A while back we wrote a blog post entitled Fashion & Climate Change in response to the Paris Climate Change Conference and the targets it was setting for tackling this most pressing of issues. The blog post is our most popular to date - many visitors to the site have discovered us through searching about the connection between fashion and climate change. Clearly, it is something that concerns people, and rightly so. If the sentiment didn't it hard enough then, it simply has to today, three years later...
Last week a landmark report from the UN's IPCC laid out the stark and alarming fact that we are currently falling way too short of the targets set. Paris was all about keeping climate change below 1.5 degrees. The new report shows that we are heading not for 1.5 degrees or even 2 degrees but a 3 degrees increase in the earth's temperature since the industrial revolution. The impact of that kind of increase is unimaginable - millions will lose their homes as sea levels rise, droughts and famines will become more widespread, coral reefs will disappear to mention just a few. One pundit stated that the earth and nature, which for millennia has made human life possible, will turn against us and do the opposite. It is a terrifying thought, and to add to the sense of urgency the experts have said that we only have 12 years to make the changes necessary to keep within the 1.5 degree target. That is no time at all.
So what can be done and how does fashion come into it? Clearly action from the biggest world powers (yes USA and China - a scary thought in itself) but every country needs to address such a global threat - government legislation on clean energy solutions and controlling the use of fossil fuels will be pivotal. Big business (including the fashion industry) needs to realise that their massive profits will mean nothing when the resources they rely on run out. Then there are things that we can do at a personal level too - we all have to take accountability. From thinking about our water and energy usage, transport requirements and our diets we can all make changes that will make a difference.
In terms of fashion - the industry as a whole has to put its hand up and take some responsibility. The textile industry is the second most polluting in the world after oil and the impact of our desire for cheap fast fashion on the environment is one of the very reasons we set up Gather&See. Clothing production uses valuable natural resources, unfathomable amounts of water pollute our waterways and poisons both garment industry workers and the general population that live within the vicinity of processing factories all over the world. The amount of clothing waste we all contribute to is adding to the plastic crisis in terms of unwanted clothing sitting in landfill and every time we wash cheap clothing we release microbeads into our water systems.
We need to insist that the huge high street brands that make a fortune by flogging cheap clothes made in substandard factories who are not looking after the environment are held accountable. This might mean government legislation but it also means us as customers voting with our wallets and boycotting fast fashion, since we know that this phenomenon is a big part of the problem. We need to ask questions about what clothing we do buy and how we look after and eventually dispose of it.
Organic cotton does not use the pesticides that are so damaging in regular cotton production - it also requires much less water. Recycling materials means less end up in landfill and less natural resources need to be used in production. We know that cutting down on meat is a key action we can take so consider your leather usage too - vegan fashion is becoming more and more important and accessible. Choose clothes that you will love and wear time after time, rather than something that provides a cheap one-off thrill. And look after them - wash less and lower, use a microparticle- catching wash bag and repair them rather than throwing away.
At Gather&See we have cherry-picked brands that put the wellbeing of the earth and people at the forefront of what they do. We've always known how important they are in carving a better future, not just for fashion, but for the world. The rest of the fashion industry and us as consumers need to follow suit. Quite simply it is now or never.