Supporting Research

The rise of fast fashion in Australia means 6000 kg of clothing is dumped in landfill every 10 minutes.

Conventional pattern cutting creates about 15% wastage of material, even if the pattern has been optimised by a computer.

Sustainable technologies strive for a “circular economy”, in which materials can be infinitely recycled. Yet this technology is only in its infancy and needs much more research funding. H&M’s Global Change Award funds five start-up companies with a total of 1 million Euros for new solutions.

According to a recent report from Wrap (the Waste and Resources Action Programme), the average piece of clothing in the UK lasts for 3.3 years before being discarded. Other research puts the lifespan of UK garments at 2.2 years. For a younger demographic, you can probably halve that. A UK-based fashion company tells its buyers to remember that a dress will stay in the owner’s wardrobe for only five weeks.

The way we get dressed now has virtually nothing in common with the behaviour of previous generations, for whom one garment could be worn for decades. Wrap estimates that we purchased 1.13m tonnes of new clothing last year in the UK. While an estimated £30bn-worth hangs about gathering dust – Tinie Tempah’s refrain “I have so many clothes, I keep some at my aunt’s house” was spot on – an unpalatable quantity goes in the bin. A survey commissioned by Sainsbury’s last spring found that 235m items ended up on landfill sites as people readied their wardrobes for summer. Surely we can do better than this?

The fashion industry has developed a pretty terrible reputation – not least for exploitation of human capital, outsourcing production to the world’s lowest-wage economies. Four years ago, 1,133 garment workers were killed in Dhaka, Bangladesh, while producing clothing for high-street brands and their subsidiaries. After that, many worried what was next.

For those in and around the industry, garment waste has long been rumoured to be the next big scandal. Globally, levels of production and consumption are forecast to increase as fashion waste becomes an environmental crisis to rival plastic pollution in oceans. This is a tale of over-production and supply, powered by the relentless “fast fashion” system of production that over the past three decades has revolutionised both the way we dress and the way clothing is produced – and not often for the better.

Extending the life of a garment by an extra nine months reduces its environmental impact by 20-30%.

Fashion in the UK lasts an average of 3.3 years before a garment is discarded.

Timo says that creative pattern cutting is key to minimising waste. In fact, research conducted by Reverse Resources shows that “waste from production falls between 10 to 30% from intake materials, and that leftover percentage can rarely be pushed below 10%.” Which means that most brands discard an average 20% of their fabric during production. So with that in mind then, it is crucial that brands start thinking more creatively about producing patterns that don’t generate quite so much waste. Ultimately this will require a little more thoughtfulness on the brand’s behalf, but it is well worth it in terms of fashion’s waste problem and overall environmental impact.

The global apparel industry is worth anywhere from $900 billion to $3 trillion, depending on the figured cited. But the toll the industry has on the environment is clear. It accounts for 10 percent of the world’s GHG emissions, uses 1.33 trillion gallons of water for dyeing processes annually, and sends about 48 billion to 144 billion square yards of fabric from factory scraps to the landfill every year.

Gordon, Jennifer Farley, and Colleen Hill. Sustainable Fashion, edited by Jennifer Farley Gordon, and Colleen Hill, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014. ProQuest Ebook Central, .

differences between organically grown and traditionally grown cotton are scarcely perceived, meaning that organic cotton has found easy acceptance among designers and consumers. Furthermore, its impact on the environment is much less than that of traditional cotton, as organic cotton farming prohibits the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Natural enemies are introduced to crops to rid them of unwanted pests instead. To counteract the depletion of soil nutrients, organic famers rely on crop rotation, which helps to enrich soil. By extension, the nutrient-dense soil requires less water. Farmers who grow organic cotton also receive higher incomes— as much as 50 percent more than that of their peers who farm non-organically. 23 In spite of the many positive attributes of organic cotton, it is not a “perfect” fiber choice. Although the production of cotton requires relatively little energy, all cotton— whether conventionally grown or organic— requires cleaning. The cleaning process involves desizing, scouring and bleaching, using chemicals that are usually toxic. In addition, organic cotton still made up only about 0.02 percent of the overall amount of cotton grown in 2009, 24 even though demand for the fiber had increased by an average of over 40 percent per year since 2001 25 (and sales of organic cotton continue to rise). The fiber is also limited in quantity, due in part to the way in which it is grown— yields of organic cotton tend to be 20 to 50 percent lower than those of their pesticide-enhanced counterparts. 26 In addition, organic cotton farming is best suited for growth on small farms, where crop rotation is often already in practice. 27 While organic cotton is often lauded as an ideal sustainable choice, its current output simply cannot meet demand. In addition, the fiber’s designation as organic often ends at harvest, without accounting for further stages of its life cycle— many of which are not sustainable. 28 Nevertheless, organic cotton production is in many ways being viewed as a model— or perhaps more aptly, an experiment— for how to cultivate sustainable fibers in greater quantity in the future.

Gordon, Jennifer Farley, and Colleen Hill. Sustainable Fashion, edited by Jennifer Farley Gordon, and Colleen Hill, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014. ProQuest Ebook Central, .

Created from massey on 2017-02-12 18:03:25.

Why not synthetic?: Teeny Particles

Researchers have found that these well intended brands may be doing more harm than good by introducing recycled plastic clothing into the wash cycle. Apparently, microfibers — tiny synthetic threads less than 1 mm in size — may actually be the biggest source of plastic in the ocean. And many of them may come from simply washing synthetic clothing.

Earth Island reports that Dr. Mark Browne, an ecologist and postdoctoral fellow at the National Center of Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in Santa Barbara, California, states that every time a synthetic garment — that is, anything made from non-organic fibres – goes through the spin and rinse cycle in a washing machine, it sheds a large number of plastic fibers. Most washing machines don’t have filters to trap these miniscule microfibers, and neither do sewage plants that are responsible for removing contaminants. So every time the water drains from a washing machine, plastic filaments are swept through the sewers and eventually end up in the ocean.

In 2011, Browne published a paper in Environmental Science & Technology stating that one single synthetic garment can produce more than 1,900 microfibres per wash, with fleeces being the worst offenders – but even smooth synthetics like nylon shed significantly. Compound billions of people washing billions of garments billions of times in a year, and the effects are clearly effects are devastating.

Kowtow is a New Zealand based ethical clothing brand, they source their textiles from overseas ethical manufacturers.

“Kowtow only uses 100% fair trade certified cotton, as certified by the Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International (FLOI) and the benefits are:

  • The Fairtrade guaranteed minimum price covers the costs of production and provides a sustainable livelihood for Kowtow cotton producers.
  • The Fairtrade premium enables co-operatives to fund projects that benefit the organisation and wider community: business and agricultural training; drilling bore holes for clean water; building schools and clinics.
  • Kowtow fair trade producers benefit from advance payment and long-term relationships with buyers.
  • Kowtow fair trade producer groups are democratically run and respect the rights of farmers and farm workers.
  • Fair trade production standards encourage sustainable agriculture and protection of the environment.” –Source

They also enforce that all kowtow factory workers have living wages, pension plans, sick leave, rent, free education for their children, and a workers union, and that all their cotton is organically grown.

On their website you can watch a series of videos that shows each stage of their garments production ‘From Seed to Garment’. Something similar would work well for our brand, perhaps a series of interviews with manufacturers/textile workers.


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