At the end of last month, the European Union announced a plan to counter the pollution generated by mass-market fast fashion with the overarching goal of ending the throwaway culture that compels consumers to use cheap clothing that becomes deformed or ruined after only a few wears.
The EU proposed new rules that would demand a mandatory minimum use of recycled fibers for manufacturers and would prohibit the destruction of unsold products (a practice that is in place to create an environment of exclusivity among brands).
Other goals include containing the release of microplastics and an improvement upon global labor conditions within the garment industry.
“We want sustainable products to become the norm,” declared Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans. “The clothes we wear should last longer than three washes.”
The EU’s environment commissioner, Virginias Sinkevicius, expressed the commission’s wish to make fast fashion “out of fashion,” saying: “By 2030 textiles placed on the EU market should be long-lived and recyclable, made to a large extent of recycled fibers.”
Timmermans echos these sentiments, saying that “all textiles should be long lasting, recyclable, made of recycled fibers, and free of dangerous substances. The strategy also aims to boost reuse and repair sectors and address textile waste.”
These changes will require a huge shift within the industry that currently does everything it can to keep costs and prices down. Almost three-quarters of all clothing and textiles used in the EU are imported from developing nations in Asia and Latin America, by workers who are subjected to poor working conditions.
Though the EU’s proposed rules are mostly targeted at clothing made for mass-market retailers like H&M, Primark, and Zara, the EU also wants to set the standard for sustainable fashion in the luxury fashion world.
“There’s a cultural change taking place,” added Timmermans, saying that major fashion houses “are always the first to show the way forward.”
Sustainability is proving to be a priority in the luxury fashion industry, with trailblazers such as Stella McCartney and Chloe leading the way by investing in upcycling and other methods of reducing their carbon footprints.