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Sustainable Style - What does this actually mean?

Updated: Jun 15, 2020

For anything to be sustainable you might think this is the antithesis of fashion and style. The word means long-lasting and durable! That in itself is the exact opposite of the fast fashion that we have all become accustomed to but precisely what we need right now!

However, if we look a little deeper it is perfectly possible to live a sustainable lifestyle whilst moving with trends and embracing new styles. Other meanings held within the word sustainable are renewable and workable. For within any new designer collection or new season offering on the high street there are key staples that recur with little more than the odd tweak. This is what makes any wardrobe workable. All clothes are by definition renewable, none will last forever and there is so much innovation around this idea that I will have to do separate posts later. As a taster though please consider how you dispose of any items that you no longer wear.

Each of us will have items in our wardrobe that we consistently wear, replace, love and that is generally because these are staples that suit our personal style, body shape and our routine activities. Identifying these staples and learning how to pick the best versions to bring out our best features is intuitive for some and a terrifying science for others. However, once we have that down there is the beginning of the durable part of your personal style.

The renewable aspect has two intensely powerful contributions to make to how each of us feels about our wardrobe. We have come to crave the new and that is not all bad so long as it doesn’t come at the cost of others well-being and livelihoods. Finding unique pieces to inject a fresh energy into your style is so achievable. Something as simple as a new accessory can transform your old favourite frock. Equally important for me is knowing that I have made a meaningful purchase. That takes many forms from simple charitable donations to being confident that the manufacture of the garment was ethical, safe and benefited those involved in each process of its manufacture.

Certainly this level of detailed research can be time consuming and that’s where I and other stylists with a similar passion come in. Ask us the difficult questions and we have the job of matching up your priorities with the right suppliers. For some it will be as simple as knowing that the workers involved in the factories making the garments received a fair living wage. For others they will need to be confident that water wasn’t wasted in the manufacture of what they bought. The environment and animal welfare will be a key issue for many and this is reflected in the number of ranges featuring vegan products.

The fashion industry is acknowledged to be the 2nd largest polluting industry globally. "Diminishing resources, loss of biodiversity, and climate change will affect our industry and every industry" Marie-Clarie Daveu, Chief Sustainability Officer for Kering, states. Many companies are working hard to address this. Novel ideas like clothing rental schemes, businesses selling designer preloved pieces and the way charity shops have changed in recent years all excite me. Our support for their work is vital for change to happen.

Until we start to see our own role in the clothing and fashion industry as part of the solution it will be difficult to move forward. We all have a role in this because we wear clothes. As consumers the choices we make has an impact. Personally sustainability affects me on many levels. As a long time advocate for greener ways of living, sustainability has become the only way forward that I am comfortable with for my own business. On a more pragmatic level, as my husband begins retirement and I face my 50s as a business owner, I am acutely aware that the books need to balance in more than one way.

COVID-19 Lockdown has focussed my priorities significantly and I prefer to see this time as a force for positive change. This may hold the key to creating a shift in mindset. How many people really want to support companies that did not honour contracts for goods that were ready for delivery? Would you really feel comfortable shopping in a store when you know that they refused to pay workers in economically deprived countries? These are workers who already earnt very little for goods that they had spent time working on, which are now either sitting in warehouses or were discarded.

Many of us have become aware of the reduced pollution in our small corner of the planet since we were all confined to our homes.This is a global phenomena and has resulted in cleaner air in huge cities and wildlife roaming free in areas we would never have expected to see before.

I am convinced that no one wants to return to the unhealthy ways of living that we took for granted before the COVID-19 virus took hold. We can create a better world and yes, the choices we make in simple things like the clothes we wear makes a difference and this does not have to be at the expense of style. Everyone can look fabulous and make sustainable choices.

And here we are, three friends who found gems in the wardrobe or from vintage stores!

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