Fast fashion relies on mass production and mass consumption in order to survive. The fashion industry as a whole requires a lot of energy, water, and logistics to function in its current form, which means the days of current fast fashion will have to come to an end. People are catching on that disposable clothing isn’t good for the environment or for your bank account. To circumvent fast fashion consumers are turning to vintage stores for clothing and some new styles that come out of combining old fabrics into new styles.
Clothes come and go at the Basingstoke home of Sarah Fewell, too. In fact, so many parcels come and go that she knows her postman by his first name (Jay). Fewell has always loved cutting up old clothes, sticking on studs, even at 14 when most of her friends were into Hollister. But now she has turned her passion for preloved clothes into a sustainable version of fast fashion. Fewell runs a shop called Identity Party on the website Depop, which since being established in 2011 has offered its 10 million users a blend of eBay-style trading with Instagram-style posting.Her brand is “a lot of 80s, 90s, quite bohemian, grungy”. She especially loves “selling things with animals on, a good old ugly jumper and anything by St Michael.”
Both the food and clothing industry produce tons of waste, waste which has traditionally been dumped into landfills. One company is taking food waste and mixing it with special bacteria to breakdown the food faster to create entirely new products. Another company is sourcing fabrics to create clothing, therefore diverting textiles from entering the stream of waste. Of course, the best way to deal with waste is not to produce any in the first place. Remember: reduce first, reuse second, and if you can’t accomplish the first two then recycle.
Beyond the cutting waste, there’s also the water consumption. “It takes 2,700 litres of water to make one new t-shirt — that’s the same amount the average person drinks over three years. We saw this as an incredible opportunity to make a difference.”
They canvassed local clothing designers and producers to collect gently used or unused textiles that would normally end up in waste streams. They then use the fabric to produce colourful children’s clothing.
While production has been on a small scale to date, Nudnik is poised to scale its operations, Lorusso says. “At a startup demo, we met someone who was going to work for their family business in Bangladesh and was interested in bringing sustainability to the industry.”
The Rational Dress Society’s recent project called JUMPSUIT aims to make it so you never need to think about your clothing again. They propose that all you need is a single jumpsuit that you can wear everyday. It’s a revolutionary approach to the modern fast-fashion industry (which is horrible for you wallet, the environment, and labour conditions). You can download the pattern of the jumpsuit and make your own or order one made to your measurements.
The Rational Dress Society makes jumpsuits in two hundred forty-eight sizes culled from NASA data to fit almost any body type. Anyone can print the pattern for free from their website or, for a hundred and fifty dollars, order one that will arrive ready-made out of sustainable fabric and hand sewn by well-paid seamstresses. The design was inspired by patterns for work wear, and the finished garment looks like painters’ coveralls. But on the bodies of Maura and Abigail, both hip art-school grads with fashionable glasses and haircuts, the jumpsuits look simply chic, as though there is nothing more sensible or cool a person could wear.
The impact that microfibres have on our environment are little known, but new research is coming out that makes microfibres look almost as bad as microbeads (which have been banned in a lot of places). Thankfully people are already working on solutions from better clothing processing to filters put on laundry machines. For now, the best thing you can do to alleviate additional pressure on the environment from your fashion choices is to simple buy less clothing.
Jollimore’s Lint luv-r could be a key weapon of defence against microfibres. After an ecologist in California first documented the pollutant as a global problem in 2011, several researchers became interested in testing Jollimore’s filter. (One test is showing it can catch over 80 percent of fibres.) Ross’s team is studying filters, including the Lint luv-r, as viable household solutions, and conducting a kind of forensic analysis on microfibre samples—matching a single fibre to its source. “I liken it to studying snowflakes,” he says. “We’re not talking about a chemical that we can measure in the lab.” Although the study of microfibres is still in early stages, the fact that our clothing could be poisoning waterways around the world would be an enormous hurdle for a clothing industry that has faced immense criticism over its lack of environmental responsibility.
Millennials are more interested in ethically produced clothing than previous generations, that’s being proven in the rise of ethical fashion lines. Eco-consious clothing can come in many versions from how it’s designed to how it’s produced. Production is the most energy-intensive part of clothing, and denim in particular is quite challenging. Tons of water is used to make a single pair of jeans and that water run off, if poorly dealt with, can poison local water systems.
One company, Everlane, has created a supply chain that is eco from top to bottom. We should be seeing more companies following their lead in the coming years.
Saitex’s president, Saanjeev Bahl, who also sits on the board of directors for the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, has been a vocal force for change. Unhappy with the apparel industry’s practices—it’s second only to oil as the planet’s worst industrial polluter—Bahl built a LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) operation considered one of the world’s most sustainable denim-manufacturing facilities, thanks to incredible efficiencies. A closed water system and jet washing machines lose only .4 liters of water per pair of jeans through evaporation; typical commercial machines waste as much as 1,500 liters per pair. Rainwater harvesting further minimizes water usage, while a five-step filtration process separates water from contaminants. (Preysman and Bahl made a video of themselves drinking the filtered waste water to prove it.)