Infographic: Fast vs Ethical Fashion

When it comes to buying a fresh new t-shirt for the weekend – or any item of clothing for that matter – many don’t give a second thought as to how it arrived on the rail, and at what cost.

A new infographic by Shirtworks demonstrates the true cost of producing a typical t-shirt; from cotton farming to how local workers are treated and paid.

For example, did you know:

• There are roughly 40 million garment workers worldwide; most of which are earning less than $3 per day, with the majority earning less than 25% of the recommended living wage.

• Over 50% of non-organic cotton farmers do not have the correct safety clothing and equipment to protect themselves from harmful chemicals used to produce cotton in bulk. In Pakistan, 74% of female cotton workers suffer from partial pesticide poisoning.

• It takes 2,700 litres of water to produce a single t-shirt – that’s the equivalent of over 2 and a half years’ worth of drinking water for a single adult.

Clothing produced through ethical supply chains help to protect the local and wider environment, and offer dignified jobs for local garment workers, who are paid a fair wage and operate from safe, clean working conditions.

Take a look at the infographic below:

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Micro-fibre pollution: why what you wear matters

Whilst pollution from plastic bags, coffee cups and microbeads has come under intense scrutiny in recent months, another microplastic pollutant is passing under our noses on a daily basis. This pesky plastic is barely detectable to the eye, yet is polluting our ocean ecosystems at a terrifying rate. It is synthetic microfibres, and it’s a macro problem.

These microfibers come from the synthetic clothes and textiles so prevalent in daily life. It’s been estimated that 700,000 fibres could be released into wastewater on an average wash and spin load. Whilst natural fibres like wool and cotton are biodegradable, synthetic fibres like polyester and nylon are not. These fibres are manmade from fossil fuels so, not only are the CO2 emissions from polyester production 3x that of cotton, but the fibres hang around for a loooong time.

Take a look at the clothes you’re wearing now, what are they made of? Mine are mostly cotton (it’s a lounging kind of day), but my Sweaty Betty yoga top is 50% Merino wool, 34% Tencel, 16% Polyamide. It’s an interesting example because this includes all three of the fibre types; wool is natural, Tencel is a regenerated fibre from wood cellulose and Polyamide is manmade, very similar to polyester. In fact, polyester can be found in 60% of our clothing and it’s easy to see why; polyester is cheap, durable, crease-resistant and easy care. In some ways it’s more environmentally-friendly to produce than cotton because it has a lower water footprint and there’s no need for pesticides, but it does have a bigger carbon footprint.

Despite polyester’s useful properties I tend to prioritise natural fibres over synthetics because they are exactly that – natural. I have been aware of the ability to release microfiber pollution through the process of washing our clothes but it wasn’t until I spoke to Gintare from Amberoot that it really hit home. Gintare has a close affinity to nature and is passionate about reducing plastic pollution. Based in Brighton, UK, Gintare left a job in banking to set up a sustainable and ethical online clothing shop. Her goal is to encourage consumption behaviours that do not have a negative impact on the environment, other people or animals. Although she works with brands that emphasis holistic ethical work practices, the story behind Amberoot isn’t one of fairtrade or organic clothing per se, but instead is focused on shunning the pollution caused by synthetic fibres, turning instead back to natural ones. Natural fibres doesn’t mean just cotton and wool either; there is a growing list of exciting options from bamboo to orange fibre!

Gintare says: “The research regarding the microfiber effect on soil, air and health effects on humans is currently ongoing. There was some research regarding the health effects of inhaling microfibers and on health effects for soil and eventually us. But this is just very beginning, more studies are surely to come.”

The environmental impact of washing synthetic fibres has attracted a few studies but results are not conclusive. A study by the University of Plymouth for example found that more microfibers are released in the first four washes a new garment receives and that fabric composition and detergent choice also affect the amount of fibres released. Polyester-cotton mix consistently shed significantly fewer fibres than either polyester or acrylic. The addition of bio-detergent and fabric conditioner increased the numbers of fibres shed. Another study from earlier this year found that worn (old) fabrics shed more in the wash as did looser textile weaves.

Based on the research there are things you can do to limit your microplastic fibre footpoot:

1. If you need the performance of polyester, try poly-cotton mix (or something like my Sweaty Betty top) rather than 100% synthetic fibre.
2. Wash at a lower temperature. In the aforementioned study by Imogen Napper at Plymouth, washing at 40 degrees led to more fibres shed than at 30.
3. Try a GuppyFriend washing bag.
4. If you know a plumber, you could attach a filter system to your machine. It seems to me that manufacturers should be working towards this as standard. Maybe they are.
5. Look for natural fibres, care for them and wear them for years to come.

Amberoot is well worth a browse because Gintare has curated a range of beautiful brands, many of which were new to me. What’s particularly useful about the website is you can shop by accreditation (e.g. Fairwear, B Corp, PETA) as well as by brand. Buying natural, biodegradable fabrics means that you can avoid the pollution effects scientists are now discovering are caused by synthetic fibres. Amberoot stocks men’s and women’s clothes as well as home goods. I’m very tempted by the Motumo loose-fit linen dresses (see above)- yes they will need ironing, but I just wouldn’t wash it all that often! I also love the lingerie and nightwear by AmaElla and knitwear by Izzy Lane. The latter is knitted from the undyed wool of rescued sheep. If that doesn’t make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, I don’t know what will.

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Josefin Liljeqvist: Changing the way we source leather

Josefin Liljeqvist is an award-winning Scandinavian luxury fashion tech brand. The business model uses a technological solution to improve traceability in the leather industry, working on the premise of sustainability and improved animal protection. The company developed their own software to trace the leather supply chain, allowing customers greater insight into and connection to the way in which their product was made. An initial luxury leather menswear shoe (ANDREW) has been designed and launched to consumers in order to test and showcase this software. ANDREW is a luxury menswear shoe (certainly not cheap) but Josefin’s ultimate goal is not to just be a fashion brand but actually change the leather industry to make it more sustainable. And we all know a key way to be more sustainable is to buy far fewer, better quality things.

There are a range of environmental problems associated with leather production, many of these overlapping with the meat industry more generally. While some people (i.e. vegetarians and vegans) choose to shun leather altogether, Josefin Liljeqvist is targeting a different market on the premise that if we are to continue raising animals for meat and leather (a byproduct) then we can at least work to do it better.

The limited edition ANDREW shoe is produced from fully traceable leather, tanned in an eco-tannery in Sweden and an expert tannery in Italy. Made to order and crafted by Stefano Bemer, Josefin has plans to launch two more shoe styles next year. Meanwhile, she hopes the system she has developed to track the leather supply chains can be adopted widely across the industry in Sweden and worldwide.

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Parliament launched a review into the environmental impact of the fast fashion industry: here’s why it won’t work

The UK fashion industry contributes more than £28 billion to national GDP but not without consequences. A new Parliamentary inquiry is examining the social and environmental impact of the huge fast fashion industry, focusing on the environmental footprint of clothing throughout its lifecycle. The review was launched in June and is taking comments and evidence from the public until September 2018. It is chaired by Mary Creagh MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee. Speaking on behalf of the committee, Mary said: “Our inquiry will look at how the fashion industry can remodel itself to be both thriving and sustainable.”

This raises a few questions for me:
• Does the industry want to remodel itself and if so, to what extent?
• How much remodelling are we talking about here? Isn’t fast fashion inherently unsustainable?
• Could/should a Parliamentary inquiry lead to more Government enforced regulation?

The inquiry will examine the carbon, resource use and water footprint of clothing throughout its lifecycle. It will look at how clothes can be recycled, and waste and pollution reduced. This is all because it’s obvious that circulating clothing through our wardrobes at the speed to which fast fashion retailers would like means a whole lot of resources, wastage and pollution.

So why not address the consumption model itself? Changes to address singular problems will not lead to significant benefits without addressing the economic system surrounding fast fashion and consumer culture. A focus on decreasing the environmental impact of fast fashion is only part of the issue, the bigger problem is consumer habits. Stores like H&M and New Look are doing good things to help make their impact less bad but ultimately, they still want to sell a lot of clothes. You’ve seen those in-store recycling bins in H&M, TKMaxx and M&S? This works to divert guilt – ours and theirs – but really sends a message that consumers can keep on consuming so long as they donate their unwanted clothes to charity (there are problems with this in itself as shipping our cast-offs to low income countries has been found to harm local employment and manufacturing industries).

Don’t get me wrong, the review is welcome and every change helps, but if we’re really talking about doing things differently an environmental impact audit isn’t the starting point. It’s the fast fashion model that needs to change and this is very, very difficult when the UK is run on a stifling model of capitalism. Success is based on economic impact – we need to earn a wage and we need to consume. Government doesn’t want to interfere with that if it upsets business. The fashion industry itself is a huge employer and source of creative and service (not manufacturing) export. Various strands need to come together to change the system. Some of these are:

• Education, education, education. I’ve written about this before and not just for fashion students but for all students there should be a focus on sustainability, CSR and alternative measures of growth incorporated into learning at all levels. Normalising a different way of working and living will filter into their own consumption habits as well as their work, and it’s already happening.
• Designers need to take more responsibility for resource use. Waste should be a massive taboo; closed loop production should be prioritised.
• Cultural change needs to come from the media, both mainstream and social media, to continue to shift the focus to experiences rather than material consumption and possession. While advertising works as it does this is unlikely to lead to a complete shift.

Sustainability is about viewing a problem holistically, something that needs to be taken into consideration with this Parliamentary review. Fast fashion is inherently unsustainable unless we think outside the box, like changing the look of our clothes digitally or designing pieces that are ‘throw-away’ in a different sense by being completely biodegradable. And why not?

Want to have your say? The Committee invites submissions by 5pm on Monday, 3 September 2018.

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How Vegan Footwear is Revolutionizing the Fashion Industry

Guest post from The Lux Authority

When shopping for high fashion accessories, fashionistas have often sought apparel made from leather, suede, silk, and fur. The sleek feel, softness, and fit of leather made it highly desirable in the fashion world. The functionality of leather and fur can provide warmth without bulkiness for athletic types and nature lovers. Silk has been coveted for hundreds of years due to its smoothness on the skin and lustre to the eye, but unfortunately, the fashion industry’s gain is the animal world’s loss. In the past, for a majority of the fashion conscious, there was just nothing else like the fit and feel of genuine animal products. Fortunately, that has changed. At the request of the growing numbers of vegans and others adopting a more sustainable lifestyle, more designers are creating beautiful, stylish, and kinder alternatives to clothing made at the cost of animals and the environment.

As an increasing number of people are choosing a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, there is a greater need for vegan options for fashionable clothing. For many years, artificial leather, suede, and fur were available, but they didn’t have the same look or feel as the real thing. Appearances are important, making it difficult to be able to be socially and environmentally responsible while looking great in haute couture. For far too long, it was nearly impossible to find cute, cruelty-free shoes. But now, vegan footwear is revolutionizing the fashion industry.

The vegan footwear brand, VEERAH, knows what it means to reduce and reuse. Why wastefully buy several different pairs of shoes, when you can make one pair look and function like many? Each pair of shoes purchased comes with a coordinating accessory such as a strap, tassel, brooch, or even fringe to change the style of the shoe from plain to fancy and casual to dressy. VEERAH straps can serve double-duty as fashionable bracelets. Their new long-lasting, durable shoe line, Appeel, is made using recycled apple skins to create a fabric more breathable than leather to lead the way in the slow fashion movement.

VEERAH Shoe Set

Bourgeois Boheme also creates beautiful shoes from plant based products. Many of this British company’s high-end, luxury shoes are made from Pinatex, a textile derived from pineapple leaf fibers that remain and otherwise become waste after the pineapples have been harvested. Even legendary Italian fashion house Salvatore Ferragamo has been influenced by the movement of using plant-based alternatives to more traditional fabrics. Famous for creating leather substitutes due to the lack of availability of the real thing during wartime, the company has released a collection in collaboration with Orange Fiber, a company specializing in making textiles from citrus skin. These textiles can replace lace, silk, and satin.

Another company making leather substitutes is Mycoworks. Using mycelium found on the underside of mushrooms, Mycoworks creates a fabric with the appearance and performance of leather. Not only can this be useful in creating vegan footwear, but similar technology can be used to make fabric that is thin enough for other clothing such as, dresses and jackets. The fabric is naturally antimicrobial and compostable making it eco friendly and sustainable in addition to being vegan.

These innovations in vegan products that were initially inspired by dreams of cute vegan footwear have led many celebrities and designers to move to an animal-free fashion philosophy. A growing list of vegan celebrities, including Zooey Deschanel and Jessica Chastian, have chosen to walk the red carpet in animal-free couture. Both Natalie Portman and Anne Hathaway have chosen to be photographed wearing shoes from vegan footwear brand Beyond Skin. Stella McCartney has led the way for many other brands, such as MIAKODA and Cri de Couer, to eliminate animal products from their lines and adopt a more eco-friendly and sustainable approach to fashion.

Beyond Skin Martha Shoe

An increase in the number of people who wish to live responsible, sustainable lifestyles combined with a desire to look good while doing it has led to a revolution in the fashion industry. Leading the way is the innovative vegan footwear industry. In an attempt to get the benefits of textiles made from animal products without the cruelty, vegan shoes just might help save the world.

Kelsey is the Managing Editor at The Lux Authority and is trying to balance both her budget and her credit card balance. She likes to live lavish and treat herself when the opportunity allows it. She loves the newest tech, old cars, the smell of rich mahogany, and leather-bound books as well! When she isn’t working, Kelsey is an avid academic, artist, stargazer, blogger, and yoga enthusiast.

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Fair Trade Clothing – The Pros and Cons

A guest post by Michael Williams
Fair trade clothing is a growing niche within a larger offering of ethical clothing. As a concept, the primary focus is on equality and fairness for the people involved in production.

Although this article focuses on Fairtrade, there are other factors that buyers of ethical products need to consider, these include organic clothing, second hand clothing, recycled clothing, and clothing that protects factory workers, such as those accredited to the Fairwear Foundation standards. It is important not to automatically assume that because a clothing product is Fairtrade certified, it is also organic, sustainable, and ethical in ways outside the remit of the Fairtrade Foundation.

What is Fairtrade?
Fairtrade is a global movement that has been in existence for a number of decades, with the aim of improving the conditions for workers of raw materials in less developed nations. It also looks to provide better pay and more opportunities for these people. It does this by using a minimum price that the raw materials must be bought for, with a “social premium” added on top to help fund schools, and other projects that improve the lives of those in the local community.

Fairtrade is governed by the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) and its network of “fair trade organisations” in different countries. In the UK, this job is given to the Fairtrade Foundation, who provides certification (the labels you see on Fairtrade certified products).

Fairtrade’s remit focuses mainly on the working conditions of producers of raw materials, like cotton, rather than environmental standards or working conditions in factories. Fairtrade also prevents the use of some pesticides, which has a secondary environmental benefit, but the primary motivation for this is to protect the workers’ health. It’s important to be aware that when you see a Fairtrade label on a cotton t-shirt, for example, it will only be the raw material fibre that is certified Fairtrade, not necessarily the whole garment (i.e. not the manufacturing process).

What isn’t Fairtrade?
Fairtrade isn’t a magic label that solves all of the world’s problems. It is a great tool to work towards that goal, but shouldn’t be considered in isolation. When considering ethical/sustainable clothing, you should also consider these factors:
• Is it Organic?
• Is it produced in factories that have good environmental records (eg. do they use renewable energy/minimise their pollution)?
• Are the factory workers protected?

When you buy a Fairtrade product, don’t assume these 3 things are protected too. The Fairtrade label only covers the workers that produce the raw material, although it would be nice to think that it’s probably more likely at least something is being done within the supply chain for these other elements.

What makes clothing “Fairtrade”?
Fairtrade clothing is made from materials that are Fairtrade certified, nearly always this means cotton. However, it doesn’t mean that it contains only 100% Fairtrade cotton, for example many clothing products are made blends such as 80% cotton, 20% polyester. Given that synthetic materials can’t be grown on a Fairtrade certified farm, this means that only the cotton will be Fairtrade.

The Pros
• The Fairtrade brand is one of the most well known ethical labels in the world, so you can be sure it’s genuine.
• Fairtrade clothing is usually of a higher quality (to match the higher price).
• This higher quality often feels and fits better.
• Fairtrade clothing can be useful for businesses to help them be more socially responsible.
• Some environmental benefits from less pesticide use.
• You get a warm fuzzy feeling when you buy it.*

The Cons
• Fairtrade clothing usually costs more (but you might be ok with that).
• Despite its growing demand, the supply is still lacking. You will have to look a bit harder to find Fairtrade clothing.
• Fairtrade isn’t a magic pill; you need to look at other ethical factors too.
• The minimum price for raw materials is often below market values, making it redundant (the farmers will get the market rate if it’s higher).
• You get a warm fuzzy feeling when you buy it.*

*The Warm Fuzzy Feeling
When you buy ethical products, including Fairtrade clothing you get a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling inside, knowing that your purchase has done some good in the world. Except consumer purchasing doesn’t necessarily make a big impact. Sushil Mohan discussed the limited impacts of a single consumer purchase in his book: Fair Trade Without the Froth.

Conclusion
Fairtrade is a great way to improve the imbalance within the global supply chains, by no means is it a magic pill, and it should be considered within the wider group of ethical accreditations. It costs a little more, but if you’re looking for ethical products then this difference probably doesn’t matter to you. Whilst it’s not perfect, it is definitely better than nothing.

About the author
Michael Williams is a writer and marketing professional with a keen interest in sustainability and the environment. This work often sees him writing bids for organisations, particularly assisting with their social value offerings.

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