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A revolution in fashion

All Areas > Health & Beauty > Vintage & Sustainable Fashion

Author: Lynda Rowland, Posted: Thursday, 13th May 2021, 11:00

Image: ilovelowie.com Image: ilovelowie.com

The BBC’s Parliament Channel, so often the broadcaster of dismal scenes of a sparsely populated House of Lords, was recently given over to a much more interesting discussion about the future of the clothing industry.

The Parliamentary Select Committee session entitled ‘Fixing Fashion’ showed that the issues of sustainability and ethical practices in the garment manufacturing sector are being taken seriously by our representatives on all sides of the political spectrum.

It was gratifying to see MPs from most of the major parties discussing ways in which the UK and other western countries can and should be involved in ensuring that the fashion industry addresses its substantial impact on climate change, carbon emissions and ethical working practices.

This Spring sees the launch of Textiles 2030 by the UK Waste Recycling Charity, WRAP. This is a voluntary initiative which aims to drastically reduce the impact that textiles have on the environment.

Targets for water and carbon reductions

The organisers have introduced targets for water and carbon reductions in the industry, more recycling capability to be ‘built into’ new clothing and more thought to be put into how textiles and clothing are re-used.

Several top high street brands, including Next, John Lewis and Marks and Spencer, have signed up to the agreement, in addition to many recycling and sustainability organisations.

Speaking to the committee, WRAP’s Sustainable Textiles Sector Specialist Catherine Salvidge, said: “We are promoting changes in the design process with more use of recycled content and encouraging the idea of the ‘circular’ business model.”

This refers to an economic system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources.

Encouraging brands to design durable products

Circularity is being seen as particularly relevant to the garment industry and means that WRAP is focusing on encouraging brands to design durable products, as well as things which are recyclable so they can be fed back into the industry.

It also aims to promote innovation and help companies overcome any barriers to setting aspirational and achievable recycling targets.

Another group speaking to the committee was ‘Renewal Workshop’, an organisation set up in 2016 in Oregon, USA, which now also has a factory in Amsterdam, where much of their work takes place.

Sharing the goals and ethos of WRAP, Renewal Workshop takes discarded apparel and textiles from its brand partners, turning them into recycled products and up-cycled materials, or putting the resultant output back into the production chain wherever possible. The company collects data throughout the process, which helps brands to improve the production and design of future products.

The country which appears to be leading the way in addressing climate change in this area is France. Maud Hardy, Circular Economy Director of Re-Fashion, Paris, contributed a great deal of innovative ideas to the Select Committee, explaining that France is heavily investing in the promotion of recycling and the circular economy in its garment industry.

The French government is incentivising firms to concentrate on sustainability and durability in their products by offering lower tax rates if they do so. This initiative could soon become mandatory throughout the EU.

Maud Hardy stressed: “We must get it right.” The admin involved in terms of form-filling and applications must not end up costing companies more in terms of time and resources, than the saving they would potentially make.

An initiative which was introduced in 2013 in the wake of the Rana Plaza disaster is known appropriately as Fashion Revolution.

When a building which housed many garment factories in Bangladesh collapsed in April of that year, over 1,000 people were killed and more than 2,500 were injured. The factories involved collectively employed around 5,000 people, manufacturing clothing for many of the biggest global fashion brands. The victims were mostly young women, who had been working in unregulated and unsafe conditions, probably for very low pay.

Fashion Revolution attempts to highlight the importance of ensuring that our clothes are produced in a safe, ethical and sustainable way. The group holds an annual Awareness Week, but its goals are of vital importance all year round.

As consumers we should all try to do our bit, and seeing our government representatives from all sides of the political divide taking an interest in achieving better outcomes in fashion can only be encouraging.

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