Goshopia sustainable fashion UAE

Sustainable fashion: ‘Buy only what you need’

While the biggest players in fashion move at a glacial pace to reduce their shocking carbon footprint, individuals have been working overtime to get the message out that the industry needs to change its ways – and fast.

Araceli Gallego is one such person: the Spain-born UAE resident us behind local sustainable shopping platforms Goshopia.com and Sustainable Souk, as well as heading up the UAE chapter of the global fashion activism movement Fashion Revolution, an organization made up of designers, academics, business leaders, brands, retailers and manufacturers.

“Fashion is a very political industry and it has so many negative impacts,” she explains. “The process until it reaches the shop is complex and then another new life starts for the garment. There is a lot of waste, not only in terms of energy and water, but also in terms of material. It’s very important that we are more mindful about how we can reduce each part of it.”

The fashion industry is responsible for up to eight percent of global CO2 emissions, more than flights, maritime and shipping combined. The industry consumes 215 trillion liters of water each year, despite many of the countries that provide cotton for garments being under the highest water stress. 

One hundred billion garments are produced each year but at least 50 percent of clothes in the average wardrobe are not worn, while 20 percent of industrial water pollution comes from textiles treatment and dyes. It makes for damning reading, and was why several sessions at COP28 were dedicated to dealing with the industry. 

One of the headline agreements was around the ‘Bangladesh Wind Project’, a collaborative effort involving fashion groups Bestseller, H&M Group and GFA. It aims to improve the renewable infrastructure in one of the clothing industry’s most prolific manufacturing nations. 

“The wind plant in Bangladesh was something worth celebrating,” Gallego tells Livehealthy. “Consuming countries have a responsibility to producing countries. We need more of these collaborations and if we can genuinely decarbonize the industry, that will be beautiful. We should really strive for that.

Gallego’s Goshopia is a collective bringing together 60 designers and artisans from all different corners of the world, with a focus on slow, sustainable and socially responsible production. 

“I created Goshopia out of my own need to find clothes and beauty products that represent and respect my values,” she says. “We look primarily at the process and the materials, designing how you’re going to put it together to make the most the most positive impact. 

“I am feeling really hopeful because there are new designers that are coming up and I’m also seeing more people embrace upcycling as a way of reducing waste. For example, we are working at the moment in repurposing kimonos from Japan that are not being used into beautiful, unique abayas. 

“We are making sure that clothes don’t end up in landfill by giving them a second life in this market.”

Gallego insists it has a tough journey to convince people to change habits that have become entrenched over many years.  

“When I started initially, honestly, it was it was very difficult,” she says. “There was no interest and people didn’t know about sustainability so I started doing a lot of education. 

“Now there are more people involved, more players, more designers coming. We are working with universities to help the new breed of designers start their own collections.” 

Goshopia is not the only entity in the Middle East harnessing the power of young people. The United Nations Environmental Programme’s West Asia office recently set up the West Asia Sustainable Fashion Academy (WASFA) in 2021, partnering with fashion schools across the region to ensure sustainable textiles, eco-design and sustainable fashion courses are embedded into programmes. 

“Students from all over West Asia are part of this and in conjunction with LAU [Lebanese American University] in Beirut, we have been creating modules and materials that we can share with all the fashion schools in the region,” Tarek Al-Khoury, UNEP’s regional co-ordinator, climate change, tells Livehealthy.

“We have also done several public awareness campaigns to educate people and to try to change the behaviour when it comes to textiles. The responsibility lies with both the individuals and the producers, but we are hoping that by changing the consumer mindset we will force a change in the producer behavior to be more green. 

“We also need more regulations and policies at national level. This is crucial.” 

In January 2023 Abu Dhabi hosted the first-ever World Final of Junk Kouture, the world’s largest sustainable fashion competition for youth. With Etihad Airways as a partner, contestants used old seat covers, cabin crew uniforms and life vests as well as coffee capsules, orange peels and plastic bags as source materials. The competition, founded by Irish tech entrepreneur and CEO Troy Amour, challenges young people to make striking and imaginative outfits out of 100 percent recyclable materials. It moves on to Morocco in February 2024.

In the UAE, Gallego is also trying to initiate a mindset shift and outlines some key nuggets of advice for taking a more sustainable approach to fashion. 

“There are a lot of things that we can do as consumers to improve our environmental footprint,” Gallego says. “The absolute first of all is to buy only what you need. Also, try not to do impulse buying, buy only things that you love and that you are going to be able to actually wear, and that are not totally disconnected from the rest of your closet. 

“Obviously clothes can get damaged, but I would also urge people not to just throw them away. Basic sewing skills can salvage a lot of garments and if you can’t do it yourself, find someone who can. Don’t just give up on something because it has a little bit of damage. 

“The UAE is clearly not perfect and we are in a constant dialogue about clothes recycling banks for example — making sure their contents don’t just end up in landfill. There are some great examples from countries like Italy, where there is a whole village dedicated to recycling Europe’s clothing. 

“I think we are learning and every country has a different journey. What we’re trying to do here to raise awareness about waste and we hope that people can start to have conversations and think about changing their behavior.” 

Livehealthymag.com is for every body and mind in the UAE. This magazine is all about moderation, making small changes, little additions and the odd subtraction.



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