Is law the way to sustainable fashion?
This week, I’m bringing you a short from The Fashion Law Chronicles and Cassady Solicitors Sustainable Fashion Talk.
Wednesday night saw a small gathering of fashionistas, designers, lawyers and entrepreneurs for a panel session on sustainability in the fashion industry, hosted by The Fashion Law Chronicles, a platform dedicated to exploring the legal side of fashion and Cassady Solicitors who have specialists in business and start-up law. Panelists included famous eco-fashion warrior and Founder of The Ethical Fashion Forum, Tamsin Lejeune, Olivia Pinnock of the Fashion Debates series, journalist and lecturer and Chinasa Weruzochi, who runs sustainable fashion brand Weruzo.
As ever with these panels, the topic evolves as the audience participates: it was agreed by all that the challenges the fashion industry faces is the business model that has developed, primarily by itself, and been encouraged by consumers. Fashion brands are creating lots of products, that are made quickly and badly, they are selling garments cheaply and making a great profit, consumers are happy about having lots of choice and at low prices and this means that these businesses have lots of power. But this is simply not sustainable. Resources are running out, and at some point this is going to impact business. How can you make a product without the materials to make it?
As an individual business the challenge faced is sustainability as a whole – as a small business, you have to firstly define what sustainability means to you as there is no fixed definition for everyone. Do you tackle waste? Do you source only sustainable fabric? Do you upcycle fabric? Do you use second hand accessories like buttons and zips? Do you look at your carbon footprint? Do you look at your water footprint? Without a definition, and realistically without prioritising the pieces of your impact to tackle one at a time, it can be completely overwhelming. The best place to start is by making this checklist and working through your operations.
It was also agreed that one of the most important things for improving sustainability in the industry is awareness, understanding and educating. If we share our knowledge about sustainability and ethics, we can share out power as consumers to demand change. Consumers like us are already making a bit of a backlash, but we are few and far between amongst a population of nearly 8 billion people.
So the final question we came back around to, after discussing all these issues and their potential solutions was how can the law play a part in this? This question wasn’t really resolved, but left us considering whether regulating manufacturing, carbon footprints and supply chain reporting solve some issues? At first, I think not, as we had European laws on manufacturing in Europe which resulted in businesses moving to China; this was followed by regulatory action in China which led to businesses moving to India and Pakistan. A vicious cycle of moving responsibility.
I love to attend these kind of events, as it gives me faith that there are many like-minded people out there. People who want to see change, are ready to innovate and discuss ideas, collaborate for better and support others. So I would love to hear from you if you have ideas about some solutions to the issues we face with making fashion more sustainable. You can reach out by the email on my contact page or share your thoughts in the comments below!