The fashion industry’s negative impact
The current state of the fashion industry can be described as a global environmental and social emergency. The industry has destructive effects on the planet and people: it releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, drains vast amounts of water and energy, and is responsible for human rights violations when it comes to labor rights. Researchers estimate that:
- The fashion industry is responsible for 2 to 8 percent of global CO2 emissions – greater than all international flights, maritime, and shipping combined.
- Of the 100 billion garments a year it produces, over 87% ends up in landfill.
- The production of synthetic textiles (60% of our clothing) is responsible for 35% of all ocean microplastics that are now in our food chain.
The industry contributes to 20% of all industrial wastewater and pollutes freshwater systems from the use of toxic chemicals, dyes, and heavy metals that harm the environment and people.
Slow fashion enters the chat
Over the last few years, many ugly truths about what goes on in the background of the fast fashion industry have finally come to light, from worker rights abuses to toxic waste releases to deceitful sustainability claims.
This, paired with a global surge in sustainability concerns, made consumers increasingly aware of the impact of their apparel consumption habits on the planet. According to McKinsey’s The State of Fashion 2021 report, more than three in five consumers say that environmental impact influences their shopping decisions.
Luckily, sustainable fashion is gaining momentum, promoting a new approach to fashion products by prioritizing economic, social, and environmental sustainability over maximizing profits. This slow fashion movement supports a more socially responsible, environmentally friendly, and climate resilient way of sourcing materials, designing clothing, and manufacturing garments.
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What about governments?
A Fashion Revolution survey interviewing over 5,000 people in the five largest European markets found that 71% of respondents believe governments should make it easier to purchase clothing made sustainably.
But, are there any regulations on how fashion companies operate? Despite pressing environmental and social justice issues, the fashion industry remains largely unregulated. However, new governance for the industry is being actively considered by policymakers.
In 2022, the European Commission presented the EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles aimed at ensuring that all textile products sold in the EU are long-lived, free of hazardous substances, made of recycled fibers, and produced in respect of social rights, and the environment. France announced that every item of clothing sold within its borders would require a label detailing its climate impact.
For what concerns the United States, California recently passed a bill protecting the rights of garment workers. Meanwhile, the state of New York is working on the FABRIC Act which, if passed, would hold the biggest brands in fashion to account for their environmental and social impacts.
At this point, any new regulation will have an impact not only in the West but across the whole fashion industry. Specifically, many proposals could have a deep impact in Asia, where the global powerhouse of fast fashion production is located.
Slow fashion’s positive impact
Granting some progress in the right direction is happening, just last year fast fashion retailer Shein officially became the world’s largest fashion retailer, bigger than Zara and H&M – the world’s top two clothing retailers – combined. Although the company announced this past September that it plans to cut emissions across its supply chain by 25% by 2030, the projection for 2030 doesn’t look good. If the fashion industry continues with only the current decarbonization measures in place, its carbon emissions in 2030 will be 2.1 billion tonnes. This is nearly double the maximum level required to stay on the 1.5-degree pathway set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
With so many current environmental issues—climate change, plastic pollution, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and water scarcity, to name a few—the fashion industry can appear to be neither a problem nor a solution for most people. Well, we have got some bad news for you: the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world, just behind oil, largely contributing to every issue mentioned above. The good news is that slow fashion addresses many of these issues:
Recycled fibers are a much more sustainable option than synthetic fibers. For every 10,000 tons of recycled raw material used for our swimwear, 70,000 Barrels of Oil and 57,100 tons of CO2 are saved compared to the production of virgin nylon.
- Organic cotton reduces water consumption by 91% and produces 46% fewer CO2 emissions than conventional cotton as opposed to conventional cotton.
- Over 90% of sustainable fashion brands prioritize fair wages for their workers and 80% prioritize safe working conditions. This is in contrast to fast fashion, where low wages and long hours are often the norm.
- According to a report by the Global Fashion Agenda, by 2030, the sustainable fashion market is expected to be worth over $9 billion.
Accelerating slow fashion
At Quest Impact Design Studio, our mission is to make a truly meaningful impact for people, our community, and, most importantly, our planet. We strongly believe that a greener, more environmentally-friendly business practice is not only important for the planet, but also for the future success of a business. As the fashion industry moves towards sustainability, there are a lot of big changes ahead for impact-driven businesses, changes we can help with.
As a service provider, we drive positive change through our exclusive commitment to purpose-driven clients. We have been inspired by many impactful players in the Ethical & Sustainable Fashion space and supported them in accelerating change through our customer-centric and sustainability-focused services.
The Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA) is a multi-stakeholder organization dedicated to organic cotton. We helped them further accelerate integrity, supply security, and measurable social and environmental impact in the organic cotton space through our digital design and branding services.
As OCA has a large community of contributors helping accelerate the change in the organic cotton space, the organization needed a proper space to host the many updates and news surrounding the movement to keep carving out the significance of the OCA community within the organic cotton movement. We supported OCA through a solid rebranding effort to bring OCA’s powerful ecosystem to the forefront of its visual identity.
To accomplish this, we used colors to visually bring the different players together to cohesively represent all aspects of the OCA ecosystem. The main players in OCA’s ecosystem are the farmers and their communities, as they are the building blocks of the organization. To communicate this strong focus on farmers, we expanded the imagery in the rebranding.
Global Fashion Agenda (GFA) is a non-profit organization that fosters industry collaboration in the slow fashion space to drive impact. We supported GFA’s mission to accelerate the fashion industry toward net positive by helping the organization scale its audience, amplifying its digital storytelling, and simplifying the experience for its team. To do so, we developed its main Global Fashion Agenda site and walked GFA through a complete redesign of its visual identity.
Launched in 2022, Textile Recycling Excellence aims to create a paradigm shift from household textile waste into a closed-loop textile process by involving major players across the whole fashion value chain.
Given our research and experience in the fashion space, T-Rex came to us for our Digital Design expertise as we understood what T-Rex audiences would gravitate toward. This brought the industry and audience expertise that we needed to support T-Rex in becoming the guiding force for all circular textile work through a new identifiable, impactful, and elevated logo.
In conclusion, slow fashion has the potential to be climate resilient due to its focus on sustainable practices and ethical production. By prioritizing quality over quantity and promoting circularity in the fashion industry, slow fashion can reduce its carbon footprint and minimize waste. However, the success of slow fashion also depends on consumer behavior and their willingness to support sustainable fashion choices. By choosing to invest in slow fashion brands and making conscious purchasing decisions, individuals can contribute to a more resilient and sustainable fashion industry.
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