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Steps towards sustainability

All Areas > Health & Beauty > Vintage & Sustainable Fashion

Author: Lynda Rowland, Posted: Tuesday, 27th October 2020, 09:10

It was in the latter part of the 20th century that the concept of sustainability first came to prominence in the fashion industry. At the same time as the the idea of ethically produced clothing was beginning to be talked about in the industry generally, the craze for fast fashion was, ironically, also growing.

It is hard to reconcile prices such as £10 for a dress, with the concept of the company producing it paying its workforce a living wage and providing them with decent, safe working conditions.

Despite setting up a new role of Director of Sustainability in 2019, recent legal and commercial enquiries still revealed many failings in online retail giant Boohoo’s monitoring of its supply chain and working practices, with those involved coming to the uncomfortable conclusion that the people at the top of some fast fashion empires must be simply turning a blind eye to bad practices.

Conscious shopping can still be affordable

Shopping sustainably does not have to mean spending a fortune though. High street store H&M is promising to have all their merchandise made from recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030, and in the meantime they will be running a line called Conscious alongside their main range. Conscious garments already contain at least 50% of recycled or organic fabrics and the selection offers everything from underwear, through jeans and jackets, and maternity wear too, at very affordable prices.

There is a separate Conscious section in the shops, but the garments can be identified easily by their green tags. Let’s hope the company stays true to its promise and continues to research new technologies and innovations to roll out the sustainability ethos across all its stores.

Creating long-lasting and low impact products

Slightly higher up the price ladder is the ethically sound brand, Toast. From next year Toast aims to publish their own Social Conscience Report biannually. Toast puts ‘community’ at the centre of its company philosophy and aims to collaborate with their suppliers, producers, and customers to create long-lasting and low impact products. In an effort to encourage the ‘circular economy’ they have launched a repair service, produce a smaller collection with less styles each season, and run mending and sewing workshops in many stores.

Online fashion retailer Baukjen has signed The Fashion Pact – a coalition of garment businesses with the objective of addressing the fashion industry’s impact on the environment. The companies involved are committed to taking action across climate change, biodiversity restoration, and protection of the oceans. Commendably, they are also a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, whose vision is to form a clothing, footwear and textiles industry which produces no unnecessary harm and has a positive impact on the people and communities that are associated with its activities.

At the leading edge of forward-thinking technology

At the luxury end of the market, Stella McCartney is a great advocate of ethical and sustainable practices. Fully committed to human and animal rights, her collections include no fur or leather and she uses organic cotton, re-engineered cashmere, ethically sourced wool and recycled textiles.

Re-engineered cashmere involves using waste from virgin cashmere processing which, due to high demand, is damaging local environments. The large number of goats which are bred to produce virgin cashmere is having a very damaging effect on grasslands in countries such as Mongolia. Stella McCartney’s resources mean she is at the leading edge of forward-thinking technology and the production and use of alternative fabrics.

Stella McCartney is also a member of the Ethical Trading Initiative, which encourages brands to select their fabrics and suppliers with an eye to ethical practices and sustainability.

Hopefully, if other high-end brands join her in leading from the top, we will begin to see more mindful and socially conscious clothing coming to the fore, and less fast-fashion brands whose eyes seem to be on stratospheric profits to the detriment of the planet and their workforce.

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