Or how can I avoid “greenwashing”?
I get asked this question a lot. Beyond that old favourite “the most sustainable items are those you already own”, the answer isn’t that simple. That’s why I began Tales in Style, how I came to fall back in love with pre-loved items and why I am a total geek about checking the provenance of pretty much everything I buy to wear.
Ok, so that doesn’t help you much! You haven’t got the budget, don’t feel like you’re the kind of person who wants a stylist but you do need an outfit for that interview NOW. I get it, so I can tell you how to spot greenwashing, introduce you to some of the better companies out there and maybe get you a little excited about what you wear. What you wear really does matter.
“Greenwashing is when a company or organization spends more time and money on marketing themselves as environmentally friendly than on minimizing their environmental impact. It is a deceitful advertising gimmick intended to mislead consumers who prefer to buy goods and services from environmentally conscious brands.” Business News Daily, Jan 2020.
You will find this practice in companies across the spectrum, for some it is a cynical ploy and with some of the smaller brands/retailers/stylists it can be unintentional. Making changes to a massive industry that has been involved in damaging practises for many years is a slow process. So I am not in the business of calling people out. I will, however, celebrate those who are anywhere from truly sustainable to working hard to move towards a cleaner, more humane future.
This is too big a topic for one blog post so today I will share details of just a few places to look. I have no relationship with these brands and their policies may change but for now I believe that if you want to buy good quality new pieces then I would go here myself both for my own wardrobe and my clients.
Eileen Fisher epitomises an ethical brand. For as long as I can remember I have gone into the Marylebone St. store in London, stroked the fabrics and wished I was the right body shape. The designs are timeless, fabrics and colours natural, styles cross seasons and lifestyles. Never a company to rest on its laurels, their design process has evolved over time and now embraces circularity, taking back and remaking garments into more beautiful creations. This isn’t for everyone as the ticket price reflects durability & quality. I have just revisited the petites range and there are now some gorgeous pieces for a rather short pear shaped woman like me. I have bookmarked this tee and you can see in the listing how detailed the information is about fabric and manufacture. When buying new taking time to find the right pieces leaves you with a confident feeling each & every time you put that tee shirt on.
I would like to name check some companies who have a much lower profile but have been quietly producing ethically sourced style for many years. People Tree have pioneered sustainable Fair Trade fashion since 1991. I am overjoyed to see a recycled cashmere sweater in this season’s collection. The trade in cashmere yarn is a sorry tale which I will save for another day. Nomads Clothing begins with a love story in Rajasthan and continues today 30 years later. I particularly like their use of colour and have had my eye on the Handloom Shawl Collared Coat for a while now.
The closest I have come to finding a sustainable department store, that is several ethical brands under one roof with a style edge and that I will be revisiting post-COVID is The Third Estate in Camden. They carry Mud jeans here and these are most likely to be my next jeans purchase.
In contrast, Arket is part of the huge H&M Group of companies. Not all of these perform well either on transparency of the manufacturing process or ethics but they are moving in the right direction. H&M itself came out top of the Fashion Revolution Transparency Index which means that you can find out a lot about each individual garment if you are interested enough to do the research. So huge big up to them for this, though please do not assume that everything you buy has been produced ethically. With Arket you can see quite easily when you are making a sustainable choice. Like Eileen Fisher the design is classy, grown up and minimal though certainly not to everyone’s taste. This is, however, a great source of basics. These straight fit trousers caught my eye and again you can see from the listing that all the information about fabrics and manufacture are there to help you decide.
A name everyone associates with the UK is Marks and Spencer. In recent years they have definitely upped their environmentally friendly game. This company is one of the top ten included in the Transparency Index. I spent some time trawling through their online store and am happy to share that there is a Sustainability Policy. 100% of their cotton is sustainably sourced. They have a Shwop box scheme for recycling items you have bought from them in the past. Swimwear in their new collections is made from recycled polyester (this is definitely a topic for another blog post). I love that they endorse the idea of a capsule wardrobe and provide some useful guidelines. Do check out the rest of the site to see what you can find that is genuinely sustainable. The Nobody’s Child range features sustainably sourced viscose, I like this leopard print dress.
There’s another big name that got a lot of criticism at the height of the lockdown, and rightly so, but please do not dismiss ASOS especially if you have teens in the house. They do have responsible suppliers, some are at the forefront of the sustainability movement here in the UK. You could do worse than check out the Responsible Edit for pieces in organic cotton or fibre from recycled plastic bottles and they have a huge Vintage section.
This really is just a tiny snapshot of what is available out there. If you like what you see then I will continue to produce posts like this. I would love to find out your favourite places and hear about those purchases that continue to bring you pleasure wear after wear.