As Fashion Revolution Week comes to an end, the movement continues on. At Graduate Fashion Week, we're committed to providing a platform for young creatives to explore their ideas and express these opinions to the industry, as they begin a new chapter. Here, we're reminding ourselves why the 'Fashion Revolution' is beneficial to us all, and why for GFW18, we're rewarding responsible design, making the event itself more eco conscious than ever, and creating a safe environment to speak openly on responsibilty.
As an industry renowned for its glamour, the world of fashion manufacturing is ironically far from that. Society’s obsession with fast-paced trends has triggered an environmental, social and economic whirlpool of problems. For years, well-known brands have been ignorantly importing clothes from developing countries, hiding behind a fog of poor conditions and inhumane work hours; retail powerhouses are only just, in 2018, more openly discussing where their clothes are produced. But the textile industry is not only facing an ongoing ethical battle, it is also the second most polluting industry in the world, after oil. The social, ethical and environmental fight for sustainable fashion is only just beginning.
The environmental impact of fashion is often overlooked. Despite polyester, nylon and elastic being popularly used globally, they are extremely harmful. These materials shed plastic microfibers in washing machines, which pass into drainage systems and subsequently make their way into our oceans; plastic microfibers are not biodegradable and therefore dangerously end up floating with sea life.
Cotton is another huge threat to environmental sustainability. Over a third of the world’s land has now become toxic and barren wasteland thanks to this familiar clothing material. But the manufacturing chemicals are not the only concern, 1kg of cotton also can require more than 20,000 litres of water to produce. Thankfully, more and more retail giants are fronting campaigns with organic cotton which is a definite sign of progress.
But the environment is not the only victim of the fashion industry; the low priced mass production of the garment industries raises the issue of human exploitation in developing countries. Just five years ago, the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh collapsed because of a construction fault that the owners ignored. The Rana Plaza was a five story commercial factory and thousands were killed. Shockingly, it took weeks for various brands and retailers to even know if their labels were in the ruins. The majority of the brands with clothes being produced at the Rana Plaza were completely unaware of their association with it.
The transparency of brands has become a deservedly prevalent topic of discussion, as people are becoming more interested in where their clothes are being made. The ignorance of wealthy fashion companies has led to disasters like Rana Plaza where they are entirely unaware of ethical work conditions. Since the tragedy, there has been a definite improvement of the transparency of brands. In the words of Fashion Revolution: ‘lack of transparency costs lives’.
The heightened connectivity of our modern world can hopefully speed up the progression of sustainable fashion. The industry is undeniably in extreme crisis. So, whether you are buying second-hand vintage or only organic cotton, it is all a step in the right direction.
All of this is why we are giving young designers the chance to win an award with the ever-green Dame Vivienne Westwood. Designers of the future need to be designing with the world’s future in mind.
Words by Sadie Bargeron