Taking the fast out of fashion this Sustainable Fashion Week
Never before have our wardrobes been so full. Over-consumption has infiltrated every facet of our everyday lives and none more so than in our relationship with fashion. For most of us, impulse purchases, treat-yourself moments, and 80 per cent off sales have led to burgeoning wardrobes of the latest trends and those left in last season. Yet with the world’s first Sustainable Fashion Week, Shazia Saleem hopes to change this.
Taking place 11-17th September, this will feature fashion shows, tailoring classes, re-sale marketplaces, plus more events across the UK. Initially born out of a social enterprise based in Bristol, Shazia, Founder of clothing brand Pop London, reached out to the team to bring this to the capital.
Overlapping with the world-renowned London Fashion Week, its sustainable counterpart hopes to create a more inclusive atmosphere. Shazia explained that “fashion is really intimidating. Sustainable fashion even more so and generally misunderstood” which is why one of the key aims of the event is to educate the general public.
She hopes to make people realise that sustainable fashion is an everyday consideration and not just a one-size-fits-all solution. Instead it is everything from working with recycled and upcycled fabrics, shopping in charity shops, renting clothes, repairing existing items and swapping in social groups.
“If you have to buy high street, go for it! It is not about judging people and badgering them. It is about opening up different possibilities and different options. ”
One of the biggest confusions surrounding sustainable fashion is exactly what sustainable means. To Shazia this is simple – “anything that considers its impacts on people and the planet to reduce overall consumption. ”
This is why those ‘sustainable collections’ by global and high-street brands can rightfully be labelled as greenwashing. For the designer, no matter their good intentions, as these companies are fundamentally about continued growth and profit maximisation, they can never be truly sustainable.
Shazia explained that currently, fashion companies are “living the dream. ” For the majority, they are not doing anything illegal and are in fact lauded for their continuous growth – they are simply “a part of the capitalist consumption system that we work in. The system is rewarding a behaviour that will ultimately kill humans because the planet will go on. ”
Despite a 2019 Parliament report on the fashion industry finding that textile production alone produces more CO2 annually than international flights and maritime shipping combined, the fashion industry still stands relatively unregulated in comparison to those counterparts. With other industries having greater decarbonisation and sustainability goals placed upon them, it remains confusing that fashion continues on its same environmentally destructive path.
Shazia explained that fashion is a victim of its own success. “There is a certain level of misogyny and ignorance. [Politicians] think that fashion is really fluffy and a woman’s interest – but when buying a £10,000 custom-made suit they understand the power of fashion.
It is easy to ridicule and belittle it as an industry because it is playful and joyful. But we need to take it seriously and the politicians are not there. ”
She cited a proposal brought forward in Parliament for a 5p textile tax to go towards reducing the waste in fashion. However, this was thrown out without any real consideration or conversation. Similarly, their actions during the pandemic to subsidise large companies known for not paying fair wages to their garment workers was merely facilitating their behaviour. Instead, she believed this money should have been given to smaller, more sustainable businesses which could have had much more of an environmentally beneficial impact.
Next season’s policy
Efficiency policy, she explained, would go a long way in helping to reduce waste in the industry. By tightening up regulations around brand’s efficiency, this could limit textile over-production and material waste . One of the largest problems for her as an independent brand is that factories simply do not want to make the small quantities of clothes which have either been pre-ordered or made from excess material. By setting a national standards of creating only for demand, this could hopefully overcome the significant level of waste which often ends up in landfill.
Shazia also cited education and awareness as a crucial area for government to work on. Similar to what has been done around smoking or the positive effects of a healthier and more active lifestyle, by making people aware of the effects of fast fashion this could help them make more sustainable choices. She explained that big brands can afford huge marketing meaning we are continuously surrounded by their messaging. To counter this, we need something of this scale and the government is perfectly placed to lead it.
This could fundamentally help change mindsets and lead to positive change which has been started by the likes of Sustainable Fashion Week. To find out how you can take the fast out of fashion and see what events are on near you, head to Sustainable Fashion Week . More information on Shazia's sustainable workshops and fashion show taking place on 16th September can be found here.
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