More than 60% of items produced annually by the fashion industry end up on landfill within a year, but now the High Street is taking the lead in promoting eco-friendly fashions. Carolyn Moore looks at some of the brands —some even getting the green light from Beauty and the Beast star Emma Watson — which are aiming at sustainability.
WHEN Emma Watson undertook the international press tour for Beauty and the Beast, the star-turned-activist added an extra layer of difficulty to an already arduous task by accepting Eco Age’s Green Carpet Challenge.
Through the challenge, the organisation seeks to leverage the unparalleled promotional potential of the red carpet by persuading celebrities to go eco; raising awareness about issues surrounding sustainability in fashion and convincing some of the world’s biggest designers to reconsider their sustainability stance.
While most celebs who take the challenge simply rock up to a single event in a one-off eco-dress, Watson took it to the next level by going sustainable from head to toe (including using cruelty-free beauty brands); and meticulously documenting the sustainability factor of every outfit on a specially created Instagram account, @the_press_tour.
Running the sartorial gamut from casual, ‘walking through the airport’ style to red carpet show-stoppers worthy of a Disney princess, she proved the longstanding perception that ‘eco fashion’ is, well, tragically unfashionable, is not just out dated, it’s dead.
While admittedly many of her looks — like the organic silk Givenchy gown pictured here — were custom made, and not everyone has Maria Grazia Chiuri or Phillip Lim on speed dial to whip up dramatic dresses or responsibly sourced viscose trouser suits, her galleries also reveal items well within the reach of the average consumer.
While championing vintage as the ultimate sustainable choice, she also models knitwear by Filippa K — a Scandi label with a strong sustainable offering — and trainers by Veja, a Parisian brand using sustainable materials like organic cotton, fair trade rubber and chrome-free leather, with prices on a par with the athletics giants whose ethical credentials don’t bear the same level of scrutiny.
Having amassed half-a-million followers in just a few short weeks, @the_press_tour is social media used for social good; taking our seemingly superficial obsession with celebrity fashion and using it to educate and enlighten followers on both the problems inherent in unsustainable fashion, and the solutions that are within our grasp, if, as consumers, we just sit up and ask for them.
A 2016 McKinsey report cited by Watson revealed the fashion industry produces over 100 billion items of clothing each year, with a shocking 60% of that output ending up in landfill within the same 12 months.
Poor quality, ‘disposable’ fast fashion makes up a huge percentage of this waste, yet for too long the issue of sustainability has been a dirty word in fashion.
The high street couldn’t address it without acknowledging it was complicit in the problem, and burgeoning eco brands became associated with unappealing fabrics, porridge-esque palettes and an unfashionable approach to design.
But the tide is finally turning, and ironically it’s the high street taking the lead, responding to the message that even consumers of fast fashion want environmentally friendlier options. Where consumer trends lead, they follow, so the more we put sustainability at the core of our wardrobe building, the more options they’ll give us.
Case in point, the H&M Conscious collection. With a timely occasionwear slant, the brand’s 2017 Conscious Exclusive collection launches tomorrow in College Green and at hm.com. Perfect for summer weddings, it aims to show the beauty in sustainability and put the fashion back into sustainable fashion.
Made entirely from sustainable fabrics, a star piece features bouncy pleats structured into soft ruffles that evoke the dream-like fluidity of sea anemone; a fitting analogy given that the gown is made from BIONIC — a patented polyester made from washed up ocean trash.
“The collection shows that the best style can be mindful of the planet and help protect it for the future,” says Natalia Vodianova, the supermodel face of the range, and indeed – from glitzy sequins made from recycled bottles, to a louche tuxedo jacket in organic silk and TENCEL twill — across the entire collection it’s evident that style hasn’t been sacrificed in the search for sustainability.
That fact is echoed in the statistic that 26% of H&M’s offering now falls under the Conscious remit — a figure that might surprise the average shopper given that these pieces blend seamlessly with the rest of the store’s offering.
Last year, Zara joined in with “Join Life”, a range with sustainability issues at its core; and as consumer interest grows, more on the high street are sure to follow.
But to inject instant sustainability into your shopping, you don’t have to rush out and invest in a whole new wardrobe — that would be counter productive. Instead, the first step is to simply think about what you buy.
The fast fashion model – based on the premise that we can consume ever-greater quantities of faddish micro-trends every season — is, in and of itself, unsustainable.
It’s a speeding freight train about to go off the tracks.
So get ahead of the next emerging trend and embrace the ideals of slow fashion.
Buy what you need, when you need it. Buy better and make it last longer. Alter, repair, repurpose, recycle.
Care for your clothes; cherish each purchase, not because you got a pair of jeans for a fiver, but because you saved for something you really wanted — a wool coat you’ll still be wearing in five years; a vintage dress that’s already stood the test of time.
Sustainable fashion doesn’t have to cost the earth, but our addiction to fast fashion shouldn’t either.
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