A crisis in clothing
Written by Bel Jacobs
Fashion has many faces: from glitz and high octane glamour to intricate expressions of craft, creativity and tradition. But in recent years, another face has emerged that is altogether more monstrous. As the consumption of fashion grows exponentially, it is clear that the toll it is taking on our planet and its people is too great to be justified.
Gone are the days where people would buy a couple of pieces for a season and nurture and repair them for new needs. Today, we buy 60 per cent more clothing today than we did just 15 years ago. And, of the 100 billion items of clothing delivered out of factories each year, a large percentage is ending up in landfill or incineration after just a few wears as consumers yet again opt for new.
Very little about this is good. Tonnes of raw materials go into making clothing, eating into already diminishing natural resources to produce items too quickly disposed of. Production, most of which takes place in developing nations, releases cocktails of toxic chemicals and pesticides into waterways and soils, leading to disease and death.
Fashion is now one of the world’s most environmentally polluting industries and accounts for an estimated 8 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Top this off with (often lowly paid) workers toiling to meet the rapacious demands of fashion labels and the energy-intensive processes of (over) cleaning the clothes we do own, and it is clear that action is needed. For the past 10 years, NGO Redress has worked tirelessly with makers, manufacturers, brands and consumers, to reduce the negative environmental impacts of the fashion industry.
With the launch of the Redress Design Award in 2011, its philosophy of innovating textile waste is reaching a new generation of designers who are in turn forming a wave of change. Those involved in Redress’ work understand acutely what’s at stake while the rest of the global community is only slowly waking up to the real cost of clothes. Until it does, Redress’ work continues.
 McKinsey & Company (2016)
 Style that’s sustainable: A new fast-fashion formula
 Quantis (2018), Measure Fashion – Insights from the Environmental Impact of the Global and Apparel and Footwear Industries study
This article originally appeared in the Redress Design Award 2018 Magazine.