When was the last time you paid attention to sustainable fashion and the global effect fashion has on our environment? Were you aware that fashion is the third most polluting industry in the world after oil and agriculture? We all play a key role, whether we're just consumers at the bottom of the chain or whether we're manufacturers towards the top, it doesn't matter.
What exactly is Sustainable Fashion? Also known as ethical fashion or eco fashion, it is part of the growing trend of sustainability. Processes consider the ethical and environmental impact on the planet and other human beings from creating and manufacturing a product. Sustainable fashion aims to produce garments using fabrics that are sourced sustainably, produced within an ethical process (high street stores, are you listening) and will last longer thanks to a high quality. The entire cycle of a garment from its design to potential uses and lifespan is considered in order for it to be classified as sustainable fashion.
There is a global movement named the "Fashion Revolution" with teams in over 90 countries around the world. It is changing the way brands and consumers look at their clothes and focus on the need for greater transparency in the fashion supply chain. Their objective was to make us question, "who made my clothes?" In 2014, 2015 and 2016 millions of people around the world called on brands to answer the question Who Made My Clothes? The hashtag #whomademyclothes was the no.1 global trend on Twitter. The influence this movement had was phenomenal, but they aren't the first, nor the last to take a stance on ethical fashion.
From the Primark 'cry for help' scandal that arose a few years ago to Zara’s accused of 'slave labour' in Brazil in 2011, should we continue buying from such establishments that continue to violate human rights? Should I even have to ask? Lets begin with Zara. In one of their workshops, a worker revealed that a pair of Zara jeans, which in South America is sold for roughly £90 has a working cost of £0.90. This sum is divided equally between all the people involved in the production of the product, which on the case of the pair of jeans takes about seven individuals... You work that out. Take into account that this was around half a decade ago and working conditions have improved, but that doesn't mean that we should disregard it entirely. Recently, it was found that some high street brands like Zara, H&M and Levi Jeans have been sourcing material from highly pollutive factories in Asia. Certain factories are dumping highly toxic wastewater into local waterways, destroying marine life and exposing workers and local populations to harmful chemicals that have been linked to an increased risk of cancer. The list goes on and on and on.
Thats for Fast Fashion retailers, now what about Luxury Fashion houses? I found an interesting thread on the so-called secret factory that some famous brands use like Hermes, Chanel and Louis Vuitton. Weren't we always made to believe that every single designer product was handcrafted by a trained craftsman? So then why are we seeing a machine create a majority of the product and then being finalised by a factory worker? Manufacturing seems to be the best kept secret in the fashion industry. It's been reported that some products baring "made in Italy" and "made in France" labels have actually been manufactured in China, Indonesia or other east asian countries. A decade ago, Burberry announced that it intends to close its production plant in Treorchy and relocate in Asia or South America, where the labour costs are known to be significantly lower. A touch of hypocrisy in Burberry's "Made in Britain" appeal if you ask me.
Now onto the other side of the movement, which designers and fashion houses are working to help our current ecological situation? Our mother of sustainability is Stella McCartney. In McCartney's RTW Spring/Summer 2018 collection that was showcased at Paris Fashion Week last month, she continued her sustainable pursuit with the use of organic cotton, recyclable bags and synthetic leathers. She is still very much engulfed in her low-impact, green-leaning ethos! Their major campaign in 2017 was shot in a landfill. Yes... a landfill. But were we surprised? Of course not. There is a clear connection with her ethos and her beliefs in sustainability so therefore, a very intelligent marketing strategy for her brand. "The idea we had with this campaign is to portray who we want to be and how we carry ourselves; our attitude and collective path," McCartney said in a release. "Our man-made constructed environments are disconnected and unaware of other life and the planet which is why there is waste." Check out McCartney's Winter 2017 Campaign film below.
Viktor & Rolf Couture surprised us in 2016 year when they presented their couture collection made from scraps of recycled fabrics. Couture is usually handmade in a Parisian or Italian atelier as they are one-of-a-kind pieces, but Viktor & Rolf took things to another level in terms of sustainability. "Their last two collections have been completely up-cycled using only vintage dead stock fabrics," Hearst explains. Should the future of couture follow in their footsteps? Another notable designer is Vivienne Westwood, who released ethical fashion initiative bags that have been said to be handmade with 'love' in Nairobi. Like she is quoted saying, "BUY LESS. CHOOSE WELL.” This empowers manufactures and craftsmen to an international value chain, this opportunity will provide them with an income. All bags have been created using recycled canvas, reused roadside banners, unused leather off-cuts and recycled brass produced in one of Nairobi's biggest slums.
The founder of Brother Vellies, Aurora James, had the intent of starting an ethically-minded company that produced sustainable products that lasted a lifetime. If you love shoes, handbags and sustainability, Brother Vellies may be your favourite new brand! The brand has a very strong ethos with sustainability and openly shares their ethical production methods, which can usually be seen on James' Instagram. As someone who wants to further my own fashion brand, I hope to use her ethos and mindset to create an ethical brand that only uses 100% sourced materials.