Since I’ve graduated, I’ve had a lot more free time. A lot of this time is spent applying for jobs and internships or writing posts. I wanted to find out more about the industry and listen to people that are working toward a more eco-friendly future.
On Thursday, I headed into London for Jenny Garcia and Poppy Delbridge’s Sustainable Fashion Event at Push PR London. Jenny is Ex-Head of Buying at Topshop and is now a Brand and Wardrobe Consultant, Mentor, and Stylist. Poppy is a Personal Coach, Mentor, and Founder of Slay Retreats. It was inspiring listening to a group of incredible women who are each doing their bit to ensure a more sustainable future for the fashion industry. During the event, there was the opportunity to buy second-hand or ‘preloved’ clothes, but I had to avoid temptation and keep to my vow of not shopping during September.
I made a few notes during the event about what was discussed (which was a lot), and it was interesting to hear opinions from not only the panel but attendees about what the industry can do to make a change. I’m going to talk about a few of the topics from the talk and my thoughts about them, so I apologise if this post is a continuous stream of thought.
As some of you may know, Zara has vowed to be 100% sustainable by 2025. When I first heard, I was very impressed and excited to hear more about it. But on reflection, I may have been a little naive. After listening to the panel, I had to question whether this announcement was a sincere attempt at changing the industry, or if it was merely a PR stunt. The announcement got a lot of press which makes me wonder whether, in 2025, they will have stuck to their promise. I guess we will have to wait and see.
During the panel discussion, someone asked: ‘why don’t big high-street brands listen when it comes to sustainability?’ Put simply, it isn’t in their best interest. When that question was posed, all I could see in my head was one word: money. Big companies need to make money and becoming sustainable when you are a hugely popular and established brand is extremely hard. Brands like H&M and Primark have released clothing lines that are produced with sustainable sources, but it seems very hypocritical. Yes, having sustainably sourced clothing is great, but when they are amongst hundreds and thousands of other non-sustainable products, it seems pretty meaningless. However, it is a huge risk for brands to change their production and become 100% sustainable. A lot of brands might not survive this societal shift into a more sustainable way of living, which is very scary. But, in today’s climate, risks need to be taken. We need to break conventionality because it is worth the risk.
I have previously spoken about denim in my posts because it is an extremely unsustainable fabric. I was pleased to hear that Levis has researched and found ways to produce sustainable denim and cotton. The information that they have discovered from these investigations has been shared with the rest of the denim industry. Therefore, other companies don’t need to spend money on their own investigations but can immediately start considering new ways to be more sustainable. More brands need to take a leaf out of Levi’s book. This all takes time, and as much as I love complaining about the industry for being so unsustainable, it needs time to reconsider and be more innovative.
A big topic of conversation during the panel discussion was the power of entertainment, and how it can be used to promote a more sustainable way of consuming. Poppy previously worked for Warner Bros. and this topic reminded her of a conversation she had. Throughout the Friends series, smoking was shown to be disgusting, with all the Friends telling Chandler off every time he began smoking again. This subtle and repetitive storyline fed a message to viewers about smoking, and people actually stopped smoking because of Friends. This led to a discussion about whether entertainment is the route to go down in order to promote preloved shopping and sustainable consumption. It is an interesting point that is evident when it comes to the opposite – the promotion of fast fashion.
I love ITV’s Love Island, but I am about to criticise it (sorry not sorry). This year the show was sponsored by I Saw it First, a Manchester-based brand. Every episode you can see the Islanders wearing a new bikini every day and a new outfit every evening. There are constant adverts promoting the show, but more importantly, the clothes the islanders were wearing. With one click of a button, you could shop the exact outfits that your favourite islander wore. Huge billboards across the UK advertised the fast-fashion brand in collaboration with Love Island, showing that you can easily keep up with the current poolside and evening trends. When I’ve watched Love Island, it has always sat uncomfortably with me that the show is so heavily connected with fast-fashion brands. You won’t see the islanders wear the same outfit twice and your Instagram feed quickly becomes crowded with the newest outfits on I Saw it First. The show is watched by millions and its promotion of fast-fashion is so disheartening. Even post-Love Island, so many contestants will sign brand deals and become ambassadors for fast-fashion brands and be paid up to £1million to promote them. In today’s climate, this level of brand awareness is dangerous. I truly believe that influencers and reality TV stars should use their platform to promote sustainable living, preloved shopping, and outfit repeating! I am fed up of seeing gifted and paid partnerships with fast fashion brands. Yes, I understand that this is a way to promote your online brand but I think it is way more beneficial to promote more independent brands that pride themselves on sustainability. It would also surely be more admirable? I have recently done an Instagram cleanse and unfollowed influencers that constantly promote fast-fashion brands. But, I’m already converted to shopping more sustainably. People that follow influencers and previous Love Island contestants may be younger and more impressionable. I certainly used to be; at Uni, I really thought that I needed a new outfit for every event that I attended. In reality, does anyone remember what I’ve worn for the past 3 years? Nope.
Before I go on a huge rant, I’m going to move on. The day after the event was the Global Climate Strike, and we began talking about which generations are the most impressionable. At first, we talked about whether schools needed to have focus days or talks about sustainable fashion and plastic-free living, but we realised that schools already have way too much on their plate. Also, it turns out kids are the ones educating older generations. Not only do young teens shop on sites like Depop, but they’re already taught about living eco-friendly at school. I went to the Global Climate Strike in London the next day (another post coming about that) and have to say that there were so many children and young teens marching and protesting. So, I don’t think it’s kids that need to be targeted here. They are the most impressionable, but they already know that their future is at risk and they must fight for it.
I previously touched upon my very unsustainable way of living at University. As soon as that first loan drops, the world (of online shopping) is your oyster. I bought new outfits for each event and SU night, unaware that I was contributing to a very unsustainable industry. I reflected on my time at University and realised that University students are probably the group to talk to when it comes to this topic. Perhaps there could be flyers or online posts on move-in days about how to deal with that first big loan drop, and how to put it to good use. I wish someone had told me to think about what I was buying and where it really came from. Now I’ve graduated, I have outfits that I will never wear again, but with my fresh outlook, I’m in the process of making a Depop account and selling them on (hopefully to Uni students who will then sell them on or re-wear them)!
When I first heard about the strikes and protests, I thought ‘is that really going to work?’ But this event taught me to make noise. Staying silent will have no effect, so the more noise you make, the more people will hear. And the more people that hear, the more people will listen.
I’m planning on attending more events like these and writing more posts about them! Thanks for taking time out of your day to read my thoughts, I really appreciate it.
Thank you to Jenny, Poppy, and Push PR. I really recommend attending events like these if you want to learn more about sustainable fashion!
Jenny’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jennysuegarcia/?hl=en
Poppy’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/poppydelbridge/?hl=en
Push PR London’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pushprlondon/?hl=en