What does “sustainable fashion” mean to you?
Sustainable fashion, to me, means brands who are paying attention to the world around them and doing their research – and working out the best path for them and the world at large, both environmentally and socially. That might be using organic and fair trade fabrics, or recycled fabrics, or vintage and factory second fabrics. It might be producing locally and working with other local businesses, or producing in a developing country but working closely with factories to ensure good conditions and fair pay. It might be a commitment to recycling and using biodegradable packaging. It might be committing a percentage of profits to social or environmental projects such as carbon offsetting. Hopefully, it’s a little bit of everything! I think it’s easy to think of sustainable fashion as being about fabrics and water usage and chemicals in dyes and landfill, but I think the social/human cost is just as important to making fashion “sustainable” in the long run.
No brand can be 100% perfect, though – and often, with advances in research, technology and information, we will find that (for e.g.) some fabrics that we thought were more sustainable are actually just as bad as conventional fabrics and so on, but I would expect sustainable brands to stay up to date with these developments and respond accordingly, too. I’m always looking for a company’s ‘About’ or ‘Sustainability’ page on their website. If they’re not shouting about it, why not?
What inspired you to start a sustainable fashion line?
I’ve been interested in environmental issues for some time, and when I was looking into starting my own line and it came to fabric sourcing, I looked into my old University sourcing book and found a couple of ethical suppliers, which was a lightbulb moment.
I’d lost some of my interest in the fashion industry at large as I found it increasingly shallow and unethical, but the more I looked into sustainable fashion and the community of “green fashionistas” the more my interest and passion for design was reignited.
What is something you wish people knew about sustainable fashion?
Two things – firstly that sustainable (or ethical, or eco-friendly, or other synonyms) doesn’t mean ugly, and doesn’t describe the style of clothing available. There are lots of brands that I’d class as sustainable who cover a range of styles – unisex/androgynous, feminine, tailored, sportswear – all covered. I also hope that people recognize that while sustainable fashion is often a little more expensive, it’s a necessary trade-off. The price of fast fashion in and of itself isn’t sustainable.
What’s the most challenging thing about running a sustainable business?
For me, sourcing. I don’t live in a metropolitan area, so sourcing is mostly internet-based. If you’re not a business insider and/or can’t afford to go to trade shows or conventions – especially since I don’t know of any which house exclusively sustainable suppliers – you end up spending a lot of time researching and pricing up, and as a small start-up business sometimes the minimums are too high anyway. You have to be prepared to make some compromises or to keep searching.
Other than your own, which sustainable fashion brands do you like?
I’m sure readers of SFD will know these brands but I’ll do a little description in case that’s not the case!
I love Kowtow (quite utilitarian, unisex brand from New Zealand, organic cotton) and have bought pieces from them. I also admire Ace & Jig (artisan woven patterned fabrics, made in India by women using handlooms, very unique and beautiful pieces), Deborah Campbell Atelier (Made in UK, using digital printing on fabric made from things like recycled plastic bottles) and Study NY (using organic and recycled fabrics, organic dyes, and zero waste cutting practices. Mostly made in New York)
Just For Fun
What’s your favorite lunch?
Beans on toast. British classic.