Sustainable Style. So much more than a charity shop.

3 September 2021

‘As consumers we have so much power to change the world by just being careful with what we buy’ 

Emma Watson – Actress

It’s true we do have so much power.
This fast, throwaway idea of fashion is only there because of our demand for it, enhanced by advertising and social media constanly telling us there is a new ‘must have’ item.
If we change our need and hunger for this type of shopping then surely the demand will be less and the big brands that have the most power to make change will listen.

For those of you who know my business, sustainability is a core value to myself and my brand.

  • With over 15 years working in the retail industry for fast fashion brands such as Zara and French Connection, to high end luxury brand Ralph Lauren, where as a Visual Manager I was responsible for how their stores looked globally….I have seen different sides to the industry.
  • Style to me is not about how trendy you are or how current the item you are wearing is.
    • A ‘trend’ is not a personal style
    • I will actively encourage you to shop from your wardrobe for sustainability and to me, that is where your true style already is.

And as an ambassador for organisation Wardrobe Foundation helping to offer preloved style, support and advice in a sustainable and ethical way – Sustainable Style is more to me than just a hashtag.

So what actually is Sustainable Style?

Sustainable style is essentially a collective term for the current movement that is experiencing increased conversation and awareness around the impact the fashion, particularly that nasty phrase Fast Fashion,  which is having on our planet. Within that term we have:

So what I am to do in this blog is give you a quick overview of these 3 main areas as in my opinion this conversation is only going to get louder and more prominent because things have to change.

So let’s start with….Ethical Fashion

Ethical Fashion is used in reference to the ethics used within the design, production, retail and purchasing of the fashion industry.
For example:

  • Working conditions for factory workers both in the UK and abroad.
  • Exploitation of all staff within an organisation.
  • Fair trade.
  • Sustainable production – for example; Cotton manufacturing, one of the world’s most polluting fabrics – it takes approximately 1,800 gallons of water to grow enough cotton to form just one pair of jeans!!!
  • Environment and Animal welfare – products tested on animals, or farmed to supply fur, leather, collagen etc.

Most brands should ‘in theory’ should be using these as standard barometers for their production however obviously with profit margins vs overheads to consider sometimes these can be the first things to slip.
A lot of brands will also give you markers for how they are being ‘sustainable’.  Most online brands will have a section where they outline how they are reducing their emissions, whether their cotton was organic…blah blah blah.

Double check this.

Because they could be ‘Greenwashing’ you.
No not a term for using original fairy liquid for your daily shower….

More a term used to describe when a company is putting a whiter than white ‘eco’ image out there when really they are creating a false impression and their claims are not actually substantiated.

Next up is…..Slow Fashion

So Slow Fashion is a term we are definitely more familiar with!

It is Fast Fashion’s enemy! It is a term being used more and more with campaigns like #secondhandseptember and hundreds of hashtags on Instagram based around the idea.

Slow fashion really started with charity shops, the original mecca apart – from a boot fair or specific vintage market – where you would shop preloved and more often that not find some little gem’s!
It has now progressed into secondhand boutique shops, merchandised beautifully, creating the same shopping experience you would expect to find in a high end luxury boutique but instead of the designer labels coming off the catwalk, they have come from someone’s wardrobe, being sold to give new lease of life to the once treasured item.

People are becoming more comfortable shopping preloved but it can still be overwhelming for some. With the likes of Vinted, Depop and the original EBay making it easy to sofa shop secondhand, the idea you cannot send it back for a refund understandably still putting women off making that final purchase.

Seventy-five percent of fashion supply chain material ends up in landfills. This amounts to ‘the equivalent of one rubbish truck of textiles per second.’”

Pulse of the Fashion Industry 2018 Report

That is a scary amount of rubbish. To me though, the even scarier thing is you will most likely read this and then get lured by a new Zara drop email or buy a new dress for your date night this weekend when you have loads already.
That’s why I harp on about loving your wardrobe – honestly, and I promise this, you would save so much money (and CO2 emissions) if you knew how to shop your wardrobe as well as you did the Zara website!

And finally ….Sustainable Fashion

Sustainable fashion is the way forward. There I said it.

Sustainable fashion is the ideal that requires change to the WHOLE industry.

  • The products
    • Fibres, materials sustainably sourced and produced.
    • Fewer animal products used.
  • The processes/production
    • Carbon neutral factories, minimal wastage, less supply & demand.
  • Greater ecological integrity
    • Change in attitude within the fashion industry & ‘trends’
    • Consumers to be more sustainable and less greedy with our shopping demands.
    • Brands to be more aware of their marketing and their role in fuelling this greed.
  • Social justice
    • Fair trade
    • Safer working conditions for factory workers
    • Equality
    • Fair wages and welfare

Don’t get me wrong I still shop new and will continue to do so.
I love going shopping on the high street and trying things on, flicking through rails and window browsing. As a previous visual merchandiser the high street will forever have a special place in my heart.
But by making small changes to the way we shop and from my point of view taking the time to get to know our wardrobes (there she goes again I hear you say!) and really understanding our own personal style then when we do go shopping, we can shop smarter, buy what we know we will wear and love rather than wear once, stuff in back of drawer then throw it out when next have a clear out.

So there we have it. My little breakdown of the 3 buzz words around Sustainable fashion and what they mean.
I hope this helped you!

I started on a quote so I will finish on one.  The original Eco Queen of the fashion industry….

Let’s keep changing those mindsets.


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