Why is fashion so complex?

The fashion industry has an ENORMOUS impact on climate change. But the supply chain is so complex - where do we start to make it more sustainable?

Luc Hillege

Environmental Specialist at Ecochain

June 7, 2019


So, what’s the most unsustainable thing about fashion?

Let’s first put some structure into the fashion industry. The supply chain of a fashion product usually consists of these eight steps:

  1. Harvesting of the raw material – natural or synthetic fibers
  2. The preparation of the yarn
  3. The production of the fabric
  4. Dyeing & finishing the fabric
  5. Assembling the fabric to the final product
  6. Distributing and selling the product, for example in retail stores
  7. Using the product – washing it, maintaining it
  8. End of life – ideally recycling the product, more often just putting it to waste

While the use phase takes up the most time within that process, it doesn’t account for the most emissions – more than ⅓ of the environmental impact of the fashion industry actually stems from dyeing and finishing the products. The process uses large amounts of heated water, heavy, polluting chemicals and a lot of processes in between.

But don’t forget about the use phase! It’s harder to measure for a company, but a pair of jeans might be washed hundreds of times over the course of its life.

Patagonia is a great example of that. They encourage their customers to use their products responsibly and not buy new clothes every season.

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