Workshop held in Novi Sad: Sustainable fashion – why fast fashion is not the solution?

5 min read

Between 6,000 and 9,500 tons of post-industrial textile waste are produced annually in Serbia, and each resident in Serbia generates about 15kg of textile waste, including household textiles, which largely end up in landfills. This was the topic of the EkOtisak workshop at the Rectorate of the University of Novi Sad.

In the main amphitheater of the Rectorate of the University of Novi Sad, on Thursday, February 24, a workshop on Sustainable Fashion – Why Fast Fashion is Not the Solution? was held, as part of the EkOtisak project. At the workshop, we talked about our fashion habits, what our everyday clothes are made of, and what is fast or slow fashion.

Foto: Vladimir Janić

On this occasion, experts and activists who deal with the topic of sustainable textile industry and fashion from different angles arrived in Novi Sad: Maja Radetic PhD, full professor at the Department of Textile Engineering, Faculty of Technology and Metallurgy, University of Belgrade, and Marija Radakovic, fashion journalist, author and podcast host within the platform (Association for Sustainable Initiatives).

With their support, during the various modules of the workshop, the participants addressed the issues of how the fashion and textile industries contribute to climate change and what are all possible directions of action to be one step closer to sustainable fashion. 

Foto: Vladimir Janić

Dr. Maja Radetic, spoke about the challenges and research in the field of ecology in the textile industry, as well as textile waste. “It is estimated that between 6,000 and 9,500 tons of post-industrial textile waste are produced in Serbia annually. On the other hand, every resident in Serbia generates about 15kg of post-consumer textile waste, including textile from households, which largely end up in landfills. So far, there has been no organized collection, sorting and recycling of textile waste in our country”.

There are examples of good practice, Dr. Radetic emphasized, such as France, which has an organized system for collecting textile waste. They use a model that implies extended producer responsibility: the producer is responsible for his product for the rest of his life.

Foto: Vladimir Janić

Slow fashion meant two, at most four collections a year. However, the emergence of fast fashion has brought significant changes, the production of a huge amount of clothing. As Dr. Radetic pointed out, today between 90 and 100 billion garments are produced annuallyon a global level. It is predicted that, if this population growth continues and the projected rate of economic growth, by 2030, around 150 million tons of textile waste will be generated annually in the world, and only from clothes. „“The problem with the concept of fast fashion is that it is not quality clothes, it is designed to last seven to eight washes and after that it usually ends up with municipal waste”.

The results of one part of the survey, carried out by the Faculty of Philosophy in Novi Sad within the EkOtisak project were also presented at the workshop. It examines the daily habits of citizens and assesses the ways in which they are reflected on the carbon footprint as a kind of trace that each of us leaves on the planet. When asked about clothing, 62% of respondents answered that they buy clothes made of natural materials, 26% choose clothes based on appearance, and 12% answered “no, because the price is significantly higher”. Regarding recycling, 23% do not know how clothes are recycled, while as much as 57% of respondents donate the excess clothes to charity.

In the last segment of the workshop, through joint work and moderation by Marija Radakovic, there were talks on production, consumption and challenges/solutions related to fast fashion on an individual and collective level, and participants discussed and jointly developed different roles and scenarios for action, on a personal and global level.

“The fashion industry is at the very top of the world's polluters”, said Marija Radakovic, one of the initiators and journalists of the platform. “A possible solution is to reduce production, think about alternatives, the method of production and the type of material, because today 60% of clothes are made of polyester. Polyester is made essentially from the same raw material as a plastic cup, which is crude oil. Another possible solution is the transition to a circular economy system, where there is waste management and the return of surpluses back into the system. Decent working conditions and decent wages are also important topics when it comes to the sustainability of the fashion industry”.

Sustainability is becoming an increasingly important and louder topic and all fashion brands recognize that the issue of sustainability is also very important to consumers. However, as Radakovic emphasizes, many brands, especially large fashion companies, are abusing that term by advertising their products as sustainable, when in fact they are far from it. It is a phenomenon of so-called green washing, or fake green marketing, which abuses sustainability for promotional purposes and for the sake of making more profit. “When it comes to the ecological way of doing business, it is always recommended to choose small local producers”, Radakovic pointed out. “What generally represents the future of the fashion industry are biomaterials, i.e. biodegradable materials, and it is still a branch that is developing”.

Photos of the workshop (author: Vladimir Janic)