In the same week that I launched Wild Strings as a brand, Misguided launched their controversial £1 bikini campaign and the government rejected suggestions made by the Environmental Audit Committee's Fixing Fashion report to try and improve the impact of the fashion industry.
One of the reasons I chose to create Wild Strings was because of a desire to move the industry away from its cheap 'shop, shop, shop' model and, whilst I launch a collection which focuses on ethical practices and up-cycling (all our contrast linings and patches are fabric offcuts which would have otherwise been waste), Misguided has launched their '£1 Bikini' campaign. I believe that that this campaign sums up all that is wrong with the fast fashion industry at this moment, with brands competing with each other to make the cheapest, fastest selling garment to increase purchases and drive sales....but who actually needs a £1 bikini? The short answer is no one. But we're all a sucker for a bargain (me included, I can promise you) so people buy a £1 bikini because it's there and because it's cheap, without considering the impacts their purchase will have on the earth. These bikinis will outlive 67% of the endangered species we're on course to lose this century and 85% of their make up is polyester, a fabric which is incredibly harmful and can release plastic microfibres into the air and environment just by being worn or washed.
I just want to clarify that this blog isn’t me going in on one company or campaign, I just think it is a great example of the deeper issues of the production and culture of the fast fashion industry. Clothes should not be able to be sold for £1 (or other such ‘discounts’) because the price should reflect the complex production process which includes cutting, dying, sewing and packaging to name a few, and by offering such prices fast-fashion labels are promoting a disposable clothing culture when in fact, clothing should be cared for and worn season to season. In an interview with Teen Vogue, Patricia Maeda summed it up perfectly by commenting that “Fast fashion is a fast-response system that encourages disposability” and that it’s low cost massively increases the likelihood of shoppers throwing away the bikini and that “the devastating environmental consequences such as pollution effects, resource draw down, and waste, as well as the importance of corporate responsibility, ethical business practise” are central to the discussion.
In real terms, this campaign is drop a in the ocean (or a whole lot of plastic in the ocean) in terms of the impact of the fashion industry as whole on the environment, but I think, as the government reject the EAC’s suggestions, that it is a good example and an important reminder that clothes should be something that are bought less, worn more and loved.
On Tuesday, the official launch day of Wild Strings by Eleanor (I’m not sure whether this is a good omen or a bad one), the government rejected recommendations from MP’s, which would have forced the fashion industry to clean up it’s act. Their suggestions tackled, among others, waste, pollution, modern slavery, and overconsumption within the industry and included a 1p tax per garment to increase funding for recycling initiatives, as well as a ban on incinerating clothes (in all honesty, this is one of my most hated parts of the industry, burning unsold stock seems unfathomable to me, goodness knows how much extra pollution that contributes to the environment, but that’s a topic for the future…).
Read the Fixing Fashion Report
The government argued that existing voluntary programmes, like the SCAP, are ‘adequate’ in encouraging brands to improve their environmental impact, but at this point, I think that this attitude simply isn’t enough…the government is the only body which can improve and increase the pace of change by enforcing policies which not only reprimand those brands which do not comply, but by rewarding brands which are earth conscious and develop ways of creating a more sustainable industry. The Telegraph writes that “while Government regulation should not be the only factor in helping fashion reduce its impact on the environment, it’s a powerful one, because it is the only way to make sustainability and ethics-led business practices mandatory” which pretty much sums up the challenges faced by small businesses and consumers when demanding a bigger focus on ethical practices. Don’t get me wrong, the high street is making small changes and broadening its eco offerings, yet this is more consumer driven than anything else, and in my opinion, selling one line of sustainable clothing is a profit driven campaign to satisfy the customer that is asking for it, instead of a move towards positive change.
To me, it seems that large fast-fashion businesses and the government are out of touch with the growing desire to improve the effect of the fashion industry on the in environment and, although we will continue to speak and raise awareness on these issues, until these groups wake up, the pace of change will still be snail paced. Gaby Hinsliff at The Guardian sums it up perfectly by saying that the problem is “making is all too easy to buy stuff that nobody really needs. And any government serious – as this one says it is – about saving the planet should do more than sit back and watch it happen”.
At Wild Strings, I am hugely passionate about decreasing our waste and creating pieces which last and can be loved, therefore diminishing the amount of throwaway fashion there is in this world. You can read more about our purpose here, and if you have any comments, thoughts and opinions on this post, please get in touch!
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