Detoxing the Fashion Industry: Discover #whatsinmyclothes this Fashion Revolution Week

By Frank Michel

4 years ago

Any effort to embrace sustainability must take chemistry into account, and this is the first question brands should be prepared to ask when consumers ask this Fashion Revolution week, #whatsinmyclothes?

As Executive Director of The ZDHC Foundation is my mission to drive action to reduce the use of hazardous chemicals in the industry. However one of the challenges I face is that there is little mainstream understanding of the role of chemicals in fashion, and many misconceptions about how and why they are used.

Just mentioning word ‘chemicals’ can send many industry professionals and fashion consumers into a panic, but the truth is that chemicals are not “good” or “bad.” We are made of chemicals, the air we breathe is chemicals, the water we drink is a chemical, and yes, some chemicals are toxic – and some must be used in moderation.

It doesn’t help that chemistry isn’t a topic you’re likely to see at all the latest sustainable fashion events; the feedback I hear is that it’s complicated, boring, complex, or even scary. This is why I am releasing an official ‘for dummies guide’ Detoxing the Fashion Industry the first book to trace the entire detox journey and the role of chemistry in fashion, free.


The history of chemistry is intimately tied to the history of fashion. The royal colour purple became so famous due to its scarcity, and there’s a chemical reason the term ‘mad as a hatter’ became commonly used. We need chemicals in fashion; they colour clothing, make it functional; shiny, water-resistant, and durable.

However as the industry has grown, the tricky relationship between chemicals and fashion has grown too. Foamy water, purple rivers, untold environmental and social damage… These are some examples of the devastating impact that the use of chemicals in the textile and footwear industry has on communities and habitat.

The good news is that many brands, manufacturers and chemical suppliers are already collaborating to take action, to align on best practise guidelines and to train their supply chain partners on how to implement these. Further, new innovations in blockchain offer new possibilities in transparency and new safer chemicals substitutions are being developed.

“Why are there chemicals in my clothing? Are they dangerous? Are they necessary?” – these are some questions my book addresses, as well as outlining what’s being done to reduce the use of hazardous chemicals, and the challenges that lie ahead.

A lot needs to change, but if transformed, the fashion industry is a sector with an incredible potential to improve people’s lives. Knowledge is power when it comes to making the right choices, and I hope this free resource helps more people to get informed about what’s in their clothes, and join us on this detox mission.

The Detoxing the Fashion Industry for Dummies is free to download here