We're Living in Barbie's Dream World: PLASTIC FASHION

A few months ago, I teamed up with Anne Oudard to write about our poly problem in fashion. A little refresher: polyester is plastic and we need to get ride of it! Just like we’ve started to tax shoppers tax on plastic bags, or ban plastic straws, it is time we start to do something about it in fashion. So this plastic free-July, I want you to take a look at the tag on every piece you wear this month, and understand just how much plastic you are wearing.

If you want a summary of our industry’s poly/plastic problem and and an intro to microfibre pollution effects, read my article with Anne Oudard here.

But, denim and fashion’s plastic problem doesn’t only come from the fabric used… There is a hidden plastic world only Barbie would dream of living in. So where are all the plastic bits in your jeans and how can you avoid it all?

Synthetic fibres accounts for 1.35% of global oil consumption according to Changing Market’s Fossil Fashion report in January, which not might not sound like a lot but to give you an idea of the scale, Nike publicly disclosed using 152,723 tonnes of polyester for the financial year of 2020 😱 Brands’ heavy reliance on polyester, nylon, acrylic and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), while also being encouraged to use them as circular solutions, has created estimates that show synthetic fibres reaching 73% of total fibre production by 2030, with 85% of the fibres being polyester. Yiokes!


Aside from the fabric used that contributes to our major microfibre pollution problem, the care tags, zippers, labels, hangers, hang tags, shipping bags and cartons all contribute to plastic waste that comes from this industry. But, brands that are looking at a holistic approach to their business have started to use natural fibre care tags and sewing threads versus polyester, while others have started using compostable seed paper for hang tags and print outs, wooden hangers instead of plastic, corozo button flies instead of plastic zippers, and compostable or reusable shipping options.


There are people out there who are really looking at every single aspect that makes a pair of green jeans, including the inputs at every stage of it’s life like retail and the use-phase. We just have to keep our eyes peeled for the ones paying attention to these details that often get overlooked. Take a look at Boyish Jeans using Boox reusable boxes, DAWN Denim’s seed paper tags, or Triarchy’s recycled sheet metal buttons. I find so much beauty in the small details that show a brand is going that extra mile.

This also means digging a little deeper into ‘conscious lines’ to see what exactly is conscious about them. And with 48% of ASOS’s Responsible Edit found to contain synthetics and 61% of the H&M Conscious Collection garments containing polyester, it is clear that we need to do a double take on these buzz words. Brands are being encouraged to use more recycled synthetics as a circular solution, but we, as informed consumers, must push back. And we can!

If you have gotten into the habit of bringing your reusable totes around, your reusable water-bottle, or saying ‘no’ to straws, then the next step I encourage you to take in your zero-waste or plastic free journey is to say no to plastic clothes! If you find a polyester style you love from one of the brands you support, maybe send them an email saying you love the piece, but wished it was in a Tencel or natural fibre blend instead. If you can’t get enough of your stretch jeans, look to brands using biodegradable stretch alternatives like Kings of Indigo, Stella McCartney, Boyish Jeans, or Triarchy.


This post is in support of #PlasticFreeJuly - a campaign that has encouraged us to develop plastic-free habits and carry them on throughout the year! Please share in the comments how you are embarking on your #PlasticFreeJuly journey and let’s inspire one another to move away from petroleum based fashion.

Until next time friends, always be curious and STAY DILIGENT!