Ethics in the Fashion Industry

“Where did fast fashion come from?”

Rick Ridgeway

In today’s society we experience something called ‘fast fashion’. We have new trends in a matter of weeks, and the old ones are just thrown away to be regurgitated in a few years time. We buy hundreds of pounds worth of clothes that we never wear, just to keep up with the trends. Fast fashion is the result of industrialisation, we can make higher quantities faster: so we do. A lot of the processes we use to make these clothes in the first place aren’t exactly environmentally friendly either. Pioneers in the fashion-textile industry such as Rick Ridgeway are pushing for a slower fashion. He asks that we invest into our clothes, meaning we buy them to last longer and fix them rather than throwing them out when they show signs of wear and tear. A company called ‘I fix It’ exists to show people the ways and means of fixing all sorts of things, not just their clothing. The aim is to become climate neutral, rather than damaging the environment like we are now. We are being encouraged to buy less and care more. The ‘make do and mend’ attitude is making a comeback.

Sophie Maher and her team have been developing a ‘dry dye’. When we dye fabrics, we have to use water. The problem is, when the water is left at the end of the process, it is full of the chemicals left behind from the dye. When these chemicals leak back into the water system we’re damaging the environment. Sophie’s ‘dry dye’ uses no water at all. It uses 50% less energy and 50% less chemicals than the traditional dying methods. My initial reaction to this was ‘Are the fabrics not going to feel a bit like cardboard?’; but the answer is no. The fabrics feel exactly the same, and are just as high a quality as any other fabrics you can buy. The difference is that these fabrics are more ethical and environmentally friendly.

Suzanne Lee has taken this a step further and began growing her own materials. Yes I said growing. With the help of a biologist, Suzanne has been looking into ways to grow materials rather than buying them. They grow to the size and shape of the container, so as long as you have the right sized container – away you go! She hopes that one day we will be able to engineer the fabrics to have properties beneficial to us (for example: waterproof fabrics, or fabrics that provide nutrition for the skin).

Not one hour after I left the lecture on this topic I found myself in H&M, trying to bulk up my winter wardrobe, and came across a sign in the changing room (picture attached). They’re pushing the idea of recycling our textiles by offering money off purchases. This may seem like something small, but this is such a good idea. This way the garments we don’t want any more can be recycled and find a new lease of life elsewhere.

Safia Minney and Dame Zandra Rhodes are well known figures in the fashion industry who are pushing the idea of ethical fashion. I have attached an image of Safia’s book cover as I think it’s a really interesting image. The amount of clothes we buy and wear, not thinking about where or how they were made, is quite shocking really. The vast amount of clothing available on the high street was made using cheap labour, which is wrong. The video linked below shows how ethical fashion has a really feel-good feeling to it, and can be quite inspirational. Safia Minney’s blog is also quite an interesting read, as she tackles several ethical issues.

Dame Zandra Rhodes with People Tree Spring/Summer 2016

Safia Minney’s blog


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