Can the Meghan effect make sustainable fashion cool for the crowd?says we can all learn how to shop better.
Did you get Kondo-d this Christmas? Social media was awash with commentary after Netflix aired ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo’, and inspired by the Japanese decluttering queen, people vowed 2019 would be the year they too would get their lives and homes in order.
The show proved quite the spectacle. Charged with keeping only things that ‘spark joy’, viewers watched as people grappled with the insane volume of ‘stuff’ they had accumulated, with one couple discarding 150 bags of unwanted possessions.
But the programme-makers gave little thought to the space that rubbish would continue to take up after it had been KonMari-d out of the couple’s home and back into the wider world.
It begs the question, why — with our growing awareness of the long-term impact of plastic and textile waste — didn’t Kondo take the time to encourage people to buy less stuff in the first place?
Shows like the BBC’s Drowning in Plastic have woken us up to the ecological impact of our voracious appetite for ‘stuff’ and forced us to reckon with our addiction to fast fashion — the billions of tonnes of waste it creates, the pollution and emissions arising from its production, and the energy pumped into creating garments which, much like single-use plastics, have a lifecycle completely disproportionate to the resources it takes to make them.
These clothes will be languishing in landfills for many decades after their usefulness has expired, and the planet only has so much space to accommodate them, so something’s got to give.
One approach is to shop better, and celebrities have taken this cause to heart; most notably Meghan Markle, who used her recent tour of Australia and New Zealand to promote sustainable brands like Stella McCartney, Gabriela Hearst, Veja, Reformation, and Outland denim.
Along with dressing high-profile women like Markle, Stella McCartney recently launched a UN Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, outlining how the industry can curb its impact on the planet. Hopefully in the future we won’t see the likes of Burberry burning €32m worth of stock or H&M admitting falling sales have left them sitting on €4 billion worth of unsold clothes.
It’s a staggering level of waste, and it’s something we all must play a part in reducing.
Embracing sustainable fashion is only one part of the solution. Since sharing an anti-Black Friday post on Instagram, comedian Aisling Bea has been using the platform to highlight conscious consumerism, including the need to shop less.
At a BAFTA event in October, she wore a Reformation dress she’d borrowed from a friend, and she also showcases charity shop finds. ‘Let’s use the clothes that are already in existence and help out charities and your pocket,’ she said.
In an ideal world, we’d all have the budget to shop sustainably or the time to trawl second-hand shops, but that’s not reality for most people and the high street will remain a go-to destination for affordable fashion.
However, we have the power to simply buy less; to invest well, to buy only the things we truly love or absolutely need. We can choose NOT to buy those €10 sale jeans we think we might slim into by summer or the acrylic sweater in four colours because it’s only €15, and invest instead in wool knit that costs a little more but will last longer.
We can borrow instead of buy, swap clothes, and accept that, even in this Instagram age, it’s ok to wear the same dress to three different weddings this summer.
The payback is enormous. You’ll actually like what’s in your wardrobe, you’ll waste less, and those who partook in ‘No Buy January’ this month will attest, you’ll have more money in your pocket to boot. Things have to change and change fast.
Green is the new black, and one way or another, it’s a trend we’re all going to have to embrace.
List of Stockists:
- Meghan practically lived in a trench coat on her Australian tour — any woman who’s invested one knows why. Stella McCartney’s Caban trench is a wear-with-anything modern classic. €1,695, Brown Thomas.
- A true classic, the sustainable heavyweight cotton in Theo & George's Emma Bret on top washes like a dream so you can treasure it for longer. €59, theoandgeorge.com.
- Tanned without chemicals, O My Bag’s adjustable The Meghan gets better with time, which is perfect, since you’ll never need another handbag. €199, Paper Dolls, Drawbridge Street, Cork
- A new denim shape offers an instant style update, and these organic Cecile straight leg jeans by People Tree are both ethically sound and a sound investment. €129, peopletree.co.uk.
- If you’re chomping at the bit for some spring colour, this lightly padded jacket from Noa Noa will fulfill a multitude of roles in your slimmed down wardrobe. €159, Paper Dolls
- Long the go-to sneaker for sustainable style stars like Emma Watson, Meghan’s Australian outing in Veja trainers put the Spanish brand on the map. €125, vejastore.com
- Made in Ireland, finished in a specialist Parisian workshop, plus designer Alice Moyen donates 5% of her Sunset collection sales to The Ocean Cleanup project. Earrings, €75, aliquo.ie.
- Cork-based online boutique Ethical Souls curates a solid selection of sustainable choices, like the Ira merino wool sweater, €72, ethicalsoulsboutique.com.
- For versatility and ease of wear, it’s hard to top a shirt dress, and they’re having a bit of a fashion moment. People Tree’s Madeline is the guilt-free option. €169, peopletree.co.uk.
- ‘Shopping your wardrobe’ would be a breeze if everything in it was as versatile as this. Proudly showcase your styling skills and wear People Tree’s Matilda (€149) again and again