Fashion is a massive sector that changes very quickly according to seasonality, popularity, and other sectoral trends in the world. The fashion industry includes special designs (haute-couture) and fast fashion that will offer different economic alternatives for consumers. Fast fashion presents the collections of famous fashion brands to the people at a much cheaper cost, much faster, and in large quantities at a much lower price, such as H&M, Stradivarius, ZARA, etc. Although fast fashion offers people the opportunity to follow fashion inexpensively, it causes irreversible effects on nature.
Last week, Chile was the newest and scariest example of fashion's impact on nature. The Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world in Chile, is exposed to significant pollution due to the disposal of at least 39,000 tons of second-hand or unsold textile products. It has been stated that hundreds of thousands of tons of discarded textile products cause mountains of garbage in the Atacama Desert.
One of the reasons is that, over the last decade, the pace of production has increased with child labor and low wages in the clothing industry. An increasing number of people are working in fashion production because production costs are falling with the use of oil. The sector has grown gradually, especially using polyester, spandex, acrylic, and elastane which is a petroleum product, as a raw material in the fashion sector with cheap labor. This situation increases the speed of production and consumption. If the fashion industry's production speed continues in this way, by 2050, 20% of the world's oil consumption will be used only by the fashion industry. It means that twice as much carbon as the entire country of India produced in 2018. Moreover, The U.N. Alliance for Sustainable Fashion Report demonstrates that industry consumes around 215 trillion liters of water per year and causes approximately 2-8% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.
The incident in Chile is one of the clearest examples of the situation. Non-recyclable and unsustainable products which are produced by petroleum are not accepted by other states, and eventually there are fast fashion products from all over the world in Chile. The founder of EcoFibra claims that the main problem is that the clothes are not biodegradable and contain chemical products, so they are not accepted by the municipalities of other countries or cities municipality.Also, it takes 200 years for non-recyclable clothes to disappear in nature. In addition to creating a mountain in the middle of the desert, clothes also increase environmental pollution and chemical exposure, as they are not biologically degradable. The solution for Chile has not yet been announced.
The production from renewable natural materials is, of course, possible with today's technology. Some fast fashion brands have started to change petroleum materials with sustainable materials. For instance, H&M demonstrated a new collection, 'I am Co-Exist', in Paris last week. In the collection, patented, renewable, and natural rubber material called Yulex has been shown as sustainable material instead of petroleum products. Also, FLWRDWN™, an alternative to animal hair, and VEGEA™, a plant-based alternative to oil-based and animal skins, are examples of newly introduced materials. SpinDye, on the other hand, was introduced as a new generation way of dyeing recycled polyester, which creates colors with 75% less water, 90% fewer chemicals and 30% CO2 reduction. The collection's significance is to show that it is possible to recycle polyester with technology and use natural waste materials instead of petroleum in the fashion industry. However, how and in what quantity this can be used all over the world is still a question mark.
One of the best examples of sustainable fashion in our country is the WWF Market (World-Wide Foundation). The company, which produces in Turkey using 70% GOTS certified Organic Cotton and 30% Recycled Polyester, created an alternative option for young people. The brand not only draws attention to endangered animals but also offers products that clearly indicate how much water is saved in every product you buy. The most crucial point is that the understanding of sustainability is not limited only to the use of materials. They try to provide recycled, environmentally friendly services to customers from fabric, dyeing, printing and sewing, transportation, sales, and product maintenance. People may be aware of their choices when shopping and may prefer such brands made of organic cotton products that produce eco-friendly, recycled products to raise the sustainable fashion trend.
Even if the industry takes a long time to change, people's individual preferences can change many things. November is a month known as Black Friday, which is known as a discount month all over the world and leads people to shop much more. Black Friday is a shopping concept that started in the USA and took place the day after the American Thanksgiving holiday. According to statistics, only in the U.S., people spent $14.13 billion in online sales in 2020, and that's $9.03 billion spent on Black Friday. The desire for more shopping, which has increased with social media, requires being more careful, especially during such popular discount periods. Although Black Friday creates a big economic movement on its own, it causes more clothing surplus in the world. In this regard, people need to get more used to buying environmentally friendly products that they can use for many years when they need it.
The fact that people buy most of the things whether they need or not need, especially on the discount day, causes huge fashion garbage from all over the world. When people shop more consciously, the more accurate and environmentally friendly production increases, there will be less impact of fashion on climate change and the world. The transformation of brands and the increase in the number of conscious consumers may prevent the formation of mountains of non-recyclable clothes. As a result, we are in the right week to really question something before buying it for our planet.