Who should care about the discussion on sustainable development of fashion?
Hi, as you might expect, it’s Kuba from KABAK ? In the last episode of my series, I would like to take a closer look at the debate on the broadly understood #sustainablefashion and consider which other parties - besides producers and consumers - should be involved. The goal is to implement sustainable changes throughout the life cycle of a garment.
The life story of our garment begins (usually) in the field.
Already at this stage, a grower can choose between two ways:
- to produce cheaply and quickly, but with no regard for the environment (so with pesticides, stronger drainage of water resources, lack of biodiversity and soil erosion)
- to go towards less scalable, but already more marginally profitable organic production which follows the natural processes occurring in nature.
It only seems to be a more challenging path, as organically grown fibers become more viable and at the same time they are easier and more expensive to sell, because there is much more demand for them compared to supply than in the case of conventionally produced cotton (so again: not only the planet thrives, but also a grower!). So it turns out that growers of cotton and other fibres used extensively in the textile industry should be the first to sit down at the table to discuss sustainable fashion.
The next stage of the life cycle of a garment is processing fibers into yarn and then preparing fabric from it.
This part of the supply chain is greatly affected by lawmakers, because apart from consumer influence, legal pressure is necessary, to put it simply, to make it possible to enforce systemic changes. Thankfully, everything is moving in this direction, because the plan for achieving climate neutrality in the European Union is largely based on the required changes in the fashion industry, which is one of the sectors with a really large (negative) impact on the environment. As you can see, there is no meaningful discussion about changes in the clothing market without the voice of legislators, both at the state and supranational level.
The life cycle of a garment does not obviously end when it is manufactured and sold.
Each garment has an even shorter or longer life ahead of it. That is why, in my opinion, washing machine manufacturers must not be left out of the discussion about sustainable changes in the clothing industry. Laundry machines and dryers are indeed essential for us, but higher spin speeds or higher washing temperatures, aside from removing some dirt, make clothes lose their usability value more quickly. The fundamental problem in the case of washing clothes, however, is the lack of solutions aimed at reducing microplastic pollution from seas and oceans. To make this possible, systemic solutions for household appliances are necessary, because since microplastics mainly precipitate at the washing stage, we should apply pressure not only to clothing manufacturers to avoid using these microplastics, but also on washing machine manufacturers to look for solutions to "catch them” the moment it precipitates from the clothes. By the way, it's a bit of a vicious circle with this microplastic - synthetic fibers, so those that precipitate microplastic, are commonly used in clothes so that they can withstand more washing cycles.
Following this line of thought, it could be argued that the actions of laundry detergent manufacturers are also not insignificant for changes in the fashion sector. Their role in balancing the industry is, in my view, twofold. On the one hand, they should, clearly, ensure that the compositions of their products are as natural and environmentally friendly as possible, so that no substances harmful to the planet and aquatic organisms are released during their use. On the other hand, manufacturers of such products should ensure that consumers are educated on the proper use of their goods. There is still not much discussion about the fact, for example, that fabric softeners are not only not necessary for us, but may even be harmful to clothes (if you wish to learn more about this subject, please check out this article: https://pandawanda.pl/pl/ n/Why-fabric softener-is-bad-for-your-clothes/143). Personally, without these seemingly insignificant changes, it will be impossible to fully balance the industry.
Obviously, none of the changes will happen without the participation of clothing producers and consumers.
Because they play an instrumental role in setting the directions of development for the industry. Growers won't cultivate fibres in a sustainable way if producers don't want to buy them, and producers won't want to buy if consumers don't create demand for sustainable clothing and push for change in that direction. Innovations implemented in washing machines will be of no use if consumers do not pay more attention to the way they use and wash their clothes, and they will not be able to do so if manufacturers do not equip them with sound knowledge on how to use their products properly. The process of rebalancing the clothing industry is a system of communicating vessels, where each element must move in the same direction to achieve its intended goal.