The fashion industry

The textile industry is the second most polluting industry to date. State of play of a dramatic situation, and an encouraging look at existing and realistic initiatives for more respectful fashion.

With the advent of fast fashion , consumers are encouraged to regularly renew their wardrobe at a lower cost. Unfortunately, there is a cost, and it is much greater than they can imagine. Buying new jeans for €8, a t-shirt for €3 or even a sweater for €10 is not without consequences, and it is a mode of consumption which generates multiple problems on different points:

Environmental consequences

In addition to being a human disaster, the fashion industry is also problematic from a environmental . Europeans consume nearly twenty-six kilos of textiles per year and throw away around eleven; Globally, around 130 million items of clothing are consumed each year. This attitude of overconsumption and waste leads has the appearance of surreal places like dumps of unsold goods that transform into expanses of textiles, like the Atacama Desert. It is in Chile that this place is located, where there is a dump of clothes from the four corners of the globe. Every year, It is 59000 tons of textiles that enter the port of Iquique before ending up in this clothing cemetery.

Martin Bernetti / AFP

Fashion is an industry that destroys land, water and air: second source of pollution of drinking water and groundwater, in particular through all the discharges of chemicals that factories emit, it also pollutes the marine world with a discharge of plastic estimated at the equivalent of fifty billion bottles per year . It should also be noted that a massive use of electricity is required to operate the machines, and that when it comes to CO2, the amount emitted is greater than that of the maritime and aviation sectors combined.

Another point that pollutes by snowball effect: the quality of clothing. You should know that more than two thirds of the clothes created are made of synthetic materials, particularly created from petroleum. This poor quality leads to a fragile fabric that is difficult to repair. In addition, with the pace of work required, a part is manufactured in a few minutes, so it is generally manufactured in a careless manner, which can lead to premature weariness. All these criteria therefore encourage regular wardrobe renewal, and consequently an increase in production.

By purchasing fast fashion, consumers put forward the argument that prices are particularly low. However, in the long term, consuming this type of clothing costs more than investing in a few quality pieces. In fact, it is often necessary to buy more because of poor quality, and therefore to spend more over time. It is from this phenomenon that the adage “consume less but consume better” comes.

The human consequences

Within the production of textiles intended for fast fashion , human rights are far from being respected, and the work is carried out in disastrous conditions. Worldwide, the average salary of these employees is 5 dollars per day, and we find the lowest in China, within a SheIn factory, with the equivalent of 1 to 2 euros per hour. But this is happening in the West, much closer to home: in England, employees at a Boohoo factory are paid 3.5 pounds per hour, almost three times less than the legal minimum. They have precarious contracts, which can be fired as soon as they are deemed not to be productive enough, and have no social security or health insurance. In addition, all this facilitates the implementation of moral harassment, because they comply with the demands and allow themselves to be stepped on so as not to lose their precious place.

Textile production is also a world in which there is certain insecurity in the workplace. Unsanitary conditions, contact with dangerous products or even non-existent safety standards, employees risk their lives every day. The most popular example: in 2013, the Rana Plaza building, which served as a textile factory in Bangladesh, collapsed, causing the death of more than 1,100 people and as many injuries. This building built without a permit and without respecting any standards perfectly illustrates this tendency for producers to want to spend as little as possible to make the most profit, without taking into account the consequences.


Human rights are therefore a central subject in the world of textiles: in China, a leading producing country in the textile industry, the Uyghur people are persecuted. This Muslim minority is mainly present in the Xinjiang region, where 20% of the world's cotton is grown. This population suffers forced labor, a form of modern slavery. Similar situations can be found in Ethiopia, Haiti and Bangladesh.

The health of employees is also severely tested. Surrounded by chemicals present in the tissues, they are exposed to endocrine disruptors which can impact fertility and lead to the development of cancers. For example, at SheIn we find weeks that can reach 75 hours of work with only one day off per month; conditions that do not go hand in hand with good health.

Finally, with regard to equality, you should know that women are the majority in the textile industry, representing 85% of the 75 million people employed worldwide. They carry out 80% of agricultural work but only own 5% of the land, and receive only 10% of the income, which proves the significant inequality present in this environment.

What actions can be taken to reduce the impact of the textile industry?

Since the multiple negative impacts of the textile industry have been denounced, certain brands and creators wish to engage in a more ecological and humane approach. There are different alternatives, but be careful not to fall into the traps.

First of all, there are designers, whether haute couture or not, who strive to have a minimal carbon footprint. The French designer Marine Serre is one of them, with the desire to restore meaning to fashion, in particular by working with upcycling, clearance and regenerated materials.

To see: the report on Marine Serre by Les Éclaireurs

For the cultural point, upcycling consists of reworking a part that would have been thrown away to give it a second life. Its collections are created from rugs, tote bags and even pillowcases. She produced a show with a decor made up of three tons of clothes that she will subsequently use to produce her next collections. There is therefore a real approach to reducing waste and revalorizing textiles.

We can also cite Vivienne Westwood , a punk icon engaged on all fronts who left us in 2022, and who campaigned against climate change since the early 2000s. It was in 2014 that she launched the “ reduce, reuse, rethink ” (Buy less, choose well, make it last) with her partner, and which she created from unsold items and scraps of fabric.

To go further: The Néon article, “Ethical fashion, gender identity, ecology: a look back at the struggles of the empress of punk Vivienne Westwood”

As we saw previously, the best state of mind remains that of “consuming less but better ". When you want to enter this way of life, you can turn to local brands, that is to say European, or even French, from creation to sale. 

To browse: The Good Goods website, eco-responsible fashion media

Among the best known, we find “Le slip français”, a mixed brand of pajamas and underwear, which has twenty-nine partner workshops in France. However, despite being manufactured in France, their raw cotton is still imported, but we can note that they are increasingly producing from recycled cotton from French sources.
We can also mention the “ Splice ” brand which produces linen clothing. All stages are carried out in France, with the exception of spinning which takes place in Poland, but the brand is seeking to relocate this stage. Their flax is grown in Normandy, and we saw in our article on the materials that it requires very little pesticide and water, which reinforces the ecological approach.

Some major brands of fast fashion also try to reveal themselves on a more ecological side, but beware of the trap of greenwashing , which consists of a company positioning itself ecologically despite the fact that its actions pollute. For example, we find the H&M brand with its “ Conscious ” collection, supposed to be made up of more environmentally friendly pieces. However, it communicates very little information on the durability of clothing and remains in the pattern of mass production, which is still just as polluting. Some use the ecological aspect as a marketing argument, but in truth do absolutely nothing for the planet: watch out for fake friends!

Finally, one last eco-responsible alternative: the second hand. This will not allow you to buy new items, but does not prevent you from having clothes in very good condition. Plus, there’s something for everyone: clothes taken out of our grandparents' closets allowing us to have a very seventies to thrift stores specializing in luxury, a whole world opens up to you. By operating this circuit which offers a second life to textiles, we prevent the creation of a lot of waste, in addition to creating a unique wardrobe and reducing the demand for new items; and therefore production. Be careful, however, not to fall into the trap of overconsumption, which we can quickly reach when we know that we are giving clothes a second life!

We hope that this article will guide you in your clothing consumption, and if you want to try your hand at second hand, you can find a whole bunch of shirts and accessories at the club waiting for their new life!

Back to blog

Les chemisières conseillent...