Autumn is one of my favourite seasons for fashion, I’m always excited to wrap up in snuggly knitwear and I love to contrast a feminine dress with chunky boots and a masculine coat. However, I’m increasingly aware of fashion’s culpability for damaging the environment as the industry is the world’s second most prolific polluter, after fossil fuels. As the possibility of climate catastrophe becomes more urgent, fashion is being forced to take its responsibility more seriously. If one were being cynical, one might assume that this is because the customers are becoming more concerned about their own carbon footprint and are only parting with their hard-earned cash in stores that promise to be more ecologically accountable. However, some designers and high street brands are genuine in their aim to create fairly paid jobs, which sustainably manufacture quality clothing that will last beyond one season. Whatever the motivation, the fashion industry has to dramatically alter the way it operates if it is to pave the way for a more ecologically responsible future. High-end designers churning out 6 collections a year and high-street brands dropping mini-collections every week will no longer cut it. Consumers also need to take responsibility and think carefully about what and how frequently we buy new clothes. This is something that I struggle with, I get a lot of joy out of clothes and I love the thrill of having something new. To stop buying clothes altogether is not the answer as the fashion sector supports 890,000 jobs and contributes £32.3 Billion to the UK economy. The outlook may appear bleak but I have hope that things will change for the better. As the automotive industry diverts its reliance of fossil fuels and invests in electric cars and green technology, fashion is rethinking its business model. The BFC’s Positive Fashion initiative, Net-a-Porter’s Net Sustain platform, and other brand’s green initiatives are all steps in the right direction. Progress is slow, perhaps too slow, but positive change is on the horizon.
British designers have a long and proud history of creating era-defining fashion, which has traditionally trickled down to the high street where everyone can afford to buy into the latest, cutting edge trend. This is all fine and good in theory, but this focus on trends has lead to cycle of over-consumption and throw away fashion. In recent seasons, I’ve noticed a shift towards more classic, elegantly functional clothes that will fit into a normal woman’s life. Making functional clothes desirable can be challenging, but an essential component of the design process is to be in touch with the zeitgeist and anticipate how people want to spend their money. The last couple of collections by Heidi Slimane for Celine are great examples of beautiful, practical clothes that will suit a lot of women and won’t date. I was inspired by the Celine AW19 collection, which was dripping in with elegant 1970s, rock’n’roll references. I realised that I already had a few things in my wardrobe that would fit the look, they just needed a little tweaking. I bought this Michael Kors dress on The Outnet about 5 years ago but it was a too long and I didn’t wear it very much. I had my local dry cleaners take it up with a view to wearing it with this Weekend by Max Mara coat, which is a few seasons old. I bought my boots from Kurt Geiger a couple of years ago, I love them and I’ve had them re-healed twice. I’m sure the fast fashion retailers will be saturated with Celine knock offs, but I think applying inspiration from the runway to the clothes you already have will be the way forward. I’m not saying don’t buy from high street shops, to do so would be hypocritical, but I encourage anyone with an interest in fashion to think carefully about what you buy and only spend money on things that last beyond one season.