I attended the ‘Cherish your Wardrobe’ event at Central Saint Martins yesterday, an event hosting a range of speakers who tackle sustainability from different angles.
Designers from Gieves and Hawkes, From Somewhere, Pachacuti and TRAID presented their work and design journey. Their ‘sustainable stories’ connected them and really animated the cause. It was inspiring that every designer began with a limitation and designed this into their process and practice.
If innovation can be inspired from limitation: how can we push the boundaries and challenge the fashion industry? Over consumption is a huge problem and how do we make sense of an industry that has somehow lost control?
The designers urged the audience and consumers to emotionally engage with their clothing, to invest in fashion that will be cherished and loved. Quality was also an important issue, for clothing to be durable and with stand the test of time it needs to be well crafted and really beautiful. But are we as consumers willing to pay more?
Over consumption was addressed and TRAID stated that the average fashion consumer buys 35 garments per year. But if we explore fast fashion culture that teenagers are buying into, the number of annual garments consumed is significantly more. They asked the audience to think about how much they consume per year… how much do you consume?
So where do the answers lie?
The Q & A session was really animated and the audience challenged sustainable fashion from their perspective.
* How do you convince consumers to buy into ethical fashion if it costs more?
* How do we influence the fashion industry at mass?
* Are trends important? Should we be buying into trend-less fashion?
* Is fast fashion necessarily a bad thing? It’s democratic and allows everyone to participate…
* Do the answers lie in current sustainable business models… can we explore, reflect and expand upon?
One audience member flagged up that she loves how everyone can express themselves through fast fashion… She felt that DIY fashion puts pressure on woman to return to the sewing machine and the whole stitch and bitch concept is possibly a step backwards?
There was also a lot of discussion about the onus being put onto the consumer… the speakers responded that is because the power of the purse has a significant impact! Do retailers supply to meet demand? The urge for Government support for local production was also stressed as an important issue… new legislation and initiatives are required to urge designers, suppliers and businesses to work towards sustainable standards.
I think consideration needs to be applied to all viewpoints… its a complicated area and there is no complete solution or answer which will resolve everything. But lots of work has already been done and this can be expanded upon…
The stereo-type of sustainable fashion is changing, new materials and process are delivering a better aesthetic and this could enable us to work towards challenging preconceptions.