A lot has been done recently to alert people about the negative impact of the fashion industry on the environment and producers in third world countries: from BBC's latest documentary 'Are your clothes wrecking the planet?' by Stacey Dooley to renowned entrepreneurs such as Safia Minney, author of 'Slave to Fashion', and Livia Firth, Creative Director of sustainability consultancy Eco-Age and founder of the Green Carpet Challenge.
“The main thing is to get the links buttoned up between the providers of clothes and whoever wears them – we need to encourage people to be determinedly interested in the provenance of the clothes they are buying. That’s what worries me most, because it really comes down to encouraging consumer understanding that buying things just because they are cheap can be counterproductive." Suzy Menkes
It is an ongoing battle to get the message across businesses and consumers. Businesses operate based on data about consumers and most people are unaware of how their shopping habits can actually change fashion. But slowly, the efforts of many people involved in the fashion sustainability movement are bearing some fruit.
Stella McCartney has been leading the way for a while and continues to be the most influential advocate but young designers are starting to embrace sustainability as their unique selling point, British Vogue has recently published a video about a few of them.
There's also new companies being established by young entrepreneurs such as Selkie Patterns, financially supported by crowdfunding. Co-founders Caroline Akselson and Alexandra Bruce launched it to combine sustainability and sewing under the same roof.
"There is no other pattern company that puts care for the environment into their business, yet sewing your own clothes is such a logical step to take control over the sustainability of your wardrobe."
But if you're not so good with your hands and want to wear premium brands for a fraction of the price, Rent the Runway could be a smart move. According to Jennifer Hyman, the company's CEO, “Every woman has the feeling of opening up her closet and seeing the dozens of dead dresses that she’s worn only once.”
If a piece doesn’t work out, instead of ending up in a landfill or being incinerated, it is simply rented by someone else. Another alternative is to buy from outlets, usually there are 'villages' outside the main city centres where you can purchase off season products.
IFA Paris has an upcoming short course on Upcycling Fashion. The students involved in this programme will discover a unique way of recycling previously un-wearable items or old clothing, creating a more sustainable way of shopping, creating and thinking.
The London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London, has an MA on Fashion Futures, which places sustainability at the heart of fashion practice to help shape the next generation of sustainable brands and pioneers.
And let's not forget the highly acclaimed work of all those involved in the annual Copenhagen Fashion Summit, that has already established itself as the world’s leading business event on sustainability in fashion.
Everything sounds promising but as consumers, we have to open our eyes and demand more information from the brands we love. Instead of waiting for things to be done at the top, we can actively take matters into our own hands and make a difference.
The key is in your shopping habits, or if you're an influencer, only promote brands you're clear about their sustainable values and practices..