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?
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Why is fashion so complex?1 min read

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

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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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