The Crimson Rivers

‘Predicting the "it" colour for the season by looking at the colour of the river’


Fast fashion is now a large, sophisticated business fed by a fragmented and relatively low-tech production system. This system has outsize environmental effects: making clothes typically requires using a lot of water and chemicals and emitting significant amounts of greenhouse gases. Reports also continue to emerge about clothing-factory workers being underpaid and exposed to unsafe —even deadly— workplace conditions.

To compete in the ongoing race to make and sell clothes that are ever cheaper, the fashion industry has relocated to countries with low labour costs and inadequate regulations. Despite regular media attention and NGO campaigns, suppliers in those countries are being pushed beyond their limits, with significant environmental and social impacts, such as the poisoning of rivers with hazardous chemicals, unacceptable working conditions and the use of child labour.


In China, it has been estimated that 70% of the rivers and lakes are contaminated by 2.5 gallons of wastewater produced by the textile industry. This has led to high instances of cancer and deformities with the people who live in these areas.

In 1998 the US space agency, NASA took a satellite picture of China's Pearl River with a dark blue streak of pollution running through it, and they captured this area up until 2003. The images show the dark blue streak and the impact of urbanization on the area. Our consumption of fast fashion is pushing atthe boundaries of the Earth’s capacity to absorb greenhouse gases, hazardous chemicals and clothes waste as well as depleting resources such as water and land. On any level, this cannot be sustained.



The destruction of rivers across the world has been examined in a new film and documentary titled RiverBlue, which explores the danger that the fashion industry poses to the environment. The film follows international river conservationist, Mark Angelo, as he travels across the globe to investigate the world's most polluted industries such as fashion. The film travels to Bangledash and visits a place called Buriganga in Dhaka, which is home to more than 50 million people. It also has hundreds of textile mills and leather tanneries. The river in this city has become one of the most polluted in the world. The textile manufacturers use chemicals that can disrupt hormonal and nervous systems. The film shows young children working with leather skins, which have resulted in long-term health problems.

Through harsh chemical manufacturing processes and the irresponsible disposal of toxic chemical waste, fast fashion trousers, bras and shirts selling by the big companies are destroying rivers and impact the lives of people who count on these waterways for their survival. Changing consumption model and joining sustainability is only in our hands…