The Importance of asking: What’s in my Clothes?

It’s day six of Fashion Revolution week! We’re continuing on the more environmental theme that we started yesterday and asking the question #WhatsInMyClothes today.

So I’m going back to the outfit I was wearing on Tuesday. After I attempted with one success and two failures to find out who made those clothes, today I am going to explore what’s in them, and the impact that has on the environment.

Starting on a positive note, with my leggings. From People Tree, they were only item that I was able to successfully find out who they were made by. The fabrics are very clearly listed on the leggings. 95% organic cotton and 5% elastane. The organic cotton is GOTS certified which means that it fits an ecological and social criteria, reducing its harm to people and the environment. Cotton is a hugely problematic material; it was responsible for drying out almost all of the Aral Sea. As mentioned on their website, their GOTS certified organic cotton is grown with systems in place that replenish soil fertility and reduce the use of toxic pesticides and fertilisers. I’m glad to see that instead of using conventional cotton People Tree has taken the steps to make sure that they are using cotton responsibly in their products.

Onto my next two garments. Both are made mostly with polyester. My green H&M top is made of 61% polyester, 33% viscose and 6% elastane. My Primark jumper is made of 95% polyester and 5% elastane.

I decided to head to both of their websites to see if I could find anymore info about polyester. Starting with H&M, their sustainability page is definitely very eye-catching. But it’s important not to be deceived by looks. There is nothing specifically about polyester, or any material. They have a goal to be ‘climate positive by 2040’ but that’s 20 years away!

Venturing over to Primark’s website, I didn’t expect much more. Again, nothing to be found about polyester. They did have a page about how they’re attempting to be more sustainable with their cotton usage, but that was about it.

So it seems polyester is a bit of a mystery to these brands. Polyester to put it simply, is plastic. And we all know how dangerous plastic is for the environment. Polyester is water intensive, often involves toxic dyes, and it does not biodegrade.

It’s also hugely problematic because every time we wash a polyester item it releases plastic microfibres which can end up in our oceans, harming sea life. See my post here if you want more in-depth information about microfibres.

My H&M top is made of 33% viscose, so I decided I would do a little more research into that. Although viscose may be perceived as a good material because it is made from wood pulp; its mass production means its far from sustainable. The process of making viscose releases toxic chemicals into the air and water surrounding factories. It is also responsible for a significant amount of deforestation.

It’s a shame that H&M and Primark aren’t taking responsibility for the materials they’re using. Sure, they list them on the label, but it doesn’t go any further than that. Even on their website there is no information about these materials.

But the materials these fashion brands are using is really important. Polyester and viscose are some of the most used materials, but they are extremely damaging for the environment. Brands need to take responsibility for this.

If we want to truly fight the climate crisis, we need change in this area. We cannot keep producing millions of garments made out of these unsustainable materials.

One way that you can help make this change is by asking brands, #WhatsInMyClothes on social media. We’ve got used to asking #WhoMadeMyClothes, but this new question will hopefully spur brands to share more about the materials they use and their effects on the environment.

Have you thought much about what’s in your clothes? Do you think brands need to take more responsibility?

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