There’s an incredibly loud buzz around sustainable fashion right now – and I’m meeting more and more women who want to shop ethically.
But that buzz seems to turn into more of a quiet hum once you get on to the high street.
While luxury brands champion the ‘reuse’ or ‘ethical’ message, usually next to a garment that costs high-fashion money, this call to arms is yet to filter its way down effectively.
Although the message coming from the top is loud and clear, that our clothes shouldn’t cost the earth, in financial terms, when it comes to sustainable outfits, they do.
Fully ethical brands such as Stella McCartney are to be lauded. Creating trend-led collections that do not damage the planet is incredible.
But these are the type of people who can afford to wear such expensive designs – in the real world, most women can’t. A pair of trousers from Stella McCartney is a whopping £500 and a blazer is an eye-raising £900. But most of us have modest Zara budgets, where a (very well-cut) blazer costs an affordable-for-most £30.
The reality is this: most women still shop on the high street. Certain retailers are embracing the change – stand up H&M, Mango, and Zara but the ranges are extremely limited and unexciting. The H&M Conscious range is made up of basic tees but that’s as far as it goes. If a brand is going to offer a sustainable line, they need to provide more options for clients.
British retailers such as Hush have seen major profit this year because they produce sustainable, great quality and stylish clothing. This comes at a price but many ladies are happy to pay a bit more for better quality items.
In an ideal world, everyone would have access to a Stella level of sustainable fashion – because the demand and interest is there for it.
It shouldn’t just be the preserve of the rich.
This month is Second Hand September, with Oxfam challenging women to go 30 days without buying any new item of clothing.
It’s a great idea in theory, but most charity shops are filled with clothes from cheaper high street stores – such as Primark – that have been boycotted by those against their unethical standards.
So many of my clients’ wardrobes are filled with charity shop ‘mistakes’ they’ve never worn; the items still have the tags on them.
I encourage women to shop wherever they choose – so long as they buy wisely and make good choices. Can they wear it three different ways? If so, buy it.
Any type of wasteful purchasing – even if it’s an item from a charity shop – isn’t sustainable. So how we shop, as well as what we buy, needs to change.
I’m a huge champion of the high street but it’s intent on producing too much, creating unnecessary waste and overwhelming shoppers with too much choice – leading to wasteful buying, grabbing cheap items on the go.
It has now created six seasons to produce rather than the traditional two: Jan-March is Spring, April-June is Summer, July-August is Sale, September-October is Autumn and November-December is Winter.
Stores are attempting to keep up with Instagram trends and what influencers are wearing, rather than focusing on their target audience.
They’ve simply lost touch.
If high street retailers listened to their customers, paid attention to the most popular sizes they sell and concentrated on what their clients want, it would lead to more sales and fewer outfits ending up in the sale or dumped in landfill.
This profit could then be channelled into sourcing better quality fabrics, and creating a more ethical way to produce the outfits in the first place.
It’s two-fold; our high street shops need to be smarter, and women need to shop wisely, then and only then, will this sustainable fashion buzz really make an impact on the environment.
Susie Hasler, 36, from East Grinstead, West Sussex, is an award-winning stylist who runs Styled By Susie . Follow her on Instagram or Facebook.