Starting a Sustainable Fashion Business

Over the years, my relationship with fashion has become increasingly paradoxical and even uncomfortable. I still love beautiful clothes but can’t turn a blind eye to the negative impact it is having on the world.

How can we enjoy fashion without participating in the repercussions it has on the environment and the widespread abuse of basic human rights like a fair wage and safe working conditions?

Reading a fashion magazine in Hyde Park many years ago

I have been wondering about this for a while and came up with the idea for ‘Swap & Buy’. It’s a new retail concept embracing secondhand and new clothes in one place, from both current (only from sustainable brands) and past seasons, as well as exclusive up-cycled fashion (new clothes made from secondhand fabrics or unsold merchandise).

This new model is based on circular economy principles, reducing both waste and production. In order to build consistency in terms of branding, it would feature a highly curated womenswear collection of ‘Instagram ready’ pieces, with a strong fashion statement, but wearable.

Check out my Styling Gallery, to have a sense of the style I would be aiming at. Swapping clothes would be subjected to approval, to ensure brand consistency and the quality of the fabrics.

The physical retail space would feel spacious, clean and modern, offering a luxury shopping service, but without pushing for sales or leaving people to fetch for themselves, like it usually happens in fast fashion. Ideally, a boutique that would feel like a private member's club.

At the moment, this project still a concept, with a lot of research needed to develop a proper business plan. It’s worth remembering the fashion industry produces more and more, aiming at higher and higher profit margins.

Despite clever ‘green washing’ marketing strategies, there’s not much consideration for people or the environment, as it’s clear from recent order cancellations.

Some people became considerably conscientious about these issues and now commit to buy only from charity or vintage shops, while others organise swap parties.

But they are a minority. Sadly the accident in Bangladesh and the BBC documentary about it a few years ago, didn’t deter fast fashion consumers, nor celebrities and influencers from endorsing brands clearly mentioned in the report.

One of the biggest problems of fast fashion is excessive production and waste. Unsold items end up being incinerated or discarded on a landfill. The only way to produce less is if people would buy less, but we got used to changing what we wear all the time, and it will take time to learn how to live differently.

There are other alternative business models already underway like renting luxury fashion, which is now available to a much wider audience. Other brands only initiate production after receiving orders directly from consumers, who are happy to wait for what they want.

Perhaps we are now at a turning point in fashion's evolution. As Stella McCartney has been proving for a while, fashion doesn’t need to cost the world and we all have a role to play to stir it towards a sustainable and bright future!

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