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Fashion And Climate Change In The Trump Era

22/01/2017 16:47 | Updated 23 January 2017
piyaset via Getty Images

Well, Trump is now US president and for anyone concerned about climate change, women's rights and equality, the reality of the situation has hit home with a hefty dose of uncertainty about what it all means. The fact that within minutes of his inauguration climate change had been removed from the White House website as a major area of policy gives a chilling indication of where things are headed.

As the founder of an online store whose reason for being is to promote brands that protect the environment, support the disadvantaged and stand up for equality and fairness I have to say my outlook since Trump's election triumph has been pretty bleak. Everything we stand up for was being at best undermined at worst under attack. And worse still it felt that attack was being sanctioned by the US electorate. I had the same sad feeling immediately after the election that I felt the morning after the Brexit vote, the same sad feeling I feel every time I read a hate-filled, xenophobic headline in the UK press or listen to a pundit belittling the importance of climate change on the radio.

What should the response be for a small business like ours to a worrying shift that isn't just on a different page, but that seems to be speaking a totally different language? After a lot of soul searching and and several conversations with disheartened colleagues the conclusion we have come to is this: chin up and double our efforts. We know that increasing numbers of consumers share our values and want their product choices to reflect them. It is down to us to make the choice and easy and attractive one.

For us the most worrying aspect of what lies ahead is the issue of climate change. President Elect Trump has implied that the problem doesn't exit, that it has been fabricated by China and that he would like to remove the USA's involvement in the Paris Climate Change Agreement. He is ignoring climate specialists all over the world and clear fact that human actions have caused the warming of the earth's temperature by 1 degree in the past century alone. Last year, at the time of the Paris Climate Conference we wrote a piece entitled Fashion and Climate Change. It is one of our most popular editorial features to date which indicates just how much this topic matters to our customers.

Fashion has a huge impact on the environment - in fact it is the second most polluting industry after oil. As an industry we need to face facts and do something about it. Never has this been more critical than now we are faced with a Trump administration. The outcome of the vote might not have been what the we wanted but the way to stand up to policies that we don't agree with is to stand up even more ferociously for the values that we do believe in. So if Trump is going to follow a policy that endangers the environment we must make choices in our every day lives that protect it, starting with our fashion choices. By carefully considering our purchases, recycling, repairing and also by choosing, organic and sustainably produced clothing we can make a difference. Take organic vs non organic cotton for example - a study of organic cotton in one region of India, commissioned by PUMA found a 40% reduction in global warming potential, 72% lower primary energy demand, and lower water consumption. Not only that, the farmers and workers involved in production are not exposed to the harmful chemicals that regular cotton growing demands.

In addition to choosing better it is time put pressure on the big brands to follow suit, to protect the environment, reduce waste and consumption. These guys have serious clout and the potential to make a genuine difference. Creating a small range of organic cotton pieces isn't enough when the damage caused by the lions share of your business clearly outweighs the positive impact of your "conscious" campaign. It's time we start calling the brands to account and to demand transparency about both their environmental and social footprints. Where are their products made, under what conditions and by whom? How much energy do they use, what chemicals, and how do they offset their emissions? The fashion industry, so often touted as 'creative' and 'liberal', was pretty much unanimous in its support of Hillary - now let's put our money where our mouth is.

We need a gear change in environmental responsibility within the fashion industry. With raw materials running low and climate change itself being a direct cause of poverty, the argument that protecting the environment should come second place to protecting the economy misses the point entirely. The two are inextricably linked - we can't have a sustainable fashion industry (a trillion dollar industry no less) without doing something about the environmental impact. We need to think about our choices and brands need to re-address their policies. In the words of Mrs Clinton, "never give up for fighting for what you believe is right." That fight might have got a little bit harder but now, like never before, it is imperative we act both as individuals and as businesses.

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