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Reporting from the streets: Extinction Rebellion calls for fashion revolution


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Protesters called for the British Fashion Council to declare climate emergency on the biggest day of London Fashion Week.

Hundreds of climate activists from Extinction Rebellion (XR) peacefully formed roadblocks in front of fashion events yesterday.

The protest was held in response to the British Fashion Council’s failure to respond to the group’s demands for the council to be transparent and “use its influential position to tell the truth about climate change.”

"We ask the fashion industry, who do you want to listen to, the youth and the future or the words of our current Prime Minister whose Government is criminally neglecting the UK's agreed responsibilities under the Paris agreement in the face of the ecological emergency? Now it is time for the fashion industry to hear the call of the youth."

The fashion industry is said to be the second biggest polluter in the world, after oil, 'generating more greenhouse gas emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined'.

Protest members were urged to dress in black as though they were attending a 'glamorous funeral'. The colour symbolised mourning for the hundreds of natural species and human lives affected by the disastrous impacts and lives lost due to the industry.

The crowd gathered at 12 o’clock in front of Temple station.

“Let us all take a moment of silence before we begin,” said one of the group leaders. “For those of you who don’t know, fashion is an incredibly toxic industry, the carbon emissions from fashion alone is the same as that of Russia. Let that sink in.”

Leaders emphasised the importance of peace, before the crowd split into groups in order to cover four locations surrounding the roads leading to 180 Strand, where fashion shows from major brands were being held.


A young protester held up a sign: ‘Eco Not Ego.’

A young protester held up a sign: ‘Eco Not Ego.’ / Image Credit: Kezia Victoria Kho

One protester told us: “We are horrified by certain aspects of the fashion industry - of consumerism in general, using animals and living beings as resources. We hope these protests will help reshape the trends and culture of fashion".

The Consequences of the Industry

Every day, untreated toxic wastewater from cloth manufacturing is frequently dumped into rivers. Polyester, the most popular fabric used in fashion, also sheds microfibres that add to the increasing levels of plastic in the oceans. As a result, around 100,000 marine animals are killed each year.

The use of toxic chemicals in agriculture for growing cotton has been shown to have caused the death of a US cotton farmer from a brain tumour, as well as serious birth defects in Indian cotton farmers’ children.

Read more on the effects of the fast fashion industry

Artist Pam Luca, who attended the protest, told us: “The forces of supply and demand [of this industry] are very, very complex, but there are certain companies that are making a start and having a look on how to do better.

Artist Pam Luca

Artist Pam Luca // Image Credit: Kezia Victoria Kho

Luca continued: 'Every company now needs to stand up, work together, collaborate and say: ‘'How do we eradicate the excesses of this industry?’' There are various problems, fossil fuels depletion, [labour] exploitation of humans, children. There has to be a conscious awakening now. There is money, there is expertise, it is time we sort it out.”

Protests such as these are crucial in catching the attention of the government and big companies, putting pressure on them to change their policies. This is one of the most pressing issues of our day, and the time we have left to act is running out.

Read more from the Environment Section 

Lead Image: Julia Hawkins via Flickr

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