This week on the Wardrobe Crisis podcast, Clare Press interviews Kirsten Brodde, who led Greenpeace’s successful campaign to pressure fashion brands to stop using harmful chemicals. Now she wants the industry to slow down.
“Over-consumption is one of the biggest challenges,” says Kirsten Brodde, the Hamburg-based activist who led the Greenpeace Detox My Fashion campaign for eight years from its launch in 2011.
“We could see, while working on Detox, that some of the gains we’d made were really outstripped by the higher rate of clothing [produced and consumed]. We need to address this…We call for time out for fast fashion.”
Listen to the interview in full here.
“Of course, if clothing is cheaper and cheaper, you can buy more and more. This is especially true for fast fashion,” says Brodde. “We are asking the industry to slow down. The industry is doing a lot of things to address sustainability, a lot of great projects, but they never enter this deep change—they are not slowing down.”
WRAP estimates that £140 million worth of clothing goes into landfill each year, while the World Bank figures that 20% of industrial wastewater pollution worldwide originates from the textile industry. And, as highlighted by the Environmental Audit Committee’s Fixing Fashion report this year, we buy more clothes per person in the UK than any other country in Europe. If current rates of consumption continue unchecked, fashion could use one quarter of the word’s carbon budget by 2050.
“At the moment, there is a lot of talk about circularity,” says Brodde. “But recycling is a very tech-centric answer. I think that before we start talking about closing the loop, we should really start talking about slowing down the flow of materials. This is something Greenpeace is now addressing. Of course, it’s more difficult for the industry to achieve, to really change their business model.”
Even Brodde herself is not immune. She admits that when she first started working in the sustainable fashion space, she bought more than usual. “My daughter told me, ‘OK mum, now you are buying more and more because it’s green and fair. I felt bad because she was right.”
Her personal recipe for slowing down? Rental. These days Brodde gets her fashion fix from a clothing library. “That’s fine for me, because I get to be creative and change my style without buying new stuff.”