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The future is holey jeans TIME ONLINE


Rat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat does the sewing machine. A man in a checked shirt and apron slowly pulls dark blue jeans back and forth. Back and forth, a bit like rolling out dough. Rat-tat-tat-tat-tat. The stitches fix a triangular piece of denim over a small hole on the crotch of the jeans. Rat-tat-tat-tat-tat. "The step is actually the place that we repair the most," says the man. He works on the stand of the jeans brand Nudie at the sustainability fair in Berlin Fashion week, the neonyte. Next to the industrial sewing machine are two jeans that have already been touched up. The cracks on her knees are sewn with eye-catching stitches. "You should see that the jeans have been repaired. Every hole tells a story."

The story this free repair service is supposed to tell: Not profit, no, sustainability is the top priority for this company. Having the old, holey jeans patched is, after all, more environmentally friendly than buying the new, fairly certified jeans made from organic cotton. Of course you can also buy them from Nudie.

The other exhibitors at Neonyt also make every effort to convey to visitors to the fashion week that their products are being shopped with a clear conscience. "Knit a fairer world with your sweater," promises a German manufacturer's poster, "Wear no evil"says another brand,"Protect what you love"demands another exhibitor.

The Neonyt takes place at a symbolic location: in hangar 4 of the decommissioned Tempelhof airport. The place where airplanes no longer take off and land in a climate-neutral way stands for the path that the fashion industry must take if it is not to destroy the planet. A way in which, to put it mildly, she is still at the very beginning. To put it less nicely, one could also say: Fashion is an ecological disaster. The way the industry operates, it uses massive amounts of resources and poisons people and nature.

For example, conventional cotton cultivation requires so much water that the Aral Sea, once one of the largest lakes in the world, has become a salt desert. Enormous amounts of insecticides and herbicides are sprayed on the cotton fields, which poison the drinking water. Clothing made of synthetic fibers such as polyester causes other problems: For example, with every wash fibers detach from the textiles, which are flushed into the sewage as tiny plastic particles and later end up in rivers, lakes and seas. Chemicals are sometimes used to make colorful T-shirts, non-iron shirts or water-repellent outdoor jackets from natural and synthetic fibers. And until a garment made in Bangladesh hangs in our shop, it has traveled half the globe.

Most of it ends up in the landfill – or in the fire

Overall, the textile industry causes about ten percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. So more than the much-criticized international air traffic. This is due to the sheer mass of fashion that comes onto the market. Global production of clothing has more than doubled since 2000. Some fast fashion chains bring a new collection to the stores every 14 days. The clothes are sold cheaply and often only worn a few times until they end up in the used clothing collection or in the trash.

With this, the ecological disaster begins again. Because worldwide, not even one percent of all fibers from which clothing is made are recycled to new fashion. Inferior products such as cleaning rags or insulating materials are made from 12 percent of the materials. Most of the fibers end up in the landfill or are burned.


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