Fashion,  Lifestyle

The problem with fashion

I felt compelled to write a semi-serious post after the recent #Burberry scandal hit the headlines.. burning end of line fashion to ensure it doesn’t discount and fall into the hands of consumers not worthy of their brand. I was, perhaps naively, completely stunned that such a practice was common place – and across a shockingly widespread array of high end brands. But really a little research and reflection and I realise of course, fashion has never been ethical.

The premise pushed by the fashion industry that we must perpetually update our wardrobes with vast ranges of unnecessary wear, based upon seasonal rotation, is yet another effort contributing to a worldwide environmental downturn, of which the poorer classes are a casualty.  Tinkering with environmentally friendly fabrics and recycling off-cuts are merely a useless distraction, pushed by designers to fool us into thinking we are helping the cause.  However in reality we continue to skirt around the edges of a very real problem.

In agreeing to move their cosmetic line to the US, Burberry incinerated £28m of perfectly good stock for no other purpose than to cling on to their exclusivity.  Obviously making the brand too accessible to the ordinary folk via discounting was a truly abhorrent notion, therefore we can only assume donating to charity, homeless shelters or third world (can we still use that term?) countries was a positively ghastly concept, not even to be entertained for a second.

My decision to put pen to paper (finger to laptop) and spew out my humble thoughts on this subject, came with a fair amount of research – thanks Google – on varying facts, figures and anecdotal evidence.  I have to say my favourite nugget of insight came from Sarah Drew Jones who declared her protest on #Twitter with a promise to donate a luxury Burberry scarf to Oxfam.  If I owned anything Burberry I would undoubtedly follow suit, however I could probably only afford an authentic piece from a discounted, end of line sale ….

I was also drawn towards a number of articles on fast fashion, a term you’ve no doubt heard recently as MP’s vow to throw much of our hard earned taxes into tackling the problem.  Please excuse my scepticism.

Fast #fashion is a contemporary phrase coined by fashion retailers to describe designs moving from catwalk to high street quickly to capture current fashion trends.  Offered at affordable prices we are constantly bombarded by bright prints, attractive cuts and a mimic of the Milan-worthy, high fashion look. But the continued pressure on retailers to cut price and reduce time from design to shop floor means that we inevitably cut corners to the detriment of the environment and, unfortunately, to the labour at the unseen end of the process.  The bright, attractive prints alone are achieved through the use of toxic chemicals in this process and is the second largest polluter of clean water across the globe. I’ll say that again… the SECOND LARGEST POLLUTER OF CLEAN WATER.

Cotton farming brings with it it’s own perils, with the use of pesticides that are harmful to humans and livestock with harrowing effects.  A documentary called ‘The True Cost’ told the story of a cotton farmer who suffered a brain tumour as a result, as well as the devastating birth defects suffered by children.  And the evolution of pests in building immunity to pesticides brings the need for stronger and more harmful substances to be developed, with obvious consequences.

As consumers we are subjected to this constant cycle of tempting ensembles, bombarded by fashion and look-books on every social media corner. The desire to mimic our favourite blogger, stylist or celebrity icon is a part of every day life and as a result we purchase of over five times the amount of clothing than we did in 1980.

I realise there is more than just a hint of irony that the platform on which I choose to share these thoughts is the very arena in which I also share my favourite beauty, style and fashion pieces, thereby contributing to the problem.  While ignorance is no defence, I do plead previously benighted in this area and vow here on in to do more for the cause.

Production isn’t the only environmental issue walking hand in hand with the fast fashion industry.  Washing synthetic fabrics releases as many as 700,000 microplastic fibres which cause harm to oceans and marine life.  A recent 12 month long study in Plymouth University found acrylic to be the worst offender with polyester-cotton blend fabric coming a close second.   And as we are subjected to fast moving trends we inevitably cycle our wardrobes at an alarmingly swift rate and send an unbelievable 300,000 tonnes of clothing to landfill each year in the UK alone…another toe curling statistic.

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It’s very unlike me to share something so serious on my blog as I generally like to keep it quite lighthearted and a place to drop by for an easy, entertaining read.  However I felt so strongly on the subject I decided to use what platform I had to speak out, and perhaps even make just one person think differently.

When it comes to morals, ethics, religion, flying spaghetti monsters – I firmly believe we should all draw our own line in the sand…but I also know that knowledge informs decision and I will make mine differently going forward where I can.  Such small movements can make the biggest difference – recycling clothes amongst friends or giving to worthy causes (mental note to stop using charity bags posted through my door as a bin liner), shopping second hand in charity shops or auction sites.  In fact there’s something quite kitch these days about rocking a pre-owned piece!  I discovered a fantastic app recently called ‘Vinted‘ on which you can swap clothes and shoes with other users paying only postage which I thought was such a novel idea.

If you have the heebie-jeebies about wearing used clothes just remember, everything can wash (just not too often!).

 

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

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Victoria
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Victoria

I’m so pleased to see more people taking an interest in slow fashion. It is still far too difficult to find brands with an transparency re: ethics and sustainability. Have you seen the True Cost on Netflix, Sophie? It is a brilliant documentary about fast fashion. I would highly recommend it.

Lisa Bromley
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Lisa Bromley

Wow! I had no idea that Burberry was doing this! I am, and always will be, a commited charity giver and shopper so I admit I am not in tune with today’s fashion industry in the slightest. An item with a ‘brand’ stitched on it means nothing to me but after reading your post maybe I should be a little more aware of what exactly the fashion industry entails. I hate greed, exploitation or unfairness of any sort and it seems a lot of this is happening in the fashion industry without my being aware. I think it’s great they… Read more »

Angela
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I’ve never been a slave to fashion, I just wear what I like, what fits, or what I can afford (rarely all 3!) However, I’ve been one of those who throws away clothes and uses charity bags as bin liners without even thinking about it! If you can help even a handful of readers to see the error of their ways, then you’ve made a difference!