"Sustainable fashion". It's a phrase that has been met with mixed reactions from the fashion industry - yawns of boredom, downright cynicism and complaints that it is a contradiction in terms. What does it actually mean? Is it anything more than a marketing tool with big brands paying lip service to the fact that fashion needs to clean up its act.
As the co-founder of an online sustainable fashion store (Gather&See) I am, frankly, bored of having the same conversations over and over again. No wonder the fashion press are generally disinterested. We are getting bogged down in the intricacies of what the term means and its many failings and often this confusion is preventing us from moving forward with the conversation.
Photo credit: Kowtow
Consumers want great products and value for money but they also want straight forward choices - clarity and authenticity. Fashion consumers are no different in this regard and, thankfully, they are becoming more and more aware of the impact that their choices can have. This shift in consumer mindset is a half-chance. Please let's not waste it and scare them all away by over-complicating the subject.
At Gather&See we stock brands that create beautiful pieces and also all share the same belief that fashion should have a positive impact on people and planet. Each brand has its own story which you can read about in detail on our site but it boils down to the fact that these are brands are doing good. Call it sustainable fashion, responsible fashion, ethical fashion - it doesn't really matter. The point is that it is good fashion.
Photo credit: A Peace Treaty
There are so many aspects as to what makes fashion good. Many of them are in the eye of the beholder which is perhaps why the topic is such a bone of contention. To simplify things for our customers we have created 5 core Philosophies which our brands fit into. They are Organic, Fair Trade, Eco-Friendly, Small Scale Production and Heritage. That is a starting point and, if you want, you can shop using these criteria. If Fair Trade is your thing you can choose just to view our Fair Trade products, nearly all of our brands are Small Scale Production but if that is what matters to you then at the click of a button you can guarantee the pieces you are looking at are not mass produced.
Photo credit: Kowtow
We've found that this straight froward and simple way of looking at "sustainable fashion" resonates with our visitors. If they want to delve deeper in to each Philosophy or to find out the intricate details of a particular Kowtow certified Fair Trade and organic cotton top then it's all there for them to see. Equally if they stumbled across a pair of A Peace Treaty earrings on Instagram and just want to buy them because they are pretty that's fine too.
Let's stop beating ourselves up about what sustainable fashion is or isn't. An existential crisis is not going to help the real environmental and social crises that fashion has a hand in creating every day. Instead let's focus on celebrating pure, honest and creative fashion that harnesses its incredible power to do good.
This September The Huffington Post UK Style is focusing on all things sustainable, for the second year running. Our thirst for fast fashion is dramatically impacting the environment and the lives of thousands of workers in a negative way. Our aim is to raise awareness of this zeitgeist issue and champion brands and people working to make the fashion industry a more ethical place.
We'll be sharing stories and blogs with the hashtag #SustainableFashion and we'd like you to do the same. If you'd like to use our blogging platform to share your story, email firstname.lastname@example.org