“The world has a choice: collective action or collective suicide.” That was UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaking earlier this week at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin on the subject of the dangerously high temperatures affecting large parts of Europe.
The continent is hardly alone. Extreme heat is forecast for large swaths of the U.S. this week and global warming has caused the record floods Australia has experienced this year and last, on top of the devastating wildfires of early 2020. If there’s reason for optimism in Australia, it’s because the country’s new Labor government has a mandate to address the challenges of climate change. Meanwhile here in the U.S. Democrat Joe Manchin and the Republicans in Congress are stymieing any progress on clean energy initiatives.
Kit Willow of Kitx is on the side of collective action. She’s been connecting with Australian cotton farmers and learning about the impact their practices have on water, soil, and insects with a view to sourcing cotton locally. “When fashion waste—even cotton, linen, and hemp—is discarded into landfill, it releases toxic methane gases when breaking down,” Willow says. “I didn’t know this applied to natural fibers!”
Cotton Australia has run tests that remove cotton fashion waste from landfill and put it back into the soil. And guess what? The microbes in the soil digested all of it. “The goal,” Willow explains, “is to create a circular solution where cotton returns back into the earth, releasing no toxic gases and fertilizing the soil. The more closely we can work with our farmers, understand their practice, and support them if aligned, the more consciously we can source and empower positive practice,” she concludes.
Willow is already changing her own practices. The easy yet elegant stripe- and polka dot-patchwork dresses in her new resort collection are made in the Future From Waste Lab she established in Melbourne with offcuts from a cutting house—scraps that might’ve otherwise ended up in landfill. And, as in previous seasons, she made resort’s patchwork denim pieces from discarded jeans at the Lab too, mixing light and dark washes on high-waisted pants and fringing the raw edges of a sun hat. To avoid collective suicide, humans will have to temper—if not outright tame—our acquisitive natures. In the meantime, making new garments from old ones is a smart way forward.