many of these nations are now looking to pass laws which would ban the imports of used clothing. Finding alternative solutions to textile recycling is now more critical than ever.
There is some really interesting research being done, new models being used and technology being developed that is going to change the way we think about clothing. Mud Jeans, an industry leader in fibre recycling, for example, offers a jeans leasing service that allows customers to return unwanted garments. The fibre from these products is broken down and recycled to make new clothes completely closing the loop and pioneering the circular economy model in fashion.
Mud Jeans - making your denim circular