The impact of fashion by Antonia Hawkins
So with the recent storms and climate upheaval we seem to be experiencing on a worsening scale, we wanted to speak about fashion and the climate.
How could something as innocent as dressing up for wok or an event have an impact on the climate?
Some simple figures to mull over;
The average person now buys 400% more clothing than 20 years ago. This is mostly due to the growth of manmade fibres and low-cost labour and outsourcing to countries such as Vietnam, Bangladesh and India.
The majority of textile fibres are made from fossil fuels – polyester, polyamide, acrylic, polypropylene. The production of polyester has doubled since the year 2000 - estimated to create 700 tonnes of C02 per year. To put this in to context, this is estimated to be the same as the annual emissions of 180 coal fired power stations.
Look inside your clothing now. Chances are that if your wearing sports kit, it’s made of virgin polyester, which is a wonderful fibre; breathable, fast drying, crease free and very cheap. However the flip side, is that due to the production process it’s heavily polluting.
Polyester makes up 52% of the global fibre production. Cotton is 2nd with only 23%. Polyester derived from fossil fuels is over 25% cheaper than cotton. Polyester is a high emitter and cannot be recycled.
Under the current trajectory the fashion industry misses the pathway to mitigate climate change by 50% by 2030.
So what about over-consumption and how that impacts on the environment? In the last 15 years clothing production has doubled as cheaper man made fibres have become available – this is quite simple, polyester is cheap, garment labour in Bangladesh is cheap so this leads to over production and in turn over consumption.
Average salaries in Bangladesh are $109 per month - estimated 4x less than the living wage so please when you buy menswear make sure you are clear where your item is made and who by. Are they paid a living wage and not just a minimum wage?
There are some brilliant factories in Bangladesh, with skilled employees who deserve to be paid fully. Minimum salaries are kept low to encourage investment away from Vietnam and India.
Here at Neem, we believe in a new future for menswear; where we track the garment production process right back to farm. We are considering the climate, the people who make the product and the impact our choices are making on the world around us. For example this means wool being traced back to the farm to understand the emissions of the factory and to guarantee that the living wages increase each year as well as an investment in causes.
Unless we start changing our habits retailers will continue to cancel stock, fly stock from country to country and promote discounts leading to yet more over production. Its’s estimated that 30% of garment production is flown, due to the need for retailers to use factories further away and exploit cheap labour
Due to the pandemic - 2.8 million workers, mostly women, are facing poverty and hunger - $3bn orders were cancelled or postponed therefore delaying payments.
We suggest re-wear, re-use and recycle or when you do buy new from Neem, be rest assured that your product has been produced in factories that care (we make men’s shirts that emit 40% less GHG).
While a revolutionary notion for some, brands such as Neem London invest in the circular economy, breaking the link between production and revenue. We recycle and embrace sustainable materials and technologies. One of the most immediately important things you can trust us to do is to take action to track and reduce environmental impact, moving beyond transparency.
This is a brand for the future.