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Fashion Revolution Week. The Only Fashion Week Worth Caring About

Fashion Revolution Week 2017 was our biggest and loudest to date

Author: Carry Somers | Published: August 11, 2017

Our movement continues to grow, with more people than ever calling for a fairer, safer, more transparent fashion industry.

From Australia to Brazil, Uruguay to Vietnam, we saw 2 million people engage with Fashion Revolution in April through events, posting on social media, viewing our videos or downloading resources from our website. 66,000 people attended around 1000 Fashion Revolution events, from catwalks and clothes swaps, to film screenings, panel discussions, creative stunts and workshops. A further 740 events took place in schools and universities, assisted by our network of 120 student ambassadors around the world.

More people want to know #whomademyclothes

As in previous years, our social media impact was immense, with 533 million impressions of posts using one of our hashtags during April – an increase of almost 250% on last year.

Over the week we have been joined by hundreds of celebrities and influencers including internationally-recognised names such as actress Emma Watson, pro-surfer Kelly Slater, artist Shepard Fairey, editor-in-chief of Marie Claire Italia Antonella Antonelli, Brazilian actress Fernanda Paes Leme, Nobel Prize Winner Professor Yunus and cooks Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley, and Bangladeshi ex child worker Kalpona Akter.

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The 12 Forward Thinkers Changing Style and Sustainability

Author: Lindsay Talbot | Published: July 19, 2017

Washington may be bailing on the planet, but the fashion industry isn’t.

hese people, from all different industries, all have one thing in common: They’re at the forefront of style and sustainability, and want to be part of the solution. They’re retrofitting factories and building stores that rely on clean energy and emit less of the carbon contributing to global warming. They’re transforming discarded plastics choking our oceans and waterways into jeans and sneakers. They’re developing innovations that reduce waste, recycling materials, and leading by the example of their personal choices. Trends in fashion may come and go, but taking care and being mindful of the environment is one trend that defies all seasons.

Here, the trailblazers we highlight in our first-ever sustainability issue, on newsstands now.

The Original: Yvon Chouinard

Because he sided with the planet long before it was trendy to do so.

PROFESSION: Founder, Patagonia.

ECO CRED: Founded in 1973, Patagonia has racked up major firsts in its steady march toward sustainability. First to switch all of its cotton clothing to organic in 1996 (and heavily invest in regenerative agriculture, working with farmers and scientists to develop technologies that rebuild topsoil and capture carbon in the earth for over 20 years). First clothing line to make fleece using recycled bottles. First to pledge 1 percent of annual sales (as an “Earth tax”) to grassroots organizations, for upwards of $82 million in grants and in-kind donations to date.

OFFICE SPACE: Under Chouinard’s stewardship, the company scrupulously measured the eco-impacts of articles of its clothing in The Footprint Chronicles on its website; converted its Ventura, California, headquarters to new solar-powered smart-grid energy systems; started the Worn Wear initiative, which repairs clothes so they can be used longer; and launched a Drive-Less program that rewards employees who carpool, take public transit, or bike, skateboard, etc., to work with a yearly stipend. Last year, staffers drove 798,900 fewer single-driver miles, cutting CO2 emissions by 589,900 pounds and saving 30,400 gallons of fuel.

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Fashion Waste Poised to Become Environmental Crisis

Author: Dr. Joseph Mercola | Published: August 16, 2017

Over the past decades society has moved from using biodegradable, recyclable natural products to highly resilient and nonbiodegradable plastics made with toxic chemicals. Plastics invade nearly every area of your life — even parts you don’t see, such as your clothing and microbeads in your makeup and facial products.

Each of these contribute to a rapidly growing problem in the environment, especially our oceans, where plastic micropollution is quickly overtaking the fish population. Discarded plastics are polluting your food supply and ultimately finding their way into your body where they accumulate over time. The risk grows with every discarded bottle, bag, shower curtain and load of wash.

Microfibers that enter the water supply from your washing machine are not the only ways fabric is fast becoming an environmental crisis. The fashion industry has nurtured people’s desire for new clothes to the point that trends shift weekly. These rapidly changing trends naturally result in more clothing being discarded, ultimately clogging up our landfills.

Clothing Purchases on the Rise

The Waste and Resources Action Plan (WRAP) in the U.K. estimates the average piece of clothing lasts approximately 3.3 years, but this estimate may be too high.1 According to one British fashion company, many customers only keep new clothing for about five weeks before it ends up being donated or thrown out.

Today, the average woman in the U.S. owns 30 different outfits, as compared to the nine she owned in 1930,2 and we throw away approximately 65 pounds of clothing per person each year. Americans spend more on shoes, jewelry and watches than on higher education, and 93 percent of girls say shopping is their favorite activity.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates the amount of clothing recycled is equivalent to taking 1 million cars off the road each year.3 But, 13 million tons of textiles still make it to U.S. landfills every year. The American apparel industry grosses $12 billion.4 Estimates are the average family in the U.S. spends $1,700 per person each year on clothing. The dollar amount is not significant as it represents a small percentage of annual spending, but the cost to the environment is steep.

Fashion Industry Waste Laden With Toxic Chemicals

While it may seem the number of textiles discarded are not important, as most fabric should be biodegradable, the reality is the large amount of clothing thrown away contains more than cotton. The textile industry has taken full advantage of chemicals available to protect the garment or make changes to the product without consideration for how these chemicals affect the environment.

Procedures to treat clothing include using specialized chemicals, such as biocides, flame retardants and water repellents.5 Over 60 different chemical classes are used in the production of yarn, fabric pretreatments and finishing.

When fabrics are manufactured, between 10 and 100 percent of the weight of the fabric is added in chemicals.6 Even fabrics made from 100 percent cotton are coated with 27 percent of its weight in chemicals. Most fabrics are treated with liquid chemicals to ready them for the fashion industry, going through several treatments before being shipped to a manufacturer.

Many chemicals have known health and environmental issues. Greenpeace7 commissioned an investigation into the toxic chemicals used in clothing. They purchased 141 different pieces of clothing in 29 different countries. The chemicals found included high levels of phthalates and cancer-causing amines. The investigators also found 89 garments with nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs). Levels above 100 ppm were found in 20 percent of the garments and above 1,000 ppm were recorded in 12 of the samples.

Any level of phthalates, amines or NPEs found in clothing that remains against your body is unacceptable as they are hazardous materials. However, the dangers from these chemicals don’t end when you finish wearing the garment. As the material makes it to a landfill, these chemicals leach out from the fabric and make it to the groundwater.

Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) have been widely used in textile marketing and have been linked in epidemiological studies with several different types of cancers in humans.

These chemicals are so ubiquitous they’ve been found in the blood of polar bears and found in tap water supplies used by 15 million Americans in 27 states.8 Cheap, mass-produced clothing has given many individuals the chance to purchase the current style without breaking the bank. But an initial reduction in price on clothing may be at the expense of both people and the environment.

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OCA and the True Potential of Organic Cotton

Published: August 8, 2017 

A prosperous organic cotton sector benefits everyone—from farmer to consumer. To realize the sector’s potential, we need to bring about the conditions that will allow the crop that safeguards the environment and enhances farmer livelihoods to flourish. 

The issue as to whether growing organic cotton produces lower yields is a hot topic. Clarity on this issue is important for understanding how far the lower social and environmental costs of organic cotton production are realized in practice.

To understand this issue, it is helpful to distinguish between organic cotton farming’s potential and what still needs to be done to fully realize that potential. Worldwide, organic cotton yield figures are highly variable. Organic cotton fiber yields reach up to 1,687 kg per hectare in Turkey, but just 508 kg per hectare in India, the world’s largest producer of organic cotton. Reaching the higher end of this yield spectrum is possible if the right enabling conditions are in place.

This is where the Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA) comes in.  OCA partners have joined forces to solve the sector’s problems and ensure the yields and benefits of organic cotton reach their full potential. OCA partners are piloting interventions designed to improve the organic cotton farmer business case, increase transparency in the supply chain, and secure availability and access to quality, high-yielding organic seed varieties. OCA plans to scale these interventions to ensure the environmental, economic and social benefits of organic cotton are fully maximized.

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Towards a Climate-beneficial Wardrobe

Published: August 1, 2017 

Is Our Clothing Toxic? It’s More Complicated Than We Think

Author: Jill Richardson | Published: July 13, 2017

Google “toxic fabrics” and a host of sites will come up, some from as far back as 1993. Generally they list a number of synthetic fabrics (acrylic, nylon, polyester) along with rayon (which is made from chemically processed wood pulp) and make the case that all are bad because they are made from scary chemicals. Obviously, natural fibers such as cotton, hemp, wool, and linen are the way to go. Those are made from plants and sheep, not coal and petroleum derivatives.

The truth is more complicated than this. Your clothing is never made solely out of just cotton or polyester. Every single fabric has some form of processing. It may be preshunk cotton, or superwash merino. It may be bleached. It’s almost always dyed. And nowadays clothing comes in all kinds of high-tech variations: UV protective, bug repellant, wrinkle-free, stain resistant, antimicrobial, and so on. Even pure cotton can be grown with pesticides.

These chemicals pose a myriad of concerns for the environment, both in the place of manufacture and due to chemicals released through washing. But what about the safety to the wearer?

The Basics: What Are Fabrics Made From?

If you look in your closet, you’ll likely find a number of different natural and synthetic fibers. Over 60 percent of global fiber consumption is comprised of petroleum based synthetic fibers, although some may be used for textiles other than clothing (like rugs or rope). Comparatively, cotton makes up nearly a quarter of textile consumption, with wool making up about 1 percent, and other natural fibers (hemp, linen, etc) accounting for 5 percent. The remaining 6.6 percent are wood-based cellulose fibers (e.g. rayon).

Natural fibers come from either plants or animals. Plants used for clothing include cotton, hemp and flax. Animal fibers are more diverse, even if some, such as yak, remain uncommon. However, sheep are not the only animals who can provide high-quality fiber: alpacas, goats (cashmere and mohair), rabbits (angora), yaks, camels, llamas, and even the wild alpaca relative, the vicuña, provide fiber used for clothing. Silk is also a natural fiber, made from the cocoons of the mulberry silkworm. Other animal products used in clothing are hides (leather), feathers (down) and fur.

While humans have used natural fibers for millennia, rayon, which is made from wood fibers with synthetic processing, was invented in 1894, and the first fully synthetic fiber, nylon, was invented in the 1930s. Other wood-based fibers produced with synthetic processing include modal and bamboo. Fully synthetic fibers, generally made from petroleum or coal products, are acrylic, polyester and spandex.

Toxicology research into clothing focuses less on the fibers themselves and more on the chemicals used in processing the fibers. Even a simple cotton T-shirt requires numerous chemicals to bring it to market. The question for consumers is not only how safe are the chemicals used, but what are you willing to sacrifice and how much are you willing to spend in order to get the chemicals out of your closet?

Chemicals WorthDyeingFor

Your clothes do not contain only cotton or rayon or polyester. They are also bleached and dyed. Dyeing also requires the use of a “mordant,” a chemical that helps the dye adhere to the clothing. While natural dyes can be used along with a mordant like alum or cream of tartar, unless your clothing says otherwise, you can be almost certain natural dyes were not used.

Three different dye chemicals (or groups of chemicals) are of most concern. Azo dyes can release chemicals called aromatic amines when you wear them, and they can be absorbed into your body. There are hundreds of different azo dyes, and a large number of them can release aromatic amines. Some of these aromatic amines are known to be toxic (or as scientists put it, they are of “toxicological concern”), and others have never been assessed for toxicity. The main concerns are that these chemicals can cause cancer, and they also may be allergens. A 2014 study found that 17 percent of clothing samples contained aromatic amines “of high toxicological concern,” including several that had them in higher levels than legally allowed in the European Union.

Second, quinoline is a chemical used in dying textiles that causes concern. According to another 2014 study, even though no human studies on their carcinogenicity are available, tests involving acute exposure of mice have demonstrated “quinoline and some of its methylated isomers to induce liver cancer.” That study found that quinoline was found in polyester clothing more than it was found in clothing made from other fibers. One study labeled quinoline a potential human carcinogen, and reiterated the correlation of quinoline with polyester.

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Here’s Why Thousands of People Are Calling on Zara and H&M to Drop Some of Their Suppliers

Author: Sara Spary | Published: July 5, 2017 

More than 128,000 people have signed a petition calling on H&M and Zara “and other fashion giants” to stop sourcing from producers linked to pollution, after a report claimed factories linked to the brands were damaging local waterways and emitting “noxious gases”.

The Changing Markets Foundation launched the petition last week after publishing a report that claimed to have found evidence of pollution surrounding major viscose fabric manufacturing sites in China, Indonesia, and India.

H&M was found to be buying from eight polluting factories and Zara was buying from four, the report said, though the foundation acknowledged that both businesses had been “among the most transparent” in dealing with the inquiries with regards to their suppliers.

Viscose is a manmade clothing material similar to silk in appearance, but cheaper. It is bought by major fashion brands and is made from wood pulp that is treated with chemicals. The report, published earlier this month, claimed that pollutants from viscose production had seeped into local waterways and air, killing aquatic life and making water undrinkable in some instances.

While the petition specifically targets H&M and Zara, the report also named Tesco, Asos, and M&S among businesses thought to be supplied by factories in those regions.

“Cheap production, which is driven by the fast fashion industry, combined with lax enforcement of environmental regulations in China, India, and Indonesia, is proving to be a toxic mix,” the report claimed.

The petition, so far signed by 129,134 people, states: “The clothes you sell have been directly linked to devastating air and water pollution at viscose factories in Asia. As customers across Europe, we demand that you immediately commit to a zero pollution policy and timeline, work with producers to transition to clean technologies, and stop purchasing from producers who fail to comply.”

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‘I Get Sick Every Time I Go to Work’: American Airlines Flight Attendant Claims Her ‘sexy’ New Uniform Is Making Her Ill

Author: Regina F. Graham | Published: July 5, 2017 

An American Airlines flight attendant claims that her ‘sexy’ uniform is causing her to have serious health problems.

Heather Poole, a 20-year crew member for the popular airliner, has been blogging in recent months about the adverse effects she claims she has experienced while sporting the company-issued suiting.

‘I get sick every time I go to work,’ she wrote. ‘Every time I go to work I feel terrible.

‘Since the uniform debuted on September 20, I’ve seen more doctors than I’ve ever seen in my life and I’ve learned things about toxic chemicals I never knew before.

‘Before the new uniform I didn’t know what ‘sensitizers’ were or what ‘synergy’ meant, and I sure as heck would have never dreamed I’d develop ‘MCS’ (multiple chemical sensitivity). Now I’m practically an expert on the subject.’

Poole suffers from hypothyroidism and says the uniform has also negatively affected her condition.

However, flight attendants began complaining about rashes with those uniforms too.

In addition to flight attendants having issues with the clothing, American Airlines pilots have also complained about health issues they believe are being caused by the chemicals in the uniforms.

More than 3,000 members of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants have also filed complaints about the new uniforms.

About 100 pilots said the new uniforms were giving them rashes, swollen eyes, and making them feel generally ill, reported Bloomberg News.

‘They have to be fit for duty,’ Dennis Tajer, an Allied Pilots Association spokesman, said. ‘If the uniform is making them not fit for duty, then something has to change.’

Tajer said a couple of pilots became so sick they couldn’t fly, and others only had symptoms when the uniforms were on.

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Toxic Clothing Affects Everyone

Author: Dr. Mercola | Published: June 27, 2017 

In September 2016, American Airlines rolled out new uniforms for more than 70,000 employees — the first uniform overhaul in 30 years. Soon after, reports started coming in from about 100 pilots and 3,000 flight attendants that the uniforms were making them sick. A variety of symptoms were reported (some occurring only while the personnel were wearing the uniforms), such as rashes, itching, eye swelling and a general feeling of malaise.1

Twin Hill, a unit of Tailored Brands Inc., which supplied the uniforms, has conducted testing, with nothing suspicious showing up that may cause the symptoms, and so far American Airlines has not recalled the uniforms, although they’ve given some employees alternative pieces and allowed them to wear their old uniforms while the matter is sorted out.2 While this may seem like an unusual story, it’s not unheard of for clothing to make people sick.

In fact, the average piece of clothing not only may be made from potentially allergenic materials (like latex, Lycra or spandex) but also may be contaminated with a variety of chemicals used during the manufacturing process.

The clothing industry is actually one of the most polluting industries on the planet, and the textiles they produce may be laced with irritants and disease-causing chemicals, which is one of the reasons why it’s so important to wash new clothes before wearing them. Even then, however, it may not make the clothing entirely safe.

What Kinds of Chemicals Are in Your Clothes?

Depending on where your new clothes were manufactured, they may contain multiple chemicals of concern. Among them are azo-aniline dyes, which may cause skin reactions ranging from mild to severe. If you’re sensitive, such dyes may leave your skin red, itchy and dry, especially where the fabric rubs on your skin, such as at your waist, neck, armpits and thighs. The irritants can be mostly washed out, but it might take multiple washings to do so.

Formaldehyde resins are also used in clothing to cut down on wrinkling and mildew. Not only is formaldehyde a known carcinogen, but the resins have been linked to eczema and may cause your skin to become flaky or erupt in a rash.3 Nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE), meanwhile, is a toxic endocrine-disrupting surfactant used to manufacture clothing.

You certainly don’t want to be exposed to NPE if you can help it, but when consumers wash their clothes, NPEs are released into local water supplies where wastewater treatment plants are unable to remove them. When NPEs enter the environment, they break down into nonylphenol (NP), a toxic, endocrine-disrupting chemical that accumulates in sediments and builds up in fish and wildlife. In an interview with “clean-fashion pioneer” Marci Zaroff, Goop outlined some of the common chemicals likely to be found in your clothing:4

Glyphosate, the most-used agricultural chemical, is an herbicide used to grow cotton. It’s linked to cancer and found in cotton textiles.
Chlorine bleach, used for whitening and stain removal, may cause asthma and respiratory problems and is found in fiber/cotton processing, including in denim.
Formaldehyde, which is carcinogenic, is used to create wrinkle-free clothing as well as for shrinkage and as a carrier for dyes and prints. It’s common in cotton and other natural fabrics, including anything that’s been dyed or printed.
VOCs, solvents used for printing and other purposes, are common in finished textiles, especially those with prints. VOCs may off-gas from clothing, posing risks such as developmental and reproductive damage, liver problems and in some cases cancer, particularly to workers.
PFCs, used widely in uniforms and outdoor clothing to create stain-repellant and water-resistant fabrics, are carcinogenic, build up in your body and are toxic to the environment.
Brominated flame retardants, used to stop clothes from burning (although this is questionable), may be found in children’s clothing. These chemicals are neurotoxic endocrine disrupters that may also cause cancer.
Ammonia, used to provide shrink resistance, is found in natural fabrics. It may be absorbed into your lungs and cause burning in your eyes, nose or throat.
Heavy metals, including lead, cadmium, chromium and others, may be used for leather tanning and dyeing. They’re highly toxic and may be found in finished textiles, especially those that are dyed or printed.
Phthalates/Plastisol, used in printing inks and other processes, are known endocrine disrupters.

Clothing Chemicals Are Largely Unregulated

You may assume that if you’re purchasing clothing in the U.S., it’s safe and free from toxins, but this isn’t typically the case. Zaroff told Goop:5

“The magnitude and multitude of toxic chemicals in the fashion and textile industries is out of control. Even though some carcinogens are regulated (for example, formaldehyde, linked to cancer, is regulated in the U.S.), most brands are still manufactured overseas, where regulation is far behind. And only the most toxic chemicals are regulated in the U.S., which means there are a huge number that are unregulated but likely to cause allergic reactions.”

This is an issue both for the people who wear the clothes as well as the environment. Textile dyeing facilities, for example, tend to be located in developing countries where regulations are lax and labor costs are low. Untreated or minimally treated wastewater is typically discharged into nearby rivers, from where it spreads into seas and oceans, traveling across the globe with the currents.

An estimated 40 percent of textile chemicals are discharged by China.6 According to Ecowatch, Indonesia is also struggling with the chemical fallout of the garment industry. The Citarum River is now one of the most heavily polluted rivers in the world, thanks to the congregation of hundreds of textile factories along its shorelines. Clothing designer Eileen Fisher even called the clothing industry the “second largest polluter in the world … second only to oil.”7

Leading Clothing Companies Commit to Using Sustainable Cotton by 2025

Genetically engineered (GE) cotton is widely used in the clothing industry, but while it maintains a natural image, it’s among the dirtiest crops in the world because of heavy use of toxic pesticides. It also takes a heavy toll on local water supplies, as hundreds of liters of water may be necessary to produce enough cotton to make one T-shirt.8

Prince Charles is among those who has voiced his support for more sustainable cotton production, noting that cotton production is “all too often associated with the depletion of local water supplies and the widespread, and sometimes indiscriminate, use of harmful pesticides [that] can take a heavy toll on human health.”9

Fortunately, earlier this year 13 clothing and textile companies, including Levi Strauss & Co., Eileen Fisher, Nike, Woolworths Holdings and Sainsbury’s, signed the Sustainable Cotton Communiqué, which commits to using 100 percent sustainable cotton by 2025. Worldwide, more than 20 million tons of cotton are produced annually in more than 100 countries.10 The 13 companies that signed the sustainable cotton initiative account for 300,000 tons of cotton each year.11

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Superlative Alternative: Organic Cotton

Author: Eleanor O’Neill | Published: May 25, 2017 

Today, cotton is the second most used fiber in apparel manufacture, after synthetics.

And I’ve found the subject of organic cotton one of the most frequently discussed when talking about sustainable fashion. Perhaps because it’s an easy concept to understand, in theory, and also because it is now widely accessible.

But what does organic really mean when it comes to cotton?

I’m often asked, what are the environmental benefits of organic vs conventional cotton production? How much more, on average, does a garment made of organic cotton cost? Is there a difference in the way it feels against your skin? And to be frank, there were only a few answers I felt comfortable giving until now. So I decided to dig a little deeper for everyone’s benefit.

Let’s start with a clear and digestible summary of what organic production means.

It is ‘a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects.’ It ‘combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved.’ (Life Cycle Assessment for Organic Cotton, 2016).

What is organic cotton?

In a nutshell, it’s cotton that is not grown with the aid of chemicals or artificial substances but in a way that gradually and naturally builds soil fertility, and protects biodiversity.

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