Even after the hottest year on record in 2015, change within the fashion industry is nowhere near fast enough. According to the Guardian Environment Network, fossil fuel use must fall twice as fast as first thought to contain global warming and keep temperatures below the point of no return (Radford, 2016).
When we first learned about global warming, we seemed to be reacting with the appropriate level of fear. We felt the scorching breath down our necks and began to look at ways to help ourselves. But after years of economic and political struggle and the gnawing idea that it is a lost cause in one way or another, the issue is being swept further under the rug – in 2014, the Guardian showed disdain towards this ethos with the sarcastic title: “Climate change is an obvious myth – how much more evidence do you need?”
Apathetic attitudes within today’s over-consumed fashion industry are difficult to ignore. Fast fashion has erupted and shows no signs of slowing down. Millions of tonnes of textiles still end up in landfill each year. We are completely numb to the damage we are causing as we turn on the washing machine or add to our shopping cart for the fifth time that week.
Even though brands such as Diesel and H&M have launched campaigns to tackle unsustainable practices, today’s ‘now’ generations can easily discard the message as they get lost in a sea of online distractions and advertisements – it’s time to protect the one world of ours that could never be virtual or limitless. Because whether or not we know or care, the breath continues to singe our backs, with more intensity than ever before.
After Leonardo DiCaprio’s long anticipated speech at the Oscar Awards ceremony 2016, social media’s response to his plea for action against climate change was mixed. For some, the blame lies with big corporations or celebrities with yachts and private jets, not the everyday consumer. But we are all responsible for climate change. If we keep procrastinating and passing the blame instead of helping out, we won’t be on this planet for much longer. As Leo said: “let us not take this planet for granted.”
So how is today’s generation supposed to cut consumption when everything has always been at our immediacy and disposal, especially clothes? We are starting to see a shift in attitudes within the fashion industry. Vintage fashion has blossomed and with it, a brilliant way to reuse clothing. There’s also the option to donate unwanted items to charities and other causes. H&M were the first fashion company to launch a global garment collection initiative to make use of customers’ unwanted items. Brilliant stuff, but it is up to us to make use of these services and ensure that fashion continues to turn to more sustainable processes. It’s not hard to do your bit. If we don’t, these campaigns turn into nothing more than one-off tokens of recognition.
It is also important to stand up and speak up – Climate Revolution, an uprising founded by Vivienne Westwood, pushes the idea that we need a revolution to tackle lawless climate change. This means standing together to change pessimistic attitudes and making sure that it remains a relevant and urgent issue that musn’t be ignored.
Reworking old garments is also a fantastic way to reduce consumption. Finding creative ways to repair and rework clothes can be cost-effective and a chance to create a personalised garment – the one we could never find, no matter how many sites we scrolled through. Recently, the media has shown open appreciation for traditional craftsmanship and techniques; as part of last year’s BBC Four Goes Slow series, films were made to document the unhurried, unedited process of crafting. A reminder that life does not always have to move at the same pace as advancing technology. Online shopping can be a wonderful experience, but so can creating an original custom-made look that says everything you want it to say, especially in a vast and forever changing market place.
Unsustainable fashion is a worldwide and deep running problem that is going to take years to turn around. But there are better places to start than sat in an over heated living room watching the world fall apart on a 72 inch flat screen. These little changes are the start of something bigger and better. Where will you start?