Every year 100 billion pieces of clothing are produced. Environmental impacts occur throughout the entire life-cycle of textiles: beginning with the extraction of raw material and processing of fibers on to the textile industry, then the completed product is capitalized on and later disposed of. In hardly any other industry is water needed as much as in the clothing industry. To produce one kilo of fabric up to 100 liters are used up. Most of the water that people consume, however, they do not even see or are aware of. The quantities of water that are contained in a product or service and have been used for their manufacture are, therefore, called "virtual water". Quite a large amount of this "invisible" water is spent on the production of clothing.
To minimize the impact on the environment, the fashion industry has developed "Fair Fashion" as a counter-movement against the so-called "Fast Fashion". Hereby, not just materials are considered but also a whole range of sustainability related issues, such as the renunciation of child labor, receiving socio-economic secure wages, as well as allowing no excessive working hours and protecting animal welfare. It is self-understood that beautiful fashion should not originate under ugly conditions.
One of the pioneers in sustainable fashion is the Viennese activist Madeleine Alizadeh (29) alias DariaDaria. She traded conventional fashion for green, fair fashion and is the well-known Fair-Fashion-Influencer. She shows what amazing Looks one can wear with sustainable labels and she is the best example to prove that sustainable fashion and fashion awareness do not exclude one another. In an interview she explains why and how we can all contribute to changing the fashion industry.
What worries you about the future of our planet?
I am quite worried about the IPCC report (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, published in Autumn 2018) which stipulates that we have only 12 years left to encounter global warming.
Why do we have to raise awareness about sustainability in fashion?
The textile industry is the second dirtiest industry, after oil. The volume of textiles that fills the market and is circulated annually is no longer sustainable. In addition to the ecological factors, the exploitation of humans and animals play a major role. In any case, buying fair fashion is also a feminism matter for me. If you allow yourself to claim rights that are not shared by other women, you have to ask yourself what kind of feminism do you live by when you purchase clothing made by women who have no voice nor any rights, such as maternity protection, social security, fair wages and humane working hours.
How could one create the awareness of sustainable fashion in society?
That is quite a big question to answer so briefly. One possible approach is to make people aware that the fashion industry has an impact on our environment and, therefore, needs to change in the long run. The great problem is that we do not even know what 1 meter of fabric costs, we simply cannot see a relationship anymore. By educating young people in school and explaining production cycles, as well as illustrating the value of a finished product, we can cultivate an awareness of sustainability.
What in your opinion is a challenge?
The challenge is to make people aware of a conscious and mindful consumption. This means that they pay attention to quality, think about how often they will wear the garment, and when buying clothes, they also think about where and under what circumstances these were produced.
In your opinion, has the fashion industry changed in recent years?
I believe that the fashion industry has definitely changed due to the positive trend towards sustainability. You do not have to see trends in a negative way. They can also go in the right direction. As a result of this development, more and more companies are coming under pressure. In order for manufacturers to remain financially successful, they need to create more transparency along their supply chain, yet at the same time reduce their own negative impact on the environment and in this way counteract against a harmful climate change.
Can one speak of transparency in the textile industry, or are the companies not yet ready?
We have not yet arrived at this point. I think that one cannot speak of transparency in the fashion industry. On the one hand, consumers do not know how complex an entire industrial-value chain is, and on the other hand, companies do not honestly disclose this to consumers.
How would a possible system look like for you to really revolutionize the textile industry?
A good strategy for our general capitalist system is the concept of a common-good economy. At present, companies have tax advantages by producing cheaply and exploitively. However, based on a common-good economy, you could introduce the incentive of reducing the tax burden if a company produces fair and ethically. That company would then have to show a kind of balance sheet, what it has done to benefit the environment, humans and animals. Then, one could award points for the positive measures undertaken and evaluate the company on the basis of a matrix to decide how large the tax relief would be. In my opinion, this is a useful example of how companies can create incentives to produce sustainably.
You are passionately committed to different topics, to integration, protection of animals and nature. Are there any issues where you also have to practice tolerance?
Of course, I have to practice tolerance in all areas, including myself. Sometimes I have to admit to myself that I cannot always live the ideal that I would like to. If, however, every human being would be a little bit more abstaining in dealing with consumption, then a big step would have been taken. For example, we could start by buying only half as much or by eating only half as much meat. In this way, we would be already making a lot of progress. You should be tolerant towards intolerance. Of course, you cannot always do everything perfectly, other people are not perfect either.
Has the confrontation with Yoga changed you?
Yoga definitely is an important discipline in my life. Alone the principle of Ahimsa (Sanskrit for not hurting), nonviolence, my complete dietary change to vegan and minding myself and my environment are changes that my Yoga practice has given me and made my inner self richer. Through my Yoga practice, I have learned a lot about how to deal with myself and my fellow human beings. Yoga allows me space for making mistakes, to love myself, to develop humor and serenity. Disciplines such as these help me in many life situations.
What is your vision for the future of fashion?
I hope that the supply chains in fashion will be made transparent, ethically and ecologically fair.
The Austrian Madeleine Sophie Daria Alizadeh launched her lifestyle blog "dariadaria" in 2010 and quickly became one of the most widely read bloggers in the German-speaking world. Since 2013, she has dedicated herself to sustainable and fair fashion, speaks about mindfulness, a more conscious life and teaches Yoga. Over the years, the Viennese has undergone a change away from the so-called Lifestyle towards socially critical issues. In her podcast "a mindful mess" she talks about sustainability and feminism. Madeleine also writes a column for "Die Wienerin" and appears throughout Europe as a speaker at innovation conferences, such as the TED Talks. In spring of 2018, she was invited to the European Parliament to also attend the plenary debate on the ban of disposable plastic for the protection of the oceans. To draw attention to the humanitarian situation of refugees, Alizadeh traveled to Jordan and Iraq. On her Ghana trip, she made a strong case for the sustainable cultivation of palm oil, for which no rainforests have to die anymore. In India, she visited women picking organic cotton in Madhya Pradesh and personally convinced herself how an organically grown cotton plant can be made into a garment. In Patagonia, she saw firsthand what sustainable and fair wool really means. No way is too far for her. Madeleine Alizadeh shoulders responsibility and uses her popularity to inform, inspire and above all to make a difference.