A more conscious sustainable fashion industry badly needs an injection of populism
Safia Minney, the CEO of ethical fashion label People Tree, remarked in a recent article ‘…the reality is that the movement to a more conscious sustainable fashion industry badly needs an injection of populism’. The same problem puzzled me and other ethical fashion advocates at the Ethical Fashion Summit in London on 10th June.
Why is it that today, when we know more about the realities of the supply chain than ever before, we are still not tuning into the concept of ethical fashion in any significant way?
The fashion industry today is worth $3 billion and 200 out of the 500 people on The Forbes rich list made their fortune in the fashion industry. The owners of fast fashion chains H&M and Zara are in the top 10.
It would be easy to go on with statistics about how many millions of tons of polyester are produced every year, how much of it is thrown away and the actual percentage of clothing that we recycle. But while these numbers are shocking and important to be aware of, I’m not sure how much they help in increasing the popularity of ethical fashion.
The problem partly lies with the words ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’. When used in the context of fashion, they have a tendency to cause discomfort.
The Fear of ethics and aesthetics
Back in the day, you could be excused from not wanting to buy ethical fashion – nobody wants to look dowdy even if it means they’re saving the planet. But right now a fashion revolution is happening that will leave not just your conscience beaming but your style glittering too. Ethical isn’t only about provenance of raw materials, it’s about craftsmanship and production. Whether that means a product’s been made locally using local materials or a brand is upcycling or recycling unwanted waste. The stories and concepts behind ethical brands are often as original and desirable as the products themselves.
Join The Reformation
Californian brand Reformation is at the forefront of this fashion revolution. Their limited edition collections are designed, made and sold in their LA premises using sustainably sourced and vintage fabrics. They use renewable energy and recycled hangers too. Join their reformation.
Buying ethical makes you more aware of the unethical
Buying ethical makes you aware of other ‘unethical’ choices you might have made, but neither the industry nor the consumer can or will change overnight. Both, however, are capable of gradually making new and informed choices towards a better fashion future. Andrew Morgan, director of ‘The True Cost’ movie, recently remarked of the film ‘It isn’t meant to bum you out or make you feel guilty about what you wear, it’s supposed to pose the simple idea: There are human beings who make what we wear.’
Listen to Andrew Morgan discuss ‘The True Cost’ movie and the concept behind it here.
Hopefully one day the words ‘fashion’ and ‘ethical’ will be intrinsically linked. In the meantime don’t let it bum you out, but use it as an opportunity for discovery. Next time you’re skimming through those racks of clothing ask yourself: who made my clothes?
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