Can Fashion Save the World? @FashionDebates

Did anyone know that it takes about 11000 litres to make a pair of  jeans? Yes, THREE 000 after the 11.

I certainly didn’t.

The Fashion Debates, a series of events held in London are environmentally conscious get-togethers to discuss ethical issues that the fashion industry is facing. The panel of speakers are dedicated creatives in the fashion industry that wish to bring awareness and change for the safety and healing of people and our planet. On the 24th of November I got to be part of the debate in CNC, and wished to express some of my impressions and conclusions on here.

The conversation started by brainstorming the issues first, it then came down to tips, advices and solutions to remedy those. To introduce them, I first wish to state the following:

Yes, our beloved planet Earth suffers from many issues, economical, political and social. However, is there even a point solving these if we don’t start being more conscious about our planet, our soil, our people. After all, nature is what keeps us alive. So my question is, why are we bringing so much importance to those issues and often laugh when someone stands up towards our planet?

In the fashion industry, environmental consciousness and sustainablity is often perceived as too complicated, too time consuming especially for brands and retailers. For the customers, the problem is mainly due to cost and the narrow choice. So, what is there to change? Consumers’ awareness and habits? the retailers business agenda? As one member of the public spoke out, she introduced a whole other level of challenge. ‘Maybe it is higher than the big heads of the fashion industry, maybe it is the government that needs to change.’

At my entry level of understanding this much in depths and multi-leveled industry, I choose not to discuss this in here, especially because I feel that my role is to firstly learn myself and in my turn, bring as much awareness as I can.

Lucy Shea from @SwishingLucy said ‘it is easier to change your opinion than to change your habits.’ To do so, the importance of changing the consumers view on sustainable fashion is necessary. Brands, PR etc. need to bring as much fun, sexiness, glamour and style to the promotion of conscious fashion. People often have a very narrow vision when it comes to it, monotone colours, simple shapes and design and very expensive. A few years ago H&M launched their Conscious collection. At the start, the project did not show any success, however, as awareness started spreading more and more, it became one of the most successful H&M collections. So no, not everything is chaotic, there is some progression.

To stay on this positive note I would like to talk about a more high fashion brand: Stella McCartney. Stella is said to be THE most environment conscious brand out there. She manages to keep the brand and the product on top of the game, bringing diversity in the brand’s campaigns, fashion shows and marketing.

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To go back to the speakers’ solutions and to my conclusions, the whole panel also suggested that it is the brand’s transparency that needs to be worked on. What we can understand by that is the need to bring as much information on the brand as possible. Show the designing, making and exporting process of an item. This can be achieved by having creative teams working on the communication of the brand and the retail space all the way to details such as labels and social media content. Stella McCartney is once again a great examples of those achievements. Mucheneta Kapfunde added that our technological advances will bring the change.

The great and scary thing about the whole discussion is that there are many ideas and solutions VS. many more issues. For instance, after hearing the parade of Stella’s, Nikes and others environmentally conscious brands, I started wondering about E-Commerce. It is a well known fact that E-Commerce is taking over retail. Today the sustainability of online shopping is still being questioned as whether it is better or worse than brick-and-mortars shoppers. Carbon footprint is what we need to worry about. Is sending an item from a warehouse to a home on the other side of the world lighter or heavier than a shopper going from his/her home to the store and back with his/her car?

In conclusion, consumers’ behaviour as well as retailers’ business agenda need to be analysed thoughtfully in order to see some change.

*Here is a template of an Environmental report made on Stella McCartney to understand her contributions and innovations further: environmental-stella-mccarteney

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