At one point in time, the word ‘sustainability’ filled us with excitement. It carried the weight of positive change and we’ve witnessed that change right in front of our eyes: plastic-free beauty products, the rise of renting platforms, brands with a sustainable story or ethos, upcycling deadstock fabric...we’ve just about seen it all. But just as the number of sustainable avenues has expanded so too has its meaning and even more so the ability (or lack thereof) to quantify it. The buzz it initially generated has devolved into just that: a buzzword. 

Fashionscapes: A Circular Economy, directed by Andrew Morgan (director of The True Cost), and co-created with Eco-Age founder and creative director Livia Firth, investigates the rampant greenwashing in the fashion industry. “We wanted to uncover the truth about whether we can truly have a circular model in the fashion business right now. Every brand and every organisation is launching new circularity initiatives and there is so much greenwashing and confusion,” says Livia. 

The fifth film in the Fashionscapes series aims to sort through that confusion. Here are the key takeaways:

+ The industry is leading consumers to believe that synthetic fibres are more sustainable than natural fibres when in fact, plastic is not infinitely recyclable and there is no data or evidence to back up this misconception.

+ Natural fibres, in particular wool, are a key part of creating a circular economy. New developments in farming see farmers working in harmony with the land. Case in point, Australian farmer Charles Massy who uses regenerative techniques to make wool and uses virtually no fossil fuels, chemicals or industrial fertilisers.

+ Resale and recycling schemes effectively give consumers “permission to shop” whilst continuing to wreak havoc on the environment and livelihoods of the makers of our clothes.

+ Most of the clothes arriving at Kantamanto market in Ghana do not get resold or used due to poor quality.

+ Achieving real circularity requires holistic change that looks and includes everyone in the supply chain.

While the film may leave you with a feeling of hopelessness as dense as the highly-stacked piles of cheap clothes in a landfill, Livia reminds us that this feeling is a starting point: “We buy without thinking, we discard without thinking, we consume without thinking. So watching on a screen the repercussions of our habits, it's pretty strong, I think. And hopefully will make people stop and think.  And after that, it will make them question. And once you question, you start acting differently and more responsibly.”

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