April 20, 2018 / 7:58 PM / 5 months ago

Fashion and the environment, an uncomfortable fit for McCartney

LONDON (Reuters) - The booming fashion industry is medieval in its approach to manufacturing and needs to modernize in order to radically cut the damage it is doing to the environment, British designer Stella McCartney has said.

FILE PHOTO: British designer Stella McCartney appears at the end of her Fall/Winter 2017-2018 women's ready-to-wear collection show during the Paris Fashion Week, in Paris, France March 6, 2017. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

McCartney, known for her understated designs and refusal to use fur or leather in her work, said that while demand for garments and shows had soared thanks to growing middle classes around the world, methods had stagnated.

“If you think about how much fashion there is, whether it be luxury or fast, it is sort of swamping the planet,” she told the BBC on Friday.

“We have been relying on an industry that is essentially medieval. It really is an amazing moment we are living in ... (with) change on everything, on energy, on architecture, this is the moment to look to the future for our children.”

McCartney, daughter of the Beatles’ Paul McCartney, was speaking ahead of the launch of an exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum on Saturday called “Fashioned from Nature”.

The exhibit demonstrates fashion’s history of plundering the environment for product and the attempts by designers to try and modernize, recycle and use different methods to ease the burden.

Pheasant feather hats from the 1940s sit alongside loud, multicolored trousers made from surplus yarn and a leather jacket produced with off cuts off material.

McCartney said designers needed to adopt cleaner methods.

“In fashion we only use about 10 materials, I’m trying to challenge that,” the London-born designer said.

“I’m trying to look at technology, I’m trying to grow silk in a lab, I’m trying to use dying in a whole new way and I don’t think you can tell the difference. It is science, but it is sexy science.”

Textile production was responsible for 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually, according to a 2017 report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, more than the combined total of all international flights and maritime shipping.

The MacArthur report, which McCartney co-launched last year, said a lack of recycling meant around $500 billion was lost every year, while clothes released 500,000 tonnes of microfibers into the world’s oceans, equivalent to 50 billion plastic bottles.

Writing by Patrick Johnston in LONDON; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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