DIMINISHING RESOURCES AND FASHION -TIME TO THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX

PHOTO COURTESY OF AZAMAT ZHANISOV (UNSPLASH)

HAS FASHION LOST ITS CRAFT IN THIS AGE OF FAST FASHION?

We are an extension of nature. That is – we are nature, not separate from it. Animals, plants and humans need each other to survive.

The fashion industry relies heavily on many natural and human resources which are diminishing.

The making, transporting and use of fashion is almost completely dependent on fossil fuels. Over half of all fashion is made with polyester and this fabric primarily relies on oil, a finite and extremely polluting resource.

The fashion industry brings us clothing made of soft cotton, luxurious silk, smooth leather – these fabrics are from nature and make us feel more connected to it. Unfortunately, the overuse of natural resources such as water, land, plants and animals has generated huge environmental consequences. Our increasing need to connect to nature through natural materials has pushed fashion to exploit natural resources even further.

Many natural environments have been cleared or altered to give space for production of raw materials like cotton. Since cotton requires large amounts of water, that water comes from rivers and lakes and when exploited disrupts local eco-systems. This is linked to droughts and erosion. The use of pesticides in cotton production leads to the deterioration of the health and wellbeing of the farmers and of the communities in the area. Better alternative to this is farming organic cotton with lower environmental impact, or farming alternate type material like hemp which uses very little water compared to cotton.

Land and water use, soil pollution and water pollution has devastating impacts on the environment. The intensive land use for the production of natural materials such as cotton, silk, leather, wool and cashmere has reduced the habitats available for many species, bringing many species of plants and animals to the brink of extinction. There are many ecosystems being disrupted by the presence of hazardous chemicals that is killing organisms necessary for these ecosystems. Many garment workers at the bottom of the supply chain are also exposed to these hazardous chemicals from garment production.

This is a public health crisis affecting the health and welfare of humans, plants and animals throughout the supply chain.

Organizations such as KNOW THE CHAIN have reported on this issue.

Hand based artisan skills and crafts, such as hand weaving, spinning, embroidery and printing around the world, are rapidly vanishing because of faster and cheaper manufacturing options. These are valuable skills that are being lost. The industrialization of fashion since the 1970’s has been wiping out traditional textile and manufacturing capabilities, and once these skills are gone, they are really hard to get back.

Herding livelihood has radically changed for herding families in Mongolia who produce cashmere. The increase of goats (driven by international markets) has decreased the other natural wildlife in the area. This is because of the changing of grazing patterns (which has increased) has direct impacts on the degradation of the grasslands. Leather comes from the skin of domestic farmed animals (cattle, sheep and goats). These hides go thru many intense processes that include dyeing and tanning. Livestock production uses 20% of the world’s water. There are other negative impacts of this such as methane emissions (contributing to climate change) and intensity of grazing which can lead to land degradation, not to mention the clearing of natural ecosystems for livestock production.

This is a complex issue that involves fashion’s impact on the environment from raw materials to farming to the production and retail stage. There are many steps involved. This needs a creative solution. There needs to be a solution that keeps the love and feel of nature in fashion without compromising nature. There needs to be new innovations for sustainability for our environment and our priceless artisans.

WE NEED TO THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX.

There have been many innovations in the textile industry. One that is a leader in this field is BOLT THREADS. They have created a sustainable vegan leather – an alternative to animal and synthetic-based leather – that is renewable and found in nature. This vegan leather – MYLO leather – comes from mycelium, which is essentially the branches that grow mushrooms.

Viscose which is made from the cellulose of trees is widely used in fashion and comes from endangered forests around the world that are under threat from deforestation. Forests make up 31% of the land on earth and produce vital oxygen and habitat for plants and animals. Forests help mitigate climate change because they soak up carbon dioxide that adds to continuous changes in climate patterns. Designers such as STELLA MCCARTNEY use only viscose made from sustainably certified forests in Sweden. Sustainable innovations such as this is crucial to the health and welfare of our planet. Creativity and thoughtfulness in design such as Stella McCartney’s use of viscose, shows that you don’t need to sacrifice style for fashion.

We must remember that we are all connected. What happens at one end of the world, can affect us on the other side of it. We are not immune to this.

I think we can all do better.

Xoxo A Sustainable Love

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