Takeover Tuesday: Sustainable fashion
Our Account Executive, Jade, covers the importance of sustainability in the fashion world for Fashion Revolution Week and gives some advice on buying preloved clothing, helping us to reduce waste.
What is sustainable shopping?
Sustainable shopping is all about being mindful of the environmental and social impact of the products we buy. It involves choosing products, in this instance clothes, that are made using sustainable materials and follow ethical production practices. To me, it encourages you to be mindful about the way you shop and buy long lasting, quality materials.
It is also about making the effort to reuse materials, purchase second hand, or upcycle – which is the process of upgrading or transforming waste or used fabric. We can also recycle materials to make new fabrics e.g. plastic, or other waste material can be reprocessed into yarn, to be used for making clothes.
Why shopping sustainably is important
Fashion production releases 10% of the world’s carbon emissions, more than international flights and maritime shipping combined. The industry is responsible for 20% of all water pollution worldwide. If it continues its current path, it will produce 26% of the world’s carbon footprint by 2050.
Christopher Raeburn is a 40-year-old designer often credited as a pioneer in upcycling. In his recent interview with Dezeen, he states the entire narrative has changed around sustainable fashion. We now live in an increasingly climate-conscious society with higher expectations from brands: “A lot more people have woken up to the reality of the environment that we live in today” he says. However, despite changes in attitudes towards sustainability, only 1% of recycled clothes are turned back into new garments. Meanwhile, 65% of new clothes end up in landfill within 12 months.
What is fast fashion?
Fast fashion refers to the practice of quickly and mass-producing popular designs at a low cost. Low-cost clothes are often of poor quality so do not last and are discarded faster creating tons of waste. In the UK, we buy more clothes per person than any other country in Europe. As clothes are produced cheaply, this often means low wages and poor working conditions for garment workers so they are also unethical. But thankfully people are waking up to the impact of fast fashion, and many people are now buying vintage and second-hand clothing instead of new clothes from fast fashion brands - before the pandemic, charity shop sales had increased four-fold from £133m to £732m in 20 years! But this doesn’t mean we need to stop raising awareness of how damaging our shopping habits can be.
What is greenwashing?
With the UK government committing to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 the term ‘greenwashing’ has become a hot topic in the retail world. It is where companies make false or misleading statements about their environmental credentials, whether unintentionally or as a deliberate marketing strategy. It is important to highlight fashion brands positively reporting down cycling plastic bottles into clothes as this is in fact an environmentally ‘destructive’ practice and will not solve fashion’s waste crisis. You can find out more here.
Which brands are leading the way for sustainable fashion?
Patagonia use sustainable materials in their outwear but also help customers repair their clothing instead of buying new items. They follow fair-trade practices and closely monitor their supply chain to make it safe for the environment, workers, and consumers.
Denim is notorious for requiring huge amounts of water to create one pair of jeans, but Levi’s have introduced a new collection, Water<Less, that uses up to 96% less water. They are committed to sustainability through the entire design and manufacturing process.
3. H&M Conscious
H&M are one high street brand moving away from its fast fashion roots with their Conscious collection, made of materials like organic cotton and recycled polyester. Customers can also recycle unwanted garments at H&M stores and get a discount for a future purchase. But is this just another fast fashion brand jumping on the sustainability bandwagon… It is important to mention that the number of ads banned due to greenwashing has tripled in just one year. Yes, H&M are investing in these “conscious ranges”, but realistically, the range is likely to equate to a tiny percentage of the retailer’s full clothing and accessories line. Arguably, this can be seen as only token gestures to draw people in through greenwashing, for fear of not being seen as sustainable. Something to bear in mind when wanting to make more conscious decisions when shopping on the high street.
Are sustainable clothes expensive?
Buying quality clothes made from sustainable materials and in high-end factories can be expensive but if they last longer then they should be seen as investment – a good quality basic is a staple for your wardrobe and will more than likely be a unique long-lasting piece you will end up reaching for all the time.
But, if you are on a budget, you can shop second hand through charity shops or buying & selling apps like Vinted and Depop where you can find quality goods for much cheaper. Last year, I managed to find a Burberry trench coat in a charity shop in Yorkshire which cost me a tenth of the price of a new one and is something I will treasure for years to come.
Buying & Selling Apps
Apps like Vinted and Depop can make it very easy to buy lots of clothes at a low cost, but they are a much better alternative to fast fashion brands such as Boohoo and Asos as not only are the clothes second hand, you can also sell your own clothes when you no longer need them – it almost becomes a clothes swapping service, selling your clothes to get money to buy new ones, so you don’t have an unnecessary amount of clothes in your wardrobe which you never wear. This “one out, one in” policy is something I now live by for my own clothes.
But, for some people, it can be overwhelming trying to shop on second hand apps as there are so many clothes to choose from, a lot of people say it is much easier to use when you know exactly what you’re looking for, but I don’t think this always has to be the case. A big tip is to refine your results as much as possible, as there are so many brands available, you may not know the exact brand of the skirt you would like to buy, but if you refine your results to the style of the skirt you’re looking for, the size, the colour etc. you will be faced with less options and are more likely going to find a skirt that matches the description you had in mind all along. You might then find you are drawn to clothes from certain brands so you can search by these brands in the future. A few of my favourite brands include Karen Millen, Laura Ashley, Next and Lacoste. Great quality clothing, at very cheap prices!
So next time you are looking to refresh you wardrobe, why not head to your local charity shop, go on Vinted, or do a clothes swap with a friend? You will be saving money as well as helping to save the planet.