Sustainability in fashion - why and how?

Photo courtesy of Leeds Community Clothes Exchange

We’re focusing on fashion, clothing and textiles in 2020. Why? A new report from waste reduction charity WRAP shows a 10% increase in the amount of clothing that is getting thrown away. In just two years an extra 36,000 tonnes of clothing ended up in our black bins!

Public awareness of the perils of fast fashion on the environment is at an all time high and yet this isn’t translating into the kind of changes we need. The reasons for this will be varied and complex but the rise of consumerist fast fashion certainly plays a big role.

The lure of cheap clothing made at high volumes has been enticing us for years. Unfortunately this equates to poorly made clothes, questionable labour, waste and pollution. We also don’t value this type of clothing in the same way which means we’re more likely to throw it away, rather than recycle, repair or offer it for reuse.

The WRAP report - part of their Sustainable Clothing Action Plan - reveals some alarming statistics about how the clothing landscape has changed over the years, particularly on the rise of cheaply produced clothes. According to WRAP, clothing prices fell by 58% between 1988 and 2010 which is in stark contrast to overall consumer prices which rose by 64% over the same period. It's perhaps not surprising that as a nation, it's clothing we chose to indulge in. In 2018 UK households spent a staggering £60.5bn on clothes.

There are plenty of alternatives but they aren’t always visible or easy to find. With your help, we’re planning to change that. We’re working with the School of Design at the University of Leeds and Leeds City Council to host a #FashionHack this Spring where we’ll explore what we can do in Leeds to reduce the environmental impacts of our wardrobes.

Part of this is understanding what people currently do with clothing that they no longer need. We want to make it as easy as possible for people to donate clothing that’s still in good condition - and we also want to make sure that people know what their options are for disposing of clothing that’s no longer in good condition.

You can find out more about the project on our dedicated Zero Waste Fashion website, where you'll also find the map that we've created with info about charity shops, textile banks, sewing workshops and much more!