We need to talk about Sustainable Fashion

How many people have died for my wardrobe? I don't want to know the answer. I can't even bear to think of the suffering that people may have gone through to put together the navy and white stripy T-Shirt, black leggings and navy socks that I'm wearing as I write this.

It's far easier not to know the journey that these clothes have taken to rest on my body. Easier on my conscience, that is - or, rather, it was.

The dark side of the fashion industry is not a secret.

We're all aware of the collapse of the garment factory, Rana Plaza in Dhaka, Bangladesh that killed 1134 people on 24th April 2013, and the various fires in textile factories that took even more lives across Dhaka between 2012 and 2013.

We know the working conditions of the people who make a lot of our clothes breach our standards of human rights. Yet, we don't say it out loud.

I've been thinking about writing this post since October last year, following a huge burst of inspiration and somewhat of a wake up call at Brighton Fashion Week, who primarily campaign for ethical fashion.

But I was scared.

Scared to be labelled a hypocrite, for the majority of the clothes in my wardrobe are not sustainable. Scared you'd think that I was judging anyone - like myself - who wears clothes that are not ethical. And scared to be seen as someone who thinks she knows all the answers - when really, she doesn't.

I've come to realise that these are fears that a lot of us face when talking about sustainability.

Since October, sustainable fashion has started to become a growing interest. I became heavily involved in The Better Project, a Brighton-based eco-friendly community lead by singer-songwriter Lu'Ami. Together we raised £2,500 on Kickstarter to launch Lu'Ami's EP 'Better' with a sustainable fashion show taking place at the same time.

I worked on the marketing and PR for the event, consequently spending months reading up on Sustainable Fashion and the real dangers that people are having to go through in order to put my wardrobe together.

There are around 40 million garment workers across the world, 85% of them are women and the majority of the workers live in third world countries without the same rights and protections that we, in the Western World, have.

Global Fashion is a $3 trillion industry. Some of those workers make £44 a month - that's just a quarter of the minimum wage in Bangladesh. We often pay more than that for our clothes.

Let's not forget the damage that the clothing chemicals are doing to the workers and their homes. Then there's the damage that producing 400% more clothes than we did two decades ago - approximately 80 billion - is doing to the environment. The UK alone produced one million tonnes of textile waste last year, as reported by sustainability campaign group, Wrap.

The more I draw back the curtain to the worst-kept but best-ignored secret in fashion, the more I've come to question everything. Right down to my favourite red lacy dress.

It's gotten to the point where I'm walking past a shop window with a 50% off sign, my eyes are saying "you do love a bargain" and my body is refusing to stop, responding to my wandering eyes with a "don't you dare".

With the exception of one scarf due to being freezing in Berlin, I have only bought clothes from charity shops and stores with a genuine ethical code.

I still wear clothes from brands that don't fall under that category and I would never be insulting or judgemental of anyone who bought me or themselves clothes from these brands. I simply have made the decision to shop with my conscience.

Everything we wear has been touched by human hands.

Those hands have family and friends, just like we do. They like to laugh, gossip and have fun, just like we do. Yet, many of those hands have endured more suffering than we could imagine.

We need to talk about Sustainable Fashion. We need to talk about the environmental and human costs that our beloved fashion industry is causing. It's an issue far more complex than the last 681 words could even comprehend - I've only really left a light thumbprint on the surface of this extremely complicated issue.

I'm not anti-fashion. I love fashion. I'm addicted to the feeling of wearing an outfit that makes you feel good. Heck, I've been blogging about fashion for years and have created two fashion-focused magazines.

It's for the love of fashion, the environment and humanity that I want to stand up and admit my advocacy for Sustainable Fashion, pulling back the curtain even further to explore what is really going on - and how consumers can become activists towards making a change.

If you're as new and clueless to the world of Sustainable Fashion as I still am, start your journey by watching The True Cost - available on Netflix. 

And please share relevant videos, articles and your thoughts on Sustainable Fashion below.

ThoughtsPippa Says