Fashion must slow down. (Giorgio Armani)
The reduction in costs, the simplification of processes and the increase in consumer purchasing power have led to a doubling of clothing production between 2000 and 2014 and the number of garments purchased each year by the average consumer to increase by 60%. Today, clothing sales are about 400% higher than 20 years ago. The first consequence is the halving of the life cycle of garments compared to the early 2000s: some estimates suggest that consumers treat cheaper clothes as disposable, discarding them after only wearing them 7 or 8 times. The second is the multiplication of the collections: Zara proposes 24 of them a year, but also H&M, together with other fashion multinationals, proposes from 12 to 16 with weekly updates. Among all European clothing companies, the average number of collections has more than doubled, from two a year in 2000 to around five a year in 2011. And when unsold goods accumulate, the problem arises of how to dispose of them. It is estimated that the equivalent of a garbage truck full of clothes is burned or sent to landfill every second, for a total of about 85% of fabrics per year.
It goes without saying that the environmental and social consequences are worsening in proportion to the increase in production, which requires the use and waste of huge quantities of water, the use of chemicals, which cause water and soil pollution, and the emission of significant quantities of greenhouse gases, which are among the biggest contributors to the environmental crisis we are experiencing. The fashion industry every year is responsible for 10% of global greenhouse gas (CO2) emissions and contributes to the waste of water resources for 20% of the total, necessary for various processes such as dyeing, printing and finishing, but also to maintain cotton plantations. The sector has a turnover of €225 billion, employs more than 300 million people worldwide and contributes significantly to global wealth. It also has an enormous weight on the pollution of the oceans: about 60% of clothes are made of polyester which, with washing, releases about 500 thousand tons of microfibers into watercourses every year, the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles.
Fashion is among the five industries to have taken advantage of modern slavery. 58% of the people working in such conditions are in the main cotton or clothing producing countries - China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Sri Lanka, and among them the percentage of children is very high. Here, textile workers are often underpaid, overworked, without any sickness benefits or social security benefits and in most cases they are in dangerous conditions.
In recent years consumers habits have changed considerably and the coronavirus has only accelerated a process that is already underway, which sees sustainability - certainly environmental, but also social and economic - at the centre of attention. While in 2016 only 7% of people reported buying natural or sustainable clothing, in 2018 it was 11%. This year it is 16%. This change is driven by the younger generations, as shown by the report The state of fashion, prepared by McKinsey and The business of fashion magazine, according to which 31% of consumers born after 1996, the so-called generation Z, say they are willing to pay more for products with the lowest environmental impact, followed by 26% of those born between 1982 and 1995, i.e. millennials and 17% of generation X, i.e. those born between 1965 and 1981. Among the children of the great economic boom, i.e. the boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, only 12% agree. Globally, Gen Z, which represents the consumers of tomorrow, proves to be demanding in many ways: climate change first and foremost, as the young people of Fridays for future and Extinction rebellion have shown, but also inequalities and lgbtq+ rights. All issues with which young people today have grown up. And in fashion they have married the ideology of buy less, buy better, a great threat to fast fashion.
Companies are beginning to see sustainability as a competitive factor. The coronavirus has entered a climate of turmoil in which many fashion brands were already implementing substantial transformations in brand policies. Shareholders and investors are also asking companies not only for transparency, but also for clear and effective objectives in terms of sustainability, highlighting the growing collaborative approach by companies, institutions and stakeholders, who all have enormous responsibilities in this game. Sustainability today is the tool needed to ensure profitability, to sustain competitiveness and reputation in the eyes of consumers and investors. (source: lifegate.it)
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