The year 2023 has been one of hyper-fast fashion, extreme price tags (both high and low), and toxic spills of polyester clothing. It was the year the zombie in the room – the sheer volume of clothing we are producing and buying – took on a life of its own.
The connection between fossil fuels and the synthetics in our clothes really hit home. “Fossil fashion is at the core of many of fast fashion’s worst problems: cheap materials, over-reliance on synthetics, a spiralling waste crisis and spiking emissions,” said Fossil Fuel Fashion, a new organisation that launched at New York Climate Week in September, bringing together a coalition of organisations aiming to phase fossil fuels out from the industry.
Fossil-fuel based polyester is cheap and is the fibre of choice for hyper-fast fashion, which has continued to dominate the market, despite a torrent of criticism in June after the leading producer, Shein, paid for six fashion influencers to travel to their factories in China. The influencers then posted glowing reviews from behind the scenes and the $66bn fashion brand continues to seduce us into buying clothes we didn’t know we wanted and definitely don’t need. The race to the bottom has only just begun, however. The Chinese shopping app Temu, which is giving Shein a run for its money, with its “lightning” 99% discount deals, has been downloaded more than 7m times since it launched in the UK in April.
But it hasn’t all been bad news. The link between farming and fashion has never been more talked about; “regenerative” is one of the year’s biggest buzzwords. As Safia Minney, founder of Fashion Declares, which is calling for radical change in the industry, explains, fashion is not just