SUSTAINABILITY & THE FASHION INDUSTRY TODAY. HERE'S WHERE WE STAND.

Clothing landfill

Sustainability has been a hot topic in the fashion industry in recent years, with an increasing presence of conscious brands and more wide-spread conversation surrounding the impact of fashion today — on our people, and on our planet. However, there remains so much opportunity to share learnings, to inform and to encourage consumers to take a more thoughtful approach to consumption.

When I endeavoured to create Copper Bottom, I knew less than I know now, but one thing was very clear — I wanted no part in wasteful production, unsafe work environments, unfair wages or hyper-trendy products. With each day, I’ve learned more about the status of fashion today, and in turn, become more steadfast in my commitment to disrupting the industry’s current norms.

Curious? Here’s the state of the union.

Remember when we used to shop 2-3 times per year for spring/summer clothing, and again in the fall when the weather cooled? It wasn’t that long ago but seems like such a distant memory. Today, high street (also known as fast-fashion) brands bring in new inventory almost daily, creating fashion ‘seasons’ that occur on a weekly basis. These fast-fashion conglomerates are able to go from sketch to product in store in as little as 4 weeks, including transit time from overseas. This volume of production, speed of manufacturing and pressure on factories is unprecedented

These companies — you’ll know some of them as Forever 21, H&M, Zara and Primark — have a stronghold on manufacturers in Eastern countries like China, India and Bangladesh. The upper hand they maintain holds the majority of these manufacturer’s revenue, and pushes down the factory line where garment workers receive the brunt of it. This comes in the form of dangerous work conditions, unliveable wages, and physical and emotional abuse. In April 2013, 1,134 garment workers were killed when a factory collapsed in Bangladesh. Human beings are exploited in mass, and our planet is also impacted. Water use, oil consumption, CO2 emissions, and chemical applications for cotton and textile production are at an all-time high.

Here are some startling facts:

Americans currently contribute 70-80 pounds of clothing and footwear to landfills annually.

H&M claims to have ongoing sustainability efforts, yet has been accused of burning 12 tonnes of unsold garments each year.

High street giants can produce new collections at insane speeds -- manufacturing, shipping and stocking their clothing, and then mark down to $6.99 while still delivering a profit. Somewhere in there, a human being was paid to sew.

Most garment workers in the developing countries make less than $1 per day.

In 2015, a study showed that consumers were wearing their garments an average of 7 times prior to discarding to landfill — and this has only grown worse in the last 4 years. 

Globally, we consume approximately 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year. This is 400% more than the amount we consumed just 20 years ago.

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High street brands have forced a vicious cycle of consumption on us. Through planned obsolescence, consumers have been taught to view weekly and monthly trends as the norm — to be comfortable when the teddy bear coat they bought just a few weeks ago is no longer chic. We have come to expect low cost clothing from these stores, and think little of it when these low quality pieces fall apart after two wears or a cycle through the wash. When this happens, consumers return to these stores to replace their damaged goods or the new hyper-trendy item, and expect to pay no more than they did before, often less — forcing greater pressures from these brands to lower prices by driving down the cost of manufacturing.

And so, the million dollar question — what happened?

Clothing has shifted from a commodity to a consumable. This means that instead of treating that new pair of jeans as a valuable you invest in and keep (think cell phone, laptop, furniture), they are used up quickly, not dissimilar to how you’d chew up and spit out a piece of gum. As consumers, we support fast-fashion brands by buying items impulsively because they’re inexpensive, leaving them to hang unworn in our closets with tags attached. We buy the trendy, tattered jeans from Forever21 because we know they won’t be in style next season and therefore don’t invest.

In short, fast-fashion is synonymous with rapid consumption, low quality, a revolving door of trends, unfair working conditions and detriment to our planet. Slow fashion means far fewer and season-less collections, deliberate design and production, eco-conscious practices and sustainably-made goods.

Brands are approaching slow fashion in a range of ways, but it can be difficult to solve all problems at once. Local manufacturing, use of organic, regenerated or dead stock fabrics, small batch production, made to order manufacturing, timeless styles, producing goods that last, using recycled packaging, and paying fair wages are just some of the practices that sustainable brands are putting in place to make a positive contribution and reduce their impact.

By no means am I blameless in this. There remain pieces in my closet from brands leveraging questionable work practices, and each new purchase provides an opportunity for me to take what I now know and make conscious decisions about the brands I support. With this, I welcome you to join me in educating yourself about the impacts of the fashion industry, little by little. 

Here’s how Copper Bottom is contributing to a better future of fashion:

We believe in a ‘less is more’ approach to consumption and create swimsuits made to last.

Pineapple and banana prints are out, timeless styles and design are in -- all that can be worn and loved for years to come. To be clear, nothing against tropical fruit prints, if you're still going to like your trunks two summers from now!

Regenerated materials are used in some of our designs, with a continued effort to source additional eco-friendly fabrics that meet the luxury quality we’re committed to.

Our production partner was carefully selected and is only minutes of where we lived in Slovenia, enabling us to oversee every step of the process. Their small operation maintains fair wages and high labour standards, and excels in quality production.

We ship our swimsuits in a packaging solution that is 100% recycled and roadside recyclable.

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Shop our collection of ethically-made men's swim trunks and swim briefs.

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