Updated: Apr 16, 2020
Young people around the world are working to clean up a dirty fashion industry.
The $2 trillion industry is responsible for 10% of the global carbon footprint, negative environmental effects including water pollution, the use of toxic chemicals and high levels of textile waste, and poor working conditions for millions of workers, primarily women.
The World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers community is taking a grassroots approach to address these issues on local and regional levels while promoting a global dialogue about how to encourage sustainable transformations in the industry.
“Fashion, as an overarching term for the apparel, footwear and textiles sector, is a huge global industry that touches us all (physically!) and employs millions of people,” says Holly Syrett, 32, a Global Shaper in the Amsterdam Hub. “But it is simultaneously a very dirty business that has long hidden how it works.”
This year more than 30 Global Shaper hubs worldwide are participating in Shaping Fashion, an initiative that organizes activities and projects during Fashion Revolution Week to raise awareness of the sustainability challenges of the fashion industry and empower local communities to pursue sustainable fashion solutions. The projects include clothing swaps, film screenings and roundtables – each designed to meet the local community’s needs and inspire sustainable fashion efforts year-round, says Syrett, who is a co-founder of the initiative.
For example, the Amsterdam Hub in the Netherlands is bringing together two groups, Sustainable Apparel Coalition and Fashion for Good, to discuss the importance of transparency in the fashion industry with members of the local community.
“It's important that we demand to know more about the brands that we buy from, the products that we buy and the circumstances under which they are made,” Syrett says. “Only with access to this kind of information will we be able to choose more sustainable products that meet our personal values and by doing so, reward the brands that create them.”
5 ways to promote sustainable fashion
Step 1: Ask #whomademyclothes – demand more transparency from your favorite brand
Step 2: Assess Your Closet – know and treasure what you own
Step 3: Wash Smart – wash cool, use eco-detergent, air dry
Step 4: Upcycle, Repair and Share – make each piece last
Step 5: Shop Less and Buy Well – when you buy, buy second-hand, ethical, organic and only items you love and that will last