How to predict the colour of the season


"There is a joke in China," states Orsola De Castro, co-founder and creative director of Fashion Revolution, "they say you can predict the 'it' colour for the season by looking at the colour of the river."

China, the world’s biggest clothing manufacturer, has doubled its clothing output in the last 20 years. It's also the biggest producer of one of the world's most iconic items of clothing: blue jeans. The town of Xintang in China is known as the ‘blue jeans capital of the world’, exporting around 300 million pairs every year. The increase in China's production over the last two decades has benefited consumers around the world by lowering the cost of our clothes, but the environmental cost of producing clothes at such high volumes might come as a bit of a surprise.

Levi’s conducted a study into the environmental impact of making a pair of their famous 501s. The results? Producing just one pair of jeans requires 920 gallons of water and 400 mega joules of energy, and emits 32 kilograms of carbon dioxide. That's the equivalent to running a garden hose for 106 minutes, driving 78 miles and powering a computer for 556 hours. 

As China's clothing export market has grown, so has the impact on its rivers. The industry now produces 2.5 billion tonnes of wastewater every year, much of which is released into waterways without being properly treated. In some areas, the chemical dyes used to add colour to our clothes are released in such high quantities that they change the colour of the water. The effect of these substances entering waterways can be devastating poses a huge risk to eco-systems and public health. This issue isn't limited to China; toxic chemicals washing into waterways is becoming a huge source of pollution around the world - especially in developing countries. It's estimated that the treatment and dyeing of textiles is responsible for 20 per cent of global industrial water pollution.

The fashion industry as a whole has one of the lowest rates of water recycling, a shocking fact to consider when you take into account that it’s also one of the world's largest consumers of water. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that when cotton farming is taken into account, global textile production uses around 25 billion gallons of water every year.

RiverBlue is a documentary that follows the journey of a conventional pair of jeans, taking an in-depth look at the impact of water pollution by the fashion industry on biodiversity and local communities. *SPOILER ALERT* It’s not a pretty story - but there is cause for hope; brands who are doing things differently by taking a more responsible, thoughtful approach to producing our beloved denim jeans (just like these guys), and consumers who are doing their bit to call for change. Find out more by watching RiverBlue online here. Here's a sneak peak:


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Claire Aston