Every year, on 5 June, we celebrate World Environment Day in order to raise awareness of the problems related to the sustainability of our planet. On this occasion, it is crucial to reflect on the role of the fashion industry and the need for a radical change to reduce the environmental impact of this sector. Indeed, fashion must embrace sustainability at all stages, from production to distribution, to ensure a better future for our planet.
The fashion industry is one of the most polluting in the world. From cotton cultivation to dyeing processes, from fabric production to waste management, every stage of the clothing life cycle contributes to the emission of greenhouse gases and the accumulation of toxic waste. It is imperative to address this reality and find innovative solutions to reduce environmental impact.
The first point to address is to talk about sustainable and responsible materials. Sustainable fashion requires the use of environmentally friendly and responsible materials. Choosing organic materials, such as organic cotton or linen, reduces the use of pesticides and preserves the health of farm workers. Furthermore, the use of recycled or innovative fibres, such as polyester made from plastic bottles, can reduce dependence on natural resources and reduce waste accumulation.
The second point is to talk about ethical and fair production, as sustainable fashion cannot ignore these principles. It is crucial to ensure fair working conditions for workers and to respect human rights throughout the production chain. This implies greater transparency, respect for minimum wages and the elimination of child labour.
Another point is the reduction of waste and over-consumption. Fast fashion has contributed to excessive waste of clothes and over-consumption. There is a need to promote a change of mindset towards a more sustainable approach that prioritises quality over quantity through practices such as reuse, remanufacturing and rental of garments can help reduce waste and extend the life of garments.
Innovation through the use of sustainable technologies can also bring important changes to the fashion industry, reducing environmental impact and promoting sustainability. Some examples of these technologies are the following:
1. Eco-friendly or waste-regenerated fabrics: there are production techniques that use recycled materials (plastic bottles, yarn from cotton or wool waste) or materials derived from agricultural waste;
2. 3D printing: 3D printing technology can revolutionise the fashion industry by enabling customised production and the reduction of material waste. With this technology, it is possible to create garments directly from digital data, eliminating the need for large-scale production and allowing garments to be personalised according to consumer needs;
3. Automated production: The use of intelligent, robotic machines can optimise the use of materials, reduce production errors and limit energy consumption and be able to produce 'close to the consumer' (thus limiting the logistics of the goods). This leads to more efficient production and a reduction in wasted resources;
4. Traceability and transparency: Technologies such as blockchain can ensure the traceability of products along the entire supply chain, enabling consumers to know the origin of materials and the conditions of production. This encourages transparency and ethics in fashion, promoting the adoption of sustainable practices;
5. Virtual reality and augmentations: the use of a better shopping experience can decrease the need for physical transportation.
The challenges of fashion require an innovative and non-stereotypical vision of the relationship and connection between fashion and nature without falling back on fundamentalist models, but also without avoiding incorporating the challenges of sustainability in the way we work.
Cover photo from 'Ghana' - second episode of the docuseries 'Junk' co-produced by Will Media and Sky Italia.