Monday, 1 October 2007

sustainability of clothing

"Clothing and textiles is a high impact product category, accounting for 5-10 per cent of all environmental impacts within the EU-25."

Says DEFRA (Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). They go on to highlight environmental, social and ethical impacts of the textiles/clothing industry in the UK:

"Environmental Impacts

  • 1.5 - 2 million tonnes of waste generated
  • 3.1 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent emitted
  • 70 million tonnes of waste water generated
Social impacts predominately occur in developing countries:
  • child labour
  • poor working conditions
  • low wages
  • health and safety risks
Ethical Impacts
  • animal welfare issues
  • inequitable trade"

And not before time...

"...representatives from the fashion, clothing and textile industries along with environmental and ethical groups are meeting to look at how they can work with government to improve the sustainability of clothing throughout its life cycle."

They met on 5 September 2007 and one welcome outcome will be a sustainable clothing roadmap coordinated by Defra that "examines all stages of clothing’s life cycle (from raw materials to end of life), charts the environmental and social impacts arising at each stage, and proposes ways of limiting those impacts where most effective."

Although I don't work in fashion or clothing (or interior textiles) I will be following this research, direction and action closely. And that's not just because of the relevance of the 'raw materials' findings for my own practice but because I believe the concept of fashion is in direct conflict with sustainability. This is not to oppose change or good design for they can bring improvements, but because the fashion world thrives in a self-promoted culture of throwaway and need for new for the sake of it. The only benefits are financial for the industry.

Fashion isn't limited to clothing, of course, it exists in the art world too. And Cornwall isn't exempt - many commercial coastal town galleries show what I call tourist art. Art created for a self-created market rather than a higher purpose... All us artists have to make a living somehow of course, but I wonder where tourist art fits in with sustainability...

1 comment:

Helen said...

Hi Robin This is so exciting. I am interested in batik butmore as an observer although I have dabbled. Now I am interested in batik on fine felts and of course as I am natural dyer with natural dyes! it will be lovely to see how you develop your batiks. Helen