Fashion & Sustainability
The latest from our House of Colour blogger Fiona Ingham
Just prior to lockdown I wrote a piece about the fashion industry. At that time production and transport were estimated to cause 10% of global carbon emissions and 20% of water waste. A 2017 report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation reported that a garbage truck worth of textiles was wasted every second, with landfill clothes releasing chemical waste. Working conditions in the fashion industry at worst involved slave labour. Production, particularly of cotton and denim, competed for scarce water. Synthetic microfibres ended up in fish.
That feel good feeling...
As a believer in clothes as providing not just ‘warmth and decency’ but as having the ability to contribute to wellbeing and confidence I’m glad to read that a 2019 Euromonitor International consumer survey found that 64% of people now try to have a positive effect on the environment. Maybe this desire has increased during lockdown and certainly the statistics will have changed. By necessity clothes buying has slowed and it’s sad to see the devastating effect on many brands but people have discovered that less is needed, they can ‘shop in their own closet’ for less formal, comfortable clothes. It’s suggested that habits might be permanently changed. Many clients report they want to rein back, buy less, increase each garment’s longevity. Choices were driven largely by aesthetics and price but now eco–credentials are important. The #30wearschallenge makes us ask ‘Will I wear it 30 times?’ before buying. Fast fashion is fading. Second hand is ‘ pre-loved’. Upcycling of fabrics and buying from charity shops or vintage fairs is popular. Brands at all price points offer credit for used clothing. Swishing events recycle and websites such as ‘Rent the Runway’ offer designer hire, whereas Generation Z favours the app Depop to trade clothes.
There’s renewed interest in learning the skills of embellishing that moth-holed cashmere sweater or upcycling that loved but dated dress. Princess Beatrice demonstrated that with minor alterations granny’s pretty dress could look fab and reflect the zeitgeist. With the ’ Make do and Mend’ ethos of the austere 40s being revisited, less frequent dry cleaning, washing clothes at lower temperatures and drying them naturally reduces pollution and synthetic fibres in the oceans, and extends the life of the clothing.
Transparency around a brand’s ethical credentials is increasingly demanded. The App Good on You gives scores, currently for 2500 brands, on: workers’ conditions, effect on the planet, use of animal products. Commitment to UNO Sustainable Development Goals can be checked, or Bureau Veritas, an independent certification agency, rates a brand’s sustainability credentials.
A quick mention of my profession’s contribution to helping eliminate waste. Consider this: 30% of clothes in UK wardrobes hung unworn during 2019! After Colour Analysis clients shop mindfully so that everything is loved and worn. To be able to ‘Dress for Success’ once motivated people to book a session; now it is more likely to be the desire to create a sustainable wardrobe.
Early in 2020 the catwalks in Milan and Paris favoured recycled fabrics and 90% of the materials used in Prada’s catwalk collection were sustainable. Miuccia Prada commented:
‘Sustainability is a buzz subject in our company now. Every time I do something, everybody asks ‘Is it sustainable?’ And it’s incredible how in one year it became kind of a normal thing, so I’m very optimistic at the moment’.
Similar ideas are present in brands at all price points, reacting to consumers wishes. It looks like times really are a changing in the wonderful, complex world of Fashion.
Consistent holder of the House of Colour Star Consultant award each year since 1991 plus the new Double and Triple Star Consultant award for 2020. Winner of the Business Development Award and Team Productivity Award and also a 2017 Livewire Innovation and Excellence Award.
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