Sustainability is not often the first thing you think of when it comes to fashion, but that may be about to change
The recent turbulent storms across the Western world left in their wake unprecedented levels of destruction. Now, the UN annual climate change conference turns our head sharply to the questions of climate change and the impact our decisions as consumers are having on the globe.
We’re aware of the immediate positive effect recycling and plant-based diets have on the environment in which we inhabit, but are we really aware of how our actions as consumers in the every growing retail industry with our easy to purchase fast fashion choices play a direct role in the sustainability of the earth?
In my bid to watch every Netflix documentary, I recently stumbled across The True Cost (2015), a feature-length piece that exposes and analyses how the nature of the fast fashion industry is negatively impacting our world.
The term ‘fast fashion’ refers to the phenomenon where the fashion industry is transporting the trends on the catwalk to the high street for low production costs at an undeniably rapid rate to meet the demands of consumers. This is not isolated to British high street retailers alone but wholesalers across the globe who are churning out garments faster than ever before with disregard for the environmental effects our compulsive shopping habits are creating.
A powerful piece of film, The True Cost juxtaposes the glamour of fashion weeks, our obsession with beauty, and the latest trends alongside the direct impact it bears on the underdeveloped societies propped up by this $2.4 trillion fashion industry. Harrowing incidents in Bangladesh such as the Rana Plaza travesty in 2013 emphasise this predicament. In this instance, despite hundreds of warnings regarding the garment factory as a “death trap”, the building collapsed killing 1,100 and injuring a further 2,000. Needless to say, the resultant attention helped shed light on global retailers across the world and their supply chain practices and mass production processes.
–We consume approximately 80 billion pieces of clothing a year.
–1/6 people in the world work in the global fashion industry – the majority of which early less than $3 USD a day.
–Only 10 per cent of the clothes we donate to charity and thrift stores are re-sold. The rest go to landfills or are bought in developing countries such as Haiti which eradicates local retailing competition.
–There are approximately 5 other human beings involved in supplying your garment before it reaches the shelf.
This knowledge prompts serious questions regarding how we, as individuals, raise awareness and be increasingly clued up on responsible fashion. Efforts by the likes of Melinda Tually, responsible fashion and fair trade consultant and founder of ‘Eco-Age’ and Livia Firth, Global Oxfam Ambassador and founder of the ‘Green Carpet Challenge’ are creating fundamental waves in the sustainability and best practice adopted by retailers on all continents.
Eco-Age is an association that creates sustainable solutions for brands by developing environmental strategies utilising commercial and supply chain opportunities. As an organisation, it leads compelling initiatives in areas such as Columbian Mines, Bangladeshi Factories, and Italian silk mills to raise awareness of best practice.
In line with this ethical organisation is the Green Carpet Challenge, an initiative created to provide a compelling narrative to a brands environmental principles. In a sense, it marries the glamour of luxury fashion with ethics whilst partnering with relevant NGO’s, specialist academic institutions and experts in their respective fields.
Eco Age has partnered with the likes of Stella McCartney, who in 2015 was the first designer to produce an entirely ‘Eco Capsule Collection’. Net-A-Porter with the backing of their then CEO Natalie Massenet, collaborated with Victoria Beckham, Christopher Kane, Roland Mouret, Christopher Bailey and Erdem to create bespoke gowns in 2013 that championed sustainable excellence.
Designers, brands, and initiatives such as these are awarded at the Green Carpet Fashion Awards in Italy. You may have seen this glamorous affair plastered on the Instagram accounts of fashions biggest names only a few weeks ago during Milan Fashion Week, but this is more than simply another society gala dinner. This programme aims to celebrate total provenance and sustainable innovation to actions carried out by the supply chain to preserve sustainable production and innovate towards a lesser footprint.
Awards within the programme include ‘The Art of Craftsmanship’ – awarded to the seamstress of Maison Valentino – and ‘The Best Supply Chain Innovation’ – awarded to Gucci. Supermodel Gisele Bündchen also walked away with the Vogue Eco Laureate Award whilst wearing the prevalent Stella McCartney. With the support of the industry’s most influential figures such as Anna Wintour, this movement is raising much-needed awareness about the impact of fast fashion on all communities involved in supply chains.Corporate reputation has spurred the likes of high street giants H & M to implement collections such as their ‘Conscious Range’ which promotes sustainable style through the usage of recycled and organic materials.
Corporate reputation has spurred the likes of high street giants H & M to implement collections such as their ‘Conscious Range’ which promotes sustainable style through the usage of recycled and organic materials.
But is this really enough? At the heart of this dilemma, is the direct impact that we have as consumers when placing our mass orders from ASOS, Missguided, et al.
Thinking about the prequel and sequel to the story of your purchases before and after they leave the confines of your closet is a message that I hope resonates with our readers.