Sustainability Sunday #37

Reusable hydration is in! 

The weather’s hotting up here in London and the ever-caring TFL have started releasing tannoy notifications on tubes and buses to make sure you always carry a bottle of water in the heat. 

Every year, on average each person in the UK uses 170 disposable plastic bottles. Not only does it take 162g of oil and seven litres of water to manufacture a single one litre disposable PET bottle but the reality of their end of life is very destructive: piled on landfill, littering the environment and floating in our oceans. 

To help you make the switch from single-use to reusable bottles, here’s my guide to the top 5 re-usable,  sustainable and stylish water bottles:

1. Selfridges SIGG bottle:

BPA-free and made from aluminium, Selfridges have their own Project Ocean design of the SIGG bottle to help raise awareness of the issue we have with plastic waste in the oceans. 

2. Yuhme water bottles: 

Eco-friendly, reusable and made from sugarcane. For every bottle purchased Yuhme work with a water access partner to give the equivalent of 6 bottles of water to people in water-scarce areas of Africa.

3. Jerry Bottle: 

Eco-friendly, with a reclaimed bamboo lid, 100% of Jerry Bottle’s profits go to fund water projects around the world to campaign against single-use plastic bottle pollution.

4. Klean Kanteen’s collection

BPA-free, and made of stainless steel, Klean Kanteen support and work with a variety of organisations that tackle plastic pollution, educate young people and conserve the environment. 

5. Chilly’s Green reusable bottle: 

Stylish and sustainable this one is my favourite! Chilly’s have combined the ultimate design with their mission to make reusable the norm to form an aesthetically pleasing but practical bottle.
So remember kids, stay happy, hydrated and sustainable! ūüíßūüćíūüĆä

Sustainability Sunday #35

Copenhagen Fashion Summit: in review. Have we got commitment to change?

In response to the planet‚Äôs growing population, expected to exceed 8.5 billion by 2030, garment production will increase by 63%. In light of this, this year’s Copenhagen Fashion Summit gave one key call to action:¬†asking¬†fashion brands and retailers to adopt circular systems.

A circular system for fashion is the collection, reuse and recycling of garments, bringing¬†them back into the manufacturing process so that the majority of textiles¬†no longer goes to landfill. Pioneering high street retailer, H&M, have communicated their aim¬†to operate under a fully circular model by 2030, only using recycled materials in its garment production. It’s no mean feat, yet I hope that they might set an example to other fast fashion retailers.

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The lengthy 9-hour day of discussions was documented both online as a livestream, and across social media with lots of Twitter and Instagram activity from the attendees, so here are 4 things we’ve discovered from the day:

1. Adopting circular systems is paramount

Putting a large percentage of existing garments into a reuse and recycling loop will significantly reduce waste, and gets us part way to solving other issues like the huge volume of resource put into producing new clothing for every season. Reducing seasonal volume will take a long time to filter into retail strategies, so whilst this works its way in closing the loop on existing products will begin to shift away from the resulting enormous amount of waste. By the end of the Summit on Thursday many of the brands attending, including Inditex, H&M, Adidas, Kering, M&S and Bestseller had all signed a commitment to accelerate a circular business model. Their signature on the Call to Action for a Circular Fashion System means they have committed to creating a circular strategy against which they will set 2020 targets and will report on their progress.

2. Collaboration between stakeholders across the industry is important for moving forward

There are lots of initiatives being put in place by fashion retailers, manufacturers, NGOs and industry bodies and whilst implementing ethics and sustainability programmes is good, for the industry as a whole this forms a very fractured plan. This is where the Global Fashion Agenda (organisers of the Summit) comes into play Рbuilding a collaborative approach to tackling the issues. Competition between brands can be rife, but working together on best practice for an industry-wide issue is the only way to move forward.

3. Educating and listening to younger generations is key

Budding designers have a lot of remit to bring sustainability to the forefront of fashion design; as a generation of environmentally educated and forthright young people it is important that they are both aware that having a positive effect on the planet is crucial, and that they can be¬†responsible for finding solutions. The selected members of the Youth Fashion Summit were given the opportunity to present their own ideas at this year’s summit – a draft for the first-ever UN resolution on fashion.

4. We must work to change consumer attitudes to sustainable fashion

There is a rumour, that you may have heard, that a sustainable garment has been compromised on design and/or quality. FALSE. The real sacrifices are time and profit, however the fashion industry is both sat in a wealthy buffer of profit, and immensely influential therefore these two “sacrifices” are potentially easily absorbed. Brands such as People Tree and Alternative Apparel, as well as in-brand collections such as H&M’s Conscious Collection proves that ethical clothing can be made just as fashionable as fast fashion clothing, with just a minor step-up in price to the consumer. In the words of Roland Mouret, we need to “make sustainable sexy, and every woman will buy it.”

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Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2017

This year’s theme: Commitment to Change

Tomorrow (11th May 2017) is Copenhagen’s annual Fashion Summit: a large gathering of fashion and sustainability professionals and influencers; it’s an important event for how the industry can move into a more sustainable space. Through a series of presenter sessions, networking break-outs and closed-door meetings the aim is to¬†create a common understanding and obtain¬†industry-wide commitment on the most critical issues facing the fashion industry and the planet.

Importantly, this year there will be a younger generation of attendees – more than 100 top students from the Youth Fashion Summit will attend and present the next generation’s views and ideas for the future of the industry. This younger generation, although I am desperately trying to still class myself as part of it, is crucial¬†for an increasing positive¬†change. More than ever, these are a generation of people who want to do something good for the world, have a more holistic understanding of what the impacts on the planet are, and have ideas about what solutions they’d like to see in place.

Although only in it’s 5th year, in recent years we’ve learned a lot from the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, to highlight just a few things:

  • There is more demand than ever for ethical fashion – confirmed by the likes of high street brands H&M and ASOS.com as well as higher-end brands like Stella McCartney.
  • The next generation are key – increasingly universities are offering degrees in sustainability-related topics and with some specifically offering sustainable fashion degrees (e.g. ESMOD Berlin’s MA Sustainability in Fashion¬†& UAL’s ‚Äď MA Fashion and the Environment).
  • It’s not just the production of garment – more and more brands emphasize the effects of washing and drying clothes, unnecessary 60¬į washing instructions are now a thing of the past.
  • Campaigning works – demonstrated recently by the #whomademyclothes campaign, individuals, brands and celebrities are all getting involved, sharing awareness and changing the demand on brands and their transparency. At the 2014 Summit, Livia Firth strode on stage before her presentation and proceeded to turn her jacket inside out to demand greater knowledge about who made her clothes.

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This year, speakers will include Simon Platts, Director of Sourcing at ASOS.com, Journalist Lucy Siegle, Founder & Creative Director at Eco-Age, Livia Firth and Daniella Vega, Director of Sustainability at Selfridges to name just a few. You’ll be able to follow the activity on Twitter (@CphFashSummit¬†) and through the hashtag¬†¬†on both Twitter and Instagram.

As an individual, sometimes you’re unsure about what you can do as the decisions really seem to be made higher up the corporate chain. However, many of us forget our power as consumers – what we demand, eventually collectively is recognised by retailers. With enough of us standing together, fashion follows our favours. The very best you can do is continue to support brands who are acting sustainably and ethically, keep asking those who aren’t to be better, and to consider our own shopping (and hoarding!) habits – do we need to buy something new? Do we ever wear that pair of jeans any more?

In essence, the goal for this Summit is to have tangible outcomes and reasonable calls to action in supply chain, sourcing, design, production and end of life. Whilst we need brands to make changes internally, we should all do our bit to be part of the movement.

Sustainability Sunday #34

Fashion Revolution 2017: in review

Which brands opened up to the #whomademyclothes campaign and why is it so important that they do? 

When the Rana Plaza garment factory collapsed in 2013, it took some fashion brands weeks to work out whether they had links to the factories involved. To have such little knowledge of where your own products come from is unacceptable, yet frighteningly common as the recent Channel 4 Dispatches documentary Undercover: Britain’s Cheap Clothes revealed. So which of our favourite brands CAN tell us where our clothes are made?

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I personally engaged Topshop via Instagram, I have a couple of pairs of their “Jamie” jeans in different styles, and love them because they fit my size 10 butt and my age 10 legs at the same time. But, I have no idea where they came from, they don’t even have a “Made in….” label and Topshop are yet to respond to my query.

 

This year, as far as I can see across social media, our most open high street brands include H&M, Levi’s, Zara and Adidas which fits pretty well with last year’s trends according to Fashion Revolution and Ethical Consumer’s joint Fashion Transparency Index Report. These brands are also those that typically have sustainability or CSR strategies that aim to tackle supply chain issues; in contrast, those brands that have been reluctant to get involved in the #whomademyclothes campaign are typically the luxury fashion houses where sustainability is barely considered. Chanel, along with Dior, was ranked the lowest in the Fashion Transparency Index with a score of just 10% transparency and three years on from my first involvement with Fashion Revolution I am still asking Burberry who made my clothes.

So what can we do now? 

  • Continue to nag the worst offenders via social media and their direct contact options
  • Continue to support your favourite high street brands that ARE doing something, support the demand for ethical choices
  • Find new brands who are completely ethical and sustainable from the beginning – check out marketplaces like Gather & See online, or little shops like The Keep Boutique and Bias Boutique in London or Junk Shop in Manchester.

When you’re shopping:

Fairtrade cotton farmers, Mali
Photo credit: Simon Rawles
  • Look for companies who practice Fair Trade, which means providing fair wages to local workers and treating them with dignity and respect in a safe, healthy workplace.
  • Choose organic cotton when you can – the production process uses no harmful pesticides or synthetic dyes, keeping the environment safe and free from pollution.
  • Support companies who are Certified B Corps (Benefit Corporations) – these are businesses who care about healthy environments and alleviating poverty. Some examples include Patagonia, Reformation and MUD Jeans.

Why is this so important?

Let me hit you with the facts:

  1. 90% of the 75 million people working in fashion and textiles worldwide are unable to negotiate their working conditions or wages.
  2. An estimated 350,000 tonnes of used clothing goes to landfill just in the UK every year Рthis is about £140 million worth!
  3. Many of the clothes we wear contain toxic additives, which apart from getting into our skin when we wear our clothes, is particularly harmful for those working on creating them.
  4. 50% of all clothing is now made from polyester to feed the fast fashion collection turnovers, polyester is not biodegradable and will take approximately 200 years to breakdown in landfill.
  5. The clothing industry releases 2.1 million tons of carbon dioxide every year which amounts to 10% of all carbon pollution (ref.).

So Be Curious, Find Out and Do Something!

Sustainability Sunday #16

FYIs for Fashion Revolution Week

On 24 April 2013, 1,134 people were killed and over 2,500 were injured when the Rana Plaza complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh. That’s when Fashion Revolution was born.

On 18-24 April, Fashion Revolution Week will bring people from all over the world together to use the power of fashion to change the story for the people who make the world’s clothes and accessories. Awareness is raised by encouraging people to ask brands #whomademyclothes with the questions and responses shared across communication channels internationally.

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Here’s a few things to think about¬†ahead of Fashion Revolution Week:

  • What’s the point? The aim is to¬†bring everyone in the fashion value chain together and help to raise awareness of the true cost of fashion, show the world that change is possible, and celebrate all those involved in creating a more sustainable future.
  • How many countries take part in Fashion Revolution? Over 80 countries take part in either asking brands who made their clothes, or telling brands which clothes they made.
  • Why does transparency matter? It encourages people to think differently about what they are wearing. If you had to make a garment yourself, you’d want to be making it in a comfortable environment right?
  • What are the environmental impacts of clothes? It takes nearly 3,000 litres of water to make just on t-shirt, that’s roughly the amount we drink over three years. Coloured clothes pollute land and water through the use of chemical dyes.
  • What happens to waste? Unbeknownst to many, waste begins at the very beginning – it’s estimated that we make 400 billion metres squared of textiles annually, 60 billion metres squared goes immediately to cutting room floor waste; nylon and leather can take up to 40 years to decompose in landfill AND 95% of discarded clothing can be recycled or upcycled.
  • What should you know that you probably don’t?
    • Fashion is the second most environmentally polluting industry in the world,¬†oil comes first…
    • Discounts usually aren’t discounts, you’re buying the poorer quality or cheapest-to-source items
    • The CO2e emitted by us washing and drying our clothes in the UK equals 10 per cent of the amount of CO2e emitted from cars across the country
    • Anything with beads or sequins is usually a sign of child labour
    • 250,000 Indian cotton farmers have killed themselves in the last 15 years, the majority from buying GM cotton seeds to try and make more¬†money to live
    • There are more slaves in the world now than any other time in history. A high percentage of these are in the fashion industry and unlike slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries which was blatant and unquestioned, slavery today is hidden and veiled by the glorious CSR initiatives of large garment companies.

 

So instead of just reading about it, find some events to get involved in this week and ask your favourite brands #whomadeyourclothes.

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Sustainability Sunday #11

Tis the season of international Fashion Weeks.

New York, London, Milan, Paris.

 

Always a stunning showcase of months of hard work by designers and manufacturers, always an outstanding new level of creativity and always inspirational.

 

We’re only halfway through and I’ve been even more excitable than usual as this year sustainability and ethics have been subsumed more than ever.

 

In case your 9-5 got in the way of you following AW16’s key collections, here’s my top 4 fair fashion designers so far:

 

1. Philomena Zanetti: transit of flora and fauna from nature to threads
 
Julia Leifert’s collections are always fully sustainable, even down to
 vegan Dr Maartens her models wear on the runway.
Julia’s inspiration comes from a love of the environment, she combines her inspiration from nature with a love of German and New York fashion. All garments are made with the prevention of social and environmental exploitation in mind; most of her fabrics are made in Europe and have the international sustainable GOTS-seal; and¬†items are produced in German under fair and transparent circumstances.
Julia Leifert, Philomena Zanetti

 

2. Beth Ditto: vintage, sustainable, plus-size
 
Making a transition from punk singer to designer, Beth Ditto has inspired many over the last 12-18 months. She walked for Marc Jacobs ¬†at New York Fashion Week last September, distracting from the stereotypical model appearance and has followed it with designing a collection for fuller figure women that doesn’t curtail style in any way.
Not only that, the collection is as “uncompromising” and “unapologetic” as she promised. The garments are classy statements made by a small company in the USA to be affordable, basic and ethically made. The pieces are designed to last years through superior craftsmanship and careful consideration.
Beth Ditto

3. Maiyet: fusing international artisanal design with luxury decadence

Maiyet work with individual artisans and small boutique designers and creators in India, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Mongolia, Peru, Bolivia, Japan and Thailand, bringing culture and style from these countries to their New York studio.
The key to the intricate, simplistic yet exotic garments that Maiyet produce is the partnerships in their open source supply chain. Each partnership is committed to by both parties for the long-term to induce economic stability, self-sufficiency and entrepreneurship for the sourcing communities and in return Mayiet receive high quality ethical products.
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Paul van Zyl and Kristy Caylor, Maiyet


4. Brother Vellies: durable, deliberate and desirable

The sustainability and ethics credentials of Brother Vellies are outstanding and an example of how all fashion companies should be operating.
Aurora James founded the company with the goal of introducing her favourite footwear to the rest of the world, and in doing so has created sustainable and secure jobs in Africa. As well as creating many stable job opportunities, Brother Vellies know all their farmers, use a specialist leather which is a byproduct of other industries, use vegetable dyes, hand-make products to reduce energy and improve quality, use natural products to make beads such as ostrich egg shells and sea shells, use brass from recycled padlocks and keys for buckles and fastenings and reduce, reuse and recycle throughout the whole manufacturing process.
If footwear like this can make it to the catwalk, the others really have no excuse.
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Aurora James, Brother Vellies
London Fashion Weekend is in full swing and Milan Fashion Week is kicking off so keep your eyes peeled over the next two weeks for more sustainable style.
Remember that shopping with a conscience isn’t hard, and that every time you do you’re encouraging brands to reform and make sustainability the norm.