What is a textile and when does it fit circular fashion?
Textiles today are everywhere, literally. Whether we have them close to our skin through the clothes we wear, or the bed we sleep in, all products are made with textiles. Unfortunately, a massive amount of textiles end up out of sight of our human eyes: in our oceans or in landfills. The problem is that such textiles are generally composed of non-organic materials (fx. toxic chemicals to dye the fabric). These components then contaminate the water and land they end up in. The question I'm exploring here therefore is:
"What does it take from the environment to produce textiles for fashion?"
Let's dive into that now.
The answer is circular fashion! In my article "What is Circular Fashion" I laid out the foundation of this concept. Of course, there is so much more to it, but it's a start that I will continue to elaborate on here on this blog ;)
As Kate Raworth already said in her book Doughnut Economics : "We need to meet the needs of all within the means of the planet
This figure comes from the Ellen MacArtur Report called : A New Textiles Economy and describes how massively underutilised clothing is. It has been estimated that on a global level (billions of people), customers miss out on $ 460 B of value each year just because they are throwing away clothes that they could continue to wear. Further, it was found that some garments are discarded after just seven to ten wears. Here is the problem: when a garment is thrown away, it is not actually thrown away. Rather, it ends up at a different location than the consumer's closet. The final station for these garments is usually landfill.
Why is that? Recycling is an industrially intensive process to turn a textile into a new product. If the facility is not run on renewable resources, the activities take a toll on the environment. This process is highly complex and involves a myriad of stakeholders of which many usually do not act consciously towards the environment. Thus, as the figure shows, today's clothing system is putting massive pressure on our resources and therefore undermines planetary boundaries. Further negative effects of this system are the societal impacts that often include disrespectful behaviour towards the Declaration of Human Rights.
We are living in a heavily polluted environment and we will continue doing so unless we flip the script 180º. How do we do this? I'm glad you asked!!
Everything we produce is made from materials. These materials are then shaped in a textile that then becomes a fabric used in fashion production. Finally, the raw material has traveled a long way to become the garment you wear today. Given that materials are the key resource for fashion to be tangible, we need to reconsider how we source and process the raw materials for our future garments. This is where the circular economy comes in!
If we make sure that the entire journey that a raw material travels is aligned with the principles of the Circular Economy in order to become your coat, pair of shoes, or a pair of sunglasses, then we can continue producing and consuming fashion in a responsible way. I may sound like a granny by mentioning the word 'responsible', but in my opinion, it is the only word that just directly drives home the message: take charge of your decisions and actively vote for a clean environment.
That's all for now. Don't forget to follow me on Instagram for more updates from my journey towards Aesthetics that meet Ethics towards the Planet and the People living and working on it.