What is Sustainable Style?
To me, Sustainable Style is about knowing your values and expressing them through your everyday. In today’s world there is so much to consider in light of how our actions affect people on the other side of the world and our natural environment. Through my project Think Act Vote, and the book we produced The Future Is Beautiful, I went on a journey to explore how we come to a place of understanding what our values are.
I have come to believe that real style comes from the heart, and expressing that love you have for the world. When you live in alignment like this, you just want to make choices that shine the brightest light around you. One way you can do this is by the choices you make about what you wear.
“Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than to merely keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us.” Virginia Woolf
I have been a part of the ethical/eco/sustainable fashion movement for this past decade, and what it is really about is using your power in the world to make a difference and to look good and enjoy that expression along the way. The choices we make about what we wear has the potential to have a deep impact.
“Clothes aren’t going to change the world, the women (and men!) who wear them will.” Anne Klein
Why is what we wear so important?
* There are over 80 billion garments produced each year. (Greenpeace)
* The world clothing and textile industry (clothing, textiles, footwear and luxury goods) reached almost $2,560 trillion in 2010. (Global Textiles, Apparel & Luxury Goods)
* The apparel industry is the second largest market in the world, coming second only to food. (Ethical Fashion Forum)
* The retail manufacturing industry is the second most polluting industry on Earth, second only to oil. (Fashioning Change)
* The British Fashion Council estimated that in 2009 the UK fashion industry directly contributed £20.9 billion to the UK economy. (BFC)
* The fashion industry employs a sixth of the world’s population. (Fashioning Change)
* ‘We now buy 40% of all our clothes at value retailers, with just 17% of our clothing budget.’ (TNS Worldpanel – 2006)
* Consumers in the UK have an estimated £30 billion ($46.7 billion) worth of unworn clothes lingering in their closets. (WRAP)
* In the UK alone 2.15 million tonnes of clothing and shoes are bought every year and over 1.4 million tonnes of textiles end up in landfills causing pollution. Synthetic fibres like polyester never biodegrade and natural fibers such as wool emit harmful gases including methane as they do. (TRAID)
* At least 8,000 chemicals are used to turn raw materials into clothes, many of these are toxic and pollute the environment, local water and also cause lasting harm to workers. (Greenpeace)
* A single mill in China can use 200 tons of water for each ton of fabric it dyes; many rivers run with the colours of the season as the untreated toxic dyes wash off from mills. (NRDC)
* 7 million people in Africa, Asia and South America who are directly benefiting from Fairtrade. (Fairtrade Foundation)
* There are 20,000 deaths per year as a result of pesticide poisoning, many working in cotton agriculture in the developing world. (EJF)
* If all name brands selected to increase wages by one percent of profits, 125 million people would be taken out of poverty. (Fashioning Change)
The fashion industry provides an incredible opportunity to change lives and our relationship with the planet all over the world. Yet the industry is riddled with issues making it destructive to our planet and to millions of people across the world that work on the production side. There are things to consider right across the lifecycle of a piece of clothing or an accessory; the conditions the raw material was farmed or created, the processes and chemicals that may have been used to harness the materials, the design process and its consideration of waste and sustainability, the way in which the piece in manufactured, the amount of countries it has travelled to during production, the durability of a piece, how it is cared for by the consumer, and what happens to it after the consumer has finished with it.
Ethical Fashion (which is also called eco, green or sustainable fashion) is fashion that maximises the positive benefits to people and communities producing it whilst mminimisingthe negative impact on the environment. Through what we wear every day we have a chance to create a better world. I believe strongly in the power of using our clothes to tell stories, so when you meet me, ask me about what I am wearing, I am guaranteed to have stories to tell.
So what can you do?