Is 2019 the year of sustainable fashion?

Luxury brands are getting in bed with the devil, also known as fast fashion retailers. With the fashion industry being the second most damaging to the planet after the oil industry, is 2019 the best year so far for sustainable fashion?

Retailers which quickly turn catwalk trends into affordable items to meet the demands of the customers are known as fast fashion brands, such as Bershka, Boohoo, Fashion Nova, Missguided, Zara, ASOS and many more.

Back in November 2004, Karl Lagerfeld created a capsule collection for both men and women in collaboration with fast fashion retailer giant H&M. Stella McCartney, famous for her blazers and trousers, followed in 2005 and Viktor and Rolf in 2006. In the next years, big fashion names such as Roberto Cavalli, Comme des Garcons, Jimmy Choo, Versace and Erdem joined H&M in creating limited edition collections. Their latest collaboration was with world-known luxury fashion brand Moschino, which was promoted by every blogger you know.

The association with luxury brands is thought to give fast fashion a good name, which is not in favour of our environment. Well Made Clothes explained in an article, with regards to the latest mash-up between H&M and Moschino, how luxury brands are considered to have high-quality standards, to carefully choose fabrics and designs and when they associate themselves with fast-fashion retailers, they are essentially misleading the public into thinking that the same standards have been applied to cheaper clothes.

Ali Clifford, London-based marketing consultant to ethical and sustainable fashion and cosmetics brands said: “Collaborations are a great way to reach new audiences, I doubt though that fast fashion brands collaborating with luxury brands are going to reduce fast fashion consumption – it would be encouraging however if these collabs highlighted and embraced the development of sustainable, recycled and renewable materials and fair and equal treatment of the people making the garments.”

UK economy experts and sustainability advocates WRAP have estimated the value of unused clothes at £30 billion and around £140 million worth of clothes goes into landfill each year.

Fast fashion retailers such as H&M, Zara, Bershka and many more high-street brands have been burning excess clothing due to the overwhelming amount of stock they are left with. People spent £3.5 billion on Christmas party clothing this past year and 8 million clothes will be going into the landfill after just one wear.

It has also been found that Burberry had burned £28 million worth of their clothing and cosmetics instead of selling them for lower prices. And Burberry is not the only one. Most major clothing retailers resort to this way to cut down on unused stock and it is putting pressure on the fashion industry.

The Environmental Audit Committee launched an inquiry in 2018, led by MP Mary Creagh, looked at the impact of the fast fashion industry on the environment. The inquiry asked for evidence from the biggest online retailers in the United Kingdom, ASOS, Misguided and Boohoo, but also many more renowned brands, in relation to low wages and environmental concerns.

Clifford explained that since the inquiry “there has been more written in the fashion press about buying vintage and second-hand,” than before.

“With 2019 being declared the ‘year of the vegan’, consumers will I hope also start to look at their consumption of fast fashion too, and move to buy less, choose well,” said Clifford.

However, times are changing and people are becoming more aware of sustainable fashion and conscious shopping. A hashtag with the same name accompanies photos and videos destined for educating the public about sustainability through tips and tricks or outfits of the days and currently has over 3.5 million posts on Instagram.

Independent platform, Sustain Your Style, highlights the fashion industry’s impact on our planet and suggests ways to reduce the damage. Up to 20,000 litres of water is necessary to produce one kilogram of cotton, tons of microplastic fibres end up in oceans and 70 million trees are cut down to produce clothes.

Alternatives to fast fashion consumption include buying second-hand items and clothes and accessories from charity shops.

Eco-consumer Laura Tyley said: “I buy everything second-hand and from a charity shop and I’m still told I’m stylish.

“We’re going through the earth’s sixth mass extinction, habitats are being lost, and 1.3 billion of our fellow humans live in extreme poverty. The fashion industry directly or indirectly fuels every part of these crises and more. We live on a finite planet; every outfit you wear requires extraction from the natural world – extraction which requires natural resources, energy, cheap labour, and air miles.

“And then we come onto the question of ethics. You can easily pick up a cotton t-shirt for £10, maybe even two, from major high street fashion retailers. This garment required a farmer to grow the cotton, someone to pick the cotton, someone to sew the cotton, and then it’s been flown from one side of the world to the other to reach the shop. If this doesn’t spell out exploitation I don’t know what does.”

Brands all over the world are fighting for ethical and sustainable fashion, like MINC, also known as Mini Couture, which is a sustainable Indian label, ships worldwide, and was founded by two of India’s National Institute of Design alumni. The brand is focused on promoting eco-friendly fashion and is conscious of the fabrics and workmanship they choose.

MINC’s Director of Merchandise, Anjali Shibu, said: “Fast fashion implies making cheap clothes of low quality and material quickly. This means that styles have to be recycled frequently to meet growing demand especially when the majority of the population is following this movement or looks to this movement for their fashion needs. This uses up far more resources than necessary, which only puts a greater burden on the environment.”

“If we could, every breath we take would be sustainable,” she continued.

Sustainable fashion has definitely seen an impactful initiative in 2018 and with famous online content creators and influencers promoting sustainable ways of being stylish, 2019 could be the turning point for the fashion industry and it could lead the way for a better future on Earth.

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