A Sustainable Future for Fashion

‘Buy less, choose well, make it last.’

Vivienne Westwood; proving that sustainability can be punk. So why does fashion refuse to listen today?

In the last few decades fashion has become a means of quickly emulating catwalk trends which are only disposed of when the next season rears its head. Instead of cherishing the well designed and well made, the public demand cheap and cheerful knock offs to be worn once and discarded as ‘so-last-week’.

Fashion cycles are moving faster than ever, with the traditional four seasons a year generally being tripled as the industry churns out endless ‘must haves’ and ‘essentials’. As a result, consumers are pressured into a wardrobe makeover on an almost monthly basis. Of course, what this throwaway mind-set requires is a good price over good quality. After all, longevity isn’t important if it will only be in style for thirty days.

It’s this lack of appreciation of a well-made garment that is causing most of disposable fashion’s downfalls. Every day, charity shops are receiving more and more clothes in too poor of a condition to sell simply because they were not made to be worn more than a handful of times. This production of garments too flimsy to be disposed of ethically led to an estimated 15.1 million tonnes of textile waste being generated in 2013. This figure which can only be assumed to have risen over the past three years.

Of course I can’t claim to be innocent. Although I do my best to buy almost exclusively second hand, sometimes the ease of a £5 H&M shirt is all too tempting. However, I have noticed a handful of high street stores starting to address ethics and sustainability. For example, the H&M conscious range aiming to make good quality, long lasting clothing and improve the lives of their cotton farmers, and M&S operating a clothes recycling scheme alongside Oxfam. It’s also been refreshing to see more and more contemporary designers such as Christopher Raeburn, Faustine Steinmetz and Katie Jones bringing second hand, ethical and waste fabrics into high end fashion.

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