Elizabeth Bray: It is hard to define the term ‘sustainable fashion’

Only 15 per cent of people recycle their old or used clothing

Only 15 per cent of people recycle their old or used clothing - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The fashion industry is the third most polluting industry in the world and so it seems almost humorous to add the concept of 'sustainability' alongside.

An industry which accounts for 8.1 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions - producing an estimated 1.2 billion tonnes of C02 annually by 2030, it is hard to define the term 'sustainable fashion'.

We all love clothes. We love materialism, the concept of owning pretty things, having something of physical luxury, having something that makes us feel of luxury and hoping people obnoxiously shout 'who are you wearing?' while you walk (the very imaginable) red carpet.

But when did we start correlating fast fashion with endurable shopping?

Fast fashion is the reproduction of highly fashionable clothes at even higher speed and low cost: this typically also results in lower quality.

According to the 2017 Ethical Trading Initiative summary report, of the 71 leading clothing retailers in the UK, 77 per cent believed there was a likelihood of modern slavery occurring at some stage in their supply chains. Although these businesses are not named, we can assume some are leading retailers in the UK. We must also think of the exploitation of sweat shops in Third World countries.

The very nature of the fast fashion turnover is devastating and if it continues to be fashion business as usual, the climate impact is expected to increase 49 per cent by 2030.

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Only 15 per cent of people recycle their old or used clothing and the stigma of charity shopping among young people (an age group that seemingly contribute towards this stigma) is slowly derailing but should be more encouraged.

A popular second-hand clothing app 'Depop' is a main contributor to young people's involvement in sustainable fashion as well as, 'Sobey's' in Exeter, another popular second-hand store.

However, does it encourage sustainability when they are selling items for the original retail price? If we can't change the manufacturing of fashion to minimise harm to the environment, we must change our spending habits, or even go as far as to 'read the label.'

If you're thinking of doing a summer clear out of your wardrobe, donate to one of the 30+ charity shops in Torbay!