How can we free ourselves from our addiction to fashion, which is so devastating, both humanly and environmentally? In her latest book*, specialist Catherine Dauriac shows the extent of the damage and proposes measures to get out of this deadly system nine years after the collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh. The “worst of the worst fashions” with SheIn, the millions of barrels of oil used, the reflexes to adopt… Interview.
Nine years ago, the Rana Plaza collapsed, casting a harsh light on the fashion industry. Do you see an increase in human and environmental rights in clothing almost ten years later?
The Rana Plaza is the biggest disaster in the textile industry in two centuries. More than 1,100 employees have died while working for major fashion brands. This was a real shock to the international community. From a regulatory point of view, the situation has changed. We had the Bangladesh Accord or the Duty of Vigilance, which obliges multinationals to prevent social and environmental risks throughout their value chain. More recently, France passed the AGEC law, which prohibits the destruction of all non-food items, including clothing. This is a significant step forward as brands have so far burned their unsold items, even though the law is limited to France.
At the other end of the chain, however, workers are still underpaid. In Asia, female garment workers earn an average of $5 for a 12-hour workday. Their conditions are progressing very little and consumers continue to buy cheap clothes. More than 410 million pieces of clothing are produced every day, while today we have produced enough clothes to clothe the planet until 2100!
However, we are seeing increasing consumer awareness of the impact of the fashion industry. How do you explain this dichotomy?
This is the power of marketing, of advertising. Nowadays you can no longer open a social network without being attacked. It’s SheIn’s specialty, the worst of the worst in fashion. While we already had excesses with fast fashion, this Chinese start-up is moving even faster, it’s live fashion. It only takes him three days from the time the garment is made until it is shipped to the person who ordered it. It’s a hyper-attractive system for very young generations who don’t realize the toxicity of what they’re buying. With a few clicks, they have a two-euro t-shirt and five-euro jeans that they will wear three times and end up in the trash without the recycling channels. It’s disastrous.
To fully understand it, you should know that 150 billion items of clothing are produced annually in the world for barely 1.5 billion people in the countries of the north. And this system has a very significant environmental cost. Every day, nearly a million barrels of oil are processed to make synthetics. We literally dress in oil.
In addition to the “conscious” collections from H&M or Zara, more and more ethical brands are emerging. Is that enough?
The revolution is underway. Our Brand Transparency Index shows that some are making an effort. To please consumers who are becoming increasingly picky about the origin of textiles or the manufacture of clothing, even the giants have to make an effort to sell. So we see the emergence of more responsible collections, but we have to put things into perspective. These are capsule collections that represent barely 2% of their total production. Textiles are such a powerful industry that we cannot make rapid progress. We are attacking a symbol of capitalism to which we are addicted. Our civilization has an addiction to clothing that is worse than that to sugar.
What I recommend, to try to detox, is to use the BISOU method. Before you buy a piece of clothing, ask yourself five questions: do I need it, do I need it immediately, do I not have a similar piece of clothing in my wardrobe, where does this product come from and is it really useful. We should always keep in mind that we only use 30% of our wardrobe. We throw away our clothes at the same rate as we buy them. We have to get out of this system.
Interview by Marina Fabre Soundron
*Catherine Dauriac, Fashion, Fake or Not, Tana editions, published April 14.