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Sustainability is a hot topic in fashion at the moment (bravo!). When a term is frequently used (much like the word luxury) it is easy to loose sight of what it truly means. Wikipedia defines sustainable fashion as ‘a movement and process of fostering change to fashion products and the fashion system towards greater ecological integrity and social justice. Sustainable fashion concerns more than addressing fashion textiles or products. It comprises addressing the whole system of fashion.’
Simply put, sustainability is a 360 view. The where, the how, the who, the why, must all be considered together to give a full picture. What I find most interesting to consider, is that fashion is a man-made system. A system in which we the end users are integral, the system can not operate without us. This insight is two-faced, it means we are in-part (mostly unwittingly, fast fashion brands have lots of clever tricks to keep us buying) responsible for the current ethical and environmental issue in the fashion industry. But, it also means that we have the immense power required to force a system change. We can be the game changers.
With help from industry leaders, such as the British Fashion Council who have introduced the Positive Fashion initiative and the Sustainable Fashion Show, we can be. But this is only the start, the system needs a major overhaul.
Firstly, I think we have to think about every brand on a case-by-case basis. Cotton is not simply cotton. Where it is sourced, how it is produced, where the cotton is ultimately turned in to a final product, the authenticity of the marketing message behind that product, and how that product reaches the end user, means that not all cotton is equal. It is the full cycle that is fundamental to whether or not the final product has been sustainably made.
To come back to the question, is fashion sustainability achievable? Living an entirely sustainable life is a hard practice to implement overnight. One that on a personal level, I am still working at. What we can start to do immediately is make the best informed choices possible. Specifically looking at fashion, we can start buying less from brands that perhaps we once coveted for their fast pace collections and easier prices, and make a conscious effort to Buy Less, Buy Better. Personally, I am weeding out the fast or questionable ‘luxury’ fashion from my wardrobe and not replacing it. A rule of thumb for me is, if a brand is not clearly marketing where they are sourcing and making their products (this goes for luxury brands too) or their pricing is suspiciously cheap… I ask myself the question: Why? When making a considered purchase, I spend more time looking behind the marketing to see what the brand truly stands for. Do they really care.
At Padfield, being as sustainable as possible by choosing to work with a natural material and crafting locally in England has been a huge driver for me. I wanted to be in a position to state our provenance clearly, so that our customers never have to ask.
The take away note, I would be hard stretched to think of anyone who is living a 100% sustainable lifestyle 24/7. But perhaps if we all start making firm steps towards living this way, our future generations will not have to ask this question of themselves.