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Sustainable Fashion – Oxymoron or Inevitability?

“In two to three years if a brand is not sustainable, it will be out of business” – the words of Tommy Hilfiger in a recent interview.

In the wake of London Fashion Week, we thought we’d pause to consider some complexities at the heart of the fashion industry’s attempts to clean up its act. Instead of statement suits or neon, sustainability is the new buzz word in fashion. Designers, models and commentators are increasingly vocal about the broader impacts of the industry.

At London Fashion Week earlier this month, sustainability stole the show. Designers incorporated a range of high-tech and traditional techniques to demonstrate their commitment to responsible design. From zero-waste pattern cutting to organic cotton, locally sourced and recycled materials to gentle dyes, the creations on show had lots to offer the environmentally conscious onlooker. One brand even found a way to transform Prince Charles’s nettle plants into a woven material.

Last month we were ourselves part of the Durham University Charity Fashion Show, an event that actively sought to work with sustainably minded independent brands. 

Y.O.U Underwear on Durham University Charity Fashion Show catwalk  

But is this all just one big, jewel-encrusted bubble? Wearing clothes made out of recycled bottles means nothing if your lifestyle remains the same. The model Edie Campbell pointed out one ‘suffocating’ irony of LFW; “…everyone got off their flights and had a carbon-neutral water bottle”. Maybe ‘sustainable’ fashion is another form of guilt-offsetting that means nothing if we don’t actively change the way we live. This is certainly the view held by the group Extinction Rebellion, which called for London Fashion Week to be cancelled on environmental grounds. 

A soup of token efforts is better than nothing, but only if they’re labelled as such. Brands need to be transparent about the true impact of their products, and not hide behind stand-alone products or future promises alone.

Nevertheless, we think it’s a great thing that high-profile events such as London Fashion Week (and others) are working in a more environmentally conscious manner. Even though it might not be perfect, it’s empowering to celebrate small steps and successes with a view to further improvements.  


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