It is not a brand synonymous with style, but WWF in Finland, a branch of the world’s biggest conservation group, is teaming up with the Nordic Fashion Week Organisation in a project that aims to produce a truly sustainable clothing range.
Those behind the project, codenamed “The New Normal” say a new way of producing textiles will become a necessity as global demand for clothing increases with population growth.
“Currently, cotton production requires substantial amounts of water, chemicals, energy and land – while global natural resources dwindle in the warming climate,” says WWF Finland’s Miiju Sirviö. “Fossil fuels cannot be spun into polyester or other synthetic fabrics for ever, either. Yet, much clothing is discarded before the end of its life span and ends up in landfill sites. This project vows to drastically improve the ecological footprint of garments by encouraging and promoting tangible solutions.”
The clothes for The New Normal project will use a highly durable material recycled from textile waste by a Finnish company called Infinited Fiber. The prototype of the collection will be shown at the Helsinki Fashion Week in July.
It is not just the energy-intensive process of making the garments, the reality is that most of the clothes we wear end up in landfill. According to a recent Greenpeace report, the average European consumer now buys 60% more clothing items a year and keeps them for half as long as 15 years ago.
Synthetic fibres are one of the biggest problems. Manufacturing polyester, for example, which is already present in 60% of clothing, produces almost three times more carbon dioxide than organic cotton, and it can take decades to degrade – as well as polluting marine environments with plastic microfibres. And around 21 million tons of polyester was used in clothing last year, up 157% from 2000.
“Cheap fast fashion is a huge obstacle to a more sustainable industry,” says Tom Cridland, who started his own green fashion brand three years ago with a £6,000 government startup loan. “Theoretically, a 100% sustainable fashion collection is not impossible but we need more brands to promote buying less but buying better.”
Cridland’s unique selling point is the 30-year guarantee he attaches to his T-shirts, jackets and trousers. The notion that we can buy an item of clothing and keep it for much longer is taking off, he says, with sales now over £1m a year