Victoria Beckham’s show at London Fashion Week caused the headlines for more than one reason. While models strutted the catwalk at Tate Britain, protesters were blocking the roads outside in order to draw attention to climate change and the impact fashion has on the environment.
Sustainable fashion is one of the major talking points at any fashion industry event these days. When I visited Pure London fashion trade show this month, there were several interesting talks on the issue, while LFW saw the likes of Stella Tennant (girl crush), Stephanie Grainger (girl crush) and Yasmin Le Bon (yup, her too) walk in second-hand outfits at Oxfam’s Fashion Fighting Poverty show to show how good clothes never go out of style.
Fashion has gone wild over the last few years. According to Greenpeace, global clothing production doubled from 2000 to 2014, with the average person buying 60 per cent more items of clothing each year – but only keeping them for about half as long as 15 years ago. That’s a huge amount of waste.
However, there are things we can do – five easy steps, in fact, as luxury and environmentally friendly sustainable leather brand Issara tells us.
Issara is a new company founded by Rosh Govindaraj, a former management consultant, just two years ago.
Rosh’s job meant she was surrounded by professionals carrying expensive, fashionable designer bags that needed to be changed each season to stay on-trend.
Concerned about the environmental and humanitarian impact such fast-fashion was having, she set up Issara (the name means “freedom” in Thai) to deliver quality products using full-grain leather that would age gracefully so you could use them season after season.
After visiting a Javanese leather workshop in 2014, she also wanted to protect traditional crafts and help the communities that make them. As a result, the artisans are now paid three times the minimum wage, enjoy good working conditions in a safe environment and have health insurance and savings plans.
To minimise its environmental footprint, Issara sources recycled materials that are eco-friendly for its packaging, lining and hardware and uses leather from tanneries that comply with stringent international water and effluent management standards.
Of course, none of that means much if you don’t have a product shoppers want – but Issara’s totes, purses, travel bags are gorgeous. Classic and elegant, they’re pieces that will go with everything and will never date – no-brainers, when it comes to accessories.
Plus Rosh’s business model and wise supply chains mean they’re a lot more affordable than other luxury bags.
I’m particularly in love with the tangerine tote above. With a wardrobe of mainly dark colours, I adore adding pops of colour through handbags. That beautiful orange tone is perfect.
Admire the bags. In the meantime, here are five easy ways you can look good while helping save the planet:
Know your style and buy less
There are more and more ethical fashion labels to choose, but the best approach to saving the planet is simple: buy better and buy less.
Moving around so much means I’ve had to be cut-throat with what I wear – we left our lives in Madrid with one backpack each – and you know what? You can manage. The trick is to buy better.
When you shop, think about your style and check that what you’re wearing will go with at least four other pieces in your wardrobe. This not only makes it easier to get ready in the morning, but will help minimize your environmental impact.
Do this and, to paraphrase Marie Kondo, you’ll be sparking joy in your wardrobe and the world.
Quality beats quantity
Neon is going to be huge for the next two seasons – but what about after that? It’s doubtful. When you’re shopping, consider whether the piece can still be worn next season and preferably many seasons after that.
Check the fabric to see how durable it is and make sure the stitching will not come away. High quality may cost more in the short term, but cost-per-wear will be much better so you’ll save in the long run. That’s better than an impulse purchase that will end up in landfill after a couple of wears.
Check the fashion brand’s ethical background
We buy free-range eggs because we want chickens to have a good life, so why does this concern often go out the window when it comes to clothes? Dirt-cheap clothes mean someone isn’t getting a fair deal – and you can bet your bottom dollar it isn’t the shop or the clothing brand.
Before you go shopping, spend a few minutes to check out the websites of your favourite labels and make sure you’re comfortable with how they work – their environmental policy and impact, their carbon footprint and how they treat their workers.
And remember, more expensive does not always mean more ethical.
Most recently, I’ve been impressed by Pala Eyewear, which donates a pair of prescription glasses for every pair of sunglasses you buy, and Sundried Activewear, which has green principles at its very root.
Wear ethical fabrics
Buying a long-lasting piece of clothing that can be recycled is infinitely better than something that is going to end up in landfill because it can’t be reused or repurposed.
When it comes to fabric, go for something that has a smaller environmental footprint, such as:
- organic cotton, which requires fewer pesticides and is often free from bleach and synthetic dyes. It can be expensive, however, because it uses more land;
hemp, which uses very few agrochemicals and doesn’t need much water. As a fabric, it’s also breathable, moisture-wicking and warm.
- linen, which requires fewer chemical fertilisers and pesticides than cotton. Breathable, lightweight, long-lasting and cool, it’s the perfect summer or holiday fabric. And finally,
- organic wool that has been produced without toxic sheep dips. To be organic, too, the sheep have to be kept in humane conditions.
Donate unwanted items
Finally, take some time to clear out your wardrobe and home and consider donating your unused pieces to charity. With charity stores on so many high streets, it is so simple and yet only 15 per cent of clothes are reused or recycled.
H&M Garment Collection is a great programme to get rid of your unwanted clothes in a green way. Take your items in to a recycling spot by the till and you’ll receive a £5 voucher to be used on sales over £25. Every piece you donate is then recycled, reworn or reused.
Or, if you’ve bought something new and then decided you don’t want it or have missed the return date, consider sending it to ALICAS to help victims of domestic violence and abuse.
Do you have any other tips? Let me know how you stay sustainable in the comments below.
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