The concept of 'sustainability' is inherently at odds with the world of fashion.
An industry that makes a living by providing its fans with the very newest trends that haven't been seen or used before is surely one of the most unsustainable imaginable. And that's exactly what it is.
The world's second most polluting industry after oil, the very nature of fast fashion's quick trend turnover renders it so damaging that it has become one of the most environmentally crippling industries on the planet. And, according to a recent report, it's only getting worse, with the textile industry emitting more greenhouse gas emissions than international shipping and aviation combined.
So while 'sustainable fashion' may have a reputation of being a serious snore-fest term that brands throw around in order to be seen to be fulfilling corporate social responsibility, it's an important answer to a very real problem.
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What is 'sustainable fashion'?
Many people confuse 'sustainable fashion' with 'ethical fashion', and while the two are unquestionably linked, the concept of sustainability in the industry refers to the effects of the production of clothing on the environment (ethical fashion concerns the way clothing is made - encompassing everything from how the cotton was grown to whether and how animals are used, and how the garment workers are treated).
The very basic aim of fashion sustainability is to ensure that clothing is manufactured in such a way that the product's life cycle minimises any undesirable environmental effect.
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Which brands are championing sustainability?
While the on-going detrimental effects of the fashion industry are drilled into us, there are a number of brands acknowledging the issues and adapting their businesses to create change. Not because they need to look "good" but because it makes long-term economic sense.
Every year, thousands of tonnes of clothes are thrown away with household waste and as much as 95% of those clothes could be recycled. Buying new materials doesn't make business sense when a brand could reuse what they have already. Waste doesn't make business sense.
Leading the charge is Stella McCartney, whose label has proved since its launch in 2001 that its possible to create sustainable, ethical, trend-led collections without damaging our planet. "We challenge and push boundaries to make luxurious products in a way that is fit for the world we live in today and the future", McCartney's website reads, "No compromises."
Another high fashion label leading by example is Ksenia Schnaider, a denim brand committed to the cause (last year alone they created 3000 'new' pieces from unwanted jeans). Creating items popular amongst the street style set, the design duo only uses denim bought from flea markets in Kiev, before often re-using and recycling it themselves. But while 'recycling' fashion may imply a safe - if slightly dull - look, their aesthetic is, in fact, anything but. Loose-fitting shapes host edgy, ripped-denim designs in nostalgic indigo and washed-out hues that are adored by the likes of Bella Hadid, Eva Chen and Dua Lipa.
In 2013, H&M were the first fashion brand in the world to launch a global garment collection initiative, allowing customers to hand in any unwanted clothes or materials to any H&M store regardless of the brand or the condition of them in return for a £5 voucher to spend in-store. Additionally, each year H&M launch the Conscious Exclusive collection. The collection comprises of "high-end environmentally friendly pieces, aiming to move H&M’s fashion and sustainability development towards a more sustainable fashion future."
Zara's parent company, Inditex, is following suit, and also now encourages shoppers to drop off their used garments in order for the brand to recycle and reuse. In 2016, Zara also launched its answer to H&M's Conscious Collection via its 'Join Life' initiative - a collection of sustainably created pieces. By 2020, the high street stalwart aims to no longer send anything to landfills from their own headquarters, logistics centres, stores and factories.
The digital fashion world is also leading the way, with eBay one of the biggest backers of pre-loved fashion. Offering up the opportunity to both buy and sell pre-worn items in over 190 countries, it is the very epitome of a sustainable fashion cycle.
For lovers of luxury, there's no need to avoid resale sights. Cudoni are the UK's leading premium luxury fashion and goods resale service, who treat every client as a VIP and make the entire process a breeze - from complimentary collection from a location of your choice, to opening up a discourse with you about data-driven valuation, photographing the product and going on to sell it. They also achieve a sales price that is on average 30% higher than if you were to sell the same item independently.
But it's not only clothing that can be conscious, with the world of jewellery quickly catching on. Californian brand Jennifer Fisher - loved by Kendall Jenner, Lady Gaga and Emily Ratajkowski - has just announced a partnership with Diamond Foundry, the leader in carbon neutral, sustainable lab grown diamonds known for their quality.
Other great examples of sustainable initiatives include Levi's' Waste<Less Collection; a collection of pieces that are made of 20 per cent post-consumer waste - specifically, recycled plastic bottles (that works out to an average of three to eight plastic bottles per pair), and WAKEcup - a brand who have teamed up with the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) to create sustainable coffee cups and bags in order to help reduce plastic ocean pollution.
Another is COS's repurposed cotton project, which sees the high street hero use their own excess fabric to create new garments, and Deploy, who are the ideal go-to option for busy, working women who want to look professional in chic, sustainable pieces. Meanwhile, Moshi Moshi Mind have created a warm, lightweight coat made from 100% recycled polyester, making use of plastic bottles from the ocean.
Teaming up with non-profit organisation Parley, Adidas last year sold more than 1 million pairs of shoes from recycled ocean plastic, with each preventing about 11 plastic bottles from the possibility of entering our oceans. Launching last week, they created a material trademarked ‘Ocean Plastic’, which is made entirely from plastic intercepted on beaches and in coastal communities. A sustainable version of the popular Deerupt trainer made from partially upcycled ocean plastic intercepted on Maldivian beaches is a particular highlight.
There are also a whole host of fashion boutiques dedicated to the cause. Antibad - a website launched in 2017 that does exactly what it says on the tin - strives to "change the perception of sustainable fashion. Antibad is about having fun with fashion without damaging anything else." The result? A curated collection of conscious pieces from the designer likes of Mara Hoffman through to beautiful vintage dresses and long-lasting basics.
How can I champion sustainability?
For such an important question, the answer is very simple - shop from labels and collections that support sustainability. That way you can fuel your love for new trends without supporting the production of damaging, unrecyclable materials.
Other ways would be to adopt a charity shop habit and buy pre-loved clothing (a great way to snap up 'vintage' pieces without the price tag of London's edgiest vintage stores).
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So now your wardrobe is sorted, scroll down to shop our favourite eco-friendly sustainable beauty buys...