In search of environmentally friendly fashion


Fashion world actors compete to be portrayed as environmentally friendly – but truth and message do not always match. DW makes an excursion into the world of “green” fashion.

Fast-fashion brands have revolutionized our closets and changed our parameters. Once upon a time, a 30- Euro t-shirt was considered a bargain. Now even half that price would still be considered costly.

But since environmental activists started drawing attention to the high environmental price of bargains, eco-fashion has become the new trend – and all clothing companies want to be part of it.

H&M, for instance, one of the major fast-fashion companies – is currently carrying out World Recycle Week (18 – 24 April), aiming to collect at least 1,000 tons of old clothes.

But with big brands getting more sustainable, organic fashion spreading and second-hand shops increasing, the decision on where to buy the most earth-friendly clothing has become far from easy.

DW visited three fashion producers in Cologne, Germany, with very different eco-initiatives: H&M, Green Guerillas and Humana. Kirsten Brodde, project leader of the Greenpeace ‘Detox my fashion’ campaign, guided us through the complex world of sustainable fashion.

In Germany alone, around 50 tons of clothes are collected per week and then distributed through the different stores and sent to the projects in Africa and Asia, according to Anne Marie Madsen, HUMANA regional manager:

“There is no need to produce a lot of clothing, it is already there,” Madsen believes. “We have limited resources in the world and we don’t have an extra planet to spare.”

According to HUMANA, one t-shirt needs four tons of resources – including water and oil – to be produced, while a second-hand garment only requires 30 grams for the whole process of repair and distribution.

Madsen is delighted that over the last decade more people have started buying in second-hand shops – and are proud of it. “Ten years ago, customers did not want HUMANA bags. Now they walk proudly on the streets with it,” Madsen said. “People are learning, this is a good development,” she added.

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