Why we should stop shopping en masse | _shift London

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This article was originally published on _shift London

Should we finally stop shopping high street fashion? Sustainable fashion was the main talking point at today’s Bad Fit panel discussion at the London College of Fashion

Bad Fit, a UAL student publication by the London College of Fashion and London College of Communication, gathered four speakers from varying backgrounds to discuss the importance of sustainable fashion, under the theme Bad Fit. The speakers were Greta Eagan, the Wyoming fashion and beauty professional behind Fashion Me Green, Merryn Leslie, founder of sustainable fashion brand 69b Boutique, Jo Ellison, fashion editor at the Financial Times and Sandy Black, professor of Fashion and Textile Design and Technology at the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at the University of Arts London.

The audience comprised LCF and LCC students wanted to learn more about the switch from high street to ethical fashion and how awareness could be raised about this issue in the fashion industry. Sandy Black says, “Sustainability is a massive concept, but ethical fashion is the ethics of how business is done in its complex stages. The easiest place to start with this issue is around the material and the conditions you are working with. If you’re running your own business you have control of all of that and this again can impact other brands too.”

In a society where fast fashion brands like Primark and Zara rule the high streets of London, it is younger people, especially students, who are their biggest consumers. Often on a budget, cheap fashion for them is the best way to create stylish and trendy outfits. “As a fashion student you’d like to keep up with trends and most of the garments I buy are from Asos and Zara because it’s cheap and affordable,” says Yoyo Tse, a final year BA Fashion Journalism student.

However, buying cheap fashion comes at the expense of other people, the environment included. “Between 2000 and 2015 garments have doubled to a 100 billion units,” explains Sandy Black. It is a huge problem that is exponentially growing. “Child labour reached 168 million this year and cotton is an evil one,” says Merryn Leslie. She suggests, “If you can try to buy organic cotton, do it, and look out for BCI cotton.”

Education plays a huge part and the higher the consumer desire, the bigger the chance brands react to it. “They are largely reacting to a consumer desire, the way they’re looking is with a more sustainable eye, there is an appetite that is building,” says Jo Ellison. Indeed it’s on us to take the next step. “Young people who come into companies with an educated background and expertise in sustainability are likely to influence a brand to make changes,” Ellison continues.

When asking for tips on how to start, Jo Ellison suggests to take small steps. “We have to take on the responsibility as a consumer. It starts with looking at labels,” explains Jo Ellison. Shopping responsibly and buying mindfully is the key. Greta Eagan says,“the best way to start being more sustainable and environmental friendly is by washing your clothes less. Wash them in cold water and hang dry to them.” 

The Centre for Sustainable Fashion at the University of Arts London is taking the next steps in educating students on sustainable fashion. “We offer online courses that help educate students and take them in the right direction. It is a mindset and something that needs to be trained. It’s all about doing it differently and maintaining it. Social media has increased the way younger people shop, so why not encourage them to shop mindfully?” says Sandy Black.

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