Towards a new fashion culture

In the last 15 years, considerable changes have occurred in the fashion textile industry. The production and sale of clothes has almost doubled, but the number of times an item of clothing is used before it is discarded has dropped by 36%. This situation is due to the expanding middle class and to fast fashion: a strategy based on rapid changes in design, the creation of more collections per year, and low prices.

The current system of production, distribution, and use of clothes operates almost completely linearly. Less than 1% of the materials used in production are recycled and converted into a new item of clothing. This translates into annual losses in the value of materials of over a billion dollars. In addition, large amounts of resources are extracted to produces items at least half of which are discarded after a year.

This model has an extremely high environmental impact. Textile production (including cotton cultivation) consumes annually close to 93 billion cubic metres of water and 43 million tons of chemicals. To manufacture a ton of textiles, 17 tons of CO2 equivalent are produced, while in plastic production the ratio is 1 to 3.5. Global textile production generates more greenhouse gases than international flights and maritime trade put together.

Domestic laundering of clothes produces around half a million tons of microfibres a year that end up in the oceans. At the end of 2017, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation presented a report with the above data and the conclusion that the fashion industry needs to be radically redesigned to avoid the socioenvironmental problems that it generates. The industry should commit to a model based on the principles of ecodesign, the circular economy, and sustainable development.

To implement these strategies, coordinated action is needed between the various agents involved in the textile value chain. The main objectives should be coordination in the design of clothing with recycling strategies and policies, promotion of technological innovation to improve the quality and economic viability of recycled products, stimulation of demand for recycled materials, and adjustment of collections to a sustainable scale. The fast fashion linear model of hyper-consumerism leads us inexorably to reflection on the need for a new fashion culture.

Enric Carrera
Director of Intexter, UPC
Artcicle released at Diners La Vanguardia on January 6, 2019

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