You may have used the proverbial saying ‘I’ll eat my hat’, but have you ever thought that you might be eating your hat without even realising? According to a recent report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, half a million tonnes of tiny synthetic fibres are deposited in the ocean every year, which cannot be cleaned up. As a result, they’re ingested by sea life which means we could end up eating our own clothes as they re-enter the food chain.
The research was co-launched in November 2017 by Dame Ellen MacArthur and fashion designer Stella McCartney and outlined the sheer scale of textile waste caused by a growing culture for fast fashion.
In our race to keep up with the catwalk we’re not encouraged to think about anything other than the garment as it exists on the hanger. However, technology is changing this. It gives us access to more information and a greater awareness of an individual item’s impact on the planet and on the people who make it. This transparency is putting pressure on brands and customers to behave more ethically.
Setting the bar are start-ups such as Everlane, the fashion brand that has tapped into an ignited angst, especially amongst the young, concerning the provenance and price of clothing. The online retailer pledges low-cost, high-quality goods made in the same factories used by designer brands. For every piece of clothing sold Everlane lists the materials, hardware, labour and transportation costs, and provides information on production, including photos of the workers and factory floors in China where yarn is spun or silk is woven.
Transparent production processes are fundamentally changing how, where and by whom products are made. Whilst this is not simply a marketing solution, as marketers we must be prepared for customers wanting to know more about the social, economic and environmental impact of the brands we’re working with, and challenge our clients and colleagues to create a truth we’re not ashamed to tell.