Green is The New Black: Why Sustainable Fashion is so important

Henry Hales, Founder of Sir Plus.

“It is well established now that the sourcing, treating and transporting of garments has a negative impact on the environment. That is particularly so when items have travelled half way around the world. By making simple decisions, like buying products that have been manufactured locally, or buying better quality and fewer items, customers can help a shift away from disposable fashion.”

 Henry Hale, Founder of Sir Plus (sustainable British menswear clothing brand)

In recent years the fashion world has started to take responsibility for the fact that “fast fashion” is detrimental to our environment and the future of the planet. Every UK household is believed to emit approximately 1.5 tonnes of CO2 (carbon dioxide = an indicator of global warming potential). This is a carbon footprint equal to that of an average modern car that has driven 6000 miles. Of these items, an estimated £30billion worth sits unworn in the back of cupboards and drawers. If we as consumers were more selective when making purchases, clothes wouldn’t sit unworn, nor would we have to replace so frequently the cheap quality purchases made.

Men's Boxers, made in England from surplus shirting.
Men’s Boxers, made in England from surplus shirting.

Encouraging people to think about purchases and buy investment pieces that last, rather than the “it” piece of the season, is a definitive step in the right direction for saving us money in the long run, and protecting our planet.  Henry Hale, from sustainable British menswear brand Sir Plus, rightly points out that “as the idea of climate change has taken a greater hold, consumers have started to make purchases that have a less significant impact on the environment. This change has not been at break-neck speed. Like with all movements, the responsibility lies with the consumer, and also companies, including us at Sir Plus, where we have always looked to play our part.”

China produces around 26 million tonnes of textile waste annually; in 2010 it was in fact much higher, at 41.3tonnes (which accounted for almost 55% of the world’s total production), but only uses approximately 2.6 million tonnes. Despite what we may hope, the rest does not get recycled.

It isn’t just the pure amount of textile waste that poses a problem for the planet. Many of the clothing brands that fall under the fast fashion umbrella make items of clothing that are heavily doused in toxic chemicals. Retailers have signed agreements that they’ll reduce these amounts, however few follow through on the agreement.

Sir Plus Single Breasted Waistcoats, Manufactured in the UK using surplus materials.
Sir Plus Single Breasted Waistcoats, Manufactured in the UK using surplus materials.

Greenpeace recently carried out tests on 82 children’s textile products from 12 major clothing brands, including companies such as American Apparel, Disney, Adidas, Burberry, Primark, GAP, Puma, C&A and Nike. Every brand contained toxic chemicals – perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), phthalates, nonylphenol, nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE), and cadmium, all of which can have serious effects on a person’s skin. It’s believed that the agricultural chemicals used during the production of certain textiles can cost up to 60 percent of a farmer’s budget, and this can have devastating consequences for the farming industry. In Punjab (a region of India), between 1990 and 2007, it is estimated that 40,000 farmers committed suicide because they could not pay back loans they had taken out to cover farming supplies.

There is no fast fix to the “fast fashion” industry, but much like the choices we make when buying local foods or using public transport, we can make educated decisions when it comes to fashion too. By looking for ethically-sourced items and consciously-created clothing we can all start to protect the environment a little more.

R60A1888-minAbout Sir Plus 

Sir Plus makes exceptional quality clothing in the UK, using what is known in the clothing industry as cabbage. The term ‘cabbage’ is used to describe fabric that’s left over after an order has been completed. Sir Plus’s contacts with major factories and fabric dealers across London gives them access to the finest quality fabrics in an extensive variety of prints and styles, enabling Sir Plus to work with fabrics such as those produced by Liberty London.

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