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Sustainable Fashion

The question to consider is: 'What do I want the clothes I wear to say about me?'

Fair fashion

Fashion is a fun channel for self-expression. But, fashion is also one of the most critical topics to address in the fight against the climate crisis.

To put it bluntly, fast fashion is wreaking havoc on our planet.

Sure, the world of fashion might look shiny and beautiful on the surface. But, beneath all the glitz and glam is a much uglier reality. Laying in wake of all the beautiful designs is a trail of waste and devastation.

A mammoth 11 million items of clothing end up in landfill each week. Thanks to the rise of fast – or throwaway – fashion in the UK, we’re now buying twice as many clothes than we did a decade ago, and more than any other country in Europe.

It’s all too easy for us to buy clothes without really thinking - thinking about where they come from, what materials they’re made of, who made them and under what working conditions. That needs to change.

From the issues posed by fast-fashion to the solutions sustainable fashion provides, we’re here to break down the good, the bad and the ugly to help you start dressing in line with your values…

Ultimately, fashion is all about personal communication, so the question we must ask ourselves is this: ‘what do I want the clothes I wear to say about me?’

What is Fast Fashion?

'Fast fashion' is a term used by the industry to refer to the cheap, trendy clothing that takes ideas from the catwalk and celebrity culture and rolls them out to the high street at ridiculously fast speeds.

The speed and scale at which many brands produce fast fashion comes at a huge cost. Not for us as consumers, given the low price tags we enjoy nowadays. Nor for the celebrities who earn loadsa mullah endorsing fast fashion brands. But, for the people making these clothes and the polluted environments where they are forced to live and work. And that price is a lot higher than you might suspect…

What is sustainable fashion?

Sustainable fashion is the anti-fast fashion ‘slow-fashion’ movement. It's all about clothes that look good, feel good and do good. Sounds... great! Right?

Genuinely sustainably-minded brands and designers care about the impact they are having on the planet. They don’t exploit the environment or abuse human rights in the name of style.

What makes a fashion brand (more) sustainable, you ask?

While no brand in the world can be classed as 100% sustainable, there is a world of difference between those that are genuinely working to improve the fashion industry and those that are profiting from exploitation (while talking about 'progress').

There are a hundred different actions a brand can take to make their clothing more people- and planet-friendly. But, the foundations of sustainable fashion comes down to: having a supply chain where workers are treated and paid fairly, using as eco-friendly production practices and materials as possible, being transparent and crucially, producing less.

That's what we demand of every brand we feature on in our directory. And they love it when we ask they do even more. (Genuinely. It means they know they're in good company.)

Transparency

Why is transparency in the fashion industry so important? Well, the argument is this:

When fashion brands publicly share details of their supply chain – from where they source materials to how these are sewn together and by who – it means they can be held accountable for how their clothes are made.

Transparency also helps us as consumers to ensure our choices really count. With brands being transparent, we can make better, more informed purchasing decisions and are less likely to fall prey to clever marketing (greenwashing).

Greenwashing in fashion

The Cambridge Dictionary definition of greenwashing is: “Behaviour or activities that make people believe that a company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is”.

Clothing brands churn out greenwashing almost as fast as they churn out clothes. So, how can you tell which brands are genuinely doing good things, and which ones are just talking the talk, you ask?

Frankly, it's really hard. So, to help you sniff out the wolves in cheap (geddit?) clothing, we ask the difficult questions and investigate some hard truths…

Three questions to help determine whether a brand is genuine in their pursuit of sustainability or greenwashing...

1.“Codes of Conduct" are a big thing in fashion. These are contracts with the factory which say things like workers should be paid a minimum wage. Often, both the factory and the brand know this is just box-ticking. So, the question is: How are they ensuring these codes are actually enforced? Can they guarantee their workers are paid a minimum (or, ideally, living) wage? Can they guarantee the factory is free from sexual exploitation? The answer, too often, is no.

2.Brands love to bring out a “sustainable” collection, when the bulk of their profits are still made unsustainably. But, at least they’re trying, eh? Nope. Ask: What percentage of all their collections are sustainable? And how much this has increased from previous years.

3.Then of course there’s the fact that fashion brands' business models and advertising campaigns are based on growth – making more and selling more throwaway items, so we can buy more to replace what we have thrown away. The question to ask here is: What plans do they have in place to reduce the amount they produce overall?

Fashion insiders

Who better to learn from than the thought-leaders and founders of small, sustainable independent brands?

They know better than anyone the issues at hand and what it takes to make genuinely ethical and sustainable fashion. After all, their work is pioneering the way towards a more sustainable future – walking the walk, not just talking the talk...

Editor's picks

At first, it can be pretty hard to find stylish and sustainable ethical clothing. But there are some great ethical fashion brands out there, once you know where to look.

Here's some of our favourite sustainable brands that prove that on-trend, stylish design doesn’t need to come at the cost of the earth, our oceans and waterways – or our bank accounts...

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