A colourful fashion blog supporting independents & sustainable fashion in Bristol and beyond since 2011

Monday, 13 January 2020

The Future of Fashion - Supporting sustainable fashion in 2020

How can you support sustainable fashion?

It's not all about wearing eco-friendly clothing, neither does it mean the death of fashion, it's about making a change to the way you shop and bringing an end to fast fashion. 

It was overwhelming to see so many local, sustainable fashion supporters come along to the Future of Fashion event at Beyond Retro Bristol in December.

I was honoured to be involved in this very special project, collaborating with vintage fashion legends, Beyond Retro, representing both Bristol24/7 and the No Debutante blog; bringing local fashionistas, designers and makers together to share our knowledge and experiences on how to go sustainable in 2020.

The fashion panel included  Joh Rindom, founder of independent fashion store That Thing, local artist and jewellery maker, Sophie Filomena, upcycling fashion designer Emma White from Duvet Days, Amelia Twine from sustainable fashion platform Give Wear Love: and featured an inspiring talk from caped crusader Cat Jameson, founder of rainwear brand Carny Valley.

Sustainable fashion supporters attend the Future of Fashion event at Beyond Retro Bristol

It was inspiring to have these amazing women join us and really get involved with the subject of sustainability in fashion and the directions we need to take going forward. Each panel member had their own views, ideas and experiences on how we can all make a change, not just within the fashion industry but in our lifestyles too.

The main aim for the Future of Fashion event was to share knowledge on what is happening within the fast fashion industry and offer ideas on more sustainable alternatives.

 By supporting local and independent businesses, buying pre-worn clothes and pre-owned items (from fashion to furniture) from charity and vintage shops and generally slowing down our consumption, we can put an end to wasteful, mass production.

If we start to change our own mentalities towards shopping we could make a big impact on the way the fashion industry works. If you slow down, the fashion industry will have to follow...

Support sustainability events in your local area 

You can make a start by asking yourself whilst shopping....

Do I really need it? 
Do I really like it? 
Is it good quality and will it last? 

The more sustainably conscious among us will also ask:
How did it get here and why is it so cheap? 

One thing you can be sure of, if an item is being sold at a crazy low price, it didn't get where it is sustainably...

Although the Future of Fashion event was an extremely positive and knowledgeable experience that I hope to continue in future meet ups, it did make a few of us feel like we were preaching to the converted, as nearly everyone who had come along were already sustainability supporters.

So how do we get the knowledge out to the people who aren't actively looking for ways to change? How do we attract those fast fashion shoppers who shop til they drop and are, consciously or not, supporting mass production and the distruction of our planet?

Supporting sustainable fashion isn't just a movement or the latest fad, it's a serious change that every single one of us needs to get involved in, right now!

Organising more sustainable fashion events around the city is a good place to start but would the majority of the consumers we are trying to attract, actively seek out or attend these events? I'm not convinced...

If you can't make the people come to a sustainable fashion event, take the sustainable fashion event to the people!

The Future of Fashion event was a collaboration between Beyond Retro, Bristol 24/7 and the No Debutante blog

Holding sustainable fashion events right in the heart of the city centre has to be the way to go. We want to catch those fast fashion lovers in full shop, on their own turf  - their local shopping centre and high streets.

This has already been trialled and tested here in Bristol by Creative Youth Network who put on an upcycled fashion show in the Cabot Circus shopping centre at Christmas time, grabbing the attention of the high street lovers mid-shop, by telling them what is happening in the fashion industry and how they can make a change.  In my opinion, it was an ingenious idea from CYN! 

Similarly, Extinction Rebellion took over a busy high street with their impromptu sustainable fashion show - Distrupt the Circus of Excess - in Bristol last summer. The fashion revolution has already begun, we just need more people behind it! 

To be clear, I am not trying to get all of these high street shops closed down, I just want the corporates to realise why they need to change. We want to save the planet and by joining us in making a change they could possibly save their businesses too....When the fast fashion backlash really kicks in, and it will, they'll need to be on the right side of it to survive.

The sad thing is the high street is also competing with the millions of fast fashion online shops. Pushed into dropping their prices to keep their customers, at the cost of the quality of their products and their reputation.

Who is to blame and how did we get to this point? Is it the corporate fast fashion pushers telling us to buy, buy,buy or the greedy consumers who are demanding new and cheap fashion items around the clock?  It's a bit of a chicken and the egg situation isn't it?

Local designers Sophie Filomena (left) and Carny Valley (right) pop-up at The Future of Fashion event

Back at the FOF event, Sophie Filomena expressed a big interest in encouraging indie markets into shopping malls after running a stall at the Cabot Circus shopping centre this year. 

"Instead of feeling alienated by this new group of potential customers I was positively elated by the praise and love the high street shoppers gave about my work. They told me they had never seen anything like it and loved the whole indie market idea!". Sophie Filomena - artist and maker

It's not that fast fashion shoppers prefer the high street (although those crazy low prices are bound to entice every shopper who is looking for a bargain) most shoppers just aren't exposed to indie makers work and there is no wonder..

"There is no way any indies could afford to sell on the high street as the rents are so ridiculously high. Why doesn't the council consider leasing out all those empty buildings to independents and supporting local?". Joh Rindom founder of That Thing

Joh certainly has a point, there are parts of the Bristol city centre (and every town and city in the UK) with empty buildings just standing dormant, rotting and waiting for another coffee shop chain to move in.

Local businesses and magazines like Bristol24/7 do what they can to support independents and startups but despite our thriving creativity, that is recognised worldwide, this city seems more interested in gentrifying and opening another corporate chain over keeping things local, independent and supporting our own economy.

How brilliant would it be to introduce independent designers and businesses to the high street and  throw a sustainable Bristol Fashion Week, all supported by the local council? It's food for thought...

Going sustainable in 2020 - The Future of Fashion event poster

With plans already in motion to hold an independently run Green Bristol Fashion Week, Give Wear Love founder Amelia Twine is big on changing the future of fashion as soon as possible.

Inspired to set up her own sustainable fashion platform after finding it hard to buy sustainably and ethically made fashions, Amelia's online store offers sustainable garms made by small, independent fashion brands who use ethical and slow fashion practises.

Feeling she could still do more, Amelia has now taken the bold step to only sell garments made from pre-loved and upcycled fabrics.

"Making any new garments from new fabrics, no matter how sustainable and organic they are, is still adding to the problem" Amelia Twine - Give Wear Love

As a designer myself, who has been struggling with sustainability focus over creativity and IS currently using new fabrics to create new garments, no matter how much I reuse many of my fabric scraps, organic fabrics and keep manufacturing local, I know, in the long run, Amelia is right!

Over time I have become inspired to introduce more sustainable practices into my design work and, I'm pleased to say, new ideas have since been formed!...But that's another story which I will discuss on the blog very soon....

Emma White from Duvet Days hit the upcycling nail on the head, by repurposing retro duvets into super cool new pieces.

"It's not that easy making new garments from clothing that already exists, the fabric samples are so small to work with and you are limited to what you can create. Upcycling duvets gives you more freedom as you have large pieces of fabric to work with, making new garments whilst remaining sustainable". Emma White - Duvet Days 

Cat Jameson from Carny Valley disusses running a fashion brand sustainably

Cat Jameson from Carny Valley Capes gave a short talk at the FOF event, introducing her innovative rain capes whilst sharing the problems she faces as a fashion designer and sustainability supporter.

 "I struggled and tried to be as sustainable and right as I could without it stopping my business from functioning". Cat Jameson - Carny Valley Capes

Cat and Amelia both spoke about creating circular economies, keeping resources in use for as long as possible, cutting down on our carbon footprint in distribution and creating less waste and pollution; in contrast to the make/use/dispose process that is currently happening within the fast fashion industry.

In contadiction, even with the best intentions, making changes may also have a knock on effect within the fashion industry. Research shows that ending certain practises within the fashion chain can actually make things worse in other areas!

If, for example, we stopped creating new fabrics and shut down all the factories, even for sustainable organic fabrics, it would be very good for the environment but in contrast, a whole town  - that for generations, have relied on these factories for work and income - could lose their industry, ruining their local economy. We need to get the balance right.....

Campaigns like Labour Behind The Label and Fashion Revolution are trying to support these circular economy's by making things work for everyone involved in the chain. These incredible campaigns cannot support these issues alone and need more help, funding and cooperation from the big businesses involved to make a significant change.

So, go support these campaigns AND make a change to the way you shop. If we all recognised that something needs to change then we can all make a difference together! 

I was asked an interesting question at the FOF event about the people who rely on low prices to be able to afford new clothes and how putting an end to fast fashion might affect them. 

Agreed, more sustainable processes would put the prices up but it isn't about making things more expensive, it's about changing your mind-set, we all need to shop less. 

If you are buying less and the prices have gone up a bit, things should balance out AND if the prices have gone up so will the quality, meaning your garments will last longer. 

We need to stop this throw away fashion mentality, choose wisely and keep items for longer.
The best thing I ever did was stop following fashion trends which is the worst culprit for encouraging throw away fashion. I buy clothes because I like them or need them, not to be seen in the next big thing for a wear once instagram post! 

Another good tip is to recreate favourite looks using your existing wardrobe rather than constantly updating your wardrobe to stay current. It's all about the styling, get creative!

As I've said before I am not telling you to stop following fashion or to stop buying new things, you can still get that fashion fix by putting this advice into practise.

  • Buy less 
  • Stop following trends
  • Shop when you need to
  • Buy good quality items that will last a lifetime
  • Find local, independent fashion shops and designers
  • Buy vintage and hunt for pre-loved charity shop gems
  • Rework your existing wardrobe by upcycling and learning to sew and mend
  • Create new looks using accessories
  • Update your wardrobe by swapping clothes with friends or at clothes swap events

In conclusion, It is amazing that so many of us are getting involved in supporting slow fashion with an aim to encourage sustainability and change the way the current fashion industry runs. Events like the Future of Fashion bring people together, to share ideas and solve problems. We need to get this important message out there and the way to make a change is in numbers.We all want the same outcome, to save the planet.  Join us.


Read No Debutante's articles as fashion editor for Bristol24/7 

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