Posted on 28th Mar 2020
When it comes to fashion sustainability, the main talking point is ecological. But, sustainability is more than how fashion affects the environment, it’s about how it affects people across the supply chain.
Garment production is full of inequality, and the lack of transparency from brands makes me question what actually goes on. I listened to a lecture by Liz Parker, Sustainable Researcher and Facilitator. She spoke about the people subjected to sexual harassment, violence, long hours, and awful working conditions. The majority of people working in the garment industry are women of colour and European men, women, and children. Those that profit from the industry are mainly white, European, and American men. Social sustainability ‘isn’t about charity, it’s about changing business practices and being authentic.’
Rana Plaza Collapse
On the 24 April 2013, the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh collapsed. Garment workers begged to not be sent inside as cracks had appeared in the building the day before. In less than 90 seconds 1,134 people were killed, and 2,500 were injured. Multiple clothing brands sourced their clothes from this building, including Bonmarche, Matalan, and Primark. There was worldwide criticism of the fashion industry and their treatment of workers. There are now safety initiatives in place, but wages are still the lowest in the world and there is still inequality across the supply chain. Despite what happened in 2013, not much has happened to protect workers.
The Fallacy of Clean Luxury
Ian Davies’ ‘Fallacy of Clean Luxury’ means that consumers often connect luxury fashion with sustainability, thinking that sustainability is evident throughout the supply chain; however, this isn’t necessarily the case. There is still inequality in luxury fashion, so don’t be fooled by the ‘Made in Italy’ label. These labels often mean finished in Italy, but made elsewhere by garment workers suffering from inequality every day.
How is Covid-19 affecting garment workers?
It’s still possible to place online orders from most fashion brands during this pandemic. But, what does this mean for the garment workers that are making and packing your orders? I came across a live blog of how the virus is actually affecting garment workers worldwide – click this link to see for yourself. Some factories have closed, but many remain open and have provided PPE for its workers; however, there is still justifiable worry from workers about their safety.
In Albania, it’s been reported that due to the decrease in orders, factories have voluntarily closed. But, workers are not getting paid and when safety measures were put in place and they returned to work, they were still not paid for the time spent not working. Factories in Central America are beginning to close, but with no clarity on how much or if workers will get paid. In India, workers are having to walk long distances home as public transport is suspended – their employers are not offering any type of transport that would ensure they got home safely.
This kind of narrative is being reported from multiple countries across the globe, and some factories are not even providing PPE for workers, with some being dismissed due to school closures.
This virus has affected businesses on a great scale as it’s such an uncertain time. But, the lack of clarity and frankly the lack of care for garment workers is putting them and their families at risk. When buying clothes, especially in the current climate, it’s important to question where your clothes are coming from. Who is making your clothes and what condition are they working in? It’s the responsibility of the industry to change its practices; we need to have equality at every step of the supply chain, because without garment workers, there would be no industry.
Please check out the Clean Clothes Campaign’s live blog, they provide daily updates on what’s happening globally. My thoughts are with these workers who are having their rights violated and are going through economic challenges made even greater by this pandemic. My thoughts are also with everyone affected by this pandemic, stay safe and stay inside!
Posted on 21st Mar 2020
This week I started an online course called Fashion & Sustainability: Understanding Luxury Fashion in a Changing World. It’s available on FutureLearn and it’s FREE! So far it has been super interesting and I’m looking forward to learning more over the next few weeks. Once I’ve completed the course, I’ll be writing an overview of what I’ve learnt and what I think of the course itself. But, I wanted to jump on and write about something that has really intrigued me.
The Centre for Sustainable Fashion have created a framework for how the luxury fashion industry can champion sustainability. This framework is made up of the Context we live in. Within this you have 4 agendas:
Social, Economic, Ecological, and Cultural.
Within these agendas, there are 8 Issues:
Modern day slavery, Wellbeing (Human & Animal), Climate Change, Hazardous Chemicals & Pollution, Diminishing Resources (Natural & Human), Consumption & Waste, Land Use & Biodiversity Loss, and Water Stress.
I’m going to be focusing on one agenda which particularly interested me: the Cultural Agenda. This agenda is about consumers and brands changing habits and culturally accepted practices. This course looks at Luxury Fashion’s role in culture, specifically its responsibility in creating a culture of sustainability. Alex McIntosh, Course Leader for MA Future Fashions at London College of Fashion says this starts with changing the definition of ‘luxury.’ He states that the current overriding definition of luxury is the ‘inessential desirable item which is expensive or difficult to obtain.’ This is connected to consumer culture and our view that success is made up of wealth and power.
‘Luxury Fashion convinces us that without it, life isn’t worthwhile…the dopamine that accompanies the purchase is short lived.’
The consumer culture of ‘retail therapy’ is something embedded in society, but this culture along with the obsession of increasing GDP, comes with a myriad of Issues surrounding sustainability. These Issues include Consumption & Waste, Wellbeing, Climate Change, and Diminishing Resources. All of the above renders Luxury Fashion’s Cultural Agenda unauthentic and highly constructed.
McIntosh questions whether Luxury Fashion’s products and experience can be truly authentic when it requires a constructed and ‘ruthlessly effective’ propaganda machine. The selling point of brands is no longer the clothes itself, but the name – that is what you’re paying for. But, strip away all of this and what are you left with? McIntosh says we should instead be celebrating the people along the supply chain rather than the artifice. Think of the farmers, the manufacturers, the seamstresses, the designers, the weavers. The fashion industry employs 60 million people, yet there is huge inequality throughout the supply chain and consequently, modern day slavery is an endemic within the industry.
Branding is at the forefront of the industry, with marketing and selling outweighing the costs of designing and development of the products. We are exposed to advertising every day, in real life and on social media. From celebrity endorsements to paid Instagram posts, marketing is the priority for luxury and fast fashion alike.
McIntosh closes with what we need to consider going forward. We need to look at our cultural values and when looking at Luxury Fashion ask ourselves these questions: ‘Are the right things being celebrated? Are structures in place to change? Are investments being made in things that matter? And are the right people in power?’
How the Cultural Agenda relates to my Geographic and Personal Experience:
I can notice major differences connected to the Cultural Agenda from when I was at University to now living back home. Consumer Culture at University is huge for a number of reasons. Firstly, student loans can be a lovely surprise in your bank account, so shopping is usually the go-to. This paired with the countless social events throughout the year mean that ‘outfit repeating’ is a cardinal sin. Since moving back home, I have naturally consumed less fashion because of the lack of student loan and no regular social events (I do have friends, I swear). Educating myself on sustainability and being constantly exposed to information about Fashion and Sustainability has also made me an active consumer, so I now only shop from sustainable brands when I need something.
This leads me onto my personal experience with the Cultural Agenda. I now gravitate towards ethical and sustainable brands and I believe I am more conscious in absorbing brands’ advertisements. James Wallman’s Stuffocation: Living More with Less inspires people to live better and happier with less. He talks about a solution to this that he calls ‘experientialism.’ This means focusing on nice experiences instead of acquiring more stuff. Experiences are more likely to make you happy rather than stuff – this can be connected back to McIntosh’s dopamine comment. I like to think I now take an ‘experientialist’ approach to life, and I certainly feel happier being with family and friends, creating memories and experiences rather than shopping every day on ASOS.
As the consumer attitude shifts to more sustainable consumption, systemic changes need to be made within the luxury fashion industry. As consumers, we need to realise that companies spending more on marketing rather than the production process are creating a mythical illusion that will only keep us happy short-term. These also have detrimental effects on the environment, as brands produce more for less money. In this uncertain time, it may seem hard to have nice, memorable experiences. But, cherish this time with loved ones and pick up new hobbies. Delve into writing, reading, painting, or start a new TV series! Memories can be made in the comfort of your own home, you just have to be creative.
Posted on 15th Feb 2020
‘Luxury goods are made to last a lifetime, not a season.’
In 2015, Open for Vintage was launched. A platform where you can shop pre-loved, high quality, classic pieces from all across the globe. Open for Vintage strives for a circular fashion economy – but what exactly does that mean?
Common Objective defines a circular fashion economy as one in which waste and pollution are phased out, but products and materials are kept in the cycle for as long as possible. This may be through upcycling, reselling, and recycling. A circular fashion economy would mean that virtually no waste is being produced and clothes are being used to their full lifespan. This type of economy also means that raw materials will no longer be needed, so pollution from sourcing and extracting these materials will also eventually be phased out. When an item inevitably comes to the end of its life, it is then disposed of without harming the environment.
Open for Vintage adopts this economy by promoting the reselling of clothes. They work with independent boutiques to sell designer items that are preloved. This promotes a more conscious way of consuming fashion, not only by shopping vintage but by promoting the idea of rehoming items that have not yet reached their end of life.
On their site, they sell handbags, jewellery, and clothing from designers including Chanel, Vivienne Westwood, and Cartier. Luxury vintage isn’t something new, but online boutiques are quickly becoming a popular way to shop more eco-friendly and designer. They also offer care guides and information on how to take care of your luxury items, ensuring that they will last a lifetime.
Buying luxury vintage may seem daunting as second-hand shopping can go very well or very badly. Open for Vintage has all of their items vetted, with a 100% authenticity guarantee. Each item has detailed descriptions and any wear and tear are noted. This ensures that the item you’re buying is genuine but also of the high-quality you would expect.
During Black Friday, they launched their #DiscoverVintage campaign, promoting a Greener Black Friday to consumers. The items on their site have been made to last a lifetime, so investing in an item is better for your bank as well as the environment compared to shopping the high street sales and quickly having to replace the item or going back for more.
Thank you to Katie at Open for Vintage for sending me all the information about the company, and introducing me to such a great site!
Posted on 22nd Jan 2020
I wrote a post a few months ago, just before London Fashion Week, about what changes we could see in terms of sustainability. Well, I thought before Fashion Week hits London next month, I would look at what’s going on this year.
Transparency is something that has been talked about within the industry for a while now, and it is promising to see that there is more clarity from brands regarding where they source and produce their clothes. We are also seeing brands holding sustainability at its core. Before Milan Fashion Week, Gucci announced it was going carbon neutral. This announcement was received with criticism as well as praise as it seemed to overlook the industry’s overproduction of garments.
The Designer Showroom has been relaunched and this year’s exhibition has three pillars of focus: Sustainability, Equality & Diversity, Craftsmanship & Community. It’s a space where you can explore stories about sustainability, and introduce yourself to new brands that are paving the way in the industry right now. It’s a great way to inspire and educate people about how the industry is making changes to be more eco-friendly and inclusive. There are so many amazing designers that will exhibit their lines at the showcase and you can read more about them here.
The British Fashion Council, Vivienne Westwood, and the Mayor of London have joined together to make the industry more sustainable. As we already know, Vivienne is known for her political fashion shows, and this year will be no different. They’re reaching out to brands and introducing them to greener means of production. This ‘SWITCH‘ to green is a big shift within the industry, and we already have brands like Selfridges and M&S committing to the cause.
The UK wants to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. The fashion industry (and others) need to start the shift towards more renewable energy and work towards a future that does not rely on fossil fuels and overseas imports. When it comes to this particular industry, the focus does lie on overproduction and overconsumption. But, there is a fault that lies with the brands and companies that are using fossil fuels and tonnes of water to produce garments at record speed. As we already know, renewable energy is efficient (plus it doesn’t contribute to climate change), but this shift is easier said than done. The BFC, Vivienne Westwood, and the Mayor of London are three great powerhouses to spark this change and encourage brands to place focus on sustainability rather than profit.
I’m looking forward to seeing more transparency in this year’s LFW, but I won’t be surprised if we see XR protesting it as they did in September. I do feel conflicted giving praise to an industry that contributes so much to climate change, but as I’ve said before, the shift to becoming largely sustainable will not happen overnight.
Posted on 22nd Dec 2019
In 2019, sisters Rosie and Jasmine Arnold launched their own sustainable swimwear brand. Made from recycled ocean plastics, these young female entrepreneurs are sparking a change within the swimwear industry. I was lucky to be able to send them some questions about how they’ve claimed their space in such an unsustainable industry.
Firstly, what was the process behind coming up with a sustainable swimwear brand?
It has been a dream of mine [Rosie] since around 14 years old to have my own sustainable swimwear business. Over recent years, my sister [Jasmine] and I have noticed the growing importance of brands becoming ethical and reducing any negative impacts that they may have on the environment. More and more people are realising the effects that major companies [are] having on our environment and are supporting sustainable businesses. This is why we have ensured every material [that] we use is sourced from recycled materials, from the costumes themselves to the bags they are packaged in.
Why sustainable swimwear?
My sister and I are both former swimmers and have a lot of knowledge within the swimming industry. Being a competitive swimmer for the majority of my life, I have trained in many different brands of swimwear. I’ve seen the trends in what is popular over the years – what styles people like and what makes a perfect fit for training. We have noticed the struggle to find the perfect suit that is both flattering and comfortable, while also being affordable and based in the UK. We wanted to make sure our brand was sustainable as we want to promote an ethical way of life. We also recognised that there is not a fully sustainable brand in the competitive swimwear industry – therefore, we aim to be that company!
Why is it important to think about sustainability when running your own clothing business?
Sustainability was a major fact that came into play when we were designing and manufacturing our products. It is so important to ensure that your business is sustainable as you are constantly thinking about the future of your company. Sustainability is now more of a concern than ever in the fashion industry, and we are a forward-thinking company and must move with the times!
Is it hard to be a sustainable brand?
It may be a little more difficult to find materials that are recycled, but it is definitely worth putting in the time and research! To us, sustainability may be a challenge but there is no other way of running our business! Although it may be easier and cheaper to find resources if they weren’t sustainable, this wouldn’t be an option for us as our ethical values represent our whole brand, and sustainability is one of the main factors that sets up apart from other companies.
Do you think consumers are becoming more aware of the effects the fashion industry is having on the environment?
Yes, we definitely think that consumers are more aware of the effects of the fashion industry as it is often discussed on social media, and ethical brands are getting a lot more traction than they have in the past. This is one of the reasons that we have decided to make out business sustainable, as we have seen the importance of sustainability in today’s society and the way the fashion industry is going. We love the direction the industry is moving in terms of more and more brands becoming sustainable, and we are proud to be a part of that movement! Although there is a long way to go, with fast-fashion companies being so powerful, we are proud to be an ethical business and will continue to promote eco-friendly living.
They currently have two collections on their site now so go and check them out! Their pieces are stunning and it makes it EVEN better that they are sustainable and affordable. It’s promising to see brands that pride themselves on being sustainable and I can’t wait to see future collections! Thank you to Rosie and Jasmine for answering my questions, it’s so interesting to learn about sustainability from a business perspective and understand the work that goes into designing, manufacturing, and distributing swimwear.
Posted on 3rd Dec 2019
Victoria Prew, Co-Founder and CEO of HURR has said that renting clothes will eventually replace fast fashion. HURR launched this year and allows users to rent and lend their clothes, making it environmentally and economically beneficial. Renting clothes is still in its infancy in the UK, but it is slowly becoming more popular. However, there is another way of consumption that is attempting to drown out this sustainable way of shopping.
What is a clothing subscription?
A clothing subscription is a service that allows you to have clothes sent to you (usually monthly). You then pay for what you want to keep and send the rest back. It’s similar to personal shopping but the styling is done through an online profile. It’s convenient and takes place in the comfort of your own home, so its popularity is no surprise.
Why are subscriptions bad for the environment?
This way of consuming is nothing more than giving in to fast fashion. Yes, it is a convenient way of consuming, but it promotes fashion as easily disposable. In an industry where the estimated worth of clothes that end up in landfill is £140million each year, it isn’t clever to have a service that allows you to easily dispose of clothes you don’t want. Not only does the issue lie with the fast fashion industry itself, but also the logistics of the service. Shipping to individual homes and shipping back to the company is incredibly bad for the environment. Transportation of goods contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and WHO (World Health Organisation) have stated that it’s the ‘fastest-growing contributor to climate emissions.’
I was sent an article by The Sun promoting a new pyjama subscription that sends a ‘care package’ every month to your front door. Their excuse is ‘JOMO’ (joy of missing out) It’s one thing to look after yourself, but surely you don’t need a new pair of PJs every month in order to do that. I am all for self-care, but it is no longer self-care when what you’re doing is investing in something so damaging for the environment. How about watching a movie, reading a book, or listening to a podcast? Instead of being sent new clothing each month, wear PJs you already own, grab a hot drink and make use of what you already have in your wardrobe.
Are rentals any better than subscription boxes?
Shipping clothes does contribute to global climate emissions, so at first, I did question whether rentals were more sustainable than subscriptions. But, fashion’s biggest issue is overproduction and overconsumption. Renting clothes promotes sharing your wardrobe and making the most of your clothes. Renting allows clothes to have a longer lifespan, so they don’t end up on landfill. ELLE discussed the pros and cons of renting services but it is a step forward to a more sustainable industry. Renting is certainly more sustainable than subscription boxes, but as ELLE points out, it isn’t inherently sustainable. However, in a world that is relying so heavily on fossil fuels, it is virtually impossible for each individual to be 100% sustainable. Reducing your carbon footprint and using services which are more eco-friendly is far better than using traditional methods. Adopting small changes makes a bigger difference than you may know, and if everyone makes these small changes, it will have a greater effect.
Is it possible to make rentals even more sustainable?
The simple answer is yes. I have recently written an article for a magazine (I’ll post on my Instagram when it’s published) and came across MUD Jeans. They have an extremely innovative system that allows you to rent but with fewer transportation emissions. MUD Jeans allows you to rent a pair of jeans and these jeans can be kept until you no longer want them/they’ve worn out/don’t fit. The consumer sends the jeans back and MUD recycles them and makes a new pair of jeans. Yes, there are still some emissions from the shipping out and return shipping, but it is far less than subscription or regular renting services. They promote a circular way of consuming so the journey from production to consumption is as sustainable as can be.
Renting is clearly more sustainable than subscription services, but perhaps making the most of the wardrobe you already have and donating/buying second-hand is a more sustainable option. But for that special occasion, renting may be your best bet!
Posted on 26th Nov 2019
Black Friday has become increasingly popular in the UK in recent years. In 2016, the total spending on online retail stores was £1.23bn. Surprisingly, it seems that this year fewer Brits will take part in Black Friday, but there are still up to £5billion being spent during Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
It is tempting to spend your money on Black Friday sales, but are the deals just a big scam? The Consumer Group found that there were ‘few genuine deals,’ and most ‘deals’ are cheaper in the six months before and the six months after Black Friday. It may be obvious, but brands simply want people to consume more over this period for their own financial gain. The spike in sales not only hurts your bank account, but it is detrimental to the environment. Instead of consuming more, we need to think about whether we actually need anything or we’re just being pulled into the ‘sales.’
In a time where consumers buy twice as many clothes and wear them for half as long, Black Friday is just another excuse to impulse buy and consume things you don’t even need. Brands are becoming more aware that fewer people want to participate in Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but there are few brands that are actually being transparent about what Black Friday really stands for.
Monki announced on Instagram that they wouldn’t be taking part in Black Friday:
Boycotting Black Friday is a massive move for brands. They’re losing out on amazing sales but they’re using their platform to show their stance within the industry, proving that brands can educate their consumers by making positive change.
TALA is another brand that is boycotting Black Friday. But, TALA is closed for business, encouraging their consumers to think about Black Friday and what effect it has on our already dwindling environment.
View this post on Instagram
BLACK FRIDAY ANNOUNCEMENT and it isn’t what you think… Hear us out. As a sustainable start-up, we invest our money in amazing high quality products and paying our staff fairly through every level of our supply chain. Instead of a sale this week (we know, we think we’re crazy too), we’ll be focusing on key issues from the fast fashion industry and the impact of Black Friday to help us all shop more sustainably and make better shopping choices. This is a huge risk, with no immediate reward. We KNOW people want to shop discounted goods on Black Friday and it has the potential to be our biggest season in terms of sales, but something needs to be done. We’re willing to take the hit to make you think twice and hope that you can support our fellow sustainable brands this Black Friday! The fast fashion industry’s business model has a sole purpose of persuading you to buy more. It’s time to get voting with your money. We want to show you and the BIG brands that you don’t need to compromise – you CAN have amazing products that don’t cost the earth and avoid adding to the problems caused by fast fashion and multiplied by Black Friday. If a company can discount all their products by 30% upwards, there’s a reason. If they can still make money with huge discounts, there’s someone (or millions of people), sacrificing their quality of life so you can add another dress to the pile. We will be closed for business on Black Friday, and encourage you to really think about what your money is supporting. We will be sharing tips on how to shop smarter whilst still getting what you need and fellow sustainable brands you can support! Our staff will be getting the day to catch up on sleep and have some well-deserved TLC. So to kick off, we’ll leave you with a few things to think about when browsing the sales this week… A third of people think that Black Friday encourages them to buy things they don’t need 🤦🏼♀ @hellohubbub In 2018, Black Friday saw record spending with nearly £5 billion worth of online sales alone 💰 ￼ 4% of global waste – that’s nearly 84 million tonnes – is generated by the fashion industry (this is the equivalent of 6 million big bens!) ⚖ #SLOWDOWNFASTFASHION
In their post, TALA not only highlights the effect that fast fashion has on the environment but the unfair treatment of workers: ‘There’s someone (or millions of people), sacrificing their quality of life so you can add another dress to the pile.’
It’s time to show fast fashion brands that we aren’t passive, but active consumers. We can see through their deals and understand that they aren’t really beneficial for us. Seeing brands like Monki and TALA boycotting Black Friday shows us that we should think before we buy this Black Friday.