By Madeleine Mamak
We all know that our precious planet is under threat, and we all know that we need to act fast. But what some people may not realise is that an effective way to speed up the planet’s recovery is to slow down our fashion. Fast fashion is a term that I’ve heard thrown about all the time, but it wasn’t until I did some research that I actually understood just how damaging it is. The fashion industry is the third most polluting industry on the planet, and the second greatest polluter and consumer of water. Nevertheless, it doesn’t have to be this way. And there are many brands, both luxury and affordable, that prove this.
A friend of mine, Delphi, works at a sustainable fashion shop on Regent Street, London, called Bottletop. This luxury fashion brand makes beautiful bags from upcycled bottle tops and uses plastic free packaging as well as zero deforestation leather. I believe that it’s so important to spread the existence of such a shop, because it shows that sustainability and luxury can actually go hand in hand. Those who love and indulge in fashion should be aware of the existence of companies who maintain the style and beauty of the products, but also have sustainability at the forefront of their decisions. We shouldn't have to choose one or the other. An important aspect of the Bottletop brand is that all its products hold a message. It’s not only about aesthetic - it’s fashion with a deeper meaning. When discussing the importance of the brand, Delphi introduced me to the concept of a #TOGETHERBAND. She explained how “at Bottletop we started a campaign called #TOGETHERBAND. There are seventeen bands, all of a different colour, which each align with one of the UN global goals for sustainable development. The bands are made out of ocean plastic and recycled illegal fire arms to fulfil the aim of no waste”.
So, not only is 1kg of plastic removed from the marine environment if you buy as few as one of these bands, but each helps combat one of the UN global goals. Just some of the goals the bands represent include Quality Education, as well as Clean Water and Sanitation. Delphi also explained that “all the profit goes towards the goals”. Raising awareness of brands like Bottletop can demonstrate how sustainability and high fashion don’t have to be in conflict. We can and should seek to combine both. Fashion doesn’t just have to look good, it can help spread an important ethos too.
On a similar note, the clothing brand Reformation is very popular at the moment. This womenswear brand also promotes sustainable clothing with a message. This is a message of the importance of both sustainability and celebrating the ‘feminine figure’. 75% of Reformation’s clothes are made with natural, plant based, and recycled fibres. The rising cooperation between the planet and high fashion doesn’t stop there though, with designers such as Stella McCartney branding the fashion industry as “incredibly wasteful”, showing that there is a growing and legitimate awareness of the industries impacts within mainstream fashion.
However, I know that many of these ethical companies are, understandably, a bit out of our price range as students. Many even argue that sustainable fashion is a thing of privilege, but while this may be the case with Bottletop and Reformation, we can start at the more affordable end. There are lots of ways that we can be sustainable for less, and many of us are likely to already incorporate these alternatives into our everyday lives:
Don’t think fast, think timeless
Re-wear and buy less. It’s often the fact we don’t have the item in question that makes the potential purchase even more attractive. So try to be wary of the dangerous ‘must-have’ items, as losing interest in an item after you buy it can have a lot more impact than you may realise. As Gianni Versace once said, “Don’t be into trends”.
Leeds Community Clothes Exchange in Woodhouse Community Centre hosts great clothes swaps, or even closer to home, clothes swaps sometimes take place in our very own Leeds University Union.
Check the purchase
Before buying something new, have a quick glance at the label. Synthetic materials are known for being detrimental to the environment for multiple reasons. So, keep an eye out for what materials your clothes are made of.
Second hand clothes
Not only will this provide you with a more unique wardrobe, but also a far wider scope of styles and brands to shop from too. You can go to Leeds Kilo sales, charity shops or even just download the Depop app.
Don’t be fooled by ‘conscious’ brands
We have to be realistic. Perhaps from time to time we will want to buy something new and ultimately have to choose the fast fashion route. The one thing I would urge you to do in this case, is not to be fooled by ‘sustainable’ sections of extremely unethical brands. H&M, for example, has a ‘conscious’ range, which aims to reduce use of damaging chemicals. However, it is still very much fast fashion. As a brand fast fashion, regardless of how ‘conscious’ the range is, it is, overall, unsustainable. I would personally recommend the website https://goodonyou.eco. Here you can see what brands truly are and aren’t making an effort to combat issues surrounding sustainability and ethics.
As we’ve seen, fashion doesn’t just have to be about aesthetics, and can present a much deeper meaning. Be proud of what you’re wearing by sending out a message of support to our planet with the pieces in your wardrobe. As once voiced by Miuccia Prada,“What you wear is how you present yourself to the world, especially today”. So, make sure you are proud of the messages that your clothes are sending.