What could possibly go wrong? How do we make it right?
An interview with fashion designer, Resa McConaghy
Three plus decades ago, my Aunt Marylou gave me two black dresses, both sheaths, both high-quality knit — if I had to guess, a blend of linen and cotton — one long sleeve and one sleeveless, the perfect little black dresses every woman needs in her closet. While not part of my daily wardrobe, I’ve worn them dozens of times over the years when I have a fancy party or a somber occasion. I’ve purchased many little black dresses in the interim and you know what? I don’t have a single one of them, but I still have, and wear, Aunt Marylou’s dresses.
Aunt Marylou was herself an amazing seamstress, but she worked as a sewing machinist in a factory making batch items for larger pieces — way before Zara, arguably the creator of fast fashion, pushed the business to multi-billion dollar levels — and because Aunt Marylou knew quality clothing and was also a style icon, she only bought the best. The two little black dresses she gifted me are handmade, easily over 60 years old, and still look marvelous.
There’s a rumor going around that, after the fossil fuel industry that feeds our energy needs and results in 25% of all greenhouse gases emissions, the fashion industry was the second largest polluter in the world. This is a fact repeated in several documentaries about the fashion industry, and while, at least according to an EPA pie chart, it does not appear to be true, I believe I know what environmental category fast fashion hits the hardest: water.
In fact, according to the Florida State University Sustainable Campus, “[t]he fashion industry is the second most water-intensive industry in the world, consuming around 79 billion cubic metres of water per year.” These numbers can seem unreal when there’s no metric against which to compare them so how about this one: to make one cotton t-shirt requires about 2,700 liters of water. And that’s just the water. There’s also the carbon footprint on the transportation costs, the pesticides used to grow the cotton (which ultimately…