Here at ReMode we are all about making clear the connection between the clothes we wear and the resources involved in the begetting of them.
Fashion tends to be thought of as frivolous, fleeting and beyond need – not to mention heavily ‘genderised’ as a sphere of concern (it’s a girl thing!). Yet, everyone wears clothes and everyone has some sort of relationship with the stuff in which we cloak our bodies – even nudists who, despite the seemingly obvious contradiction, do in fact have quite intense and meaningful relationships with clothing. Because it is viewed in this way it’s easily dismissed as an issue of no great importance within the larger scheme of life and the universe as we know it. This however, I will attempt to demonstrate, is not the case.
So here’s some factual and frankly worrisome info: The textile industry is the second most toxic on the entire planet. This is because the production, processing and manufacturing of clothing and other textiles uses up lots of different resources and each type of fibre creates different problems.
For example, farms that grow raw materials like flax, hemp and cotton, require a lot of water. They also use lots of pesticides and herbicides that end up in the environment – specifically in the water supplies for humans and animals living in the vicinity, making it undrinkable.
Fabrics like nylon and polyester made from petrochemicals and fossil fuels also require lots of water and energy and producing them creates harmful gasses that we breathe.
Manufacturing rayon, an artificial fabric made from wood pulp, has resulted in the loss of many old-growth forests and there are a few significant environmental problems relating to this, but let’s cut to the headline… These forests are like inredibly efficient machines that inhale the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) that humans are producing in huge quantities by burning fossil fuels like coal and gas (ie. to drive machines to produce large amounts of clothing). They effectively ‘clean’ it then exhale it as harmless chemicals like water vapour and oxygen. Trees are often called the lungs of the Earth because they perform this amazing ‘clean-up’ act. However the rate that large areas of trees are being chopped down and massive amounts of carbon dioxide simultaneously being produced to meet human demand – for clothing amongst other things – is too great. The magical air cleaning acts of forests can’t keep apace and this – through a chain of events called Climate Change or Breakdown – is reducing the life supporting abilities of our planet. Inevitably reducing it to one which will not be able to sustain human, or any other sort of life form that require oxygen to breath, water to drink and food to eat.
It is the combination of these human acts – chopping down large areas of forest, growing huge amounts of fibre and burning lots of fossil fuel to drive the machinery, the use of surfactants, dangerous chemicals and substances like lead, mercury and arsenic, couple with the sheer volumes involved that contributes to Climate Change/ Breakdown.
So what can we as individuals do? Here’s the good news – all is not lost! People need clothing so we are not suggesting you stop wearing them. There are in fact lots of new and innovative fibres being developed as well as much more environmentally sensible processes for manufacturing clothing. We need governments to support the development of new infrastructures for these through research funding and creating financial and social systems that support businesses adopting new approaches. There are also a number of things that individuals can do to make a difference.
Buying fewer garments is really the top message, there is no getting away from the fact that the sheer volume of clothes being bought and the rate at which they are disposed of is THE problem. Next, when you do buy something new, buy best quality if you can. This makes a lot of sense as the better quality of the workmanship and materials the more likely it is t sit nicely on your bod, feel nice to wear, wear well when washed and remain attractive enough for you to pass on with pride.
Sometimes, though, buying best quality just isn’t where you are at in your life and that really doesn’t make you single handily responsible for Climate Breakdown! The rest of our tips are achievable by everyone and involves a bit of joy – and if joy can’t save the world then what can?
Enjoy your clothes, be aware of what has gone into making them and value that by looking after them – so get the habit of reading care labels and hanging up coats/suits/dresses.
Mend and adapt where you can – get social and join ReMode’s sewing and making workshops. Learn in an environment of support with all the materials and tools you need to hand including experienced makers to guide and advise. You might be amazed at how quickly you yourself can become one of those experts!
Pass them on to others when you no longer wear them yourself, via your local charity shop or even better – C-19 restrictions allowing of course – organise a Swish (clothes swap). These can be great get-togethers in your own home with friends bringing along stuff to swap that they no longer wear – often each item has a story and that’s a big part of the fun! You can build in tokens, auctioning, prosecco and nibbles as you wish, or do one as a community fundraiser. ReMode can advise on setting up Swishes.
Set up a Menodge in your community/ between neighbours and friends (locally based savings clubs – Scots form the French word ‘menage’ – meaning housework, either pronunciation is ok) to save up for something really beautifully made. ReMode can connect you to people who know about how to set one up and can advise on best practice for running one. These really can work out as a great way to avoid the credit card malarkey along with their abusive interest charges!
For further insights please see Fast Fashion Dining created by a group of ReMode volunteers; Amy Gardner, Thomas Dixon and Mohammed Kiani and facilitated by ReMode’s Carolyn Edmondson and Emma Owen.
‘This film is an attempt to create a caricature of consumer behaviour when it comes to purchasing clothes. The reason we made this film is because we want people to be shocked into reflecting on the effects of their over consumption on the environment. This film matters to us because we care deeply about the future and preserving the health of the planet we live on. The action we would like people to take after seeing this film is to reconsider their shopping habits when it comes to clothing, consider buying less new clothes and attempting to make their current clothes last longer.’