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5 Mind Blowing Facts You Need to Know Before You Buy Clothes

Fashion pollution, fashion pollution problem, water pollution from fashion, chemicals in fashion, why are organic clothes better, garment worker wages, garment worker exploitation, fashion industry overproduction

Many people have asked me why there is a need for Curious Kind to exist. The truth is, our throw away mentality towards 'cheap' clothes, our obsession with newness, and our need to have all the things is fuelling a highly polluting, exploitative and completely unsustainable fashion industry. We want to be part of the solution, not add to the problem.

I wanted to share with you some really mind-blowing facts and impacts from the fashion industry. It might be worth keeping these in mind next time you're considering a clothing purchase for you or your kids.

 

1. Pollution from fibre production

Cotton is a wonderful fibre for making clothes. It’s natural, breathable and extremely comfortable. Almost half of all textiles are made from cotton. However, due to our insatiable appetite for new fashion the WWF states that cotton is potentially the largest user of water amongst all agricultural commodities. Conventional cotton production involves the application of a large amount of synthetic chemicals such as pesticides and fertilisers. These impact soil quality, pollute waterbodies and compromise the health of farm workers and downstream communities.

 

2. Pollution from clothing manufacturing

 The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) states that textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of water globally, and the fashion industry produces 20 percent of global wastewater. According to the World Economic Forum the dyeing process uses enough water to fill 2 million Olympic-sized swimming pools each year. There are some very well known and infamous examples of water pollution from the fashion industry. The East River runs through Xintang in Guangdong province in China. This region is known as the denim capital of the world because one in three pairs of denim jeans sold globally is made there. The water in some parts of the East River has turned blue and smells strange because dye water from denim factories is released straight into the river. Aljazeera also reported from the state of Madhya Pradesh in India, where sections of the river Chambal, downstream from a viscose manufacturing plant, reportedly turn black with streaks of red and emit a terrible smell.  Unsurprisingly, those who live around this stretch of the river are reported to often suffer from cancers and birth defects. So for a small share of the enormous profits generated by the fast fashion industry, developing countries often end up paying a heavy price.

 

Textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of water globally (UNEP).

Textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of water globally (UNEP).

3. Garment worker exploitation

The key to sustaining the nearly $2.5 trillion fast fashion industry is that the volume of clothes produced and sold needs to be high, and prices low. Low prices are achieved by keeping production costs low and low production costs, in turn, come at the expense of environmental protection and workers’ rights.  One of the most common ways that brands have been able to achieve this is to move their garment manufacturing offshore to countries like India, China, Bangladesh and Indonesia where labour is cheap and where environmental laws and labour rights are often lacking and rarely enforced. It is easy to see how the system has become so broken. The inequalities brought about by the fashion industry were thrust further into the spotlight in 2020 with the launch of the #PayYourWorkers campaign. Millions of workers in the global garment supply chain were not been paid their full wages or lost their jobs when many global brands cancelled orders in the first few months of global pandemic. This included orders that had already been shipped. Despite many of those brands recording record profits since the pandemic started, some have continued to refuse to #PayUp, while others have bowed to public pressure.

 

4. Overproduction

Fast fashion retailers have an overproduction problem. According to an article in Business of Fashion, fashion retailers intentionally 'slightly overbuy' to allow for some size flexibility and a certain amount of markdown inventory to appeal to the bargain shopper. However, major fast fashion brands, tend to turn this “slight overbuy” into a gross cycle of rampant overproduction. In the past few years, brands such as H&M, Burberry and Nike have all copped criticism for burning or destroying unsold clothing and shoes. Luxury brands have also been implicated in this practice which they have claimed is in the name of protecting 'brand exclusivity'.

 

 5. Over consumption and clothing in landfill

According to the World Economic Forum on average, people bought 60% more garments in 2014 than they did in 2000. So in just six years, we began consuming over 50% more clothing than we used to. Our consumption patterns are continuing on this upward trajectory despite the widely reported environmental impacts of our insatiable appetite for new clothes and the latest trends.  Due to this mass consumption it is not surprising that the equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothes is burned or dumped in a landfill every second. The Australian Government claims that Australians consume an average of 27 kilograms of new clothing per year and disposes an average 23 kilograms of clothing to landfill each year. Many of us may think that we are not part of this problem because we donate our unwanted items to charity. However, according to the Council of Textile & Fashion Industries of Australia only 10% of clothing donated to charity is of resell quality. Many people make their clothing waste someone else's problem by leaving it in a charity bin. 

 

All of this is why I felt compelled to start a brand that supplies children's clothing and only partners with brands that share the same values for respecting people and the planet. Babies and kids grow so quickly, they constantly need new clothes because they grow out of, damage or lose their old ones. So this seemed like a good place to start.  I'm also on a mission to make fashion circular. Our kids will be inheriting this earth and we all know that the next few years are crucial in deciding what that will look like for them. If we can change the attitudes and behaviours of kids towards maximising the lifespan of clothes, consuming responsibly and viewing used clothes as a resource not a waste, we might just be able to stop this problem in its tracks. 

 

So when we say we want to be kind to people and planet we mean…all of our clothes are organic, we publish supply chain information about our partner brands on our website, we divert textile waste from landfill by offering an option  to rent and we offer the Little Loop Return Program for any items ever purchased from us. So the next time you shop remember that the $10 T-shirt you're eyeing off is not a bargain. Someone somewhere is likely to be paying the price.

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