Be More Stylish By Buying Less Says Dinah Van Tulleken
British Style Editor Dinah Van Tulleken explains that we can all be more stylish by buying less. She only buys pieces she sees herself wearing at least 50 times, and recommends all women should try to do the same.
The Style Editor vows that by creating a capsule wardrobe of high-quality items this benefits both her bank balance and the environment.
You would think the very nature of her job would mean she does nothing but shop. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth as the Style Editor of the Daily Mail openly admits she buys virtually nothing and never goes shopping. In fact, she even proposes the question, “is it possible to be an ethical fashion editor?”
She believes so, saying there is a way of being stylish without breaking the bank or dramatically impacting the environment. Van Tulleken recommends that women should consider fashion pages much like window shopping. They should be used to provide inspiration but ultimately only buy what you really need and want, unlike being motivated by trends alone.
Personal style is so much more than being trendy or fashionable.
Plus, working out the cost-per-wear of your outfits can fascinating and a great driver to invest in quality pieces.
This mirrors what The Future of Retail’s 2019 study has found, with 72 per cent of millennials declaring they are buying less. The report sheds light on what consumers are doing, what they want and what they care about today by looking at the top ten trends that will shape retail in the year ahead.
Image courtesy: Getty
Instead of our clothing being disposable, we need to invest in quality pieces we will treasure and look to hold onto for years to come instead of updating season after season.
Top 5 key style tips to live by:
Unless you can see yourself wearing an item at least 50 times, don’t buy it.
Avoid micro-trends or buying on a whim.
Invest in quality pieces once in a while that you can tell are made to last (Tip: check out the material composition and look for natural fibres).
Aspire to be stylish, not fashionable or trendy.
As Van Tulleken notes, fashion is a beautiful industry, but an ugly business. By shopping in a more conscious way, avoiding micro-trends and only investing in pieces you know you’re likely to wear at least 50 times, we can start to make a difference collectively. Being less wasteful feels really good, too!
To be a conscious consumer nowadays means being informed. Yet sometimes it honestly feels like you require a PhD in multiple disciplines just to get to grips with the multitude of industry terms and references that surround the space. It shouldn’t require you going back to the books or becoming an expert in a specific field in order to understand whether your potential purchase is going to have a positive or negative impact overall.
With the many accreditation labels and certifications available that encourage greater transparency, it’s undisputedly a positive step for brands to obtain such recognition. For consumers, though, it presents yet another terminology to fact check in the fight against green-washing.
Exactly why we’re continuing our series that gives you the topline takeaways on the many terms surrounding sustainable and ethical fashion and beauty. Your knowledge needn’t be thorough or perfect, but enough to give you peace of mind that you’re making a positive purchasing investment.
Image courtesy: Racked.com
What are SA8000 Certified Organisations?
SA8000 is a social certification standard and process by which individual companies (factories, farms and other workplaces) across the world undergo an assessment by a third-party auditor that encourages businesses to develop, maintain, and apply socially acceptable practices in the workplace.
Developed in 1989 by Social Accountability International (SAI), formerly the Council on Economic Priorities, it is an advisory board consisting of trade unions, NGOs, civil society organisations and companies. The SA8000’s criteria were developed from various industry and corporate codes to create a common standard for social welfare compliance.
This is a process-type standard and not a product-type standard, meaning there’s no seal or label on goods produced by companies certified against the standard. Instead, the criteria require that facilities seeking to gain and maintain certification must go beyond simple compliance to the standard, with prospective facilities obligated to integrate it into their management practices and demonstrate ongoing compliance with the standard.
With its major objective to ensure the application of ethical practices in hiring and the treatment of employees, local communities and in the production of goods and services, it relies on the codes-of-conduct affirmed by International Labour Organization conventions, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It measures the performance of companies in eight areas important to social accountability in the workplace: child labour, forced labour, health and safety, free association and collective bargaining, discrimination, disciplinary practices, working hours and compensation.
Founded on the principles of transparency, credibility, and verification, it is said to be the first global ethical standard and appropriate for any type of organisation regardless of the country, industry, or size.
In the interest of transparency, Social Accountability Accreditations Services assists SAI in making data available about SA8000-certified organisations by way of social audits undertaken impartially, competently and effectively, providing quality assurance. Every quarter CBs are required to submit a list of all currently certified SA8000 organisations. This list informs SAAS of any new organisations that have been certified, and, from this data, SAAS is able to identify trends in certification across industries and countries, as well as see the number of workers that are impacted by certification. With the recognition that audit programs must be of high quality, SAAS evaluates and accredits auditing organisations to assure they are qualified to hold their clients accountable to social standards.
Although not an ISO standard, SA8000 is modelled on similar accreditation and certification schemes, and provides the requirements and audit methodology to evaluate and improve workplace conditions, with the ultimate mission to advance the human rights of workers around the world.
Nevertheless, the question remains, how can you tell if a brand is working with facilities that are SA8000 certified? Short of doing the background check yourself (come on, let’s be real), the team here at Statements is working on developing a way whereby users will be able to search brands based on the many different certifications and production details, to ensure that the products you love are made in a fair and transparent way.
To join us on this journey towards creating a more beautiful, honest world, stay tuned!
British lawmakers are considering a radical new plan to encourage clothing recycling and reduce waste: a ‘fast fashion’ tax.
A new report from the U.K. Parliament is urging a tax to fund a recycling program.
The report presented by the U.K.’s parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee is recommending that Britain should charge producers a penny-per-garment fee to fund a £35 million ($45 million) per year national clothing recycling program.
Less than 1% of clothing in the U.K. is recycled today, according to the report, which also examined the wider impact of the fashion industry and so-called “fast fashion.”
Image courtesy: Shutterstock
“A million tons of textiles a year are being thrown away and we need to bend the curve of consumption. We are urging consumers to buy less, to repair and reuse more before they recycle as well,” Mary Creagh, the chairwoman of the committee, told Sky News.
Only last year, environmental groups criticised Burberry for burning almost $40 million worth of unsold product to preserve the exclusivity of the luxury brand. Global clothing production and transport—not to mention the burning of garments—contribute about as much to carbon emissions as does the aviation industry, the BBC reports.
The parliamentary report also attacked labour standards in the fashion supply chain.
“We are also concerned about the use of child labour, prison labour, forced labour and bonded labour in factories and the garment supply chain,” lawmakers wrote.
Image courtesy: Burberry criticised for incinerating unsold products | Burberry
Labour abuses occur not just among major producers of raw products, such as cotton farms in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, but astonishingly in clothing factories in the U.K., where lawmakers write they have reports of underpaid and illegal workers.
In addition to the penny-per-garment fee and other suggested incentives to promote recycling, the report called for tightening supply chain transparency rules to make it easier for consumers to understand who made their clothing and under what conditions.
What’s more, the report also calls for a ban on incinerating and landfilling unsold stock. And about time, too!
The go-to brand for California cool-girl style points, Reformation is part of a burgeoning group of fashion-forward ethical brands that has managed to strike the right balance between offering truly desirable sustainable fashion choices for all occasions (yep, their bridal collection is seriously good), while packaging their eco-friendly message in a way that doesn’t turn you off as if on the receiving end of a lecture.
Having been on the scene for a while now, early on the brand recognised the need to be more mindful of its environmental and social footprint, choosing then to focus its creative attention on producing pieces that could as easily appeal to the style-driven fashion pack as to conscious consumers, who for too long felt like they had to compromise style for ethics.
Image courtesy: Reformation
Fast-forward to 2018, and Reformation is not only succeeding at delivering covetable pieces but their solid commitment to environmental and social initiatives is communicated in such a way that it doesn’t require a Phd or deep dive into sustainability practices. It might seem easily done but here’s the thing, it’s not. Perhaps one of the reasons so many brands shy away from such transparency with consumers is knowing how much to share and how best to go about it.
There is, of course, a balancing act required. Too much information and you risk the reader switching off. Too little and it seems like you’re hiding something. Smaller, independent labels offer a certain level of transparency in their own way, but it often takes a bit of digging. And, this is where Reformation is able to stand out.
Image courtesy: Reformation
The way in which they’re able to deliver the reporting of their environmental footprint, known as the RefScale, in an engaging, top-line format removes any danger of it becoming dry or unreadable, which is no small victory when discussing the pounds of carbon dioxide emitted, the gallons of water used, or the pounds of waste generated. Likewise, when sharing details on their supply chains.
In fact, the brand adheres to its own set of fibre standards that are categorised into five sections—as shown in the table below—since up to two-thirds of fashions sustainability impact happens at the raw materials stage. By the end of 2018, they are committed to making 75% of their products with A and B fibres (the first two categories).
Image courtesy: Reformation
Normally a snooze-fest you’d do anything to avoid reading, the label’s ‘hey girl’, best friend tone of voice has you hooked in, and you’ll find you’ve read it from start to finish before you even know it.
As we see it, the best way to get people engaged with this sort of information is to imagine you’re talking to your friends. Don’t treat them like idiots. Equally, don’t skirt around the facts. Lay it to them straight, while taking care to package it well. After all, don’t we all want to know we’re doing good while able to look good?
How Fendi is Creating A New Generation of Traditional Artisans
A recent New York Times article entitled, “Teenagers, Forget Engineering. Your Future Is Craft”, delved deep into the youth crisis that now faces Italy, which has been bubbling under the surface for some time, and how luxury fashion houses intend to stave off the crisis.
To put it into context, the unemployment rate for youth in Italy between 15 and 24 years old was just over 30 percent in August, according to the national statistics agency, Istat. Eurostat, its European equivalent, also noted for August that the portion of young people between 20 and 34 neither in education nor training in 2017 was 29.5 percent in Italy (compared to 7.8 percent in Sweden).
But the fact is jobs do exist. The Italian luxury goods association, Altagamma reported that an estimated that some 50,000 people working in the luxury goods industry in Italy are close to retirement, with a limited prospect of qualified personnel available to fill those jobs.
So, what are luxury Italian goods companies doing to head off this impending shortage? Well, the Italian fashion house Fendi is attempting to address the Italian national youth unemployment crisis by luring a new generation into becoming traditional artisans.
Image courtesy: Gianni Cipriano for The New York Times
Roman high school students were recently welcomed into the grand Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, the onetime monument to Mussolini’s fascist dream and now the Fendi headquarters. The purpose? An accelerated lesson in the employment potential of old-fashioned craftsmanship, moving from workstation to workstation, to watch Fendi artisans painstakingly make leather bags, shoes, couture gowns, furs, furniture and watches.
The problem has arisen as recent generations of Italian young people have increasingly veered away from traditional vocational handwork, opting instead for seemingly more contemporary sectors like engineering, and cooking. Yet Fendi views craftsmanship as an answer to the country’s youth unemployment crisis.
The initiative for Italian high schools hosted by Fendi as part of its Journées Particulières, is part of a larger event organised by its parent company LVMH, to showcase the inner workings of its many brands, which took place this month in 76 sites on four continents. Although for Fendi, the focus wasn’t just about opening up their private spaces to the outside world. It was about convincing young people to consider a future in traditional craftsmanship.
Image courtesy: A watchmaker at work | Gianni Cipriano for The New York Times
Put simply, if Italy’s luxury goods industry is to continue its successful ascension, it needs to seriously tackle the increasing decline of highly skilled craftspeople to satisfy demand for their products.
In fact, several fashion houses have bridged the growing gap with in-house training programs or more formal academies, including Tod’s, Brunello Cucinelli, Prada and Fendi.
During the Open Days, Caterina, a 21-year-tailor in Fendi’s ready-to-wear atelier, sewed microscopic bits of fur onto delicate tulle. She is also a recent graduate of the Accademia Massoli, a joint dressmaking project of Fendi and the couture workshop Sartoria Massoli.
Image courtesy: A young artisan at work | Gianni Cipriano for The New York Times
“I wanted to learn this craft because it’s disappearing, unfortunately, and needs a generational turnover,” said Caterina, who is looking forward to the day when she would be experienced enough to travel to fashion shows to see her creations on the runway. “Nothing is made by just one person. It’s a team effort, passing through many hands.”
Unfortunately we’re all too familiar with the thousands of haul videos that have weirdly become a sign of our times. Found on Youtube, the videos of people showing off their “hauls” of recent purchases have become the ultimate form of entertainment for shopping addicts.
Seemingly no different to the many videos that have been uploaded before it, in a youtube video posted a little over a week ago, YouTube star Jacques Slade featured this pair of sneakers in a video entitled “Unboxing: The Real Price of Sneakers.” What then followed was altogether different.
In the video uploaded last Tuesday, the influencer unveiled his latest shipment of kicks – a mid-top pair that, at first glance, passed for on-trend new kicks combining leather, suede and mesh details, and zig-zag stitching. However, it quickly became clear this wasn’t the usual haul reveal.
Upon closer inspection, they aren’t just shoes. Instead they’re a custom-made pair revealing the hidden facts about modern day slavery and forced labour. An initiative by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the campaign aims to raise awareness of the ‘hidden human price’ of products amongst young people at a time when the issue of ethical fashion is increasingly informing consumer choices.
For instance, the price tag on the shoe reads $90, or “the estimated price of a slave today,” according to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, an organisation dedicated to global issues such as socio-economic progress, human trafficking and modern slavery. The advocacy group was among the collaborators in the social media campaign.
The tongue of the shoe’s is imprinted with the number 40 followed by six zeroes — that is, 40 million, the number of people trapped in conditions of slavery, as stated by Reuters Foundation. This is a figure that’s equivalent to the populations of Australia, Finland and Greece combined and they fuel a global enterprise that yields an estimated $150 billion in illegal profits every year.
And a look inside the shoe shows insoles that depict harrowing images of sweatshop conditions, with the custom sneakers crafted by The Shoe Surgeon.
With the goal to educate younger shoppers, the initiative has chosen to utilise the popularity unboxing videos have gained among sneaker enthusiasts and teamed up with Slade, with his videos regularly reaching more than 1.5 million people, to highlight the issue of ethical fashion that’s increasingly impacting today’s consumers’ shopping behaviours.
While there are all types of hauls to be found on the media platform, from home wares to fashion try-ons, the tide may be changing with an increasing number of Youtubers fighting consumerism with anti-hauls. Call it a revolution, saturation, whatever you will. We just hope it’s a sign of things to come where people realise they don’t need everything and give real thought to their purchases and where these products come from.
My fashion love story goes way back. Clothes have always played a pivotal role in my life, from selecting my little white dress where I was adamant it wasn’t complete without a flashing crucifix to my 90’s adidas poppers and Kangol hat, and then later an obsession with anything and everything vintage. Fashion, for me, has always been a source of playfulness and experimentation, mixed with a touch of non-conformity.
I matured from Tammy Girl to Topshop, intermixed with thrifting at charity shops and vintage stores. The latter thanks in large part to my uni days spent in Glasgow.
Image: Wearing vintage, strolling the streets in NYC
As the years passed, my wardrobe grew and grew, mostly because I was incapable of throwing anything away. Probably in fear of it coming around again. Which it did – and always will.
Fast forward to living in London and working in advertising. As a creative strategist, I was fortunate to work on some cool campaigns for a range of clients, but always felt like something was missing. A greater purpose perhaps. Though it wasn’t until I took a break, spending time overseas in Australia and Asia, that that purpose began to take shape.
Image: Squeezing in sightseeing while working in Russia
After watching the 2015 documentary ‘The True Cost’, that uncovered the environmental dangers of the industry, as well as the human cost often felt, such as the Rana Plaza disaster where a Bangladesh garment factory collapsed in 2013 killing over 1,100 people, it stirred something within me. Before, I was definitely lacking a deeper understanding of the fashion industry, but I began to join the dots with everything from fashion’s impacts on the environment, to how we might transition towards circularity, and to the real stories behind who makes our clothes.
It left me asking some big questions like, how can we get such pleasure and enjoyment from fashion, while at the same time causing such destruction to others? How could I continue to consume fashion in the same way ever again? And, if I thought this, then surely others would too. So I began researching and looking into possible alternatives.
What I found was that there were so many amazing fashion brands and designers out there, working tirelessly to create relevant fashion that’s able to debunk the tired, old stereotype of “eco-fashion.” However, it was time-consuming tracking them down online, scrolling through brand bio after brand bio, trying to find out whether they met with your specific values, as it’s clear there’s currently no one-size-fits-all approach to sustainability. It really comes down to the individual.
In fact, even the terminology can throw people, from ethical fashion, sustainable fashion, fair trade fashion, organic fashion, vegan fashion, minimal waste fashion, conscious, slow… And within each, there are so many more things to consider, such as the entire supply chain from the sourcing of materials to the treatment of workers, and so on. It doesn’t have to be but, it can end up being a very convoluted system, so how are consumers to know what to think? Especially if they don’t have the time or inclination to do the necessary background check. You can see how this can be confusing. And fashion shouldn’t be about trying to navigate a complicated world of terminology, certifications and the likes. For many, it’s a form of escapism, experimentation or just plain fun. You want to look good. So striking the right balance was crucial.
This sparked the idea for STATEMENTS. I knew we needed to embrace technology in order to simplify the discovery journey for sustainable and ethical fashion. Luckily, I found a great team and together we were able to create a platform whereby we present responsible yet highly desirable labels in an easily digestible format, so consumers don’t feel overwhelmed and can easily scroll and compare, in order to discover a variety of progressive labels, without hopping from site to site. From the outset, I knew we didn’t want to hold any stock, instead positioning STATEMENTS as the ultimate discovery platform for exciting and innovative labels and stores, who are committed to propelling the fashion industry towards a sustainable and ethical future.
There’s so much more to be done to offer the best service to audience but, at the same time, I recognise we can’t be too hard on ourselves. We’re super excited to celebrate our first birthday in June, using this time to reflect on the past year and plan loads more for the coming year. In particular, we’re looking at the best ways to improve the platform in order to help more consumers discover truly awesome fashion. If any of our users have any suggestions, we’re always keen to receive any feedback, good or bad!
You know, I remember my Great-Auntie Rose used to say, “fashion feels no pain, my dear.” She’d clearly swapped out beauty for fashion but still it stuck with me and of course, she was referring to the wearer and not the worker. Staying true to her words but with an updated version, it’s clear it has to be ‘fashion should feel no pain.’ That’s what we want for the future of fashion.
Sometimes there’s too much focus on the negative, especially when there’s so much great things happening. Yes, it’s important to educate people on the bad stuff but it’s also important to celebrate the good — such as all the new sustainable brands out there. We want to provide a source of positivity and excitement, encouraging our audience to invest in quality, conscious, and classic pieces. And, while most of us can’t afford designer prices all of the time (though the prices on the site vary greatly), we can all save up for more timeless investment pieces that you’ll wear for years and years, and will no doubt outlast a trendy fast fashion number. Of course, backed up by fair-made basics – a wardrobe staple.
Ultimately, I’d say I’m a realists, not an idealists. We know nobody wants to trash the environment or cause harm to others, all in the name of fashion. But, at the same time, most people are unwilling to completely overhaul their lifestyles. That’s why we want to make it easy to make the switch away from fast fashion, instead taking the time to invest in the right piece, whilst considering how many wears you’re going to get out of it. Think quality not quantity.
Nothing is 100% sustainable, but you can just try to do the best you can. And we’re here to help!
It seems like nowadays it’s all about finding the right pair of kicks. Ones that are loyal in all situations, from picking up groceries to pounding the pavements of a new city. With the style and comfort boxes checked, the next challenge comes when trying to figure out how they were made and from what materials. More often than not, the shoe industry, and in particular trainers, are traditionally not the most ethical or environmentally friendly.
That’s all changing though. VEJA is the ethical and sustainable footwear brand that’s a favourite amongst the fashion pack, thanks to their clean lines and minimalistic details. Developed by Parisians Francois-Ghislai Morillon and Sebastien Kopp, with the mission to develop eco-friendly shoes that don’t look like eco-friendly shoes, the 14-year-old brand is particularly proud of the radical way its sneakers are made.
While auditing a Chinese factory in 2003, the founders witnessed horrible working conditions and realised that with globalisation something had gone terribly wrong. Many brands were already talking about sustainable initiatives, but they proved to be empty words. So the founders took it upon themselves to shake things up in order to make a real difference. And with that, VEJA was born.
Image courtesy: VEJA
Why sneakers, you might ask. Because as a consumer product of their generation, it stood as a symbol for their cohort. It also seemed to be the most interesting challenge, as 70% of the costs of a conventional trainers brand goes into advertising. Even if VEJA sneakers cost up to five times more to produce, they are able to sell them at a reasonable retail price as the brand invests in zero advertising.
Known for its clean aesthetics and sustainable materials, every component of VEJA footwear has a story.
The cotton used is organic and produced by farmers in Brazil and Peru, where workers don’t have to worry about harmful pesticides poisoning their villages. The cotton is purchased by VEJA directly in accordance with Fair Trade principles. This allows the brand to cut out the middlemen and increase producer income.
Image courtesy: VEJA
The rubber is tapped by people in the Amazon using traditional techniques. For one kilo of harvested rubber, 1.2 ha of forest is protected every year, as the communities are making a living from sourcing rubber. This is in stark contrast to the pollution caused by manufacturing synthetic rubber which is used in the manufacturing of most footwear.
When it comes to the leather, it’s sourced from southern Brazil, making sure it doesn’t come from the Amazon nor from an area that was deforested for cattle farming. While the brand has reduced its vegetable tanning down to 10% of VEJA models (due to quality and costs), their tannery is audited and certified Gold by the Leather Working Group. To ensure the chrome doesn’t turn into the toxic chrome VI, the label performs random checks all years long, to monitor the level of chrome in their leathers; they meet REACH standards. As well as also incorporating up-cycled materials and, as of 2013 VEJA has been using fish leather in several of their models via a completely handcrafted process.
Image courtesy: VEJA
Championing transparency throughout the supply chain, the label is able to trace every material used to make the shoes all the way back to the growers that harvest the raw materials. No other sneakers brand is offering this kind of openness, which means VEJA should be celebrated for not only their commitment to ethical and environmentally friendly practices, but doing so while delivering on style with every new collection.
We love the aesthetic and now you know the backstory. Check out our VEJA faves here.
Blue jean baby. They’re the fashion essentials we love to have on standby. Your denims are like your fashion back-up plan. The fashion staples we can always rely on; be it for the jeans you wear on repeat, the jacket you layer over every summer dress or the effortlessly styled jumpsuits, perfectly paired with a set of heels.
Yet, there’s no getting around the fact the process of manufacturing denim is a very long and painful one for our planet, with regards to the water-intensive processes often associated. For example, in the growing of cotton to the dying techniques used to colour the fabric. Though, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Image courtesy: Kings of Indigo
Turning things around is Kings of Indigo (K.O.I), the Amsterdam-based label founded in 2010 by Tony Tonnaer, a respected veteran of the denim industry. The name K.O.I. was inspired by a tattoo on the founder’s right shoulder: a Koi-fish, dedicated to his mother. Koi-fishes are intelligent creatures, who swim against the stream.
Much like its namesake, the label set out to pioneer a new kind of denim brand. Incorporating a host of ethical and sustainable business practices, this stretches from foregoing the usual denim for pure denim, as much less water is used up in the production process.
Image courtesy: Kings of Indigo
Dedicated to transparency at every stage of the production process, all suppliers are known and openly shared on the brand’s website, so customers and retailers can easily understand the travel route of the garments. Reassuringly, it’s not a long one; fabrics are sourced and provided by European suppliers and manufactured around the Mediterranean.
Getting down to the materials themselves, Kings of Indigo’s collection consist of at least 90% sustainable fibres. Most garments contain GOTS certified cotton or material that is environmentally friendly in its growth and production, such as linen, hemp, modal or TENCEL lyocell, recylced cotton, bio wool and recycled wool. Meanwhile, the label works closely with their fabric mills, of which they are REACH, OEKEO TEX, GOTS or GRS certified, to ensure the creation of beautiful and innovative fabrics, while continuously trying to find even more sustainable solutions.
Image courtesy: Kings of Indigo
The label is intent on this, resolute in their commitment to moving towards 100% sustainable fabrics within three years. Currently, they still rely on lycra (max 2%) for stretch and polyester for recovery and strength (max 10%), though they are looking into ways of replacing the normal version with the recycled lycra/polyester, such as techno-fabric made with Econyl® – the 100% regenerated fibre from post-consumer materials.
A member of the Fair Wear Foundation since 2012, the brand has never been content with only focusing on producing beautiful products in environmentally friendly production processes, but is committed to ensuring fair working conditions and fair wages for all the people that work for the brand. The international verification initiative FWF made it its mission to improve the working conditions in the garment supply chain worldwide.
With such ambitious goals, including becoming the worldwide number one jeans brand, this is a clothing label you’ll be proud to flash their label.
What’s underneath matters. We all know it to be true. It’s something we’ve been told from a young age, whether we’re talking about ourselves or another person, and certainly when it comes to your underwear. Imagine you were hit by a bus. Imagine! (Such a weird thought, where did that phrase even come from?)
But, back to the underwear. We’re on day three of #whomademylook and today, following on from skincare and make-up, our focus falls on lingerie. At STATEMENTS, we’ve curated a stellar line-up of ethical and sustainable underwear labels so you can look, and most importantly, feel good.
Image courtesy: Anekdot
For us, that go-to label is Anekdot. The name itself is Swedish and means a remarkable and memorable story. Founded in 2015 by Swedish-born Sofie Anderson, who received training in London under the tutelage of Christopher Raeburn and Orsola de Castro’s label, From Somewhere, before going on to launch her own eco-conscious label, with the studio currently based between Berlin and Sweden.
Her early beginnings in the industry were formative for the young designer and led her to establish her brand on the principles of sustainability, using the upcycling method.
Image courtesy: Andkdot
What’s so special about Ankedot is the fact that all of their pieces are handmade and the materials used are all sustainably sourced.
Focusing on limited-edition lingerie, the label sources luxe fabrics from production end of lines, off-cuts, deadstock and vintage trimmings coming from closing down factories, makers’ surplus, production errors or miscalculations – mainly from London or Italy – and turning them into something beautiful and meaningful for your everyday wear.
When it comes to the design, Anderson isn’t merely ticking the eco boxes, either.
Image courtesy: Anekdot
She understands that underwear is an essential part of a woman’s wardrobe. It’s the garment hidden like a secret under clothes, and has the power to influence the way a woman feels throughout her day. Interestingly, they base their designs on what fabrics are available at the moment and not the other way around.
This means each creation is individually designed and carefully handmade. Far from basics, Ankedot creates pieces that are inspiring, delicately beautiful but conscious of the wearer, so cut to be worn throughout the day and not to be tucked away in a drawer, kept for special occasions only. Think sexy but comfortable.
When buying from Anekdot, you can be sure you’re investing in high quality and authentic craftsmanship. No trace of mass-produced mediocrity in sight. A big plus, the label has recently released a swimwear collection, too. Summer couldn’t come soon enough.
Fashion Revolution Week launches this week with the #whomademyclothes campaign, whereby they’re encouraging all of us to ask the brands we wear where our clothes (and shoes) were made.
Ever wondered how that pair of jeans from Zara or H&M can cost so little? Demand to know more. Fashion brands should know how their clothes are being made. And so should we when we buy them.
Founded on the anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh, today marks the fifth anniversary when more than 1,100 garment workers, mostly young women, were killed (and many more injured) in a factory collapse despite warning management that the building was unsafe. They were threatened with losing their jobs if they didn’t go inside, where they manufactured apparel for Western fast fashion brands. They worked in horrendous conditions, were paid far below a living wage and overtime was the norm. With many of these issues are still very much common throughout the garment industry.
Image courtesy: Fashion Revolution
The biggest fashion movement of its kind, Fashion Revolution Week calls on the fashion industry to hold itself to account, while demanding change from a global industry valued at approx. $1.39 trillion. Your voice can change everything. It’s an opportunity to ask the brands you wear #whomademyclothes, so we can be sure every garment worker who makes the clothes we love is seen, heard, paid fairly and working in safe conditions. It shows retailers their customers care and it’s in their interest yo answer. Take a photo of your clothing label and tag the brand/retailer on social media, asking #whomademyclothes?
To help you out, this week we’re taking care of your head-to-toe look and asking, “who made my look?” Each day we’ll reveal the ethical and sustainable brands behind the specific part of an overall killer look. From over 300 ethical and sustainable fashion brands, we’ll curate an example look for you to prove you can style an entire look in a sustainable and ethical way.
There’s a greater focus on transparency within the apparel industry, particularly as we near closer to Earth Day on the 22nd April and Fashion Revolution Week from the 23rd-29th April, whereby the movement calls on all of us to ask the brands we wear, “who made my clothes?” But, what about the shoes on our feet? Beyond knowing what trainers tribe you belong to, do we really give enough consideration to the practices used to manufacture our favourite footwear, from trainers to heels, and everything in between?
Would it surprise you that there’s a cocktail of harmful chemicals often found in shoes; from solvent-based glues, petroleum-based components, to toxic leathers. These residues could be heavy metals such as Mercury, Lead, Chromium and Arsenic, which are potentially carcinogenic, making it incredibly harmful to the people working with it and to waterways.
Times are changing, though. From leather alternatives and recycled rubber, to environmentally friendly manufacturing facilities, footwear brands committed to sustainability are no-longer niche players but becoming legit fashion contenders, too. With ideas evolving into innovations and consumer preferences shifting, there’s a sustainable footwear brand for every style you’re channeling.
Rooted in transparency, organic materials and fair trade sourcing and production, this French trainers brand really is a cut above the rest. If you’re going for the less of a “look”, simple, white-based trainers or retro runners, Veja is the sneaker label for you. They use vegetable-tanned leather (using acacia rather than chrome), uppers are made from recycled plastic, the wild rubber for the soles is sustainably harvested from the amazon, and recycled cotton is used for the laces. Did we mention they’re a favourite amongst the fashion pack, too?
For women’s fashion footwear brand Coclico, that journey includes using third party, eco-certified tanneries as much as possible and working with Native Energy, a provider of carbon offsets, to minimise its footprint.
The brand is also introducing vegetable-tanned lining leather that has zero trace of chrome and a new natural rubber latex insole with recycled cork and linen. “We use recycled cork for our internal platforms, solid cork blocks and solid wood heels,” said designer Lisa Nading. “We periodically review the supply chain with our suppliers to track that these materials are sustainably sourced. And we are working with knits now that are custom made to order, reducing waste.”
Alternatively, look for footwear brands that choose to work with deadstock or reclaimed materials. This means they don’t require any further resources to create their shoes, instead working with what already exists, often luxe materials from designer brands off-cuts and end of line runs. Additionally, opt for footwear that has been handmade or made locally to the label, as this ensures a level of craftsmanship and skill, as well as ethical practices that can be overseen by the brand.
Australian/Bulgarian footwear label By Far Noticing a gap in the market for high quality yet affordable fashion footwear made fairly, the three founders sought out to produce handmade, high quality shoes locally in Bulgaria, designing for women like themselves. Revisiting classic styles and mixing with modern and vintage, the label presents a collection of effortlessly cool and youthful styles, all the while made consciously by integrating deadstock leather derived from luxury Italian factories, as well as premium Italian materials.
Whichever style or look you’re going for, there are now so many young, fresh and style-conscious brands out there, with highly relevant sustainable and ethical footwear offerings.
International Women’s Day 2018 & Why We Still Fight
Today, we celebrate International Women’s Day 2018 (IWD), a worldwide event that celebrates women’s achievements, from the political to the social, all the while calling for gender equality throughout the world.
In a year that saw women from all walks of life rise up in protests, power building and advocacy over issues of equality and harassment, now more than ever there’s a push for gender parity worldwide.
This is a time to reflect on the significant progress that’s been made for women’s rights over the years and an opportunity to pay tribute to all of the remarkable women who have paved the way for us. But most importantly, it serves as a day to think about all of the women and girls around the world who still face adversity every single day.
Image courtesy: The first National Woman’s Day in NYC on 28 February. The Socialist Party of America designated this day in honour of the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York, where women protested against working conditions | globalcitizen.org
But how did it begin?
It’s 110 years since the protest of 15,000 women garment workers, who marched through New York City demanding voting rights, better pay and shorter working hours. This sparked events that went on to form International Women’s Day, with March 8th selected every year to push for women’s demands of gender equality and formally recognised day by the UN. With no one affiliation, IWD brings together governments, women’s organisations, corporations and charities all around the world.
The original aim – to achieve full gender equality for women the world – has still not been realised. A gender pay gap persists across the globe and women are still not present in equal numbers in business or politics. Figures show that globally, women’s education, health and violence towards women is still worse than that of men.
Taking IWD back to its roots, we’re shining the light on the women garment workers of today and tomorrow.
With an estimated 40 million garment workers worldwide, 90% are women and girls, and risk the sack for standing up for their rights. For these women, development is closely linked to their conditions at work. It’s about gaining a decent pay, working under dignified conditions and having basic work security. It’s about moving out of poverty, being able to provide children with education, and to become more independent and grow as an individual. Simple demands really.
What can you do?
Fed up with the hypocrisy of brands who preach lyrically about their feminist ideals of putting women first yet manage to massively overlook the wellbeing of their female garment workers? Want to demand better treatment of these women, and all women globally? Then stick with us and support ethical fashion brands who care about the wellbeing of the people, the majority of which are women, who make their clothes. Beyond words, wear your values.
The Duchess of Cambridge Champions Sustainable + Ethical Fashion
London Fashion Week is in full swing, with glitzy parties around every corner and last night it was the turn of royalty as the Duchess of Cambridge welcomed an array of fashion heavyweights including Naomi Campbell, Anna Wintour and Stella McCartney to Buckingham Palace for the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange.
Image courtesy: Duchess of Cambridge talks to Edward Enninful, British Vogue editor | Evening Standard
The premise of the exchange is to showcase a new initiative that will see fashion used as a common language and a platform to help people understand the modern Commonwealth in a different way.
Over the past six months, and in the lead up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London this April, high profile fashion designers such as Stella McCartney of the UK, Karen Walker of New Zealand and Bibi Russell of Bangladesh partnered with artisan producers in small nations who exemplify traditional handcraft techniques and trades, with a view to creating a skills exchange.
Image courtesy: Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, Sophie, Countess of Wessex and Stella McCartney | Evening Standard
Creating partnerships between established and emerging talent from across the Commonwealth’s 53 member countries, it has celebrated creativity, sustainable production and manufacturing, trade links and ethical supply chains across the fashion industry, from business and design to textile and fabric design and manufacturing.
Now on to our fourth instalment of the ‘What Is…’ series, we’re giving you the 411 on GOTS.
Not to be confused with your favourite HBO show, the Global Organic Textile Standard or GOTS is the world’s leading textile processing standard for organic fibres. This covers not only ecological but also social criteria, and is backed up by independent certification of the entire textile supply chain.
The gold standard for certified organic clothing, the purpose of GOTS is to define world-wide recognised requirements that ensure organic status of textiles, from harvesting of the raw materials, through environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing up to labelling in order to provide a credible assurance to the end consumer: you.
Image courtesy: Organic cotton farming | 8Y8
This means it integrates all of the textile processing stages, from the fibre to the finished product: the raw fibre must be organic farming certified and all the manufacturing processes involved must be inspected. Organic production is based on a system of farming that maintains and replenishes soil fertility without the use of toxic, persistent pesticides and fertilisers, which also have serious health implications on farmers and neighbouring communities. The aim is to guarantee the traceability, the use of chemical friendly processes with regards to the environment and the consumer’s health, to ensure a quality system, a reduction of energy and to respect basic social criteria.
With this in place it allows farmers and manufacturers to export their organic fabrics and garments with one certification accepted in all major markets. This means there’s no room for confusion, with a clear and unambiguous understanding of the contents.
Image courtesy: Bon Label GOTS-certified Cotton
The GOTS quality assurance system is thorough and covers a number of key criteria. If you want to know more, we’ve summarised the most important of these criteria below:
– A textile product carrying the GOTS label grade ‘organic’ must contain a minimum of 95% certified organic fibres whereas a product with the label grade ‘made with organic’ must contain a minimum of 70% certified organic fibres.
– All chemical inputs (e.g. dyes and process chemicals) must be evaluated and meet basic requirements on toxicity and biodegradability.
– Prohibition of critical inputs such as toxic heavy metals, formaldehyde, aromatic solvents, functional nano particles, genetically modified organisms (GMO) and their enzymes.
– All operators must have an environmental policy including target goals and procedures to minimise waste and discharges.
– Packaging material must not contain PVC. Paper or cardboard used in packaging material, hang tags, swing tags etc. must be recycled or certified according to FSC or PEFC.
– In terms of social criteria: workers have freedom of association and their right to collective bargaining is respected, safe and hygienic working conditions, no child labour, provide living wages, working hours are not excessive, no discrimination is practised, and regular employment is provided.
Certification of the entire textile supply chain:
– Farmers must be certified according to a recognised international or national organic farming standard that is accepted in the country where the final product will be sold.
– Certifiers of fibre producers must be internationally recognised through ISO 65/17065, NOP and/or IFOAM accreditation.
– All stakeholders must undergo a onsite annual inspection cycle and must hold a valid GOTS scope certificate applicable for the production/trade of the textiles to be certified.
Note: Due to advancements and innovations over the years, the certification body has a revision process whereby they review and update their certification requirements when necessary. Version 5.0 was published on 1st of March 2017.
With GOTS relying on a dual system to check compliance with the relevant criteria consisting of on-site auditing and residue testing, you can be confident when you buy clothing that’s GOTS-certified, it has been made in a positive way with respect to people and the planet.
Image courtesy: GOTS certification
Having a third-party, independent organisation that stipulates requirements throughout the supply chain for both ecology and labour conditions in textile and apparel manufacturing using organically produced raw materials is absolutely necessary if we are to move towards a more transparent and fair fashion industry. There’s no denying it remains more expensive than non-organic textiles, but it’s about the power of numbers, economies of scale – the more demand there is, the more affordable it will become.
So, don’t settle, and continue to demand it by supporting those brands who are already committed to investing in positive change.
Unpaid Turkish Workers Hid Pleas For Help Into Zara Clothes
Shoppers in Istanbul said they had found pleas for help from unpaid workers on tags inside Zara clothes.
Worth an estimated £8.6 billion and with more than 2,200 stores worldwide, Zara might be one of the world’s most successful fashion brands, but, once again, the retailer finds itself embroiled in controversy.
According to customers in Istanbul, cries for help in the form of handwritten notes from Turkish workers were discovered in the pockets of in-store garments. These notes asked shoppers to back their campaign for better labour standards and pressure Zara into paying them the wages they say they are owed, the Associated Press reports.
Image courtesy: Getty
The notes are a bid to raise awareness of workers who were left underpaid after a Bravo Tekstil factory that made clothes for Inditex, Zara’s parent company, as well as Next and Mango, shut down overnight.
Workers were left owed three months’ worth of wages and a severance allowance when the factory closed.
This is not the first time Zara has come under fire for its ethics. It has previously been accused of both slave and child labour and exploiting Syrian refugees.
An Inditex spokesperson in a statement to Fortune said the company “has met all of its contractual obligations to Bravo Tekstil” and is working to establish a “hardship fund” for workers who did not get paid because of the factory owner’s disappearance.
“This hardship fund would cover unpaid wages, notice indemnity, unused vacation and severance payments of workers that were employed at the time of the sudden shutdown of their factory in July 2016,” the spokesperson added. But more than a year after the factory closed, Inditex has yet to transfer any money to the workers who made the Zara clothes, Fast Company reported.
That time of year is creeping closer. When it’s legit to drink gingerbread lattes, eat carbs morning, noon and night, and trade that summer slip dress for being wrapped in the finest of fabrics; cashmere if you’re lucky.
Once a luxury, it’s now commonplace to see cashmere garments from scarves to jumpers to jogging bottoms now sold everywhere from luxury brands to high street store and even supermarket chains. “What’s the big deal?,” you might ask. Cashmere is no longer only reserved for the well-off but for everyone now, so that’s got to be fair, right? Wrong.
Like fashion, cheap cashmere comes at a price. So, if it’s not the consumer fronting the costs, someone or something else is.
Cashmere is one of the rarest natural fibres in the world. The fine, warm hair grown on a type of goat that resides in the Gobi Desert, which stretches from Northern China into Mongolia. Beneath the animals’ coarse hair lies an undercoat of superfine fibres concentrated on the underbelly. In May and June, when the goats molt, local workers comb the belly hair, sort it by hand, and send it to a dehairing facility (usually in China) to be cleaned and refined. Each goat produces maybe three or four ounces of cashmere. That’s enough for between a third and a half of a sweater, whereas an ordinary sheep provides three or four sweaters. You can start to see why those luxury pyjamas will retail for £500. Once cleaned, the cashmere is then baled and delivered to Europe, where it’s spun into fine yarn and sold to designers for roughly $114 a pound.
Image courtesy: Mongolian Goat Herdspeople | NPR
The amount of wool each goat grows and its quality though are “highly dependent” on the surrounding temperature. Colder is better, which means as temperatures rise, luxury brands—and consumers—will likely see “reduced quality.” However, surprisingly harsh weather and drought have already led to the deaths of millions of goats in recent years. As Mongolia produces a third of the global supply, and cashmere makes up 40% of the country’s non-mineral exports, Mongolian herders have increased their flocks to compensate for such volatility, with overgrazing quickly eroding the grasslands where they live. The result is undernourished goats with coarser hairs.
65% of Mongolia’s grasslands have been degraded due to overgrazing of cashmere goats and to climate change. The climate change has led to a 4-degree Fahrenheit rise in average temperature in Mongolia, outpacing the rest of the world by three degrees.
“Today, Mongolian rangeland is at a crossroads,” says Bulgamaa Densambuu, a researcher for the Swiss-funded Green-Gold project. Her organisation focuses on preventing overgrazing of Mongolia’s grasslands, which Densambuu calls “rangeland.””Ninety percent of this total degraded rangelands can be recovered naturally within 10 years if we can change existing management,” she says. “But if we can’t change the existing management today, it will be too late after five to 10 years.”
Trouble is, these goat herders in Inner Mongolia are shortchanged, selling their goat hair for as little as $2.30 a kilo. By the time it reaches the international market it can fetch up to $75 a kilo. And no longer are coats always combed to release the best-quality cashmere hair, but the animals are sheared, mixing the soft with the coarse. These changes conspire to change cashmere. It’s growing coarser and thus losing its USP. It can now take the combed hair of five goats and a year of growing to make a top-quality cashmere sweater. That’s not the sort of time frame that suits a global commodity (which cashmere has become).
Image courtesy: Lkhagvajav Bish’s herd of cashmere goats feed on the winter grass in a valley in northeastern Mongolia. The goats’ sharp hooves cut through the soil surface, and their eating habits — voraciously ripping up plants by their roots — prevent the grassland from thriving. Rob Schmitz / NPR
With 90% of Mongolia now fragile dry-land, it is under increasing threat of desertification (according to the United Nations Development Programme). In fact, as a result Mongolia and Inner Mongolia has actually suffered a cashmere shortage for the last 50 years, with this obviously having an impact on local communities, the animals themselves and the environment.
More recently though, most of the global cashmere output is coming from China, where producers are increasingly blending different qualities of cashmere to achieve volume. This is easy to understand when you consider the “democratisation” of the fashion industry has led to a huge amount of affordable, casual cashmere hitting the high street. Whereas luxury labels are a lot more picky in their sourcing, centring on Mongolia and Inner Mongolia, using only the finer, whiter fibres.
However, with demand for cashmere souring, a change in production has occurred which has placed great strain on the system and continues the vicious cycle. It’s not rocket science. More goats means more grazing. More grazing means the grassland is never given a chance to restore, further plunging it into a state of degradation. The result is malnourished goats which produce coarser hair, which is obviously less desirable and leads to a shrink in the supply of high quality cashmere.
Availability will be jeopardised leading to an increase in cost, as well as poor products undermining the very notion of luxury, as highlighted in a report drafted by luxury group Kering and BSR (a nonprofit consultancy that helps companies with their sustainability) which singled out cashmere, as well as cotton, and others.
So, how do high street brand such as Uniqlo supply genuine 100% cashmere sweaters in 25 colours for £60 a pop? Partly because they leverage huge buying power, as they point out. Yet, other than that it’s difficult to add much detail because, unlike Johnstons of Elgin, which still process cashmere in Scotland and follows its supply chain direct to herdsmen in Inner Mongolia, Uniqlo’s business model distances the producer from the product. Its cashmere story, which has fuelled the brand’s global expansion, omits goats and desertification and doesn’t explain how this extraordinary raw fibre will be protected in the future.
“There’s been an absolute avalanche of people wanting more and more cashmere, and pushing the price, pushing the supply chain,” says James Sugden OBE, a director of luxury cashmere clothing label, Brora, and former managing director of Scottish woollen mill, Johnstons of Elgin. “It has created a problem, in so much as in some areas, some growers, tempted by higher volumes have gone for volume rather than quality.”
Image courtesy: Brora collaborates with Eudon Choi
Quantity over quality has never been so glaringly apparent. And with rising temperatures, this will create another level of strain.
With luxury brands feeling the strain of sourcing high quality cashmere, and high street brands compounding this through their insatiable appetite for affordable cashmere, the problem can only get worse. It’s a raw material and it’s running out. To fix this, brands large and small, luxury and bulk buyers, need to realise they have to care as much for the people at the bottom of their supply chain as much as they do for those at the top, otherwise everybody suffers.
“Desertification also exacerbates economic hardship for herders and drives them into poverty and displacement to urban slums,” says Una Jones, chief executive officer of the Sustainable Fibre Alliance (SFA), which was formed in 2015 to unite companies, governments and NGOs to tackle sustainability issues in the cashmere industry, by establishing the first Sustainable Cashmere Standard, piloted in 2016.
This is the stark reality behind the cashmere industry. So, what can consumers do to alleviate the strain? Be more mindful where you buy that cashmere sweater from and ensure you are paying a fair price from a responsible retailer for your cashmere mixed joggers. Those that are initiating market demand for fair, sustainable cashmere, if we want to see a widespread industry change.
Generally, the “Made in…” label either instills confidence through a collective understanding of craftsmanship and quality or the opposite, instantly conjuring up images of shoddy working practices and cheaply made pieces. But how much can we really rely of these given assumptions?
Being based in the UK, a country with strict working regulations, it comes as such a shock to discover that sweatshops are not isolated to developing countries alone, but actually exist here too. Brought to the surface in an undercover news item by Channel 4 Dispatches at the start of the year, it uncovered poor working conditions in fast fashion factories located in Leicester, home to a third of the UK’s fashion manufacturing. On a separate visit, they also discovered workers being paid less than half the national living wage and working conditions that posed a serious fire risk.
Image courtesy: drapersonline.com
As the months passed, news of this revelation sadly faded from public discussion. Until Vogue.co.uk published a piece this week, with ethical fashion author and journalist Tamsin Blanchard speaking with the Ethical Trading Initiative‘s Debbie Coulter about the working standards in Leicester and what we can do as consumers.
In fact, Leicester and the factories involved, have been the subject of ongoing investigations into unsafe conditions, blocked fire exits, and £3 per hour wages for the past three years, since the Ethical Trading Initiative – which campaigns for workers’ rights around the globe – commissioned a report on clothing manufacturing in the area.
“People will be shocked, but it’s not exaggerating the reality of the situation,” says Debbie Coulter, Head of Programmes at the ETI. £3 per hour is an average wage, although she has spoken to women who were being paid as little as £1 per hour.
Demand for British-made fast fashion is rising, since increased shipping costs means that it’s cheaper to manufacture in the UK for local markets rather than import from Asia or Bangladesh. Those exposed included Boohoo and Missguided.
With so many fast fashion brands sacrificing fair and safe working conditions in order to offer new and dirt cheap fashion every week, to learn of it happening anywhere is sickening, but it’s especially egregious when it’s happening in a country that has laws in place to prevent these abuses.
Image courtesy: RIXO London
What can we do a consumers? Don’t be turned off by the ‘Made in Britian’ label. For the most part, brands that produce locally are making a conscious effort to manufacture in an ethical manner. Start supporting local brands that care about the people who make our clothes: from Patrick Grant’s Community Clothing, which is committed to bringing fair textile work back to the UK; to ultra cool new label RIXO London, who create beautifully unusual hand-painted printed pieces by working with highly skilled English factories to produce.
What’s Blockchain & How Can It Help Fashion Become Sustainable?
Fashion supply chains have become notoriously murky and opaque over the last few decades, largely down to the rise of fast fashion. As a result, many fashion brands have suffered much criticism for their irresponsible practices, from human rights abuses to environmental destruction embedded in their supply chains. As much as they claim not to have been aware of these abuses occurring, brands are nevertheless responsible for their supply chains, challenging or not.
This is where technology could help, though, and untraceable supply chains could soon become a problem of the past. A Transparent Company is one player in the fashion-tech world who is aiming to fix the issue of opaque supply chains with fashionable blockchain technology.
Firstly, what is blockchain? It’s revolutionary and basically allows digital information to be distributed but not copied. Incorruptible, the blockchain database isn’t stored in any single location. This means the information it keeps is truly public and easily verifiable. Like the internet, it has a built-in robustness, so by storing blocks of information that are identical across its network, the blockchain can’t be controlled by any single entity and therefore, no single point of failure. Originally devised for the digital currency, Bitcoin, the tech community is now finding other potential uses for the technology.
“As revolutionary as it sounds, Blockchain truly is a mechanism to bring everyone to the highest degree of accountability.” – Ian Khan, TEDx Speaker, Author and Technology Futurist.
This is especially relevant to the fashion industry, which is in dire need of greater transparency and accountability. With increased scrutiny into their practices, fashion brands and suppliers need to better understand what really goes on if they want customers to feel confident that what they are selling is ethically produced.
Recognising the challenges and potential to do good, fashion designer and founder of A Trasparent Company, Neliana Fuenmayor, understands sharing information with customers and supply chain partners is key to managing risk and reputations. By providing a solution that offers robust data that is secure, decentralised and represents all players in the supply chain, responsibility is shared between all actors and trust can then be built.
This realisation led the designer/founder to collaborate with friend Jessi Baker, founder of Provenance, which is a platform using blockchain to achieve greater product supply chain transparency.
Having worked with major brands such as Burberry and Stella McCartney, as well as running her own label, Fuenmayor began working with Provenance as a consultant on the company’s fashion cases, while also giving time to grow A Transparent Company. In fact, the firms are expected to announce a formal partnership in the coming months. Positive news for the fashion industry, brands and customers alike.
Together with designer Martine Jarlgaard and the London College of Fashion’s Innovation Agency, they unveiled the world’s first blockchain-tracked garment at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit back in May. Designed by Jarlgaard, each alpaca wool jumpercame with its own QR code and near field communication (NFC) token that shows the journey of the piece from farm to completion when scanned.
“The collaboration with Martine was the pilot project, and it has triggered a lot of reaction from big brands that want to understand how this was possible, how it works, and what it could mean for them,” explained Fuenmayor.
The Provenance app allows users to scan a garment’s QR code and see the farmers, millers and producers involved in its production. A Transparent Company is setting out to encourage fashion brands to adopt blockchain technology to become more transparent. The idea is that by working with fashion brands they move all supply chain actors on to the platform where its tracking tool lets them virtually transfer assets to their downstream partner, while logging information about what, when and where the products were transferred.
Because it is backed by blockchain, these records are publicly available and immutable so actors on the platform can be held accountable for their claims as it connects the data from each supplier. So you’ll be able to check when a label claims to be ethical or sustainable.
It’s worth noting that while blockchain technology cannot prevent users from lying when they enter their data, the system is programmed to automatically detect and flag any abnormalities.
It’s about building trust between brands and consumers. Something that is seriously lacking in recent years. Perhaps by these partnerships paving the way for real positive change within the fashion industry, it will encourage others and one day we will have transparent and fair fashion supply chains across the board.
If these shocking fashion facts don’t make you think differently about the clothes you wear and how they’re made, well, put your goddamn glasses on and read it again!
Image courtesy: RecycleNation
The global fashion supply chain employs 60 million people worldwide. That’s roughly the equivalent to the entire population of Italy.
The clothing industry generates €1.5 trillion revenue annually. Pretty much the GDP of Canada.
The Global Fashion Agenda and Boston Consulting Group predict overall apparel consumption will rise by 63% by 2030. The equivalent to 500 billion more t-shirts. Yes, you read that right. 500 billion!
The apparel industry consumes around 79 billion cubic meters of water each year. This is the same volume as 32 million Olympic swimming pools.
Nike’s Flyknit sneakers use 60% less materials during production since its woven, one-piece upper requires no gluing or or panels. Conceived entirely for this purpose, to prove Nike could produce sneakers in a less resource-intensive process.
A €25 t-shirt would only be €1.35 more expensive if the wages of the person making it were doubled. Come on, who’s going to argue with that?
$90-$120 billion USD is wasted annually on plastic packaging. This is sickening. Not only is it extremely wasteful, but it’s extremely difficult to recycle: only 2% of 78 million tons of waste packaging gets recycled.
By 2050 (33 years from now), there will be more plastic than fish in our ocean’s. That’s if we don’t break with the current rates of plastic dumping.
We humans are consuming resources at 1.6 times the planet’s capacity. If we don’t slow down or change focus, by 2030, we’ll need TWO planets worth of resources.
2/3 of all fibres used in clothing production are cotton-based. This is concerning considering the intense strain that cotton production places on the environment, including vast amounts of water and hazardous pesticides.
H&M collects 35 truckloads of clothing a day as part of its recycling programme. Not so straight forward, though. Once collected these unwanted clothes are either donated to charitable causes or recycled into lower-quality products, such as cloths or insulation. Yet this is nothing compared to the sheer volume of cheap, disposable clothes produced by H&M daily. How much of the clothing giant’s growing environmental impact can be mitigated when they encourage garment recycling by offering a voucher programme that gives discounts to those who donate their clothes at its stores? A clothes-ridden, vicious cycle.
Global supply chain giant Li & Fung, who works primarily with US and EU brands, reports that productivity levels in its factories has increased by 18%. This can be attributed to a new employee program for its 22,000-strong staff, that creates a financially-inclusive, gender-equal work environment, with a focus on ensuring workers receive proper nutrition via educational programmes. Ergo, worker welfare equals good business sense, as well as being downright human decency.
Sundance 2017 Winner Reveals Unethical Practices Within Textile Production
Out of sight, out of mind, right? It’s so easy to go about our daily lives safe in the knowledge we are, for the most part, living fair and decent lives. Rare is it that we’re faced with accusations that the way in which we live is actually contributing to the hardship of others.
But when it’s finally revealed to you, there’s no turning a blind eye to it. And that’s never truer than with this year’s Sundance 2017 winner, MACHINES, which reveals the unethical practices of fast fashion brands.
One of the first to document such abuses was in 2015’s documentary The True Cost and more recently, in the many journalistic exposés . But this year’s winner of the Sundance World Cinema Documentary award for Cinematography, directed by Rahul Jain, shares yet more harrowing accounts of the harsh realities for impoverished workers in the global textile industry. It actually reminds us that while there’s much greater attention around these issues, so much more needs to be done to ensure a more ethical approach to fashion is adopted and adhered to, from low-end to high street to high-end luxury.
From the name alone, you can guess that the film centres on the relationship between factory workers and the steely machines driving fast fashion production. Filmed in one of the many huge textile mills, this one in Gujarat, India, Jain takes us on a journey into the world of these men and boys, and what’s expected of them. This includes extreme working hours in unsafe working conditions, for very poor wages and finished off with what could become of them if they were to challenge the management.
For the full interview with the first-time director and to hear how the film came about, head over to Dazed Digital.
Is Your Gym Gear Made In Sweatshops And Harming The Environment?
It’s niggled at us for a little while now. How can you be a fitness and activewear brand when you’re not promoting a healthy lifestyle throughout the entire production cycle? Is it because it’s hidden and they don’t think we’ll find out the nasty secrets around our gym gear?
It’s tough. You’re constantly awash with motivational imagery of ripped celebrities and models, trying to convince you that all you need is the right workout gear and you too could have that body. But, what lies beneath the glossy campaigns isn’t just unfair for us gullible public. There’s layers and layers of murky supply chains with actual people, and the environment, taking the financial and hazardous burden of producing this leisurewear.
Beyoncé’s Ivy Park range isn’t the only brand to experience labour abuse claims – with theirs centred around the working conditions at their Sri Lankan factory – but the particular irony was that the Ivy Park brand purports to promote (and commodifies) independence and empowerment for women, yet this is something that the female workers making these pieces can’t possibly achieve on their below living wage (80% of garment makers are poor women, after all).
Image courtesy: Ivy Park
Across the fashion industry many workers are paid pennies an hour and must endure horrendous treatment, living and sleeping in cramped compounds. According to Jakub Sobik of UK charity Anti-Slavery International, the workers who reside on the premises are locked into their living spaces at night, they must abide by curfews, and keep movement to a minimum. While these reports are alarming, unfortunately they’re not uncommon in the fast fashion industry. In Bangladesh – the epicentre of sweatshops – factory fires have killed hundreds of workers, alongside the more high profile Rana Plaza collapse. No one can deny the level of exploitation that is endured for the sake of leisurewear.
The further burden then falls on the environment. Traditionally, activewear was made from natural materials, which then progressed onto nasty synthetic fibres. These man-made fibres such as lycra and polyester, can take hundreds of years to break down and decompose, leaving a devastating footprint on the natural world. For example, 85% of the man-made material now found in the ocean is microfibres derived from man-made clothing fabrics such as nylon and acrylic.
There are brands, however, who understand the hypocrisy that could arise from being known as an outdoor clothing label, whilst its very production is contributing to the destruction of our planet. Such brands, like Patagonia, who’s very business is centred around the great outdoors and the environment, is making strides to combat their impact. In particular, this means producing clothing with sustainability and durability in mind. “Both my personal interest and the company’s interest in environmental protection and sustainability really has its origins in our experiences as climbers, mountaineers, surfers and skiers,” explains Rick Ridgeway, VP of Public Engagement at Patagonia. “We’ve witnessed the development of places that used to be wild. So we are committed to doing our bit as much as we can, to try and provide solutions to these problems that we’re seeing first-hand.”
Image courtesy: Patagonia
If environmental destruction wasn’t bad enough, the very production of these garments could leave harmful chemicals and toxins hidden in your sportswear. The findings from two Greenpeace reports on chemical content in sportswear and fashion found that sportswear from major brands contained known hazardous chemicals, like Phthalates, PFCs, Dimethylformamide (DMF), Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), and Nonylphenols (NPs).
What’s more, in an article exploring toxic chemicals in sportswear, published by The Guardian, Greenpeace’s Manfred Santen suggests it’s too early to know the effects of these chemicals and how repeated exposure to them might affect us. “The concentration [of chemicals] that we find in clothing may not cause acute toxic problems for the wearer in the short-term, but in the long-term you never know,” Santen said. “Endocrine disruptors [chemicals that can interfere with the hormone system], for example, you don’t know what the impact of long-term exposure is on human health.”
The potential presence of harmful chemicals in any amount of our workout gear is troubling, in large part because it’s designed to sit against and interact with the skin in high-friction, high-movement, high-heat, high-moisture environments—like when we work out.
Some big brands are taking action, though, sourcing high-performance organic fabrics and recycled materials, and seeking natural alternatives to chemical finishes. Patagonia has invested in Beyond Surface Technologies, which develops “textile treatments based on natural raw materials” and is phasing out PFCs. Similarly, Adidas has promised that their products will be 99 % PFC-free by 2017. We’re waiting for that announcement.
Image courtesy: Chien-min Chung/Getty Images
Nonetheless, the fact remains that most activewear today is produced by large multinationals whose extensive supply chains often fail to take human rights into account, at all. Shockingly, a 2015 study revealed that 71% of leading UK brands believed there was a likelihood of modern slavery occurring at some point in their supply chains. While fashion industry supply chains are inherently complex, this is flatly unacceptable. There’s absolutely no excuse for child labour to continue taking place in 2017 in factories that make clothing for western fast fashion retailers. We as consumers should refuse to let this happen on our watch.
Some practical things you as a consumer can do, include:
1) refusing to buy from brands you can’t be sure of where their garments are made or who they are made by
Most of us can relate to that rush you feel when you step into a fast fashion outlet. You spot the pieces that are perfect for that upcoming event. Or the sandals you noticed on the cool girl at the office. Your heart starts pumping faster. You feel excited. And once purchased, you feel satisfied, for the time being. But are those specific items responsible for this emotional surge or can it be attributed to something altogether deeper?
It’s no surprise that in wealthy countries around the world, clothes shopping has become a widespread pastime, a powerfully pleasurable and sometimes addictive activity. In fact, research has found that it really doesn’t matter what you’re buying but the act itself. The internet and the proliferation of cheap clothing has made shopping a form of affordable, endlessly available entertainment, where the point isn’t so much what you buy as the act of shopping itself.
Image courtesy: Uniqlo
Not as simple as just vowing to buy nothing, it’s no coincidence that shopping has become such a compulsive activity.
Shopping is actually quite a complex process if you delve below the surface. A 2007 study looked at the brains of test subjects as they made decisions while out buying clothes using fMRI technology. The researchers found that when they showed one of the study’s subjects a desirable object for sale, the pleasure centre, or nucleus ambens, in the subject’s brain lit up. The higher the desire for the item, the more activity the fMRI detected.
The price of the item was then revealed. From there, deciding whether to buy put the brain in a “hedonic competition between the immediate pleasure of acquisition and an equally immediate pain of paying,” explained the study. This is in line with evidence that revealed we experience a particular sensation when we want something, whether it be a large important purchase or a frivolous small item. In fact, the very pursuit of things brought joy, albeit for the most part short-lived.
That’s not to say people don’t feel pleasure just from the act of looking, however there is a particular pleasure experienced when you pick up a bargain. There’s a part of the brain that does what’s essentially cost-benefit analysis. “It seemed to be responsive not necessarily to price alone, or how much I like it, but that comparison of the two: how much I like it compared to what you charge me for it,” says Scott Rick, one of the study’s authors.
Experts in consumer psychology have shown that when it comes to clothing, in particular, it’s “not just that you bought something that you really like and you’re going to use, but also that you got a good deal,” says Tom Meyvis, a Professor of Marketing at NYU’s Stern School of Business.
It’s almost like fast fashion has been constructed to meet this psychological occurrence. You couldn’t have planned it better. The clothes are incredibly cheap, making it painless to buy. And with the constant turnover of new products, often with fresh stock arriving on a weekly basis, this satisfies customers needs to lust after something new. With fast fashion retailers refusing to follow seasons in the traditional sense, you see stores like H&M and Forever21 getting new clothes deliveries daily, while Zara receives two new shipments of clothes per week.
Since these brands knock off high-end designer looks weeks after they’ve previewed on the catwalk, it leaves consumers believing they can access these previously exclusive styles at a fraction of the cost, making them feel like they’ve scored a bargain. Setting such a low price results in people buying things they don’t need (or even want long-term) without much consideration. When you spot a top that’s been slashed from £50 to £15, the hedonic pleasure centre in the brain lights up, with the price causing little competing pain. Win-win, you think.
In order to compete, even designer labels and luxury brands are tapping into this psychological desire for a bargain by entering the sales wars. However, what feels like constant sales is only possible because retailers exaggerate their original retail prices, with items then marked down to their intended prices but leaves shoppers feeling like they’ve found a bargain and encourages them to buy more.
It’s no secret that such cheap prices are often only possible by moving production overseas, where worker’s rights and environmental procedures are neither protected or upheld. The enormous growth of value-driven fast fashion brands has only worked to compound this problem.
We arrive at the realisation that consumers run the risk of ending up on the hedonic treadmill in which the continuous pursuit of new stuff leaves them unhappy and unfulfilled. You’ve most likely felt it yourself. You saw something. You craved it and got excited. You bought it on a whim. And now, you’ve either worn it once or worse, you don’t even know where it is.
This leaves us questioning whether a momentary surge in happiness should come at the expense of people’s health and wellbeing, as well as our planet’s? Clothes are more than entertainment. They should be invested in, financially and emotionally.
We let the dust settle before considering what can be learned from this year’s Copenhagen Fashion Summit, the world’s leading event on sustainability in fashion for key industry decision-makers. For us, this year’s “Pulse of the Fashion Industry” report, in conjunction with some of the event speakers, has left us to consider what the key takeaways are and how we can all behave and shop in a more considered way. But before we go any further and launch into the fact that fashion industry only received a pulse score of just 32 out of 100, it might be worth explaining what a pulse score actually is.
The Pulse Score is a global and holistic baseline of sustainability performance in the fashion sector and is based on the Higg Index, the most extensive and representative existing transparency measurement tool of the fashion industry. This wasn’t consistent across the industry, but certain companies were definitely found to be dragging the rest down. “Companies in the top revenue quartile have an average Pulse Score of 63, while bottom-quartile contenders are at 11,” explains the report.
Gathering the most influential decision-makers, leaders, NGOs and experts in the fashion sector, the summit and the report’s main purpose is to encourage and drive change within the international fashion industry in order to transform the way we produce and consume fashion.
And while the best performers on sustainability are “the very big players as well as some mid-sized, family owned companies, it is over half of the market, mainly small to medium-sized players (that have) shown little effort so far.” Don’t despair, though. With better education and better access to resources, this will drive sustainability throughout the industry, from top and bottom and clear the way for a more dedicated approach to environmental, social and ethical objectives, as well as becoming more economically rewarding for companies in the long run.
Calling on brands and organisations to grasp the clear opportunity to act differently and address its environmental and social footprint, the report has outlined the impact, as well as what can be done to work towards positive change.
Here’s a short summary of the recommendations featured in the report:
Sustainable fibres instead of conventional fibres
Circular economy over a linear economy: explore closed loop production
Reduce your energy footprint
Follow demand, don’t create it
Safe dyes rather than chemical dyes
Opportunity to create large-scale social change for millions
Back at the event there was also a strong focus on circularity, with brands such as Eileen Fisher and Filippa K sharing their initiatives and targets with event goers. Both labels have adopted methods to increase the potential circularity of their garments, from reselling and upcycling to leasing items.
Image courtesy: I-D Vice
Technology, too, can play a key role in the advancement of sustainable and ethical practices, though there might be a few more years to wait for it to hit mainstream. Regular FROW member turned CEO, Miroslava Duma spoke at the summit about her new venture, Fashion Tech Lab. Part investment fund, part accelerator, part experimental lab; she and an impressive roster of advisory board members, will work to commercialise sustainable technologies and innovation within the fashion industry. The founder discussed several unique projects they are working on, including investing in a laboratory based in San Francisco that is growing leather without the need to kill animals and without the use of harmful chemicals. The lab also specialises in the creation of man-made diamonds that are technically identical to mined stones but avoids slavery, as well as the environmental consequences commonly associated with such mining.
However, even if the entire industry caught up to the best practice front-runners, it would not be enough and more needs to be done. While sustainability is moving in the right direction and innovation is driving us toward more positive production processes, more has to be done by all companies large and small, and this means also focussing on improving the human side of the supply chain. The report’s recommendations can only truly work when they are implemented alongside improved labour conditions and a commitment to transparency and traceability.