The rise of sustainable fashion in the UK


Sustainable fashion is the latest trend and the fashion scene in the UK is working to address the environmental price tag of the industry. From the high-street to the red carpet, innovative solutions will benefit both the planet and our wardrobes. 

Recognising the problem of throwaway fashion, UK politicians have called on the Government to change the law to require fashion retailers to comply with environmental and social standards. The UK EAC has also sent a list of recommendations that require fashion brands to adopt sustainable practices. 

Here are the reasons why sustainable fashion is on the rise.

Sustainable Fashion is stylish longevity 

If fashion items were more sustainable, consumers would be encouraged to buy fewer clothes. Cheaper fashion choices allow people to follow the latest trends, however cheaper clothes also tend to be lower quality. The fashion industry’s current business model of fast fashion with cheap, low-quality garments drives widespread environmental damage – even if they look great in our wardrobes.

One of the most effective ways to reduce fashion’s environmental footprint is to increase garment lifetimes. The Clothing Sustainability Research Group at Nottingham Trent University argues garments should be designed for longevity, and the fashion industry is slowly changing its design practices to have a positive impact on how long items remain wearable.

If more fashion brands choose to extend the lifespan of clothing they could reduce carbon, water, and waste footprint by 20 to 30% each. Brands like Noctu use the finest, softest GOTS and OEKO-TEX certified organic cotton for their sustainable loungewear apparel.

Garment recovery schemes and upcycling clothes

The ever-changing trends in fashion encourage over-consumption and generation of excessive waste of unused clothing. The fashion industry is responsible for 20% of all water pollution worldwide. The UK buys more clothes than in any country in Europe, leading to millions of items of clothing ending up in a landfill every year. Research by Oxfam found that new clothes bought in the UK produce more carbon emissions per minute than driving a car around the world six times.

Fast fashion has given consumers the luxury to enjoy the pleasures of different styles but has also ushered in a throwaway culture. Due to coming and going trends, clothes have become single-use purchases depending on the occasion or the latest looks. 

To address the trend of clothes being a single-use purchase, some brands are adopting a “garment recovery scheme” by re-using damaged fabrics during production. Upcycling garments can reduce clothing and textile waste by reusing deadstock or gently used fabric to create great new products. Using pre-existing fabrics can divert 85% of textile waste.

Charity organisations like White Rose offer lovingly hand-picked recycled fashion from unwanted clothing donations. Meanwhile, Brands like Thoreau and Boden are fully committed to reducing their CO2 emissions and zero-to-landfill practices by using eco-friendly fabrics. 

Luxury brands are also getting into the upcycling game. Brands like Louis Vuitton and Burberry came under fire (quite literally) for burning unsold items. In 2018, Burberry pledged to end the practice and said it will reuse, repair, donate or recycle all excess stock.

Encouraging sustainable fashion choices

The UK has an exciting ecosystem of sustainable fashion businesses, researchers and designers who are already forging a new vision for fashion. 

Retailers are doing their part in reducing the environmental and social impact of the clothes they sell. Consumers are increasingly aware of fashion pollution, with most of them willing to pay more for sustainable fashion. People are actively looking for retailers and businesses who are blazing the trail for ethical and sustainable fashion. 

Meanwhile, celebrities are also promoting eco-friendly dress codes on award shows, demonstrating to their fans that sustainability and fashion are not mutually exclusive. The 2020 BAFTA’s ceremony encouraged their guests to re-wear existing pieces and showcase their green design on the red carpet. “Little Women ” actress Saoirse Ronan wore a gown made from discarded satin fabric while Kate Middleton re-wore her Alexander McQueen gown from 2012. 

Clothing brands like Thought Clothing use naturally grown bamboo, cotton, wool and hemp from responsible sources to make its clothing. Komodo is another ethical brand, offering 100% vegan and eco-friendly clothing which manages to be both affordable and stylish. 

Often there is an expectation that you have to give up premium looks or functionality within sustainable design. Oliver Co. is a UK brand aiming to change this perception by creating beautifully functional products that are designed to last, using innovative new fabrics, and working with high-end ethical factories. They craft sustainable accessories such as wallets and card holders from apple leather – an innovative, vegan, durable material made from waste from the Italian fruit juice industry.

Working towards a stylish and sustainable future

More work is required from the fashion industry to achieve a stylish yet sustainable future. Sustainable fashion demands a cultural change and further improvements to production processes and fabric materials. We are looking forward to a future where environmentally friendly options are as fashionable as they are responsible.

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