The Social Agenda for Sustainability

I believe that we, and the waves of the new generation, will look back on the
practices of today’s fashion industry in the same way we now look back at
Victorian Workhouses, with utter incredulous horror. 

– Phoebe English, Designer

The House of Commons’ 2019 ‘Fixing Fashion: clothing consumption and sustainability’ report highlights the issues within the fashion industry, and what the government needs to do to tackle the second biggest polluting industry in the world.

The UN says that if the population should reach 9.6 billion by 2050 as its predicted, then we would need the equivalent of 3 planets to provide the natural resources required to sustain our current lifestyle. Consumption levels have increased in all industries, with the fashion industry playing a big part in the challenges we face on a global scale.

Professor Tim Cooper discusses the ‘throwaway culture.’ This term criticises the overconsumption within our society – we purchase items that we want (but don’t need) and then dispose of them when we no longer want them. These items have a longer life, but our attitude towards consumption is that items are short-lived and disposable. Clothes need to be produced with longevity in mind, but this will make no difference if consumer attitudes don’t change. Therefore, there needs to be a cultural change.

hanged top on brown and white clothes horse

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Smart shopping 

In order to tackle the issue of overconsumption, we need to look at our shopping habits and review them. How can we be smarter with our shopping? It isn’t only about shopping sustainable brands, but also looking at your budget and savings.

Before you purchase something, question whether you need it. Is there something in your current wardrobe that you could upcycle or repair? Is there a friend that has something in their wardrobe that is the same/similar? Sharing, repairing, and reusing clothes not only saves you money, but you make the most out of your current wardrobe.

If you do need to purchase something, look at how transparent the brand is. What’s their delivery/packaging like? Do they tell consumers where their clothes are produced? Who is making their clothes? Are they a fast or slow fashion brand? This may seem like a lot but if a brand is transparent, then all of their information about delivery/production can be found on their website. Taking this extra step to be conscious of where you are purchasing clothes means that the ecological, economic, cultural, and social impact is as minimal as can be.

We can shop in vintage and second-hand shops. We can learn how to repair our clothes. We can share our wardrobes with our friends and family. We can recycle and donate garments that we no longer want. Taking these steps and continuing to do them means that it will soon become a habit.

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My own journey

I used to shop A LOT. But, after learning about fast fashion, I decided to alter my habits. I began by deleting all shopping apps from my phone and unfollowing fast fashion brands on social media. When I went shopping, I went into charity shops and vintage shops instead of big retail stores. I also started going through my own wardrobe, making piles of what I wanted to keep, donate, and recycle. Charity shops are becoming overrun with clothes, so before donating, it may be worth asking friends and family if they want any of the clothes.

I still LOVE shopping, but now I shop with sustainable fashion brands, use sites like Depop, and only purchase clothes when I need them. These small steps have completely changed my consumer habits for the better. From spending ridiculous amounts of money on clothes I wore a handful of times, I’ve become creative with my wardrobe, re-imagining outfits from clothes I already have.

I’ve recently been learning how to upcycle my clothes. I’m not the best sewer, but I was so proud when I made a t-shirt into a crop top for the first time. This is another step to altering my consumer habits, and making sure that my footprint on the fashion industry isn’t one that is detrimental to the environment.

YOUR journey

Start with small changes. Delete those apps and unfollow those accounts. Studies have said that it takes about 2 months to form a new habit. Once you’ve made small changes and formed that habit, it will become easier to take bigger steps to changing your consumer habits. Trust me when I say, it is completely worth it.

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Is luxury fashion synonymous with sustainability?

The fallacy of clean luxury (Davies et al.) occurs when consumers believe that luxury products have few significant negative social or environmental impacts due to the label and price tag. This is based on the assumption that luxury fashion symbolises prestige and value, and therefore is sustainable. However, this is not the case.

Luxury fashion isn’t always sustainable. Higher prices do not necessarily mean higher quality and sustainability. The issues of sustainability within textile industries is recognised, but is immediately disassociated once a luxury label is added (Davies et al.)

Harris and Freeman (2008) theorised ‘separation fallacy,’ suggesting that consumers wrongly perceive ethics and business as 2 different aspects. Therefore, the assumption that ethical products means higher costs is made. So in turn, luxury fashion’s high prices means that consumers believe that it is sustainable. But, we’ve already established that this assumption is wrong.

Gucci signage

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Davies et al. suggested that ‘luxury brands are less scrutinised because of their established reputations and they face little pressure to invest in sustainable practices.’ However, this may be changing. In recent years, the pressure to transition to sustainability has been big on businesses and corporations. This is due to the demand for sustainable fashion by consumers. In 2019, a survey revealed that 52% of UK and US consumers wanted the industry to become more sustainable, but 45% struggled to know which brands were committed to sustainable practices. This brings us back around to the need for transparency from brands – we need to see proof of your sustainable practices.

Kering strives for a sustainable luxury fashion industry. Their 3 pillars – care, collaborate, create – shape their strategy in achieving this. Using innovation and creativity, they work with their Houses to develop their sustainability practices. These Houses include Gucci, Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, Brioni, Boucheron, Pomellato, Dodo, Qeelin, Ulysse Nardin, Girard-Perregaux, as well as Kering Eyewear.

In 2019, Kering was named as the second most sustainable company across all industries, and the most sustainable company in Luxury Apparel and Accessories for the second year running. With Kering at the forefront, we will see milestones being met in coming years due to their innovation and tenacity.

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The Economic Agenda for Sustainability

I’ve always struggled to get my head around economics and finance. But, when I was completing FutureLearn’s Fashion and Sustainability course, I was able to hear from industry experts about economic sustainability. Connecting economics to a topic I’m so involved in made it easier to understand.

Currently, economics isn’t focusing on sustainability. Businesses focus on financial growth each year, which is vital for businesses to survive. The luxury fashion industry thrives when it comes to financial growth, of course. But, it severely lacks in aspects like planetary boundaries and human equality. Dr Simon Mair spoke about something that Kering CEO, François-Henri Pinault said:

“When a young brand joins Kering, it gains access to a worldwide real estate team:
We have people who know the stand-alone store locations as well as the malls of
every big city in the world. We have relationships with landlords. We know the fair
price for rent. If you’re a small brand in London, opening a store in Berlin or Hong
Kong can be daunting. Once your brand is part of Kering, our experts will help you get
it done.”

In other words, he is saying that ‘being bigger means you have more control over you environment.’ This is advantageous as the market is extremely competitive. But, the need to continuously grow and expand comes at the detriment of the environment. We used to see brands make 2 collections per year, but due to the rapid expansion of consumerism, this has risen to 6+ collections per year.

Businesses are affected by macroeconomic variables. This means large-scale/general economic factors such as interest rates and taxes. There are also microeconomic variables which is connected to the individual. For example, when it comes to fashion collections, a brand can’t predict consumer emotion or response. Mair connected this to productivity gains, explaining that brands ultimately want to sell the same amount of product but produce it cheaply. This creates an unsustainable supply chain in which profit is prioritised over people or nature. In the fashion industry, productivity gains may mean using machines to produce clothes rather than people. It may also involve breaking down a production process so that skill is not needed. The process no longer involves highly skilled workers or creativity and the skill that was once passed down through generations is lost. 

Mair proposes that economy needs to be re-imagined so that people and nature are dominant. The value of people and sustainability needs to be incorporated into the economy and thought about in financial terms. Economics and ecology are intertwined, and there are many issues that stem from it. These issues include: diminishing resources, land use, biodiversity loss, climate change, slavery, consumption, and waste.

One way the industry could shift its economics is by turning to a circular economy – this is already happening within some businesses. I wrote a post about circular economy and why brands are promoting it.

For the individual, shopping vintage is a great way to support circular economics. Taking small steps such as only buying when you need something, shopping second-hand, or up cycling what you already have in your wardrobe, is a great way to start your own personal sustainable journey.

With the demand for sustainable fashion increasing, businesses are being forced to look at sustainability in their economic agendas. Forbes’ economic sustainability article gives an insight how sustainability is and economic benefit.

McKinsey & Company

It is predicted that the next decade will be the sustainability decade, particularly for the luxury fashion industry. With nearly 70% of consumers willing to pay premium for sustainable products, it looks as though we are headed for a sustainable fashion economy.

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South Korea’s ‘패션’ for fashion*

South Korea has advanced economically and technologically in a short amount of time. I recently wrote a piece for Luxiders sustainable magazine titled ‘Top 10 Most Sustainable Cities.’ I included South Korea on this list because of its advanced public transport and its new smart city ‘Songdo.’ But, it got me thinking – what’s their fashion industry like?

The Korean Wave

South Korean culture has spread worldwide with the popularity of K-pop and films like Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite. This Korean wave is affecting the fashion industry, with Harper’s Bazaar saying ‘Korean style is a mixture of street wear and luxury.’ The combination of western influence and wealth has created a new branch of fashion that brings together European and street wear brands.

Mino kpop

Rapper Mino walking for Virgil Abloh’s Menswear Louis Vuitton S/S 2020 Collection

Dongdaemun

The market in Dongdaemun is often referred to as the ‘fashion mecca’ of Seoul. There are countless stalls in the market where you can haggle for prices. But, the multi-story malls that open at 10AM and close at 5AM have fixed prices. The hustle and bustle never stops, and with lower prices than international fashion brands, Dongdaemun is the centre of fast-fashion production.

dongdaemun design plaza

Dongdaemun Design Plaza

Is the industry becoming more sustainable?

Dongdaemun design plaza hosted a Sustainable Fashion Summit, bringing together designers that are changing the fashion game. With debates and exhibitions, the event showcased the changing industry and showed the endless possibilities sustainable fashion can bring. It wasn’t just ecological sustainability being discussed but social; the importance of fair trade and the significance of collaborating with impoverished communities.

It seems that sustainable fashion is becoming more popular in Korea due to the influence of K-pop stars and influencers. Their collaborations with luxury fashion houses and red carpet appearances makes them the fashion ambassadors for Korea.

SwatchOn is an organisation dedicated to transforming the fast fashion culture in Dongdaemun. Their suppliers create high-quality fashion with minimal environmental impact – they only work with suppliers that source sustainable and organic materials and do not work with suppliers producing fur or leather. Their transparency will revitalise the Korean fashion market, bringing quality and sustainable clothing to Dongdaemun:

‘Our ultimate mission is to bring positive changes to the Korean fabric market, especially towards sustainability. Since sustainability should be culturally embedded, we are constantly communicating with Korean authorities, suppliers, and buyers to spread our philosophy. The progress we can make could be small or big and it may take a long time. However, we believe that even small changes matter, and will work hard so that every aspect of our business can have an element of sustainability.’

What’s next?

It seems that South Korea, like they have with their cities, is transforming their fashion industry into one that is sustainable. With the work SwatchOn is carrying out, Seoul and South Korea’s other major cities may begin to see a shift towards ‘slow’ fashion. K-pop’s influence is international, and so is their fashion – watch this space.

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*패션 (paesyeon) – fashion

History of Fashion: 19th-Century

My Uni dissertation was titled ‘Women’s Fashion in 19th-Century Literature.’ My research taught me a lot about fashion during that era. The Industrial Revolution was the turning point for fashion, and the industry began to produce clothing quickly and cheaply. Industrialisation also brought with it easier transportation, meaning clothing could be shipped easily.

The Victorian era was a big one for fashion. The more scientific and technological advances made, the more extravagant the industry could be. The expanse of the British Empire meant that they had access to an array of animals and fauna. As the Empire expanded, the range of animals at the industry’s disposal increased. However, the detrimental effects on the environment were still not understood, and the industry continued to destroy eco-systems as it does today.

Fur

This period of history was interesting for its scientific advances. Darwin’s theory of evolution created waves through society and the idea that humans evolved from animals created a sense of discomfort. ‘If the human race was not inherently distinct from other species but had evolved from animals, what guaranteed it could not evolve backwards and regress into its previous animal form?’ Fur is the oldest form of clothing and is still used today by indigenous people. However, the fur trend during 19th-Century Britain led to vast over-hunting, meaning some animals became almost extinct. 

Exotic animals & plume hunting

By 1900, 5 million exotic birds a year were killed in the Florida everglades for their feathers. Hats with exotic feathers and birds were extremely popular during the late 1800s. Some hats had entire birds on them, often surrounded by flowers and silks. Plume hunting continued throughout the late 19th-century and into the 20th, but activists like Etta Lemon and Adelaide Knapp led the movement that eventually founded The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Again, indigenous people wore feathers on their clothes, but the birds were caught and released, rather than hunting them.

The weekly magazine, Punch, often published cartoons mocking women for their fashion choices. The picture below is from 1892 and criticises plume hunting – ‘the harpy Fashion appears still, and even increasingly, to make endless holocausts of small fowl for the furnishing forth of “feather trimmings” for the fair sex…their dying cries are described as “heart-wrenching.’ But they evidently do not rend the hearts of our fashionable ladies.’

Punch magazinePunch magazine

The 19th-century sparked a new age of consumerism and it has only increased since then. Activism surrounding the use of fur and exotic animals in fashion has led many companies to go fur-free. But, the effects on the environment, habitats, and the ecosystem itself is still leading to animal suffering. Changes to the sourcing and manufacturing process need to be made in order to protect animals and their habitats. These changes are beginning to be discussed but the industry needs to shift as a whole. Looking at the history of fashion offers an interesting insight into how the industry has developed over time. The shifts we see today also allow us to infer where the industry is headed, and hopefully that is in a sustainable direction.

 

 

 

Is ‘sustainability’ solely ecological?

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!

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The Cultural Agenda for Sustainability

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.

CSF framework

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.

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BRAND WATCH: Open for Vintage

‘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!

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LFW’s Sustainability Movement

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.

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BRAND WATCH: INSTANT®

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.

Socials:

Instagram: @instantswim

Website: instantswim.com

Facebook: @instantswimwear

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