On the 22nd of May I finished my second year of University. And by the 13th June I had completed Fashion Revolution’s 4 week course on Fashion’s Future and the Sustainable Development Goals. Some might say I couldn’t bare the thought of having zero form of education. Realistically, I just had to take advantage of the resources available before Future Learn made me pay into a subscription- #poorstudentlife.
Anyways, I thought it would be beneficial to document somewhat of an overview of the month. For my own reference, and with the possibility that something sparks an interest or at the very least, sits in your subconscious until triggered.
The first week seemed to be a general introduction into how sustainability can be defined; holistically in the industry and generally how it should be achieved within planetary boundaries (Johan Rockström, 2007). Finally, briefly including which of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) would coincide with the course- circled above.
The second week dived into SDG 1 (No Poverty) and SDG 5 (Gender Equality). The Fashion industry- in particular fast fashion- have arguably a lot to answer for when it comes to garment workers receiving in most cases, a ‘below the living standard’ income. Deloitte Access Economics for Oxfam found that 4% of the price of a piece of clothing is estimated to make it back to the workers. Side note: If you haven’t been following #PayUp on Instagram, then get to it! The pandemic has caused BIG brands to cancel BILLIONS of dollars worth of orders, leaving garment workers in crisis mode.
Meanwhile, I found it equally as interesting that CARE International included 1 in 3 women working in garment factories had reported sexually harassing behaviour in the last year. That already doesn’t sit right with me, without thinking about all the times it wasn’t reported. However, one initiative worth researching is the Good Business Lab. Their projects include; unlocking female labour; improving work environment; closing the skill gap and building holistic health.
From the third week, I was learning about the damaging, waste culture of the industry. For example, its estimated the fashion industry emits 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2e a year. With clothing as the 4th largest environmental impact after housing, transport and food in the U.K (WRAP).
More specifically at SDG 14: conserve and sustainably use oceans, seas and marine resources. Synthetic fibres such as polyester, are made up of microfibres that can shed over its lifetime, particularly when put in the washing machine (Environmental Audit Committee, 2019). 35% of all microplastics come from clothing and textiles and its expected by 2050 for there to be more plastic than fish in the sea. Fortunately from the course, I learnt that France are leading the way for improvement. In February 2020, the country brought in legislative steps for microfibre pollution. Including that by January 2025, all new washing machines will have to include a filter to catch the microfibres before they’re released into water systems.
By the final week it was time to look at the industry’s options. The initiatives already in place such as Lenzing’s ‘Refibra Tencel’ fabric that uses pre-consumer cotton scraps and wood pulp. Or Swedish government proposed a 50% tax break for repair on shoes, clothes and bikes which supports the ‘make do and mend’ mentality we should have. Finally, the industry should try to implement circularity through rental or resale. Furthermore, circularity through manufacturing which would phase out hazardous chemicals.
Overall, I was thoroughly fascinated by the Fashion Revolution course, through the amount of topics covered and the quality of content. Moreover, because of its impact, I’ll be uploading another post based on one of the assignments I had to complete for the course. Until then, as Fashion Revolution states:
Be Curious. Find Out. Do Something.
Easley Magazine – 2019