Is 2020 the year when the world’s second-largest contributor to pollution will change? What should we expect from the fashion industry this year? Will it show environmental responsibility? And will consumers have anything to do with forcing fashion to a sustainable future? This article will try to answer all these questions.
Last year, the Swedish Fashion Council shocked everybody with its move when it canceled the Stockholm Fashion Week event, citing concerns about its environmental impact. Yet, not everyone in the fashion industry shows a similar commitment to reducing their impact on our environment.
As mentioned before, the fashion industry is the world’s second-largest contributor to pollution. In fact, to be more precise, fashion production makes up 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions. It dries up water sources and pollutes our world’s rivers and streams. But that’s not all! 85% of all textiles also end up in the dump every year. Plus, thousands of bits of plastic are also sent into the ocean because of the fast fashion sector.
Now, everybody knows that the fashion industry is negatively impacting our environment, including consumers and brands. Yet, while everybody is expecting brands to be talking about ethical commitments, industry experts are wondering if consumers are really willing to put their money where their mouth is and stop buying fast fashion.
Fast fashion’s impact on the planet
Let’s be honest: fast fashion makes shopping for clothes more affordable for all of us. But is there really no price to pay for this? Unfortunately, cheaper clothes come at an environmental cost.
We’ve gathered some insights on the impact of fast fashion on our planet:
- Fast fashion made clothing production nearly double since 2000
- In Europe, fashion brands went from releasing an average of two collections/year in 2000 to offering five collections in 2011
- Fast fashion companies such as Zara and H&M offer even more collections per year. While Zara releases nearly 24 collections per year, H&M releases between 12 and 16 collections
- Washing clothes leads to the release of almost 500,000 tons of microfibers into the ocean each year, the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles, which experts estimate that compose up to 31% of plastic pollution in the ocean.
- Producing only one cotton shirt takes an average of 700 gallons of water, the equivalent of the amount of water enough for one person to drink at least eight cups every day for three-and-a-half years. For the production of a pair of jeans, it takes about 2000 gallons of water.
- Overall, the fashion industry is responsible for 20% of all industrial global water pollution.
Fashion brands are committed to becoming more sustainable
Sustainability in fashion is a concept full of contradictions. The fashion industry, by definition, is ever-changing. Fashion trends come and go. So, since being genuinely sustainable means not to buy anything new at all, that’s a major contradiction.
Yet, some fashion brands are doing their part in saving our planet while also keep doing business. Brands like Everlane, Levi’s, Pact, Eileen Fisher, and Patagonia, to name just a few, are brands that not only use sustainable materials but are also very transparent about all the production processes of their clothes. Even swimwear became inclusive and affordable sustainable swimwear these days.
Moreover, even fast-fashion brands such as H&M and Zara, which used to have a bad rap for their impact on our planet, committed to becoming more sustainable. H&M, for example, released the Conscious Collection, designed to promote the use of recycled materials.
Huge footwear brands have also revealed that they are committed to making a change for the good of our environment. For example, Adidas, ranked No.3 in global sales in the Apparel/accessories category, pledged to use only recycled plastic by 2024 for its sports shoes. Sharing its FY18 Nike Impact Report, Nike also announced that Nike Air soles have been made using 50% recycled waste since 2008.
So, even if consumers will continue to buy new clothing or footwear to keep up with fashion trends, some brands committed to making sure that these products don’t end up in the landfill but are properly recycled and reused.
3 sustainable fashion trends to look for in 2020
The State of Fashion Report named 2019 “the year of awakening” as consumers started demanding radical transparency and social responsibility from fashion brands. We also saw an explosion in the popularity of second-hand clothing. Plus, we’ve also witnessed a massive commitment worldwide to reject single-use plastics.
So, as 2019 was the year that paved the way for a new decade of real changes in the fashion industry, this year, more sustainable fashion trends are gaining momentum.
- Consumers will no longer fall for greenwashing
As consumers became more aware of the environmental impact of what they wear, brands started to look for ways to show that they can be kind to the environment and still continue to sell their products. Yet, while some may have actually meant it, others only made themselves look exceptionally green.
Consequently, this year, we’re expecting consumers of sustainable fashion to ask for more authenticity and transparency. A product will no longer be seen as sustainable just because the brand says so. Brands will actually have to be transparent about its social and environmental footprint.
- Fabric innovation
We’ve already mentioned that some brands are already using recycled materials to produce their clothes, and others have pledged to do so in the future.
So, this year, and over the next decade, we are expecting more fashion brands to tackle the phenomenon of pieces of plastic ending up in the oceans and killing our world’s marine life.
- Fair fashion
Most garment workers are paid as little as a few cents an hour. And, a report estimates that only 4% of the final price of a piece of clothing actually makes it back to the pockets of workers.
We won’t be able to say that the clothes we wear are sustainable unless they are fair. So, this year, and the years to come, ethical brands must also focus on paying their workers fairly.