Fashion's Dirty Secret

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‘Fashion’ and ‘the planet’ have rarely been two subjects juxtaposed. Until recently. The campaign #fashionrevolution has not only focused upon who made our clothes but also on their impact on the environment, in particular on the water cycle. 


Fast fashion is presented to us on a silver platter with high street shops having 52 micro seasons where once there were 2. The impact on the planet? Monstrous! Low cost clothing has a high cost attached to it. 


Yet do we ever stop to think about the trace left behind by each piece of clothing we buy? Most likely not. 



Water is the bedrock of fashion. It is used to grow the material. It is used throughout the production process. It is used to produce the chemicals that are used to dye and treat the textiles. It is used to produce the energy that powers the factories. It is polluted and discharged as waste water that goes into rivers and oceans only to leave a toxic residue that dramatically changes, and often kills the water ecosystems. Without water there would be no fashion. But with fashion there may be no water. 


There are two main water issues in the fashion industry:


1. the amount of water used in the production process of textiles


It was not until a few months ago that I discovered that my love of clothes was having an impact on the world’s water resources. My favourite pair of jeans? 15,523 litres of water to make, (most of which is not in a closed loop cycle so it is not reused). A wardrobe staple white T-shirt? 2,700 litres of water. It’s hard to even put that into perspective but a pair of jeans is the equivalent to the amount an average person would drink in 3,500 days! That’s the amount you would drink in about 9 and a half years!  


2. the pollution and chemicals used to produce our clothes. 


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The fashion industry is the second largest polluter of water after oil. The movie River Blue (available on iTunes) is an expo of the textiles industry’s impact on rivers and clean water. Most strikingly there is a hidden dark side of China’s economic miracle as 70% of their rivers are polluted, and their is an alarming shortage of clean water. Each year the Chinese textile industry discharges 2.5 billion tonnes of waste water – much of which isn’t treated. 

The clothes that we buy can have an impact somewhere the other side of the world in water scarce regions and contribute to the pollution of water ways. 


Information like this can make us feel powerless. The damage is so large. 


But we as consumers haven’t known about this. The fact of the pollution and the large consumption of water to produce our fashion is information that needs to be brought to light. 


We all have the responsibility to protect the planet and we all have the power to do so. 


But it’s not all bad news. We as the consumer have the power. The power to choose. 


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And the good news is that Greenpeace have already started the work with their Greenpeace Detox Campaign for companies to take responsibility over their supply chain aiming at toxic free production by 2020.  79 companies have committed, including 19 of the global fashion leaders, with Nike, Adidas, H and M, Zara and Gap all signing up. But they have a long way to go before they will be toxic free.


So in the meantime to help save the planet and wage a war on the dirty water of fashion, we must be empowered by our pounds, (and I’m not talking about those on our waist). 

How to change your fashion choices?

Choose sustainable fashion brands. Choose slow fashion. Choose second hand. Choose vintage. Buy quality over quantity.


You can save the planet and its waters. Fashion can too!