In age where consumption has reached saturation point, an overdue backlash is building. Owing to The True Cost, the ugly face of fast fashion has never been so firmly in focus; we all know the level of human hardship necessary to produce cheap clothing. We also know the environmental impact of textile wastage as well as the potential health implications of the modified cotton grown to meet spiralling demand. The issue that we have now is caring enough to change our shopping habits and this is where things can get tricky.
“Fast fashion encourages consumers to purchase un-needed clothes at rapid rate. Around 30% of garments in wardrobes aren’t worn for a year” – SMART
I remember reading Naomi Klein’s No Logo as a first year media student, feeling duly shocked by the harsh reality of capitalist sweatshops and then promptly buying a new pair of Nike’s because I’d spilled Pepsi Max on my Adidas Superstars. I could still feel horrified by what I had learned when I remembered to think about it, but not enough to persuade me to boycott the brand and I think that, if we are honest with ourselves, this is probably the case for most us. Everyone would like to shop more ethically, but one, perfect, high street dress in the hand is worth two varied versions in the ethical bush and so we push the negative truth about fast fashion to the back of our minds and treat ourselves to what we want, regardless of provenance.
“Scott Bedbury, Starbucks’ vice president of marketing, openly recognised that “consumers don’t truly believe there’s a huge difference between products” – Naomi Klein
So how to become a more conscious shopper? For me it was a process ignited not by focusing on the unpalatable truths of mass production but by developing a passion for unique and emerging brands who produced clothing that excited me and in a way that could add joy to, rather than detract joy from, my purchasing patterns. I don’t shop more ethically as an act of puritanical charity, it is a cheerful by product of buying from the brands that I now favour, those with a story and a personal touch. In short, once I realised that dressing ethically consisted of more than cutting three holes in a hessian sack, everything changed.
“Buy less, choose well, make it last” – Vivienne Westwood
One key aspect of ethical buying is durability and the following brands focus on achieving that in spades:
Tom Cridland: The 30 Year Collection
Launched with a starting capital of just £6000, Tom Cridland is a bona fide sustainable brand with a cult following that straddles both sides of the Atlantic. The ethos is simple; buy less, buy better. The brand gained notice with the 30 Year Sweatshirt and now includes the full spectrum of menswear in the range. Each piece features double stitched seams and a luxury cotton blend to ensure durability and a complimentary repair service is valid for three decades from date of purchase.
30 Year Sweatshirt: £65
The Flint & Tinder 10 Year Hoodie is a Kickstarter campaign success that raised over $1m USD; the highest ever figure crowd funded for a fashion project. The idea developed when creator Jake Bronstein entered the manufacturing industry and learned the practice of planned obsolescence; a policy of designing a product with an artificially limited useful life. Eager to prove that fashion need not be disposable, Bronstein created a premium cotton, unisex hoodie with a 10 year guarantee and complimentary repair service.
10 Year Hoodie: £70
STALF creator Paris Hodson designs, cuts, sews, packages and posts all STALF pieces from her studio in the Lincolnshire Wolds. After studying and working in London, Hodson became disillusioned with the world of fast fashion and moved home to Lincolnshire to enjoy a slower, more simple style of life. STALF is a natural extension of this way of life. The pieces are made in small quantities using organic, durable cotton and the shapes are oversized with clean lines and a minimalist Scandi feel that is truly timeless.
Boater Sweatshirt Dress: £65
The White T-Shirt Company is a GOTS standard producer of high quality, organic cotton wardrobe staples that are built to last. The brand has the support of Katharine Hamnett who designed their first T-Shirt and offers a tailoring service to ensure a perfect fit.
Crew neck T-shirt: £35
American Giant’s ‘Don’t Get Comfortable’ tagline is a bold message to clothing retailers for whom poor quality materials and shoddy workmanship have become the norm. Like Flint & Tinder, each item is made with 100% American produced cotton however every item in the American Giant range comes with a lifetime guarantee and policy of “any item, any reason, any time” return.
Classic Full Zip: £75
Last of England founder Tom Heber-Percy created the brand when he discovered a cashmere jumper belonging to his father that was 30 years old but “looked as good as new”. This motivated Tom to launch a high quality, classic cashmere collection with the values of a former era.
MUD Jeans was created in order to challenge accepted patterns of consumption and put the idea of a circular economy into practice. The concept, on the surface, is simple; the jeans are bought but the GOTS approved cotton is leased. When the customer no longer wants to wear the jeans, they are returned to the supplier to be recycled and rewards are earned.
Skinny Hazen £90
Aside from being vegan friendly, environmentally friendly and a fair labour power force, the Dr.Marten brand is a British institution and allows all customers to register their purchase in the For Life warranty programme. Should they ever wear out, they will be repaired or replaced free of charge.
1460 Classics: £105