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:
- Harvesting of the raw material – natural or synthetic fibers
- The preparation of the yarn
- The production of the fabric
- Dyeing & finishing the fabric
- Assembling the fabric to the final product
- Distributing and selling the product, for example in retail stores
- Using the product – washing it, maintaining it
- 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.