As we start to bring in new ideas to our routine for the new year, I ask, how much do you know where your clothes, shoes and accessories are made and what they are made from?
The global industry that employs one sixth of the world's population is riddled with issues such as fast fashion, toxic chemical use, forced labour and waste. Let's make 2013 the year each of us become conscious consumers and demand that the fashion industry is changed.
Since 2008, I have been thinking carefully about what I buy and what I wear and for the past three years, I have shared on my blog everything I have bought to wear. At the end of 2010, I wrote these 12 resolutions which have since become my 12 Rules To Dress By when I started to realise that even though awareness was rising about the issues in the global fashion industry most of us don't have a clue how to think about making our wardrobes sustainable. When I speak to friends and colleagues there doesn't seem to be a great feeling of responsibility about how we shop and how we dress. Many feel that it's a girl's fashion issue, yet we all wear clothes no matter our sex, age, or how stylish we consider ourselves.
The responsibility to change fashion is shared between the fashion industry, governments and us. What we buy or demand makes an enormous difference to what is made. There is a whole vocabulary building up around ethical fashion, with phrases such as Pre-Loved, Up-Cycled, Organic and Fair-trade. It's important that we all start to understand what these mean and this is the future of fashion.
I wanted to help to share these ideas, and so collaborated with Visual Communication Designer Joana Casaca Lemos to develop a poster and checklist that would make it impossible for you not to think about what you buy and what you wear. As the fashion industry is now so global, we thought it was important to develop this project into as many languages as we could, so that the message could be spread far and wide. This has not been without challenge, especially with the new vocabulary on this topic, but we hope that you share and enjoy our work. We are making it freely available so that nobody is prevented from joining in. Our aim is to make 2012 'The Year of The Sustainable Wardrobe', with each of us becoming conscious consumers and demanding that the fashion industry is changed.
Clothes are an important part of our daily life. We have the opportunity to affect millions of people's lives and to protect our environment by how we shop and what we wear. Rules are made to be broken, but by following these you can make a difference.
1. Ask yourself if you really need something new, or if you can wear something in a
different way to make it feel fresh. If you are buying it, think about what you have that you
can wear it with so you don't need any new accessories.
2. Try and set a limit for how many things you buy a year. Make it the right number for you.
Think of how many things you usually buy every month or year and then take off at least a
quarter. Or even half it - you don't need as much as you think.
3. Research ethical designers (Ethical, Eco, Sustainable, Green are generally interchangeable
words). There are so many designers with exciting collections that are using intelligent
design and pushing the production boundaries. Read online magazines and eco-fashion
blogs to keep up to date with the latest developments.
4. Support small local designers - In a world that is increasingly global, it's hard for local
artists to compete with the high street. But the things that they create are special, original
and come with a low carbon footprint.
5. Buy something organic, or made from a new fabric such as from Soy Bean, Nettle or Milk.
They are not as harmful to the earth and the farmers as more common fabrics such as non
organic cotton which involves heavy pesticide use.
6. Have a wardrobe clear-out and give your unloved pieces to your local charity shop or hold
a swishing party. Research the best clothing banks to donate to as some recycle every bit of
clothing even if it is damaged, and some throw away things they can't sell.
7. When buying something new, ask the shop/designer what is not on the label such as
what it is made from, where it was made and who by. This way you learn about the story of
your clothes and if the designer or brand hasn't thought about it, you are helping change the
industry by reminding them to do so.
8. Get out your sewing machine and customise something old (maybe two or three things)
into something new. Sewing machines are not as hard to use as you think they are. If you
don't think you can do it yourself, find a sewing class, or you could ask your gran!
9. When buying something new, think of how long you will like it for. Is it a keeper or
something you will wear once? Try and buy something that you can get a lot of wear out,
even if it is special, you might as well wear it whilst you can.
10. Buy something that is fair-trade. The Fairtrade certification guarantees that producers
have been paid a fair price for the material. For example you can get fairtrade cotton and
fairtrade gold. Note that if they have written fair-trade as two words that they don't have
the official certification (although they might be implementing fair trade practises)
11. Rent or borrow something instead of buying something new. It's a great feeling when
you wear something belonging to a family member or a friend, and it makes them happy to
see you enjoying it too (that is if you asked permission!) If they don't have your taste then
you could try a designer rental service.
12. Have fun with it. Ethical fashion is all about discovering the stories behind the fashion
and changing lives not to mention helping our planet. So explore, experiment and enjoy
As Diana Vreeland said "The only real elegance is in the mind; if you've got that, the rest really comes from it."