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.
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.
Posted on 3rd Nov 2019
There has been a big debate on Twitter about luxury fashion brands and where they make their products. The tweet below appeared on my timeline, so I decided to do a bit of research to see whether the claim was actually true.
A lot of brands do indeed have factories in China because of its low cost of operation. Some companies manufacture entirely in China or partly. I want to firstly unpick the tweet before I go into what I found.
Chanel released videos showing the creation of their infamous bags. In the video, these bags were handmade by seamstresses. This video went viral with people praising it for its meticulous process; however, there was backlash due to the accusations that they are in fact manufactured in China and attach handles in France to disguise their actual origin.
There are claims that the bags are, in fact, handmade because they are haute couture. Chanel is, of course, haute couture, but with the demand being so high, it is highly unlikely that each Chanel bag is made like the video shows. The Haute Couture stores in France may have seamstresses, but on a global scale, this is unlikely. Chanel is not fast fashion, so they do not produce as many products as other brands, but they are still mass-produced.
When I did my research to find out whether Chanel did actually manufacture in China, I couldn’t find any articles. What I did find were articles refuting this claim and suggesting that Chanel is produced in France. However, if this tweet is true, then they are legally allowed to state that they manufacture in France. The replies to the tweets were interesting. There were a lot of people admitting that they already knew this but provided no information to support this claim. Another tweet provided an article about Prada’s connection to China but nothing on Chanel’s.
It is known that other luxury brands have done exactly what this tweet claims. Balenciaga’s Triple S trainers originally had a ‘Made in Italy’ label, but this was changed to a ‘Made in China’ label after they were exposed for manufacturing there. There has been uproar about luxury brands producing in China because, despite the low cost of operation, they’re still sold at the same price. Consumers believe that because of the low cost during production, the products should be cheaper.
Now, back to Chanel. This tweet made a large claim but my research didn’t seem to turn up anything about the accusation. Instead, I came across other luxury brands that manufacture in China. I’m not saying this tweet is false because it is plausible that due to the demand, Chanel does mass-produce elsewhere; however, I think with an accusation such as this, there needs to be evidence to support this claim. Seeing as other luxury brands have come under fire for doing this, it may be true that Chanel are doing the same. There are also loopholes regarding factories and workers, and many brands use external factory companies so as to not directly associate themselves with that part of the production – refer to my Primark post. Twitter is certainly a hub for news and debate, but you shouldn’t necessarily believe what you read.
I think it is very important that we consider where our clothes are coming from, not only on a sustainable level but on an ethical level too. Who is making our clothes and are they being treated fairly?
Posted on 27th Oct 2019
Fur is a big topic in the industry and has been for a long time, but I wanted to look into the history of fur within the industry and what brands are still using it in their products.
History of Fur
Fur is the earliest form of clothing, worn by early homo sapiens and neanderthals. It’s very durable and is still worn in cold climates and cold desert nights. For example, indigenous people and societies still use fur because of its availability and its insulation properties.
Fur became popular in the fashion industry as early as the 11th-century. Across Europe, it became a sign of wealth and status. It was worn for decorative purposes rather than for practical reasons. I found it particularly interesting that in the 1300s, laws were put in place stating which social classes were allowed to wear which types of fur!
During the Victorian era, fur began to rise in popularity. During my Dissertation research, I came across lots of pictures and information about how the fashion industry used an incredible amount of fur and feathers. The 1870s saw the introduction of fur farms. This shift from wild to farmed animals shows just how popular fur was at this time – statistics show that 80% of fur was farmed compared to 20% that was wild. The animals that were farmed for fur were mink, chinchilla, fox, dog, cat, and rabbit. During the later 1800s, synthetic textiles and dyes were invented so the popularity of fur began to fall. Repetitive designs and cheaper textiles meant that fur fell out of fashion.
Fur farms in the UK and the EU
At its peak, there were 5000 fur farms in the EU. ‘The EU accounts for around 63% of global mink production and 70% of fox production,’ but some EU countries have banned or put in strict regulations to prevent the use and production of fur farms. My research did find that despite a fall in demand in the late 1900s, sales have increased because of new ways of working with fur and more disposable incomes. This may seem shocking because of the anti-fur campaigns and legislations that are present, but there are a lot of countries worldwide that still have operating fur farms.
The global fur industry is impossible to write about in one post, so I’m going to talk about the UK in particular. The UK has 2 acts that stop fur farming – the Fur Farming Prohibition Act 2000 and the Fur Farming Prohibition Act Scotland 2002. Before these acts were put in place, there were daily protests and fur farms were closed on the grounds of public morality. Mark Glover, the Director of the Respect for Animals Campaign said ‘To keep animals in such conditions in the name of fashion is totally unacceptable in a civilised society.’ But what exactly happens in fur farms?
Behind closed doors
I don’t want to go into too much detail here but I’m going to leave a link to the Fur Free Alliance page that gives more details about what happens on these farms.
The animals that are bred and killed for fur are kept in battery cages and killed inhumanely. There have been reports done that show the animals on these farms have abnormal behavioural problems and are put under an unimaginable amount of physical and mental stress. People have suggested more humane methods of killing for fur, but anti-fur campaigners object to this as there is no ‘humane’ way to kill an animal for the sake of fashion. They also object to faux fur as it still promotes fur as a fashion accessory.
Sustainability and alternatives
Interestingly, there is large debate about whether fur is cruel or eco-friendly. Pro-fur campaigners argue that fur is natural and sustainable, helping control wild animal population. However, it is clear that the majority of fur comes from farming and not wild trapping. Fur farming, despite being unethical, is argued to be sustainable because of its use of by-products to create more energy. The production of faux fur needs 20x the amount of energy that fur farms need, as well as chemicals and a longer production process.
But, anti-fur organisations presented evidence that the fur industry is in fact very damaging to the environment. The process can produce atmospheric pollution and the chemicals used to preserve pelts and prevent moulding or decomposition can be highly toxic. These toxins pollute rivers and damage ecosystems, and have a damaging effect on those that live near the factories – research has shown that those who live near tanneries are more likely to develop cancer.
Which brands still use fur?
The Humane Society has a page that gives a list of brands that are fur-free and those that aren’t: here’s the link.
I wanted to touch upon one brand in particular that has always been surrounded in controversy because of their use of fur – Canada Goose.
Canada Goose uses down and coyote fur for their coats as they believe it provides the best insulation for cold climates. On their site, one word keeps popping up – ‘ethical.’ They argue that the way they source their down and fur is ethical and they do not kill in an inhumane way. You are free to take that as you will, but I personally don’t believe that trapping and killing for a coat is very ethical.
Canada Goose has released statements to prove that they do not use barbaric ways to capture coyotes, but their statements can be dissected very easily and can be seen as very misinforming. They argue that they do not use traditional leg traps; however, these types of traps are still legal in Canada. Interestingly, they then go on to say that the animals caught in leg traps ‘wait quietly’ until the trapper arrives. They say that these methods are no longer used, but provide no evidence of their current methods of trapping.
Their claims have been expertly dissected by The Fur-Bearers here.
If you strip back to the simplest way of looking at fur in the industry, it seems intriguing. – wearing a naturally occurring material that will last for decades. However, you cannot ignore the details. Fur is not needed in an industry that is producing more sustainable materials. Yes, it is naturally occurring but that is no argument when that naturally occurring material is from a living animal. The argument that it is sustainable isn’t tangible to me; the chemicals that are used on the furs are certainly not eco-friendly. The fashion industry is so creative and innovative, so I believe that it definitely has the ability to create other methods to produce materials that replicate fur but not at the expense of the animals. I have to agree with Mark Glover’s comments; it’s not acceptable for the industry to use such conditions, and personally, I am surprised that the industry is even connecting itself to such a horrifying prospect.
It is a huge debate and it’s still ongoing, but it’s promising to see that more designers are coming forward with an anti-fur statement. In 2018, 86% of brands didn’t feature fur in their SS18 collections. Designers like Versace, Gucci, Tom Ford, and Michael Kors came forward to condemn the use of fur in the industry. Donatella Versace put it simply: ‘Fur? I’m out of that…I don’t want to kill animals to make fashion. It doesn’t feel right.’
I completely agree with the use of fur by indigenous groups etc. but I don’t think there is a need for it in the modern fashion industry. I believe the industry is clever enough to look for alternatives or eventually stray away from fur and faux fur completely. At the London College of Fashion, Rob Phillips introduced anti-fur modules, challenging his students to think innovatively about alternatives. Faux fur is not a sustainable solution, but as the industry progresses, eco-friendly alternatives will present themselves.
Victoria Magrath, The New Fashion Rules. (London, Harper Collins Publishers; 2018).
Posted on 23rd Oct 2019
In August 2018, I took a trip to the V&A for their ‘Fashioned From Nature’ exhibition. I initially went for Dissertation research as it showcased Victorian Fashion, but the exhibition also included how the industry is damaging the environment as well as how the industry is creating sustainable alternatives. But, my favourite part of the exhibition had to be Vivienne Westwood’s political fashion.
Vivienne is a designer known for her avant-garde fashion. She is against consumerism and uses her fashion to fight against climate change and global warming. Her ‘activism is rooted in practicality,’ and her runway shows are not merely a showcasing of clothes, but a political message. Vivienne grew up during the war and had to live with rationing, making her a ‘naturally frugal and unwasteful person.’ She uses her power as a designer to highlight the damaging nature of the industry and redefined the fashion world with her activism.
Vivienne’s designs present a clear message. It isn’t really about the clothes, but the message they portray. I remember watching the AW19 show at LFW and being in awe. It was so unlike any show I had watched before. Each model spoke about the current political and social climate, showing just how important it is to Vivienne that she uses her platform to speak on such issues. The show highlighted so many topics, like Brexit, the #MeToo movement, and of course, sustainability and consumption. One model said ‘Fashion is all about styling, buy less, choose well, make it last.’ Vivienne didn’t stop there. She announced that she was aiming to raise £100million to save the rainforest! I’ll link the full show below because you don’t want to miss it.
I’ve always been intrigued by Vivienne and her political fashion. I can’t wait to see what collections we see in the future.
Linda Watson, Vogue on Vivienne Westwood, (London: Conde Nast Publication LTD, 2013).
Posted on 16th Oct 2019
When we talk about clothes, we might describe them as ‘trendy’ or ‘in trend.’ Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about why we have them. Trends have been around since clothes have existed, and they are constantly changing. I wrote my Dissertation about Fashion in Victorian Literature, and it became clear that trends have been around for a long time. In the 19th-Century, women’s magazines and novels told readers what clothes were being worn by middle and upper-class women. Today, we see trends everywhere. They are hard to escape, so we are all sucked into the desire or need to keep up with these trends. Like fashion, people also evolve. We are influenced by popular culture and advertisements and have a desire to fit into society. Fear of isolation or ‘not fitting in’ means we succumb to trends and evolve alongside them.
In simple terms, trends mean consumerism. The constant changing of styles means we consume more, believing that it will contribute to our social status. However, following trends means spending money and contributing to the fashion industry. Therefore, the industry has a profit to create more styles and new trends, leading us to spend more money. It is a cycle that is in constant motion. This cycle leads to a lot of waste and unused clothing because we are constantly consuming.
Advertisement has changed since the digital era began, and this means that trends are speeding up. The industry has strayed from the traditional bi-annual trends and we are seeing more frequent changes. It seems like there are new trends every week and it is a lot to keep up with.
So, should trends be a thing of the past?
It is true that trends promote fast-fashion, but I don’t think they should be stopped. Instead, I think we should use the power of trends to promote slow-fashion and ‘forever’ clothes. VEJA is famous for having no advertisement, and they create shoes that will be worn in decades to come. They don’t follow trends but use initiative to create products that will never ‘go out of fashion.’ In terms of popular culture, I can already see more of a shift. Yes, there are celebs that promote trends daily, but I can see more influencers promoting sustainable brands and straying from fast-fashion promotion.
In today’s climate, fighting against trends and promoting clothes that will be ‘fashionable’ for decades to come is more beneficial. As conversations about fast-fashion get bigger, slow-fashion and outfit-repeating may become a trend that sticks.
Posted on 8th Oct 2019
I’ve been reading Victoria Magrath’s ‘The New Fashion Rules,’ a book about how the fashion world has transformed in today’s digital era. After reading a chapter about fast fashion brands and why their cheap clothes produce a lot of waste, I scrolled through Twitter and came across a tweet praising Primark for their new sustainable clothing lines. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of Primark due to their previous scandals surrounding labour rights and working conditions, but I wanted to read more about what this international fast-fashion brand was doing to be more sustainable.
Primark are a major high-street brand that is surviving the rise of online shopping. Magrath puts it simply: ‘affordability often equals frivolity.’ Consumers that shop at Primark and the like will often impulse buy, wear the clothes a handful of times, and then throw it away. This contributes to the staggering amount of clothes that go unused or end up in landfill: ‘The value of unused clothing in wardrobes has been estimated at around £30 billion. It is also estimated £140 million worth of clothing goes to landfill each year.’
Now, Primark has taken some steps to appear more sustainable. The keyword – ‘appear.’
What steps do they take to be more sustainable?
Primark are a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and have initiatives in place that try to tackle their impact on the environment. However, their initiatives are very vague, with no reduction targets. They have a huge carbon footprint and the lack of transparency is not good enough. Despite being apart of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, they continue to use non-sustainable materials and produce staggering quantities of clothes that go unsold and wasted. Their sustainable lines make little impact when they are sold amongst clothes that are so damaging to the environment. I have previously discussed my opinion of fast-fashion brands that create sustainable lines, and I sincerely believe that it is ultimately a publicity stunt. I have also talked about how hard it is to be a 100% sustainable business; however, Primark is one of the biggest international brands but they’re very vague on their initiatives, leading me to believe that they’re not taking any major steps to be more eco-friendly. Their FAQ page quickly revealed that despite these initiatives, they are not fairtrade and do not source materials directly (non-sustainable).
Who makes the clothes?
Since becoming more involved with sustainability, I have thought more and more about where clothes come from. I think it is really important to think before you buy – think about the journey of the item and who made them. In previous years, Primark has come under scrutiny for the working conditions overseas. On the Primark website, they provide an FAQ page about their factory workers. Reading through, it is clear that they have expertly worded their answers to avoid any scandal. One question reads ‘How do you make sure that factory workers in your supply chain are paid a fair wage?’ This question, along with 5 other questions all had the same sentence: ‘we do not own the factories.’ This effectively means, they cannot ensure that labour rights, working condition standards, living wage standards are met. In short, they are passing off any responsibility for the squalid conditions and less-than-living wage that their workers receive. Despite saying on the page that they are a part of the Ethical Trading Initiative, their code of conduct does not ensure that the workers are getting the living wage.
Does Primark use animal products in their clothes?
Primark don’t use fur in their products; however, they do use leather and wool. In my Allbirds post, I spoke about their wool products, praising them for their transparency of where their wool is sourced and the production of it. It is not surprising that Primark provide no information about where their leather and wool is sourced, and it is also interesting that they have an FAQ question only specifically mentioning mohair – what about the leather and wool you do use?
So what does this all mean?
Ultimately, Primark need to be transparent. Instead of simply stating that you are a part of multiple initiatives, what do these involve and what steps are you personally taking to make a change? The vagueness surrounding these initiatives lead me to assume that they don’t really care. I’m not surprised that they don’t really care because money is the only thing on their mind. It wouldn’t take much to be more transparent, so I think it is safe to assume that these initiatives are a (failed) attempt to appear more eco-friendly.
It would be easy to see their sustainable line and praise them for it and go on with your day, but in reality, they are a fast-fashion brand. They are battling with the digital era, and the high-street is failing. Releasing sustainable lines is a very clever tactic to appear ‘with the times,’ but if you do a bit of digging, it isn’t all it seems. In today’s society, we are constantly surrounded by signs and signals that are subconsciously fed to us. I believe we have become a passive society, accepting things as they appear. But it is time to wake up and think. Don’t believe everything you see.
Magrath, V. The New Fashion Rules, (London: Harper Collins, 2018)