Updated: Oct 26, 2019
Rachel P Blake is our resident sustainable fashion expert. A commercial and personal stylist with a background in Fashion Design, Rachel also works as Style Editor on Circus Journal, a creative magazine with quarterly editions in Bath and Bristol. Rachel is lending her expertise to Fashion & Fairytale by facilitating assemblies and lessons on sustainable fashion, supporting our work with Mentoring Plus and judging final design competition entries in 2020.
No one can ignore the effect fast fashion is having on the planet. Locally, the ecosystem surrounding unregulated factories suffers catastrophic effects due to the vast amount of untreated pollutants filtering into the water, while globally, an incredible quantity of unwanted synthetic clothing is ending up in landfill every year, (the UK alone sends 11 million items to landfill EVERY WEEK). Not to mention the workers and communities exploited as a result of the West's insatiable appetite for quick-fix, cheap clothing.
Fast-fashion giants place increasing pressure on far-eastern factories to produce quicker runs and cheaper garments, encouraging more environmentally and socially damaging practices, all to satisfy us - the consumer.
Many high-end designers are now introducing more sustainable fabrics into their collections and big brands are cottoning on to our appetite for greener garments by adding more ‘environmentally conscious’ lines to their collections, but how green are they really?
The term ‘greenwashing’ was coined in the 1980s: the practice of companies making misleading claims to appear more environmentally friendly than they really are. Can a company really claim to be sustainable if they make their garments from organic cotton that’s dyed in a far-eastern factory using non-eco-friendly dyes and then flown half-way across the world to the consumer? Does using recycled polyester count as being sustainable when all polyester products emit micro-plastics into the water system with every wash? What does sustainable even look like?
For a company to be truly sustainable, there would have to be absolutely no impact to the environment in the making of the garments.
You can immediately see the difficulties multi-national companies have in changing their practices compared to smaller independent companies when there are so many cogs in the wheel, but herein lies the problem; large brands must take a holistic approach and change the whole fast-fashion model rather than pay lip-service with their capsule collections, and that’s not going to change anytime soon if we all keep feeding the monster. Choosing not to buy is the most sustainable thing we can do as the consumer.
However, if you can’t resist a purchase or two, there are some great websites and apps that let you check on a brand's sustainable credentials.
My favourites are:
- Fashion Revolution is a body of industry professionals calling for transparency and accountability in the fashion industry. Their website encourages consumer participation in calling out brands, and also has a useful Fashion Transparency Index that rank the biggest 200 global fashion brands according to how much they disclose about ‘social and environmental policies, practices and impact’.
- Good On You has some great ideas on how to shop better and a Brand Directory where companies are rated according to their sustainable credentials. They base their judgements on the 2018 Ethical Fashion Report and their own research. You can also download the app to check brands on-the-go. Although the site is US based, there are hundreds of UK-based brands and its also a great way to check out ethical brands you may not have heard of before.