When people ask me what I do, I am sometimes loathed to admit that I work in fashion. It is not the glamorous industry it sells itself as but rather a vast and reckless monster, bulldozing its way through the seasons.
Then I remember the reasons I was drawn to it: creativity, freedom and inclusion.
I am on a mission to rediscover these lost aspects of the industry. After all, it is we who have caused their loss and therefore it is our job to fix it. As designers we must ask ourselves if this is the kind of industry we want to work in. I know what my answer is and I'm trying to do something about it. And ultimately, whether consumer, retailer or brand, we all have a part to play.
I'm a knitwear designer. Mention the words 'knitwear' and 'sustainable' in the same sentence and you get some fairly pitying looks. Be so bold as to add the word 'handmade' and in terms of design respect, it would seem that you're pretty much doomed.
study 34 A/W 2015
That's right, I make jumpers and not the kind with pompoms on. I don't make them because I'm 'crafty' (unless you mean quick thinking and original, I'll take that). I do it because I'm thoroughly depressed by the state of the fashion industry today, which too many people are ignoring, and at the moment, it's the only thing I can do to address the problem in any real way.
The fashion industry is one of the biggest employers in the world, and the power it has as a result of this truly gives it the ability to change lives. But instead of using this power for good, it uses it for exploitation.
Fast Fashion is cheap, it's low quality and it requires minimal effort - phrases I'm sure no one aspires to align themselves with.
As consumers, we have become so used to the low price and fast turnaround of our garments that some argue that we can never go back.
Well, I have more confidence in the consumer.
In terms of style, Sustainable Fashion has a bad rep. But sustainability is separate to the well-chosen colour and perfect shape of a garment.
Sustainability is about how and under what conditions a garment is made. Has the fabric dying process caused water contamination? Can the person who made it afford to feed their family? Is it made well enough to last?
Sustainable Fashion is just Fashion, but respecting people and the environment at the same time.
While the percentage of designers and brands who work in a responsible way may be relatively small, there is something on the horizon that has the ability to change that...
The next phase coming from the team at Ethical Fashion Forum, Mysource is a platform that nurtures and encourages better practice in the fashion industry.
Image courtesy of mysource.io
Making it in the fashion business isn't easy. There's a lot to get right and for millions of fashion professionals there are two huge challenges: How do you grow a profitable company in a market that's globalising, fast-paced, and increasingly competitive? And, how do you do this in a sustainable way with respect to the people behind your products and to the environment? - Mysource, 2015
There is more to life than fashion. But for millions of people working in the industry, fashion dictates their lives, and through it all too often they meet their demise.
I won't live and work knowing that my actions as both a consumer and a designer are directly affecting somebody else's quality of life for the worse.
We all can and must #DoFashionBetter
This post was originally featured on the study 34 blog