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In My Opinion, ReflectionOne ColourComment

A world wide wave, the Fashion Revolution, swept across the globe last week. Did you hear about it? Did you wonder who makes your clothes? Did you ask a brand you like to wear where you clothes come from? (see footnote)

I have a feeling this journal post will have more questions than answers, or at least more wonderings than advice or information, most likely due to the fact that I don't find huge amounts of clarity when it comes to understanding the impact of fashion, fast or otherwise.

On the one hand, fashion employs so many people from farmers to fabric suppliers, to garment workers to wholesalers, to retailers. It is just a massive movement of materials across the world, with people handling them at different stages. Who am I to demand these people stop how they are doing things so that I can feel better about it?

On the other hand, this same industry creates problems, too. Problems in unsafe work conditions, low wages, fantastic skills being wasted when a garment is made so quickly, so cheaply only to be worn and thrown away. So my one glaring problem is over production. Why do we produce so many garments? Why don't we value to skills of the garment workers to the extent that we want them to work for more money, make fewer garments - to truly be valued as amazing sewers of clothing and accessories? But getting back to over-production.

Tailor at Viva Africa 2014

I know the challenges minimum quantities pose to designers...my roof cavity is loaded with plastic tubs of past collections because, although I was producing as sustainably as possible, I didn't find a big enough market for my ranges. So, even though my quantities were tiny compared to most brands, I still over-produced for my market. To be honest, there is sadness for me when I know that what we created is well designed, well made and reasonably priced, yet this is not enough to make it viable and so to keep designing and producing. I guess we only need so many clothes (yet another conundrum of sustainability in fashion).

No wonder brands resort to land fill or second hand clothing bins to off load excess clothing. By using these methods of removal it immediately eliminates signs of over-production or failure to reach the market, or any number of other reasons why a style just does not work. And the window for the range or the style to work is getting smaller and smaller. Once upon a time we had at least 6 months to sell the range (spring/summer or autumn/winter). Now it's all mixed up with short runs, mini collections, trans-seasonal options and one-offs that are made to order. And then there is fast fashion on top of it all.

Which brings me to the conundrum of sustainability in fashion.

I know for sure, because I feel it in myself, that there is often a disconnect between what we believe (our values, principles, ideals) and how we live. Not for everyone, of course, as I know there are people who live with little compromise, however, I think they are the exception rather than the rule. Most of us will justify just about anything if we really want something badly enough.

Clothes aren’t going to change the world. The women who wear them will - Anne Klein

This is sounding a bit dark and angsty. But it does bother me. I have an uncomfortable feeling that things are not right yet there still isn't the will in most of us to make the necessary changes to begin to make it right. Even Fashion Revolution is a one-week-a-year focus (for which I am exceedingly grateful) but what happens when it's over? Do we continue forward looking for change or do we slip back into our comfy stance? I know which one I want to do and which one I am most likely to do, too.

My big questions are: how can fashion be sustainable if we keep producing vast amounts of it (even if it is sustainable in some way - organic fabric - fair wages - better working conditions - recycled fabrics)?

And: how can sustainable brands remain viable without going down the path of over-production to keep costs down? The hard reality is that the more you make the cheaper it is to produce.

Oh, dear, I think my journalling is starting to unravel. Time to pause, to bring to a close my ramble on this topic.

One thing is certain; there are no guarantees and no perfect fixes in this world. We will work to see our ideas come to life, hoping against hope sometimes, that we can live with less impact and clothe our bodies more sustainably.

And, thank goodness for Nelson Mandela.

Footnote: - a huge thank you to the many who shopped online with One Colour and the other brands who work towards sustainability in fashion, during Fashion Revolution Week.