The Next Thing Climate Change Could Ruin: Your Outfit

Fashion conscious environmentalists have another thing to add to their laundry list of climate-change-related concerns. As global warming continues and the winters become milder, there will be less of a demand for winter-themed clothing.

The economic effects of this pattern are already beginning to appear in the fashion industry. Last year, England’s winter clothing business reported a 10 percent drop in profit. This past January, Kohl’s, TJ Maxx, Bon-Ton and Marshall’s all reported dangerously lagging sales.

To remedy the declining demand for sweaters and parkas, clothing companies are not investing in sustainable practices to try to mitigate the effects of global warming. Instead of attacking the root of the problem, climate change, they are adapting their clothing lines to the changing weather. Kohl’s and Target are reportedly working with meteorologists to predict consumer demand. Target has also begun selling bathing suits all year round. 

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Coincidentally, the fashion industry happens to be one of the worst offenders when it comes to causing climate change. These “fast fashion” chains, like Target, TJ Maxx and Kohl’s, consume an egregious amount of oil, water and gas in the production, transport and sale of their clothing. Some fast fashion chains do not employ fair labor practices; they depend on keeping prices low so that consumers buy more clothing than they actually need. Their entire business model is built off of making clothing disposable.               

When people end up buying in excess from fashion chain stores, a lot of clothing invariably ends up getting thrown out or given away.  Donating clothing to charity seems noble, but only 20 percent of the donated items actually make it into the charity stores. They receive too many donations to actually display. 

What is a sweater-loving consumer to do? Unfortunately, not much. 

High-quality, sustainable clothing is quite often very expensive. Supporting sustainable designers and stores when possible is still a good step in the right direction. Another solution is to mend or decorate old clothing instead of buying new items.

Instead of cutting back on making winter clothing, what we really need from the fashion industry is systemic change.  

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Jenna Shapiro is a high school senior in New York City who is passionate about writing and environmental issues. She has previously worked with EcoLogic Solutions. In her free time she can be found reading, biking, or walking her adorable dogs!