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11 November 2018

Sustainability in Fashion is your Responsibility

H&M conscious lumberjack shirt

H&M conscious lumberjack shirt

This is a subject that is hopefully on everybody's minds now after that Stacey Dooley documentary that came out on the BBC a few weeks back. It really is great to see such a conversation starting online off the back of that show. For me it was something I was super keen to watch when I heard about it. I work in the clothing industry and have visited factories in the Far East, so in terms of garment production, I've seen it first hand. I also know how much the company I work for values sustainability and ethics, so to get an insight into what else is going on out there that I haven't seen, was pretty bloody eye opening. If I'm honest I was pretty disgusted that so many brands point blank refused to even chat to Stacey about their sustainability prospects, as it's an issue that is everyone's responsibility, but fashion brands need to be right at the forefront to try and reduce that rather gigantic footprint they are leaving behind.

Going into the doc, I wanted to find out more about fabric production, as that is something I've not really seen with my own eyes yet. I already knew about the problems we are facing with cotton production and the crazy amount of water it uses, not to mention the pesticides. But even for me as someone who is aware and working in the industry, seeing the shocking changes we have made to our planet made me feel sick. The fact that the Aral Sea has pretty much completely disappeared in the last 45 years because humans have used all of that water to make cotton to feed our excessive shopping habits in the west, is outrageous. I don't know about you, but that was the catalyst in my mind to change my habits.

H&M conscious check shirt

The whole issue is made so much worse by how little information retailers actually share  with the consumer regarding their footprints, and actually market their cotton products as superior quality, completely natural and place eco-friendly connotations onto them. Meanwhile the blissfully unaware consumer is buying 3 new pairs of jeans for their winter wardrobe completely unaware that it's taken just shy of 23,000 litres of water just for those three pairs of jeans to come to fruition. It's utter madness, and it's so misleading. It's like the Brexit campaign 2.0, but we can already see the devastating effects. The bottom line is brand's really need to do more. And they need to do it now.

But, it isn't just brands that need to change if we want to see a genuine improvement. We all need to do our bit to start slowing down these changes to our planet. It's worth bearing in mind the power of the consumer. Your spending power is what drives the retailers in everything they do. The hard and fast of it is that they want you to give them your money. So if we stop (or drastically reduce, let's be realistic here) our high street spending, then the brands will be forced to act, and act fast, if they want to stay afloat. 

Hopefully we can bin-off the ugly disposable fashion trend that the online market has invented in the past 10 or so years. And this is something that I'll hold my hands up here as I've been blissfully ignorant in the past and bought into so many trends over the years just because I could, not because it was something I needed. It's quick, cheap and easy, so why wouldn't you just buy that fad jacket? Clothes should be cherished, loved, and worn time and time again. Yet far too many people are wearing things once for an instagram pic and then on to the next piece. It is not ok. That is not what clothes are for, and we need to realise that clothes are actually too precious for that.

H&M conscious check shirt

As I mentioned, at the start of this post, that documentary was really a catalyst for me to think about how I can change my habits and do my bit to help out. Here's my top ideas so far, I hope you find something you think you could also adopt to reduce your hughstreet spending. Also who doesn't want to save money hey?

Pre-Loved
Second hand, vintage, thrifted, or whatever else you want to call it. Clothes don't always have to be brand new. Hey, as long as they're clean and in good condition, who cares where they've been in the past? Same as people I suppose. If I'm honest, I only really tried vintage shopping properly earlier this year which you can see here, as I have always been someone that white ignorantly turned their nose up, which I now realise is completely ridiculous.  I just hate the dinginess of a lot of vintage shops, I like a nice clean and organised shopping experience (TK Maxx is my worst nightmare), but you can do it online, it's great!

Self-Restraint
I know it's hard, especially when instagram stories is basically haul central nowadays. There is such thing as too much inspo! Learning to say no to the urge to buy is a key skill we all need to develop. Who knows you might end up with an extra holiday next year with the money you'll save! That's what I'm telling myself to get through the withdrawals anyway.

H&M conscious shirt

Be Super-selective and Brand Aware
This is a difficult one, because I know it's so easy to just shop visually, and impulse buying is real. You see something you like, and you buy it. But I know I am definitely starting to step back and really think would I be at a loss if that item was not in your wardrobe? Probably not. And especially with the likes of Primark and lower end high street, thinking about the true cost of that garment, and is my want for the product more valuable? Definitely not. 

Most brands will have a sustainability section on their website, and it's definitely worth half an hour of your time to go through your favourite brands sites and educate yourself on where they are up to in terms of tightening up their sustainability. If they don't have much there to learn, it's probably worth swerving that brand until they up their game. It is also worth reading around each brand in news articles and other external sources too, as you can't always trust that the information on their own site is showing you the full picture. Which is what we all saw on BBC three thanks to Stacey Dooley.

I know there is a lot of buzz around sustainable and eco brands at the moment, and it's definitely something g I want to revisit in a blog post maybe next year when I've had some first hand experience with some of them. 

Change the Way we think about Clothes
When it comes to making a difference to your body, everyone always tells you you need to change the way you think about food and exercise. As a result of that you hold the power to  actually change your lifestyle as a whole, rather than adopt a quick fix fad diet or 30 day ab work out, and you will see the physical results. And to me, it's clear as day that we are in that same situation here with the fashion industry. We, as customer's, need to change the way we think about clothes and the way we think about shopping. Because there needs to be a shift in consumer behaviour on a mass scale if we are going to make a significant difference in reducing these environmental effects.

We really shouldn't be shopping as a was to fill time, or as a hobby. Window shop by all means, as I know it is fun seeing what's out there, but our purchases should be so much more considered and necessary, as opposed to the flippant and impulsive trend that we seem to adhere to nowadays by default.

H&M conscious lumberjack shirt

Sharing is Caring
This is a spin-off from pre-loved, but a bit of a different approach. Family, friends, whoever it may be, you always want what you've not got anyway right? So why not have clothes swaps between your own inner circles? Move those pieces that are shoved to the back of your wardrobe on to a loving home that will actually wear them, and re-invigorate your own collection with someone else's unworn gems. After all, 'One man's trash is another man's potpourri' to quote the Grinch (It's November so that is perfectly fine).

If you're reading this and you made it to the end of this, thank-you. I know it's longer than my usual spiel, but it's really important.

K x

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Thank-you for taking the time out to comment, i love reading them!