Are fashion and sustainability as immiscible as water and oil?


The fashion industry, second largest polluter in the world after the oil industry has a devastating impact on the environment. Being in continuous expansion, environmental damages are consequently exponentially increasing. One may ask: How are the clothes that we buy causing such detrimental effects?

Insatiable consumer:


Fast fashion is a business model that promotes rapid production of clothing to meet the most recent fashion trends. It became common because of cheaper clothing, an increase in the appetite for fashionable clothing, and the increase in purchasing power on the part of consumers. First used in the early 1990s, fast fashion rapidly grew and now dominates the industry. Many major retailers are able to turn an idea to items in the high street shelves in a matter of weeks. The rapid rise and success of the major retailers of the market has led to a crucial shift in consumer behavior. To give an instance, the person’s average owned clothing items experienced an increase of 60% in less than 2 decades whilst wearing those clothes for only half as long.


Environmental footprint:

The apparel industry (Fast fashion and Luxury fashion) accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions and generates enormous amounts of greenhouse gases due to the energy used at the different stages of the production. The vast majority of our clothes are made out of synthetic fibers making production much more energy-intensive than with natural fibers and are produced in coal powered countries. Furthermore, the low prices of clothing and their large availability make them clearly disposable. Masses of textile waste are generated on a daily basis, only 15% of which are donated or recycled. The rest is either incinerated or thrown away taking up to 200 years to decompose as 72% of the clothes are constituted of synthetic fibers. In addition, the apparel industry is a major consumer of water in the manufacturing processes as well as for the cotton cultivation that requires thousands of litters of fresh water to produce a single kg of cotton.

Given the huge implication of that industry in the global pollution and considering the 21st century’s environmental issues, we can’t but question ourselves if any procedures to reduce the industry’s large impact are taking place. The answer is: YES. The industry is working on reducing the environmental footprint of its products.




The (green)light at the end of the tunnel:

As customers want to shop from sustainable companies. And because of the basic principle of supply and demand, fashion companies take action and make steps to a greener future. Numerous companies including pillars of the world’s luxury fashion market—Chanel, Ralph Lauren, Guerlain and Prada among them—as well as fast fashion players like H&M Group, Mango and Zara, announced that they were signing the Fashion Pact, a non-legally binding agreement to combat greenhouse gasses and emphasize sustainability in the industry.

Several luxury brands are evolving towards an eco-friendlier production. Vivienne Westwood is known to be a pioneer in sustainable fashion, its AW17/18 fashion show “Ecotricity” was all about renewable energy and calling out other luxury labels to switch from fossil fuels to green energy. Stella McCartney doesn’t stop at excluding animal materials, they shot their latest ad campaign at a landfill site and following Vivienne Westwood’s campaign, McCartney is one of the labels that commits to switch to green energy suppliers. Another and more UpToDate example would be Guerlain with their “PROMISE TO MOVE FORWARD”.  The luxury brand integrated sustainable development into its company strategy back in 2007. The brand’s 6 key challenges consist of: Being eco-responsible, Transportation, the responsible purchasing, Eco design, Biodiversity, Social responsibility.


Milan fashion week and the green carpet:


The strong involvement of the Generation Z in sustainability and in the evolution of the fashion industry is encouraging if not forcing brands to be more eco-responsible. The past season’s fashion week illustrates perfectly brands’ interest in sustainability through environment inspired collections. Designers realization of the importance of the sustainable movement to the prosperity of the industry put them under a positive pressure to go for simpler runways, use new materials or even decrease consumerism.


Fashion week has recently started in Milan which has been shifting its approach towards sustainability as well. Starting with one of the most important designers during Milan Fashion Week, Miuccia Prada, that is trying to use 90% of sustainable fabrics for her designs. Versace and Gucci with the desire to attract a pro-sustainability generation have joined the green movement during the last years and do not use fur anymore for their designs. Additionally, Gucci has been carbon neutral since the end of 2019. During the Menswear Fashion Week, that recently ended, most menswear collections were made of recycled and natural fabrics including Armani that created a complete capsule collection made of recycled fabrics for their brand extension, Emporio Armani.

Milan seems to be way ahead in the sustainable fashion domain and the big names of the industry are determined to showcase this aspect during this Fashion week.



Last words:


As people are getting increasingly conscious about the importance of the fashion industry threat for the environment, they change their habits by buying secondhand clothes, donating the ones they don’t wear anymore or switching for more environment friendly products. Brands under the pressure of more picky market are following the move towards a hopefully sustainable fashion.





 by: Nour Chaarani