London Fashion Week kicks off this Friday, and it has been announced that the show will be entirely fur-free. This is the first time that any fashion week has done so in all of history. A victory for activists and a testament to the power of the voice, but the industry still has a while to go.
British Fashion Council recently announced a fur-free London Fashion Week, and the news doesn’t stop there. Burberry, following the footsteps of Armani, Gucci and Versace has announced they’re ditching the fur and no longer burning unsold stock. It looks like we’re looking at a bright future for ethical and environmentally conscious brands. We’ve seen a monumental shift in prerequisites for brands and retailers in the last decade, particularly in the last couple of years. Sustainability and CSR sections online have popped up, drop-bins have been introduced, vintage markets and brands are booming, and online platforms for recycling clothes like Depop are thriving. Seems just like yesterday that mass-production under cheap labour was excelling… that’s because it was, and, unfortunately, it still is today. There’s a long way to go in terms of ethical fashion and sustainability, though small steps are being made.
The fashion industry is responsible for 20% of the world’s industrial wastewater, 10% of carbon dioxide emissions, 24% insecticides and 11% of pesticides use (Forbes). Despite the abundance of socially, ethically and environmentally conscious foundations in the fashion world, we have to be realistic. A lot of the big brands (and small) just aren’t cutting it. For example: H&M’s fashion bins have so far collected more than 17,771 tonnes of textiles since their initiative in 2013 (H&M Sustainability Report 2017), the equivalent of 89 million t-shirts. However, they also produced 550 million garments in one year alone. Of course, the business does need to make profit so the figures are inevitably going to outweigh the returned bins, but there’s a wide gap between them.
Perhaps it’s optimistic, or naive comments from someone who probably doesn’t know enough about running business to comment. However, as the consumer, the power lies in what the consumers demand. The power of the people is not one to underestimate. It’s clear that the pressure has forced H&M to respond to public outcry for more sustainable practices. H&M’s Sustainability Report states their garments currently sit at 35.5% recycled materials, with a goal to achieve 100% by 2030. Additionally, they have pledged to become 100% climate positive by 2040 through efficient and renewable energy usage.
According to Forbes, “the average consumer purchases 60% more clothing than 20 years ago. Each garment is kept for half as long, and about 40% of clothes in the wardrobes of developed countries are never worn.” Fast-fashion is contradictory. On one hand we’re seeing brands small and large introduce innovative policies to address issues of ethics and sustainability within the fashion world, but on the other hand we’re seeing impulsive, excessive buying being fuelled by influencers and ‘hauls’, celebrities and sponsored posts.
So what has created this shift? How come we’re seeing more sustainable and ethical structured being applied? With the use of social media and global messaging so prominent, it’s not surprising that the message is being magnified. I believe the multi-platform social media has enabled us to spread word of mouth, and thus one user at a time we are getting more and more cautious of what’s really going on in one of the world’s biggest industries. Although a lot these brands fall under the agenda of profit, it doesn’t mean it’s not being done right? If you asked somebody what a ‘Keep Cup’ was 20 years ago they’d be puzzled. So let’s keep the conversation going.
What can you do? To source ethically responsible clothes, or simply find out where your clothes are coming from, see below:
Read our guide to ethical fashion.
Ethical: An Australian community based, NGO facilitating in aiding consumer’s sustainable practices.
Good on You: An app providing news, ratings and information about ethical and sustainable fashion.
Let us know in the comments below if you have any further sources and rips for ethical and sustainable garments.