Measure what matters

by Mercè Capell

Fashion has won society’s heart by enacting itself as a tool to express lifestyles, behaviours and social status. Some decades ago, Fashion was solely meant for high social classes, but as time passed and society evolved, it democratised and became accessible to everyone no matter where their social status and location were.

The Rise of Fast Fashion has fuelled this change and has made fashion affordable for an enormous segment of the market. Adding to the fact that during the last few decades the prices of garments have fallen down, the need and easiness to acquire clothing has largely increased. According to a McKinsey analysis, an average consumer buys 60% more clothes per year than 15 years ago, but keeps the clothes only half of the time. But, is this phenomenon sustainable? Which is the true cost we are paying for fashion?

The fashion industrial cluster is the second most polluting industry in the world, generating 10% of global emissions. All the processes involved in the textile production, from the production of raw materials to the dyeing of the fabrics, require huge amounts of water, chemicals and energy. According to a BCG and GFA report, The Pulse of Fashion, in 2017 “the clothing industry was responsible for the consumption of 79 billion cubic meters of water, 1.715 million tons of CO2 and 92 million tons of waste”. When it comes to transport and distribution the damages account for a 2% of the climate-change impacts of the industry.

However, fashion environmental impact extends beyond the borders of garment plants and distribution facilities. The consumer use represents the largest environmental footprint throughout the lifecycle of clothing. The energy, water and chemicals employed when washing, drying and ironing are tremendously considerable.

Every single decision we make, has an impact, and the biggest one in the clothing industry falls under the consumer responsibility. Each of us have the power to influence our small and daily choices in order to change today’s world. It’s about being more conscious about the resources we have as well as their limitations. We can’t take our planet resources for granted.

The effects of climate change are dramatically showing up and there’s evidence that they have come to stay. People tend to think they lack power to influence the big industries. However, we cannot underestimate the potential of money. As consumers, every single dollar, euro or yen, becomes a tool able to democratise any industry, because supply requires demand to exist.

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