Can fashion be transformed into a sustainable industry?
On a recent shopping trip to H&M I found myself pondering the subject of sustainable fashion yet again. It’s a topic that has come to the fore in a major way due to research over the past decade or so into the harm the industry causes the environment, and one that leaves the fashion sphere divided. For over a year now fast-fashion giants H&M have been offering a €5 voucher (annoyingly, they offer a £5 voucher to shoppers in the UK – quite a big difference) to those who bring in at least a carrier-sized bag full of old clothing to recycle. It’s a fantastic initiative which leads me to question why there aren’t more incentives like this.
Check out the rather unusual video on their website for all the details. It’s narrated by a more than slightly sinister pair of old trousers, which really gets the message across in my opinion.
Due to the very nature of the business, huge demand for quick turnover and new trends every season, not to mention discharge from hazardous chemicals used in dyeing processes, fashion does take a toll on the environment. With the opportunity available to buy new pieces whenever the mood takes us, we have all been guilty of buying too many items which end up relegated to the back of the wardrobe after one or two outings.
This is a shopping habit which I have tried my best to curb. When moving house a few months ago I came across far too many fast-fashion pieces bought hastily and which, in hindsight, were terrible choices.
If we want to be more ethical shoppers (and if you don’t, shame on you!) there are a number of options available. Clothing from sustainable brands has an unfortunate reputation (hemp trousers, anyone?) but on the high street front, H&M does a pretty great range. I can’t say I own many pieces (one organic cotton T-shirt, I believe) from sustainable labels. A friend of mine who is a stylist admitted she struggled to find sufficiently fashionable ethically produced clothes for a shoot under that theme. Hopefully this is a circumstance that will improve as demand grows.
Second-hand shopping is always a good option. I’m an avid charity shop fan and Limerick has so many good ones to choose from. My teenage years were spent hunting for gems, a habit I have carried over to London. Some prized finds include a Karl Lagerfeld coat and a really great basic Ralph Lauren shirt.
Here comes the preachy finish: if we all make even small changes in our shopping habits, it can certainly cause bigger reactions globally, such as supporting the rights of clothing factory workers for a fair wage.
Words – Laura Hastings
Photography – Tarmo Tulit
Models: Danielle Sheehan, Shauna Lindsay