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Thursday 17 October 2019

The Readout

Can we dress well and not ruin the planet?

The UK buys more clothes than any other country in Europe. It’s time to radically re-think our wardrobes

By Merope Mills

The global fashion industry is responsible for 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2 a year – and the UK is the worst culprit in Europe. We buy more than any other country in the continent, and five times the amount bought in the 80s. How has this happened? And is there a way out of our over-consumption?

At a ThinkIn in our newsroom, one of our speakers addressed the prohibitively high prices of environmentally-friendly clothes. We’ve become accustomed to low-cost clothing, where cheap price tags trump sustainability and ethics. But as a result, the quality of our clothes has also dropped.

So as consumers, what should we be considering? When it comes to fabrics, we should pay attention to how it’s treated (eg. tanning vs dyeing), and the consumption levels (eg. is this a high volume item, how are the workers treated etc.) Apple leather and Pinatex were mentioned as fabrics of the future.

It was cheering to hear a number of people were making significant personal steps to stop buying so many clothes, while politely shaming their friends into making better choices. But as with our other ThinkIns in these areas, we ended up asking: is it enough that we live our values, in a quiet consumer revolution. Or does the industry need to be forced to change more, with legislation and intervention for the worst-offenders? Do we need something dramatic to break the cycle to prevent that projected 63 per cent increase in global fashion consumption by 2030? It’s hard not to conclude that regulation works, and is sorely needed.