Forests for Fashion Initiative
Any idea how much water it takes to make one pair of jeans? The answer? More than 10,000 litres. That’s the same amount of water that one person drinks in ten years. Why is this? Because cotton is an extremely water intensive crop.
But it goes further, according to the UN, despite covering just 3% of the arable land, the production of cotton uses 24% of insecticides and 11% of pesticides on this planet. This has serious implications for both the environment and the workers.
What’s the alternative? Synthetic fibres? 70% of the climate impact of the total clothing life cycle comes from their production. This is because synthetic fibres are oil-based and are extremely energy intensive to produce.
In addition, every time we wash clothes made from synthetic fibres they shed microfibers. Every year, around half a million tonnes of these plastic microfibers end up in our oceans.
So what’s the solution? How can we produce clothing that doesn’t pollute our planet, use up significant quantities of water and harm the health of those that produce it? We believe the answer is in our forests!
Forest fibres for sustainable fashion
You may not know it, but forests provide materials and fibres for many of the common consumer products we use today.
Yarn from cypress, beech and eucalyptus trees can all be used to make fibres for clothing – the most popular cellulose fibres are Viscose, Modal and Lyocell. In addition, cork and even wood can be used for not only clothing, but accessories too! Even better, these forest materials are softer and more breathable than cotton or silk.
Importantly, these materials are also more environmentally friendly, requiring considerably less energy and water to produce compared to cotton and other synthetic fibres.
Not to mention of course, all the other benefits that forests provide. From helping to mitigate climate change, maintaining water quality and stabilizing soil, to providing food and income to millions of people around the world and home to for an extraordinary amount of biodiversity.
Forests for Fashion Initiative
However, we need to ensure that the forest-based materials used to make our clothes originate from sustainably managed forests, and that we produce them in a sustainable and ethical manner.
Our Forests for Fashion initiative with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation (FAO), aims at just this. Together, we are linking forest-based materials from sustainably managed forests with the world of fashion. Bringing these fantastic, innovative and sustainable materials to a wider audience.
As part of the initiative, the United Nations Television in Geneva produced “Made in Forests”, a video in which UNDP Goodwill Ambassador Michelle Yeoh sets out to discover what sustainable fashion could look like, without compromising the beauty of our clothes:
Made in Forests - with Michelle Yeoh
UNDP Goodwill Ambassador Michelle Yeoh sets out to discover what sustainable fashion could look like, without compromising the beauty of our clothes. One answer: high-fashion produced with certified, sustainable forest-based fabrics.
The UN, New York and sustainable fashion!
Forest fashions took centre stage at the United Nations Headquarters in New York for the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development, July 2018.
In partnership with the UNECE/FAO, UN Forum on Forests, Cittadellarte Fashion B.E.S.T, PEFC Italy, PEFC Spain and SFI, we highlighted the role of forests (and forest products) towards a sustainable fashion sector and how this can contribute towards the SDGs.
At the heart of this was the Forests for Fashion exhibit, which brought together the work of many young designers, all inspired to use forest-derived materials for their creations. This included a capsule collection by Spanish designer María Lafuente using the world’s first PEFC-certified fabrics, produced by Textil Santederina.