Here is a feature I wrote about eco fashion for my web research unit at uni in my first year…
Ever brought that new top to wear on your next date, or a pair of flashy new heels from Primark? You may be trying to resist saying yes, but you have to admit it Primark is every girls new guilty pleasure.
At the back of our minds we try to be eco-friendly, but walking around work wearing tesco bags or other peoples hand me downs is not exactly very desirable. So instead we go to Primark and get fashion at affordable prices, we do not care if it damages the planet, so long as we look good. Except for the steep price tag and designer logo there is really not much difference between a Polo Ralph Lauren jumper and a Primark jumper.
However it is our constant demand for cheaper fashion items that leads to the increasing profits of these shops. We do tend to overhaul our wardrobes, looking fashionable is always top of our agenda. However the rapid turnover of clothes increases environmental harm at every stage from growing cotton, through burning energy to making and transporting the clothes, to disposing of them in landfill waste dumps.
Josie Nicholson of the Ethical Fashion Forum (EFF) says “when it comes to the environment, the global fashion industry has an enormous impact, through the use of toxic chemicals and pesticides, polluting and depleting water supplies, inefficient processes, transport, and waste”.
‘Value fashion’, as the shops prefer to call it, has been hot ever since Vogue featured a £12 Primark military jacket in 2005. Fashionistas fell over each other to shop there. They found t-shirts at £2, trouser suits at about £15 and women’s tops at less than £5.
I cannot lie Primark is amazing for buying a cheaper pair of heels on a budget or in a rush for the next party, but at the same time we need to start thinking about what damage we might be causing to the environment. We cannot change the world, but perhaps we should sit back and see how the little things might be affecting the bigger picture.
Kate Meakin, membership support officer of the British Association of Fair Trade (BAFTS) says “a lot of us make ethical choices when it comes to tea and coffee but this all goes out of the window when we see a dress for £5 or coat for £15. We love a bargain and when it comes to cheap clothes forget that someone always has to pay”.
So why has the fashion industry been so slow in embracing eco fashion? Famous fashion designer Wayne Hemingway creator of RedDead was a pioneer of eco fashion, a spokesman for Hemingway design said “fashion has been one of the slowest to embrace modern environmental, ethical and fair trade values, and it’s time to change”. Is it the high price tag, the lack of interest in environmental issues or the general style of the clothes? “People’s choice in organic fashion is often a self based choice on vanity, and in general eco fashion has been slow in competing style wise” he added.
Many eco-friendly fashion groups like EFF, BAFTS and Hemingway Design have been created in promoting the harmful effects of fashion on the environment. Junky styling also made its way into London Fashion Week last year with its range of clothing made from eco-friendly materials and recycled fabrics, and aims to change consumers views on eco fashion.
Some high street shops like Topshop and H&M have also been introducing some eco-friendly clothing into their range, with organic cotton t.shirt and fair trade leggings. But even if Primark and other stores did begin to embrace eco fashion would we the consumers be interested in buying the clothes?
In an online questionnaire results showed that consumers would be interested in eco fashion, if they knew more about it, and as long as it was at an affordable price. Jenny Buttress a student who regularly shops at Primark said “you can find information on the internet. But there is no other easy access to information I do not think”. Katy Yearsley another regular shopper said “Yes I would buy the clothes, let’s get rid of global warming. It obviously depends how much more expensive they are but I would definitely give it a go”.
Ruth Beckman for PAN UK also says “surveys show that consumers would prefer to buy clothing that has been ethically and sustainably sourced, if cost and quality were the same”.
So is our fashion competition effecting the environment? And more importantly will we be doing anything soon to save the planet if it means substituting our own wardrobe. I will leave it up for you to decide. But with the increase in eco fashion charities and high street lines, maybe we can afford to spend that little bit extra on a new top, and you never know eco fashion might become our new guilty pleasure.