Consumers should buy half as many clothes and retailers should offer in-store repairing services to combat fashion industry’s impact on the climate, the chief executive of the British Fashion Council (BFC) has said.
Caroline Rush, who is also the organiser of London Fashion Week, has called on fashion brands to reduce the number of new clothes they sell and focus on selling second-hand products.
In the BFC’s Institute of Positive Fashion Report, released this week, she encouraged shoppers to buy 50 per cent fewer new clothes to counter the fast fashion cycle.
The report found that the fashion industry currently uses 98 million tonnes of non-renewable resources and creates 92 million tonnes of waste each year.
It said systemic change is needed to address the waste across the supply chain, the high volume of clothes bought each year and the amount of clothing which ends up in landfill.
Shoppers bought four billion pieces of clothing in the UK in 2019, the report found.
“The UK has all the ingredients needed to create a blueprint for a circular fashion economy that will deliver significant environmental, commercial and societal benefits,” Rush said.
“The mammoth job at hand to put this into action can be supercharged through a Sustainable Fashion Programme that sees industry, government and stakeholders all come to the table to play their part beyond their focus of each individual business.
“We have an opportunity to create this target state quicker and in doing so creating jobs and skills benefiting the UK as a whole,” she said.
This “circular” fashion economy would place an increased focus on buying second-hand, using fashion rental services and repairing old clothes.
The UK fashion market is one of the largest globally, with revenues of £118 billion, 890,000 workers and £35 billion contributed to the UK’s pre-pandemic GDP.
However, one recent study, published in July, has suggested that renting clothes may be worse for the environment than throwing them away.
Researchers examined the environmental impact of five different ways of owning and getting rid of clothing, including traditional ownership, reducing the frequency of buying new clothes, renting, resale and recycling.
The study, published in the Finnish scientific journal Environmental Research, found that rental services have the highest impact on the climate due to transportation of garments to and from the warehouse and the renter.
Additionally, most clothes need to be dry-cleaned in between customers, which is also harmful to the environment.