Fashion production is generating 10% of all greenhouse gases.

Each year, 80 billion garments are produced, that’s 400% more compared to 20 years ago. As you can imagine, this has very harmful environmental, social, political, and economic implications.

Long gone are the seasonal collections designed, produced, transported, and sold (then discarded – more on that in the next blog) 4 times a year. Fast fashion brands like Zara or H&M have dozens of new collection each year, which crunches that process by sacrificing quality, fair and just labor practices, and the planet in general.

Some claim overproduction is to keep up with demand, but that demand is created by fast fashion with their huge marketing budgets forcing constantly changing trends down our throat. Increasing demand to justify their supply.

Nonetheless, keeping up with demand has forced fashion production to change completely. A toxic mix of technology, globalization, and synthetic materials have allows fast fashion to overproduce.

Technology allows brands to analyze trends at incredible speeds. Zara was the front runner of altering production based on sales. As soon as a products is identified as popular, more are produced and iterations of it are designed so quickly that they’re able to be in a Zara store in two weeks. This is happening across all of their 2,250 stores globally, so you can imagine how much waste… I mean, designing, producing, transporting, and selling of products occurs at any given moment. Shein is doing the same, but faster, as they’re the front runner in collecting real-time data from their online stores. Shein makes design and production decision based on clicks, hence it being called “real-time” fashion.

From a business stand point, this is impressive, but from an environmental and social stand point it’s disastrous. The ability to overproduce at such speeds is depleting our planet’s resources, exploiting humans (mostly women), and continuing reliance on dirty energy and oil.

As globalization grew, so did fashion production. Despite tariffs, transportation, and other costs, it’s typically cheaper to produce abroad. Most of our clothes are produced in China, Bangladesh, or India, countries essentially powered by coal. This is the dirtiest type of energy in terms of carbon emissions. Additionally, fashion production is reliant on cheap and harmful labor practices, overwhelmingly performed by women, thus increasing the gender pay gap around the world and disproportionately hindering economic growth for women. Globally, fashion employs 1 of 6 people, 80% of which are women, yet less than 2% earn a living wage.

Synthetic materials enable overproduction in fashion. The most prominent being polyester, which is made from petroleum and found in an estimated 60% of garments. Each year 70 million oil barrels are used to produce Polyester. When it is inevitably throw in a landfill (85% of textiles do), it will take 500+ years to decompose. As polyester textiles and others start to decompose, they begin producing a number of byproducts, chief among them being methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is far more potent than carbon dioxide, absorbing 20 times more heat in the atmosphere. Thus, increasing greenhouse gas effects and rising temperatures.

The global fashion industry is generating 10% of greenhouse gases due to the energy used during its production, manufacturing, and transportation of the million garments produced each year.

That’s more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.

Sorry, didn’t warn you for how overwhelming this can be. The worst part is, overproduction seems like it’s completely out of our hands and out of our control. The average person isn’t running a fashion company that is producing way too much, but we are consuming it. Overproduction is a direct result of overconsumption (see our last blog post here).

So, of course, the obvious remedies are wear what’s in your closet, take care and repair what you have, and don’t throw out your clothes. But in relation to overproduction, we have to decrease demand. To do so try to limit your purchases of new fashion. Always check out thrift stores first, then your friend’s closet, and buy upcycled if and when you can, might we suggest the Reclypt marketplace! During the holiday season don’t think that every gift you give has to be new. If you’re able to repair clothes or have another helpful skill/service offer that as a gift. It’s zero waste for you and the recipient. : )