“The impact of the production of just one T-Shirt is roughly equal to the carbon footprint of driving a car for ten miles.”
Head of London College of Fashion Frances Corner has urged the global fashion industry to take responsibility for its enormous environmental impact. "The production of just one T-Shirt is roughly equal to the carbon footprint of driving a car for ten miles," she told Salt, explaining that, "To put this in context, in 2010, the global apparel industry produced more than 150 billion garments, enough to provide more than 20 new articles of clothing to every person on the planet."
Corner highlights the huge water consumption of the industry. "It takes 2,700 litres of water to produce one cotton t-shirt from 'crop to shop'," she says, asking us all to, "imagine how many swimming pools of water it took to manufacture the contents of your wardrobe - and how many more swimming pools will go into extending its lifespan through regular washes at home."
The stats are damning, but Corner is positive about fashion's ability to save the planet. "I believe we are in a unique position to lead the fight against climate change," she enthuses, explaining that, "Fashion has enormous power to motivate and communicate some complex messages, and historically has produced designers with the ability to shock and draw attention to some of society's most controversial topics." Corner highlights British designers in particular, saying, "you just need to look at the work of Katharine Hamnett and Vivienne Westwood to see how galvanising fashion can be in achieving transformation".
If you're not convinced that the industry's creativity can save the planet, Corner would urge you to consider fashion's incredible economic muscle -- making $3 trillion a year globally and £26 billion for the UK economy. "At LCF I have heavily invested in making sure sustainability is seen less as an adjunct and more an integral part of the process of business and design," she explains.
The drive for sustainability is not merely confined to the experimental arena of the classroom, however. "I know from working with leading fashion brands at London College of Fashion that there is an increasing awareness of 'our' part in the problem and what steps need to be taken to ensure the future of our industry, and those millions of people whose livelihoods rely upon it," she says. Describing the College's landmark partnership with Kering, who own Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney, Corner says, "We are currently working together on sustainability projects to try and effect real change, rather than working solely on theoretical concepts."
"For all those people who dismiss fashion as fluff and catwalks," Corner concludes, "don't be surprised if the fashion industry rises up and leads the business world in the fight against climate change".