Six billion pairs of jeans are made in a year.
Do you know that it takes 7,000 liters of water to produce just one pair of jeans? That is just about the average amount of water an individual drinks in five to six years. It is reported that six billion pairs of jeans are made in a year. Can you imagine how much water is needed to produce all of those jeans? And why should it matter, you ask? It is also reported that water is one of the fastest dwindling natural resources on our planet, and if nothing is done to arrest the downward spiral, it can trigger major global conflicts in the not too distant future. That should give us enough reason to pause and ponder. The alarm bells have been rung.
Clothing is one of the most basic human needs, together with food and shelter. Not so long ago, it was enough to have food on our table, a roof over our head, and clothes on our back. But now, it seems no longer enough for us to just eat but rather, we must dine. We don’t just seek protection from the elements nor do we simply answer to the dictates of modesty. We must now also be fashionable. We feel an urgent need to keep up with the trends if we do not want to be left behind. Or so we believe.
Fast fashion is a contemporary term used by fashion retailers to describe “inexpensive designs that move quickly from the catwalk to the stores to meet new trends.” It appears to be a profitable way to meet popular demand. However, it also seems to have a tendency to lean towards quantity over quality. Cheap clothes that are produced and sold often come at high human, social and environmental costs. Sweatshops in third world countries, environmental pollution, and depletion of natural resources come to mind. These practices are now being challenged.
An alternative is the current trend towards sustainable fashion or which is also known as eco fashion. According to Wikipedia, “it is part of a growing design philosophy and trend of sustainability, the goal of which is to create a system which can be supported indefinitely in terms of human impact on the environment and social responsibility.” Manufacturers are encouraged to produce clothes, shoes and accessories in ways that are environmentally as well as socio- economically sustainable. At the same time, sustainability is expected to be accelerated by advancements in technology not only in materials but also in products and processes.
Certain leading fashion companies have already embraced the concept of sustainability, and have proceeded with their own initiatives and programs. A popular fashion brand dedicated a special line to eco fashion. Some have experimented with innovative materials such as faux spider silk or even 3-D printing. There is a program where people can donate pre-worn clothes to be upcycled into new clothes. There is a brand that even offers to repair and restore pieces for their customers rather than make them buy something new.
Attention is given not only to the end product but also to those who produce them. Who make the clothes that we wear and in what working conditions? Fair trade practices are part of the conversation. There is the mission to approach fashion in an ethical way.