There’s a long list of things that are detrimental to our planet which we’re guilty of not tackling head-on. Fashion is up there with one of the worst, yet many of us have turned a blind eye to it.
The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of the world’s carbon footprint and is the second greatest polluter of local freshwater in the world.
Of all the industries that have a negative impact on the environment, fashion is the one that is pretty much unavoidable. That doesn’t mean we should neglect the responsibility though.
Because of that, brands are now facing more intense scrutiny than ever to ensure their practices are more sustainable.
This means that initiatives like the Refashion Guide could have a monumental part to play in shaping the future of the industry’s habits – and in turn, the future of the planet.
We spoke to Nicola Gleave, who built the idea after being diagnosed with breast cancer and wanting to do something that both raised money for charity and had a positive impact on the earth.
The Refashion Guide works with brands to alter their approach when it comes to disposing of stock. Last year Burberry faced huge backlash after it emerged that the brand burned millions in product, simply to prevent it being sold on.
While Burberry took the brunt of media outrage, the brand were by no means the only ones to take part in this kind of practice. Labels that we wear every single day are guilty of exercising these non-sustainable methods.
“I started contacting a few retailers and the overwhelming message I got was that, yes they all did different things. Some went to landfill, some went to auctions – but they would acknowledge that what they were doing was not sustainable” Nicola explained.
Her idea is basically a marketplace for these products, a kind of premium take on eBay – where companies could send old lines to be purchased at a discount price, with a percentage of all sales being given to a nominated charity.
“There was a real interest in what I was proposing. We can take it off your hands, we can put it on our platform and we don’t look or feel like a charity so we’re not devaluing your brand, which is what one of the biggest concerns is.”
In fact, Nicole hopes that such an idea could have the complete opposite effect on brands who may have been worried about their image. As our attitudes change and awareness grows this should be seen as a wholly positive shift for high street labels.
“Anything they think might be getting devalued is actually not. We’ve got an opportunity to turn that on its head, because people are going to stop shopping with you and actually seeing that you’re doing something positive will change hearts and minds.”
“It’s about changing the mindset of throwaway fashion. Maybe investing in things you’re not just going to wear once or twice. I think the general public are starting to be more vocal about these sorts of things and it will put more pressure on the fashion industry.”
It’s clear that there is no quick fix for the issue. However people are waking up to it, particularly younger generations who have become more socially aware than the generations that have come before them.
“Some of the people I see are fashion lecturers at university, who are becoming more vocal because they don’t want to be teaching their students experiences and skills that are not environmentally friendly or sustainable.
“They want to be at the forefront of where the fashion industry needs to go.
“I think younger people feel more empowered that they can do something about it. They’re here for a longer term, if this kind of practice continues it’s going to have more of an impact on the environment and that’s the world they’re going to be living in and bringing up their children in.”
With the industry contributing a staggering 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas every year, it’s no longer a question of ‘if’ – companies and consumers alike must change their habits before we pass the point of no return, if we already haven’t.