Fashion Roundtable watches... Fashion’s Dirty Secret: Stacey Dooley Investigates - By Lottie Jackson
Fashion’s Dirty Secret: Stacey Dooley Investigates (BBC One) reveals the extent of damage caused by the ever-growing consumer demand for fast fashion. There have been recent claims that the fashion industry is one of the top five most-polluting industries in the world, alongside the oil industry.
Investigative journalist, Stacey Dooley first set out to explore how the cotton industry has turned the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan into an arid desert. Up until 1960, the Aral Sea was filled with wildlife but the rivers sustaining this life were then diverted to provide water for cotton farms. ‘An area of water nearly the size of Ireland has disappeared in four decades,’ explained Stacey. ‘I had no idea that cotton was capable of this. It’s also a really unsustainable crop, and uses more water than any other fibre – just one pair of jeans requires 15,523 litres of water!
She later travelled to Indonesia to discover how deadly toxins pumped into the river from large textile factories had killed off river life, and were also causing health problems for the local communities that relied upon the water source. These consequences included severe skin irritations, and also a harmful long term impact on the brain. Not to mention living with the continuous stench of outpouring chemicals from the factories.
Back on the ground in the U.K. Stacey spoke to members of the public to see if they were aware of the environmental impact of their shopping habits. Most were utterly astounded by the volume of water it required to manufacture the garments they had just bought.
Aiming to hold these companies to account, she then attempted to contact popular fashion retailers (such as ASOS) but they all declined to comment and refused to be interviewed for the programme- despite the fact that many of the brands she contacted were present at a large sustainability conference she attended in Copenhagen. The programme did show her conversation with Paul Dillinger, head of global product innovation for the jeans brand Levi’s. Dillinger told Stacey the brand was working on a solution that takes old garments, chemically deconstructs them and turns them into a new fibre that feels and looks like cotton, but with zero water impact.
Finally, Stacey interviewed a number of fashion influencers who are seen to fuel this need for fast fashion and ‘clothing hauls’. According to fashion influencer Niomi Smart one potential solution is changing people’s views to prevent them buying into fast fashion in the first instance. Niomi Smart revealed that she would now aim to persuade her followers to join her in reducing the amount of fast fashion they consume. “Rather than going directly to retailers, I’d talk to my audience,” she said. “As a consumer, let’s change our attitudes. The beauty of what I do is I can take my audience on a journey with me. It’s letting people know they can wear the same outfit more than once or swap clothes with friends. It's more: let's talk about this; what can we do to make more of an effort, and be more conscious about the environment?”