Well it can't, I just wrote that title for the clicks but with just under 7 years* to get our emissions under control I wanted to weigh in and state the obvious solutions to the big problems in an industry I adore.
I deeply care about the climate and my social media algorithm knows it. I see posts almost daily of plastic washing up on beaches and animals suffering which is a great way to feel anxious and guilty about my own behaviour. It feels hypocritical to work in an industry that causes so much harm to the planet and I keep thinking about how it can be better. Sustainable fashion (whatever that means) has come a long way in recent years and there are a lot of companies that are trying to make a difference, mostly through fabric production which although will help, it's not really the problem. Yes, ideally we need clothing to degrade and disappear but I believe that man-made fibres and natural fibres can co-exist, we just need a different ratio that I will write a post on once I have gathered my thoughts.
The main problem, and it's pretty obvious which makes it even more infuriating, is the constant, unbelievable amount of clothing produced every year. It's easy to blame fast fashion and it is at fault but I think the real problem is that companies have been allowed to get that big and to make that much product. There's nothing really to stop them. The largest fashion companies partner with multiple, sometimes hundreds of manufacturing companies to produce their wares. I'm probably not the first person to suggest this but why not limit the number of factories a company can work with via a government law and then give each company a manufacturing limit with heavy fines if these are broken? Is that such an unreasonable idea? Perhaps it is insane to even think of stifling companies earning potential but the time of measured responses has come and gone. Let's rein it in.
I remember the days when the first looks for new seasons were in magazines and potential buyers would have to wait up to 6 months before they could receive their order. Why did that model change? Why can't we wait anymore? Fashion is one of the oldest crafts, with some pieces transcending into works of art. It's unimaginable to churn out 2,000 new pieces of art per day yet it is now expected. Maybe a good starting point for Shein et al would be to re-adopt this model in a shorter time frame. Any method that means a company doesn't over-order supplies or has surplus stock is what we need. Everyone will still make money but we need to end this instant gratification trap that we have all fallen into.
As I think about it now the problem might have begun at the top when prestigious houses such as Dior, Louis Vuitton and Chanel began producing more and more collections, creating seasons (cruise collections?!) just so they can make more clothing and accessories. More sales equal more profit. That came at a tremendous cost in 2010 when Alexander McQueen took his own life. At the time of his death, he was making 10 collections a year. An impossible feat for anyone in general but even worse for a designer in the public eye who was only as good as his last collection. The pressure was quite clearly unbearable. The fashion world mourned but in the end, all they did was replace him (not that you can and I believe that he once said in an interview that he'd want his label to end with him) and move on because cash is King. This has all trickled down to the high street which often rip off high-end designs. Put social media into the mix and you get a perfect storm of insecurity, peacocking and greed so why not take advantage by churning out consumables on a large scale?
As there is with food production we've created a disconnect with clothing production. If I ever get the opportunity to have an office or shop the two will be connected. Is it possible that consumerism would slow down if people could see their clothing being made by real people? If they could see the factory, the slaughterhouse? The clothing should be made on the shop floor. I am no longer surprised by the lack of knowledge the average person has on what goes into making a piece of lingerie or clothing. The average person doesn't have to think about it, they go online and the things they want just appear like magic. It's not magic. There are a whole host of other ways that humans are disconnecting from the Earth that are contributing to our problems. Our bodies and minds are made to walk on grass and soil to see trees and hear birds. How stressful it must be for our bodily systems to combat with so many unnatural stimuli and then we have the gall to question the rise in depression, anxiety and illness. It's not our fault, we as humans are programmed to go towards the new and exciting but when we become cold and unwilling to share the land and its resources with the species who were here long before us, is convenience and getting anything we want whenever we want worth it?
I believe if we get the government and people with power to make these laws and restrictions in production that clothing waste will decrease, fashion's carbon footprint will be lower and people will buy less stuff or maybe I have too much hope in humanity. Covid proved how quickly we can act if we're in trouble but the cynical part of me thinks that the reason we acted so quickly is because the overlords stood to lose a lot of money. Probably true, which makes me wonder if the problem with climate activism is the actual activists themselves. A controversial thought but if you think about it people who care about the planet are mostly good people with good hearts and the people at the top who can make the changes the planet needs are mostly corrupt and possibly a little bit evil. So let's fight evil with evil. The Earth needs master manipulators to fight for its survival, people who can infiltrate the top and make the small, obvious changes in the law to help the natural world - a climate inception. I volunteer.
* Visit https://climateclock.world/ for an accurate countdown.