By Amy Louise Whitney (London EcoBarbie), Greenprint 2020 volunteer
When considering the process of conventional shopping we immediately think about neat rows of pristine garments, just waiting to be touched and tried on. Clothes glistening as they hang on manikins, the feel of something new when you wear if for the first time and the exciting rush of the fitting rooms. What a thrill it is finding that perfect item and finally the shiny packaging!
“Oh look a lovely floral corset dress; the colour combination is lovely indeed. It would be great for dinners too”. As you console yourself with your sensible purchase. The thought of your next outing in a glossy new dress and what it might match in your bursting-to-the-brim wardrobe. Full of garb you don’t remember buying. Sound familiar yet? You already imagine yourself posing in front of the mirror with it playing dress up at home. The smugness you believe you will feel when you see jealous looks on friend’s faces. Surely this delight can’t be that bad, the odd treats you buy to pass your time on a lunch hour. After all you deserve it don’t you? You think to yourself I work so hard and anyway, it doesn’t matter its just another £10.
The fact is today’s shopaholics are in denial. They operate in an industry that allows individuals to fund their addictions with plastic. Many have a shameful disbelief that they can all act and dress like pop stars. With each covetable item making them even more stylish and classy. Fashion has been allowed to become the superficial fix to patch up people’s deeper personal problems. The worst thing is the industry actually endorses these shallow views that goods are a solution to all of lives problems.
The issue is consumers shopping do not consider the chemically processed man-made fibres itching at their skin. The harshness of the shop lighting, workers sweating away in sweatshops 12 hours a day or the fish floating listlessly in nearby waterways to bring them an acid washed, dip dyed pair of jeans. Even those shoppers who claim to be well educated don’t care; in the 21st century it’s all about fabricating an image. Consumers are showing little change in their habits they will quite happily spend on an item only to throw it away carelessly in 3 months time. The problem is shoppers aren’t just buying the odd item now and again; they are buying time after time to perk themselves up from their hectic lives. One in today’s society must have an image.
Sustainable fashion is something that has been shifting on and off the radar for a few years now. The word eco-fashion still gives the average ‘Fashionista’ nightmares, and conjures up images of garish hemp clad hippies. You know the rugged looking tie-dye wearing types. However, for some designers eco-fashion has become more than just a buzzword. With some brands offering simple, collectable and dare I say it stylish pieces, which haven’t been made through the exploitation of human and natural resources. If in doubt google Eva Zingoni who up-cycles excess fabric from Parisian fashion houses, ASOS Africa who employ Kenyan cooperatives, also Fair and True who use organic bamboo from Vietnam.
In a groundbreaking move fashion houses such as Vivienne Westwood, H&M, Marks & Spencers, and WGSN are part of an industry consortium operating under the title of NICE CONSUMER exploring sustainable fashion. Those steering the helm are helping these firms to make decisions whether it is valuable to them to hop on the ecologically friendly bandwagon so to speak. NICE CONSUMER are investigating whether practices endorsed by sustainable firms are really profitable, to appeal to a fresher, more demanding market of eco-warriors. Larger firms are facing pressure from groups of individuals who are not accustomed to the spend-spend-spend ethos of those growing up in the 90’s boom years. A hybrid consumer is emerging which is not only uncomfortable with current industry practices, but demand durable attire at a reasonable price. There are broad ranges of demographic groups who are becoming more aware of processes such as ‘Up cycling’ as a preferred
production method. With potential for organic fabrics and zero-waste design to change the way people think about purchasing their clothes. Yet, not all of these groups can afford to buy the likes of Stella McCartney. Who actually has managed to make vegetarian footwear appealing! What NICE CONSUMER is exploring is whether it is viable to provide a sustainable palette for everyone.
In an attempt to carve a sizeable chunk in a highly specialised niche market NICE CONSUMER are actively looking for dynamic, fiery and passionate individuals to get involved in the consultation process. Critical questions that need to be addressed by the Advisory Group consider issues with respect to both consumers and producers. Potentially explosive questions could inspire a whole new attitude towards the economic cycle that generates fashion. These are the questions we will be considering in the next few days. What is the role of government if any to play in driving behaviour change in the fashion industry? Is there potential for new enterprise to make the process much less wasteful? What policies are workable to encourage sustainable business practices? And how can firms address the buying behaviours of consumers through advertising or incentivise different structures for producers?
If you find this topic fascinating and feel you have something to contribute to these questions participate in the NICE Consumer project’s consultation process. By emailing email@example.com to join in a webinar on April 3 at 4pm European time.