Last weeks, ‘Five Things’ suggested I look on Fashion Roundtable and I came across an article exploring Fashion’s Dirty Secret: Stacey Dooley Investigates.
As I was watching I made notes on the extent of damage caused by the ever-growing consumer demand for fast fashion. Fashion is a major polluter with 100 billion new great nets being made every year from new fibres and unsurprisingly half the clothes we wear are made from cotton. The amount of water and chemicals this process requires is largely unsustainable.
One of the most shocking parts of the documentary was where Stacey Dooley explored how the cotton industry has turned the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan into an arid desert. Up until 1960, the Aral Sea was a haven for fish and wildlife. It is now a symbol of cotton’s impact on the environment. I had no idea that cotton was capable of this. There used to be myriads of fish, now we see camels! The river used to be 5m high, but is now drained and there is nothing.
Tens of thousands of jobs have been lost and the fishing industry is now just another suffering village. More people have ill health due to poverty related illnesses. I was also surprised by the weather conditions – high winds and high sand storms that can be seen from space. These storms contain massive amounts of pesticides washed from cotton farms and lifted off the seabed. This is poisoning both people and farmland. I found it hard to believe that an area can be so massively altered just from growing cotton.
Fast fashion lures us into buying more clothes than we need. Consumers don’t realise that we are part of the problem – even a year ago I was also this naive. Micro foibles washed out of synthetic clothes are part of the cause of plastic pollution in rivers and oceans. 6/10 garments end up in landfill and therefore I question whether these six should have been made at all.
Aiming to hold these companies to account, Dooley attempted to contact popular fashion retailers (such as ASOS and Primark) but they all declined to comment and refused to be interviewed for the programme. This is despite the fact that many of the brands contacted were present at a large sustainability conference she also attended in Copenhagen, where big brands learnt how to make the fashion industry less damaging.
I really feel that if these brands truly believe in what they are saying, they would have enlightened us; I question whether brands are just finding ways to state they are sustainable just to fit the expectations of a changing society. Yes, they have a huge brand to protect, but it also looks like they have something to hide.
Stacey interviewed a number of fashion influencers who are seen to fuel this need for fast fashion and ‘clothing hauls’ – they provide an advertising drip. These influencers each have millions of followers who rush out to buy the same thing; I have previously been guilty of this – the persuasion factor is very high. The influencers stated that they understand that they are part of the problem, however like the majority of the population, didn’t make the connection to the devastating causes like those outlined above.
Niomi Smart is someone I respect and trust. “As a consumer, let’s change our attitudes…let’s talk about this; what can we do to make more of an effort, and be more conscious about the environment?”
The documentary was eye-opening; I didn’t realise the extent of the fast-fashion problem. I believe that if we all make a small shift in our shopping habits, we can make a difference. We need to go back to loving our clothes, rather than just consuming.