The Government’s Rejection of Sustainable Fashion is a Catalyst for Radical Social Change

Parliament has failed us, now it’s time to build the vision of fashion we want without them

This week the biggest ever inquiry into the UK fashion industry was tabled by Parliament. Presenting wide-ranging and key recommendations for policies and legislation to end fast fashion (one of the world’s biggest contributors to climate change), Ministers rejected EVERY SINGLE RECOMMENDATION made by Fixing Fast Fashion Report: Clothing Consumption and Sustainability.

Conducted by the cross-parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee, the report cites startling truths on overconsumption including that, come 2050, we’ll require almost three planets to resource current lifestyles.

The government’s passivity of the urgency for change has sent shockwaves through the public, environmental activists and fashion designers. Ministers’ rejection of the report’s direct and tangible solutions to the fashion industry’s prolonged damage to the environment is especially startling as just last month, Parliament declared a state of climate emergency.

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The Fixing Fast Fashion Report evidences the urgent need for fast-acting, top-level action to tackle the current system’s environmental destruction and to clean up dire working conditions. Its recommendations to appease throwaway culture include a 1p garment tax and also promote a sociocultural shift by encouraging clothing design and mending lessons in schools and tax incentives for repair services.

The facts are unavoidable and they are sinister. It’s critical that prompt action is taken to regulate fashion’s contribution to climate damage. The immediate solution to the crisis is clear. Producers must slow down and stop producing. A move, of course, that requires legislation and policy change enforceable by the government.

Whilst Parliament’s refusal to legislate towards positive cultural and environmental change confirms that we’re in turbulent and uncertain times, we must recognise this as a crucial turning point in history in which we can reclaim our power and devise empowering new alternatives.

“By 2050 the equivalent of almost three planets could be required to provide the natural resources needed to sustain current lifestyles” says the UN.

Unwittingly, Minister’s rejection of the report’s recommendation certifies loud and clear that the government as an institution is not fit for functioning in the vision of a just, equal and quality society that the public wants. In their indifference to sustainable fashion, Ministers have signified their own demise. Their passivity declares UK Parliament as ignorant and outdated. It illuminates the institution’s archaic, rigid structure as obsolete in times that we’re demanding more and better from our lives. We are bigger, brighter and more deserving than what the institution can, and is willing to, offer us.

Supported by critical movements like the Women’s March and Extinction Rebellion, we are shaping new parameters for the world we want to live in. That requires models founded on agility, adaptability, responsiveness and compassion – AKA antonyms for the current state of UK Parliament. As a society that wants more, we are outgrowing the function that this government can serve.

Parliament has once again failed its citizens, but this inaction serves as a mirror reflecting back to us where our collective power has long been absorbed in its out-of-touch institution. In its sustaining of class difference, healthcare cuts and social divisions whilst funding £80,000 salaries for its MPS.

Beating on Parliament’s door is not working because Ministers and MPs don’t want to hear us. So, stepping forward, we must channel our shock into action and reclaim our power as we continue to create the vision of the future we want. No one person can take on the entire epidemic of climate change, but we must recognise our responsibility to do our bit, wise-up, recognise our own power and act on it.

That requires a considerable perspective shift, redefining where our power lies and initiating new solutions – solutions that do not rely on the never-ending treadmill of winning the attention of unconcerned Ministers and MPs. It means focusing on the mass empowerment and emancipation of the UK’s citizens by recognising that the power is with us, not them.

Sans government, how can we step forward with determination and resolve to create positive, radical social and cultural change?

Two solutions immediately available to us are money and technology. Whilst both ideas commonly evoke cautious reactions, a paradigm shift from defensiveness to opportunity thinking could be the answer to reshaping fast fashion.

Embracing our capital power in a consumer-led society, we can initiate change through the way we spend. Money, no matter what amount we have, is power, and reframing the act of spending and consumption into a positive force could be the radical shift needed. Every pound we spend is a choice that creates the world we want to live in. Becoming conscious of this, we can cut off the power supply of fashion’s worst offenders forcing brands to either adapt to our demand or die.

“Every time you spend money you are casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” says Anna Lappe

In addition, at the rate of technological advancements, dominant power is moving from the hands of the lawmakers to the hands of the app-makers. Instantaneous communication has allowed global awareness-raising, birthing ‘clicktivism’ and making it possible for anti-Trump protest marches to take place simultaneously across the world. It allows for global networking and faster inspiration, creativity and creation for problem-solving through inventions, knowledge and environmental solutions.

There is no steadfast answer to the fast fashion epidemic. In a globalised culture, the law, education, media, brands and consumers all intermingle in a messy and complex web. What we do know is that the government is continuing to fail us as citizens and its unwillingness to fix fashion could be the catalyst needed to spur a radical paradigm and culture shift.

 

Author: Holly C. Campbell

Holly-Campbell@live.co.uk

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Review: Ethical Fashion Showcase at London Fashion Week 

London Ethnic is a marketing company who offer a platform to aspiring designers, offering them support in the entire design and marketing process. The concept was founded by Saumen Kar who has a degree in business but was struck by issues of ethics and sustainability within fashion when reading a friends essay. ProjectFEM reviews London Ethnic’s LFW show for upcoming designers…

A stream of catwalks flaunt throughout the Chelsea-based venue, kicked off by Urban Roots’ cultural and religious inspired SS17 collection. Designer Ruth Woldesalasie uses left-over textiles and upcycles vintage to create bespoke and unique pieces. The collection was traditionally feminine with soft, sheer, floaty materials and lace and pearl adornments. The brand vision mixes cultural, eco and urban styles and casts an ethnically diverse range of models. However, each piece was draped over the delicate skeletal frames of these women, with their bones showing through their skin which was uncomfortable to watch. One older model had been cast compared to the other young women; her long silver hair was fitting with the mysterious and airy feel of the collection. The sheer materials showed the younger models’ naked bodies underneath, however it was difficult to decide whether this was an empowering ‘free-the-nipple’ moment of embracing the socially censored female body, or a rehashed convention of the stereotypical feminine ideal. If you are young, able-bodied and thin then it is acceptable for your body (as an idealistic commodity) to be shown.

Urban Roots SS17 Model on London Ethnic’s LFW Catwak

When asked about how women influence her brand, Ruth stated “I am a totally free person… and I am not dependent on anyone because I am a woman who runs my own business”. Ruth recognised that many women are forced to be dependent on men and she hopes that “[she] will be a good example to women”. The fashion industry has been acknowledged within feminism for being one of the the first industries where women can advance to higher level jobs than men. Ruth is acknowledging that in an economic sense, she is empowered through the independence of owning her own business which is inspiring to other women, yet her brand is still perpetuating the skinny ideal within the fashion industry.


Urban Roots’ SS17 Models Backstage at London Ethnic’s Ethical LFW Show

Second walk of the night, was Saba’s SS17 Gothic Romantic collection. Again, the collection was rooted in ethical and sustainable manufacturing and consisted of staple day and cocktail dresses with lace detailing and fitted empire lines. Saba aims for stylish and comfortable fashion for women aged 20-40. During this walk, models looked healthier than the previously ultra-skinny models and it was actually more comfortable to watch and explore the clothes, without wincing at the sight of bones poking through skin. Initially we were hopeful to see some body-size diversity on the runway. However, speaking to founder Saumen after the show, he explained that this was a commercial brand so the sample size could be up to a size 10. This is fundamental in the issue with the fashion industry reproducing the skinny ideal; high-fashion sample sizes are set at size 6, whereas commercial sample sizes are 8-10. This is because commercial collections sell to the general public who are more likely to buy something that they can see themselves wearing, and with the average UK woman being a size 12 she is most likely to buy clothing that is represented on models closer to her size.

Saba’s SS17 Models Backstage at London Ethnic’s Ethical LFW Show

London Ethnic’s ethical LFW show delivered in terms of promoting ethical and sustainable fashion and casting ethnically diverse models, however the long overdue need for size and ability diversity still remains. It seems that female representation and challenging detrimental norms is an afterthought for designers, it’s only a consideration once they are questioned about it . The body-size of models cast is dictated by which marketing ideal must be projected by a high-end or commercial brand and the patriarchal capitalist fashion system is still standing strong. Designers have the power to assert the sizes of their models, show organisers have the power to cast models over a certain size and we have the power to demand change. It is promising to see ethical fashion well cemented within the mission of brands and designers, but when will body diversity be top of the agenda… or on the agenda at all?

 

Author: Holly C x