The concept of âfast fashionâ – the quick turnaround of styles at affordable prices – encourages modern societyâs throwaway culture, with much clothing used only for a short time before being replaced. The environmental and economic effects of this attitude, according to a new report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF), are only going to get worse – and truly ambitious change is required to avoid this.
The report, titled âA new textiles economy: Redesigning fashionâs futureâ, was launched on Tuesday (28 November) by MacArthur and British fashion designer Stella McCartney. According to the report, while clothing production has doubled in the last 15 years, clothing utilisation (the number of times a garment is worn) has drastically decreased: in China, a consumer market second only to the US, utilisation has dropped by around 70 per cent in that time. And while consumers are buying more, and using less, recycling of clothes is low: it is claimed that less than one per cent of material used to produce clothing is recycled into new clothing.
While the report acknowledges the steps already taken in the industry towards more ecologically sound practices, spurred on by growing customer awareness (for instance actions to reduce environmental impact), it says these measures are not enough. Rather than merely mitigating the impact of âsubstances of concernâ (textiles containing microfibres, or those than cannot be easily recycled), the report calls for change to be effected at the design stage, encouraging innovation for new and better-quality materials, created with recycling processes in mind, which would allow the industry to capture more value from materials over the long term, while limiting the initial consumption of resources.