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The international textile industry is a dedicated follower of fast fashion. Trends change on a daily basis. This encourages consumers to rapidly discard clothing, leading to increased consumption and maximised turnover. The environmental organisation Greenpeace examines the consequences of this approach in its latest report ‘Fashion at the Crossroads’. It illustrates with examples of good practice how textile manufacturers like Salewa are bucking the trend.

60-15-20. No, these numbers do not represent the ideal figure, nor do they represent an ideal situation – especially when it comes to European clothing habits. A comprehensive, international survey found: 60 is the number of clothing items the average consumer buys per year. They wear these clothes for half as long as they did 15 years ago. And 20 percent of these new items of clothing are stashed away in wardrobes, never to see the light of day. Because a jacket that’s on-trend one week, is already outdated the next. Around 102 million tons of clothing are sold worldwide every year. This is all the more alarming when you think that this figure is also rising. Styles that are modelled on the catwalks of Paris, Milan and New York are available to buy just days later, in affordable versions, from the big fashion retail chains. With up to 24 collections each year, consumers are constantly fed the latest trends to hit the textile industry.


Cut from the catwalks of Paris to the mountains of South Tyrol. Here, Salewa, a mountain equipment manufacturer at the foot of the Dolomites has a sustainable design strategy. “Our aim is to produce clothing and collections that endure. We focus on clean designs and colours that can be worn for years. And that’s why over 60% of our collection is carried over for at least another season”, explains Marie Måwe, who oversees Salewa’s Corporate Social Responsibility – CSR. She is particularly proud of the fact that their approach has merited international recognition. In Greenpeace’s latest study – ‘Fashion at the Crossroads’ – Salewa is mentioned several times when illustrating how manufacturers can minimise production resources by adopting iconic designs and making clothing with a longer shelf life. “To us, sustainability means creating products that will last for many years. So we are really happy that Greenpeace has praised some of our initiatives” Måwe adds. And the CSR champion goes on to say that we also need to see a shift in consumer attitudes: "Our grandparents used to mend and fix everything – out of financial necessity. We’ve stopped doing that, because we think we can afford not to. But is it not also important to treat our belongings with respect? We should take pride, for example, that our jacket has seen some action in its time.”

For its study ‘Fashion at the Crossroads”, Greenpeace identified and evaluated 100 textile manufacturers from different industry sectors. The categories are: global fashion brands, small fashion labels, sportswear manufacturers, NGOs and Outdoor. Manufacturers were analysed in terms of their designs, production methods, recycling processes and alternative production methods. The conclusion: ‘Fast fashion brands need to radically change their business model and redirect it towards quality and durability.’ This is something Greenpeace explains right in the study’s introduction. The current rates of over-production and high levels of consumption leave little space in our wardrobes and are also harmful to people and the environment, the report reiterates throughout. Increasing levels of production have a greater impact on the environment – including high water usage in the production of cotton or the use of chemicals. 


The simplest and most effective way to reduce consumption is to wear clothing for as long as possible. By simply extending the life of a garment from one year to two years, this reduces its CO₂ emissions by 24 per cent. Greenpeace recognises the positive steps and initiatives taken by the outdoor industry. This is a sector with demanding customers where good warranties, high-quality materials and recycling schemes and repair services all play a big role. At Salewa these are already standard practice, reassures their Corporate Social Responsibility Manager: “Around one quarter of the garments in our latest collection are made from recycled materials.” Synthetic fibres, even when they are made from recycled base materials, are viewed with a critical eye. This is because every time synthetic fibres are washed, microscopic tiny plastic fibres are washed away and cannot be filtered, even by the very latest wastewater treatment plants. As a result, they can cause harm to marine life when they enter rivers and oceans. This has led to a greater focus on natural fibres like wool, hemp and linen. Here too, Salewa has adopted initiatives such as the flagship TirolWool® project, where wool from Tyrolean mountain sheep is used to make jacket insulation. 

But however encouraging these developments are, Måwe feels there is no time for complacency: “The study also shows us that there is room for improvement in certain areas. We aim to have sustainable production. And where possible, to work with local suppliers.” For Salewa, slow fashion is already part of their Dolomites-inspired philosophy, according to Måwe: “We aim to take the respect we have for the mountains that surround us, and let this influence what we make. We want to protect natural resources, leave as little trace as possible, and act responsibly towards society and the natural environment.”

Read the full ‘Fashion at the Crossroads’ 108-page study here:


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