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 – 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° 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?

WMMC

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 – this 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 #33

Is organic actually organic? 

Are hipsters and tree-huggers actually on to something? Is organic actually everything their unsolicited chit-chat promises? Yes, friends, it is. I’m here to tell you that organic health and beauty products are not just a hipster fad and we gotta get clear on what’s actually organic.

 

Last year, sales of “organic” beauty products went up by 20% in the UK (see the Soil Association‘s 2016 Organic Market Report for full deets), and as consumers we are more health and beauty conscious than before, but with this we’re more sustainability and ethics conscious too. We want high quality products, but we want products that work with nature and deliver natural benefits to our body and skin, rather than products that are compromising nature and the environment and dousing us in chemicals.

 

Why is it important to have organic beauty products?

 

Whilst our bodies can endure long-distance running, 4 days a week boozing and cramped carriages on the tube, they are somewhat delicate. We often also forget that our skin is actually an organ which means a significant amount of what we put onto our skin is absorbed into the bloodstream. Therefore, rather than slathering on a bunch of chemicals to hydrate, bronze, de-wrinkle and barricade pollution we should be looking for products that do these things naturally. For you extra environmentally-concious people, using real organic products will help minimise your impacts on the environment as the brands who produce organic products often care about the impacts of their packaging, transportation and waste too. Choosing organic also helps to future-proof as organic standards stop practices such as GM whose full impact on the environment, and our bodies, is yet to be fully understood. Just like cooking, organic beauty products work better because they contain better ingredients.

 

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How do we know whether products are actually organic?

 

At the moment, there aren’t any legal requirements for labelling products as organic, it’s possible that something labelled as organic might have just one organic ingredient, and in order to label a product as organic brands only need have 1% of the product formula be actually organic. The Soil Association warn that the health and beauty industry is funding marketing campaigns that claim products are “green” rather than putting funding into research and development for products that really are environmentally friendly and toxin-free. Experts, including The Soil Association, have therefore developed some voluntary standards that enable committed brands to communicate their product formulae to customers; The Soil Association commit to “making it simpler for people to choose skin-loving organic formulations that are just as effective as conventional cosmetics but without any of the ugly compromises.” As well as the Soil Association logo you should also look for reputable voluntary logos such as COSMOS and NaTrue.

 

So which are the best brands to buy from?

 

  • Neal’s Yard Remedies – pride themselves on honesty, integrity and transparency.  Making their products with the maximum organic, natural and raw ingredients, and carefully select other functional ingredients with safety and biodegradability in mind. All NYR’s products use high quality organic plant-based ingredients, and they fully disclose ingredient information with customers, both online and, wherever possible, on packaging.
  • Trilogy – go on the belief that you don’t have to sacrifice performance for natural.  Originally a range of five rosehip skincare products, Trilogy now craft over 40 incredibly effective natural alternatives to synthetic skincare, body care and hair care.
  • Nourish Skincare – are a British organic skincare company, offering high quality, ethically sourced, vegan skincare products made in London. Nourish combine the highest quality natural extracts with advanced scientific bio-actives.
  • Antipodes – a New Zealand company built on a combination of the highest quality ingredients from New Zealand nature and raw super-fruit extracts with science and innovation to produce high-tech certified organic products.
  • Burt’s Bees –  who offer truly natural products to maintain their “earth-friendly and natural personal care company” tagline. They believe nature is a laboratory with the perfect ingredients forming in a natural environment by natural means – sun and rain.
Beauty Brands
So if you’re looking for organic products, remember to look for the organic certification logos on the packaging, along with the percentages of organic ingredients and anything that’s listed as vegan or vegetarian. Of course, I would love you to share your favourite organic/natural/eco/vegan products with us and every recommendation helps! 🙂

 

Sustainability Sunday #32

#whomademyclothes: igniting a fashion revolution by forcing brands to tell us who made our clothes. 



Tomorrow (24th April) marks the beginning of Fashion Revolution’s annual #whomademyclothes campaign which encourages the public to ask brands how they have made our clothes, asking for transparency and commitment to sourcing and producing garments sustainably. Fashion Revolution’s goal is to: “unite the fashion industry and ignite a revolution to radically change the way our clothes are sourced, produced and purchased, so that what the world wears has been made in a safe, clean and fair way.”

The start of the week long campaign always begins around the same date of the Rana Plaza factory collapse, where 1,138 people were killed and many more injured on 24th April 2013. Demanding greater transparency in supply chains will ensure disasters like this don’t happen again.

The fashion industry is one of the most environmentally damaging industries, yet one we really do need as very few of us are willing to walk around naked! But lack of transparency costs lives. If a company does not know where and how their products are made it is impossible to make sure that ethical and environmental practices are observed. When it comes down to it, if we saw where the the person who sewed our t-shirt worked or saw the polluted water systems where our clothes are dyed, would we be so blasé about buying it for less than the cost of a sandwich? 


So what can you actually do to be part of the revolution? 

1. Ask a brand who made your clothes

Snap a selfie with the label inside your garment and share on social media tagging the brand and #whomademyclothes (search the hashtag on Instagram to see how it’s done!)

2. Host a clothes swap 

Gather your pals and their unwanted clothing and get together to see if you can upcycle or recycle something old into something new. Share what you’re up to on social media!

3. Wise up and become a fashion revolutionary

During Fashion Revolution week (starting tomorrow, ending Friday 28th April) there are a whole host of activities going on from film screening to catwalk shows, go along, get involved and get clued up. And I recommend taking a minute to read through this guide too…
See Fashion Revolution’s own “Action Kit” to find out more ways to get involved 💪🏼

Sustainability Sunday #31

Let’s take a leaf from Luxembourg City – one of those green ones, from the dreamy green park, in the middle of the dreamy green city…

Last weekend we took a mini, mini-break to Luxembourg. “Why?” do I hear you ask? Well, get this, it’s 55 minutes on the plane from London, and once you get there it’s 15 minutes on the bus to the centre, and it’s so tiny you can see pretty much all there is to see in one day and at the very most two so it’s the perfect “weekend getaway”.

I think this little weekend is probably one of the most sustainable holidays I’ve been on so naturally I must tell you all about it. It begins with our travel: the £14.99 Ryanair flights from Stansted (0.31 tCO2e) plus the 45 mile drive from Balham (0.01 tCO2e) cost all of £3.20 to offset which makes sure that our irreducible impacts are at least offset to invest in something good.

Waking up the next morning, whilst taking a stroll into town, the most noticeable thing about the city (no doubt helped by the sunny weather), was that it looked so clean! There was no chewing gum on the streets, very minimal litter and despite the building works, the construction activity and waste was confined to within the site fences. Our first pitstop was for pastry and coffee at the Golden Bean cafe – where the coffee is all sustainably and ethically grown and sourced, typically from international cooperatives, and is roasted by the owners themselves. Sustainable breakfast, check!

Next, we took a walk through the city, having pinpointed a few places to see, and came across the Vallée de Pétrusse, a beautful steep-sided valley full of lush greenery and crumbling natural fortresses. Here was a little oasis of trees and flowers, growing wild, city residents taking a morning stroll or run, and winding paths from end to end of the valley, following a tiny rivulet of the Alzette River. Natural beauty for all to see, check!


After a steep climb at the other end of the valley, it was time for our second pitstop in a pretty little courtyard at the bottom of the Montée du Grund (also a recommended spot for city views). The Updown Bar served us a local Bofferding beer which is brewed in Bascharage which means it’s travelled less than 20km to get to us. (Semi-)sustainable beer, check!

Next we hiked up the Montée du Grund and the Chemin de Corniche, to take in views of the Alzette valley and the Casemates du Bock. It’s a beautiful walk and if you make it right round to the Casemates du Bock you should stop by the Chocolate House and indulge in some of the largest cakes and chocolatey ice creamy desserts you’ve ever seen – even better they use no vegetable fats or palm oil, no artificial flavourings and colourings, no flavour enhancers and no preservatives. Sustainable sweet treats, check!

As this city is so small, you can pretty much see all the main things in one day which meant Sunday was a day of total relaxation for us. A French omelette brunch in the square and exploration of the parks around the city which are some of the most beautiful green spaces I have seen: planted carefully with pretty meadow flowers, trickling fountains and ponds and lush green grass to kick back on.

So, whilst many of you may have been thinking, “why on Earth Luxembourg?!” then I hope this might have swayed you to give it a try. It’s a top location for a chilled couple of days, and comparable to many other destinations in Europe, it’s pretty damn sustainable.

 

Sustainability Sunday #30

Your guide to an Ethical Easter!

Easter used to be an exciting time for my brother and I, with Grandparents that have a spare room full of boxes of Roses, Jelly Babies and Fox’s chocolate biscuits they’re the kind of people who love to go wild on Easter, choosing the biggest eggs given with big cards with lambs and bunnies on. Mum and Dad would also do their part, Mum often baking little cupcakes or Easter nests decorated with mini-eggs and those too-cute fluffy chicks with plastic stick legs. As a child, it’s the dream – chocolate for breakfast! Er, yes! But the spirit of Easter, the story behind it AND the mountain of money and waste that goes into just one day tends to go over our heads.

It wasn’t until I realised that Creme Eggs were significantly smaller than a previous year, and that the egg I’d bought to gift was more plastic packaging than chocolate that I really thought about what the point was, and how horribly wasteful it all is. Since then, we’ve toned down Easter (and also grown up a fair bit) and now settle for a good old roast dinner, and maybe a few mini eggs for dessert. For sustainability in our household, this is great. In light of my enlightenment, this week’s post is your guide to choosing sustainably this Easter.

Top Eggs! Which ones to get:

The obvious choice here is Green & Black’s, you can get them in loads of stores so haven’t got to go traipsing about to find them and all their delicious chocky is all organic and Fairtrade – my fave is the Butterscotch because anything butterscotch is my favourite.

The runner up is Divine Chocolate‘s eggs. These guys are a farmer-owned company, producing Fairtrade chocolate and 44% of the company is actually owned by the cocoa farmers. You can find their eggs in Sainsburys, Tesco and Waitrose so super easy to get your hands on and even better, they never use plastic packaging and ensure their cardboard boxes are made of recycled materials. You should choose Toffee & Sea Salt or the Raspberry Dark Chocolate – or both 😛

My third place podium spot goes to The Co-Op‘s “Truly Irresistible” Honeybee milk chocolate egg. It’s all Fairtrade milk chocky and you get the little extra of four baby milk chocolate and honey truffle eggs which are made with Chilean Fairtrade honey 👌🏼 let’s just pretend they didn’t release their washing up advert this year so we can enjoy the eggs whether we did or didn’t do the washing up…

The Gift of Giving, how to avoid those plastic boxes: 

If you’re looking to bake, create or even just buy standalone eggs why not create your own packaging – you can recycle cardboard boxes or newspapers to create your own nest or even decorate some old egg boxes with paint and glitter and feathers and sequins and fluff, getting carried away there, but you get the idea.

If you’re feeling crafty, create your own little pouches with scraps of material or tissue paper and those super annoying ribbons you get in tops and jumpers that are supposed to help them stay on the hanger (supposed to 🙄).

Or, if you absolutely must choose an egg with that egg-shaped plastic, why not re-use it and use it as a mould for some papier-mache! 

Last of all, moving to sustainability is all about sharing ideas so please do comment on any other creative Easter goodness you’re into! 😊🥚🌿

Sustainability Sunday #29

4 reasons why you should get off your a$$ and walk! 

Walking is the most natural and convenient form of transport and yet one we often forget when planning how to get from one place to another. Living in a city, like me, you often plan which train/tube/bus you need to get yourself to work every day, or the bar on a Friday night but actually the distance from one side of central London to the other is only about 10 miles (Hammersmith to Bow) so it’s not unreasonable to walk even a third of the way if you have the time. TFL actually have a “walking map” which tells you the time/distance equivalent between tube stops. 


This Friday, April 7th, marks the annual “walk to work” day so you should give it a go, and here’s 4 good reasons why:

1. It’s good for you! 

Walking for one mile burns up around 100 calories. Although it’s a gentle form of exercise, doing a little every day keeps your blood pressure low, reduces body fat and enhances your mental wellbeing (that extra half hour outside really helps!). 

2. Reducing your carbon footprint 

Whilst public transport is used by many, reducing the use of cars and taxis, and reducing the demand for buses and trains has the end result of significantly reduced emissions. 

3. It reconnects us with the environment 

Often when travelling to work, or heading to a particular destination our mind is on the day ahead, yesterday, tomorrow, your shopping list or what that one annoying person at work said to you this week. We very rarely actually think about the here and now whilst on our travels but when getting out and walking you can’t help but be more aware of your surroundings which is great for your mental health; taking in a little of the activity and life of your environment helps you appreciate the things you usually miss. 

4. Choosing better food 

Typically, someone who has worked out is more likely to choose something healthier to eat afterwards than bingeing on junk foods. Therefore, choosing healthy fresh produce over packaged up junky foods means that we’ve got less of a food-print too!