Stacey Dooley: Fashion’s Dirty Secret

As an industry insider with connections to, and my business dependant on manufacturing in the textiles industry, it was with a pang of guilt and anger that I watched Stacey Dooley’s harrowing and impactful documentary for the BBC this week on the fashion industries impact on the environment.

It was a difficult documentary to swallow, and although I am aware of many of the statistics referenced, there were still some shocking and upsetting revelations on the direct implications not only to the environment but human impact with regards to health and the livelihoods of local people in these affected areas.

There will be some people in the industry watching this documentary and discarding it as another “fear mongering” approach showing the absolute worst and most significant examples of how our industry impacts and harms the environment and local people. However, we still need to take note and listen. We all have a responsibility to do better, to be better.

We need to understand that responsibility and accountability are not accredited to one singular party in this industry. Clothing manufacture is a notoriously closed door industry with traceability of raw materials almost impossible for the consumer. There was an interesting segment in the documentary where Stacey meets with four fashion influencers to discuss what they can do to make change. The main takeaway was that as consumers, we can put pressure on the large retailers and brands to improve the impacts of the supply chain. However, I also believe that in the same breath, we need to understand the impact our own consumer habits also place on retailers, a constant demand for newness and cheap prices. So it is not enough to just say that manufacturers need to do better, we need to look at ourselves as consumers, to the retailers and brands as well as the manufacturers; we all have a responsibility to do better.

As a business partnered with a supply base in China which uses a number of factories, we work hard to ensure that the factories we work with stand up to global standards and have the certificates required. It’s also worth highlighting that our government needs to take more action in implementing legislation to ensure retailers and brands comply with standards. The Chinese government for example, is limiting water useage to a monthly capacity and once a factory reaches their volume is closed for days or weeks until the capacity is reset. In addition laws are in place to install recycling water purification plants in all dye houses. There is of course, still a long way to go, but at least the government is taking steps and acknowledging that something needs to be done.

I strongly believe that we need to encourage knowledge and understanding of the supply chain, what actually goes into making garments and offering more education to industry insiders and consumers alike, whilst paving the way towards a more open and transparent industry. Levi’s head of innovation, Paul Dillinger spoke frankly to Stacey Dooley regarding their efforts to find solutions to reduce water usage and their approach to transparency:

“we’re doing everything we can to use less water in our finishing, and when we figure out a way to use less water, we’ll share it with everyone. We make all of our proprietary formulations open-source because if you figure out how to save water and you don’t tell people about it, you’re kind of a jerk.”

I couldn’t agree more!

So whilst the documentary casts a shadow, it also highlighted steps that are being taken to move towards a more transparent and environmentally friendly industry.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the documentary so please leave any comments below.

If you haven’t already watched it, you can catch up on the documentary on BBC iplayer via the link below: