Stella McCartney calls for total change in “wasteful, harmful” fashion industry

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Amy Swales
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Designer Stella McCartney has called on the fashion industry to reassess its attitude toward the environment, describing it as currently being “incredibly wasteful and harmful”.

Her remarks come in light of a report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation that says the global fashion industry will be responsible for more than a quarter of the planet’s carbon budget by 2050 – a “potentially catastrophic” trend – and currently is responsible for more emissions than international flights and maritime shipping combined.

McCartney and environmental campaigner MacArthur are campaigning for changes in not only the way clothing is produced, but in society’s attitude to it; condemning the disposable nature of ‘fast fashion’.

“Today’s textile industry is built on an outdated linear, take-make-dispose model and is hugely wasteful and polluting,” said MacArthur of the report. “We need a new textile economy in which clothes are designed differently, worn longer, and recycled and reused much more often.”

McCartney described the industry as wasteful, but says the report, titled A new textiles economy: Redesigning fashion’s future, provides a “roadmap” for change.

Stella McCartney, Winter 2017, shot by Harley Weir on a landfill site in Scotland

“[The report] provides solutions to an industry that is incredibly wasteful and harmful to the environment,” said McCartney. 

“The report presents a roadmap for us to create better businesses and a better environment. It opens up the conversation that will allow us to find a way to work together to better our industry, for the future of fashion and for the future of the planet.”

The report claims that more than half of fast fashion – products turned around quickly and sold at low prices – is thrown away within a year of purchase, while less than 1% of material ends up recycled.

It also states that the average number of times something is worn before it ceases to be used has decreased by 36% in 15 years, while the amount produced has nearly doubled in the same time period. It is estimated that clothing in landfill costs the UK economy £82 million annually.

Additionally, the report calls for the phasing out of materials in textiles that are harmful to the environment, such as plastic microfibres which are released when clothing is washed, ultimately ending up in the ocean and thus the food chain.

Those behind it hope that a “new textiles economy” will emerge, identifying three areas of action in terms of usage: scaling up short-term clothing rental, making durability “more attractive” and increasing usage rates.

It also recommends that recycling is radically improved, from initial design to collection and processing methods, as well as encouraging renewable and sustainable resources.

Industry leaders such as H&M and Nike endorse the findings. Karl-Johan Persson, chief executive officer of the H&M Group said: “This ground-breaking report lays the foundation for a new mindset and creates a shared vision for a circular fashion industry.

“It’s a call for action for systemic collaborations and is aligned with our efforts in making sure that economic and social development can happen in a way that the planet can afford.”

Images: Stella McCartney, Winter 2017, shot by Harley Weir with artwork by Urs Fischer