Jan 042013

The Sustaibable Fashion HandbookThe Sustainable Fashion Handbook is a beautiful and mighty tome, which has clearly been conceived to be *the definitive sourcebook* on this whoppingly complex subject.  Sandy Black‘s position as professor of fashion and textile design and technology at London College of Fashion gives the book weight, but it’s real strength lies the scores of contributions from academics, designers and industry experts on a multitude of associated topics.

The book is divided into 5 main chapters to help us reach an understanding of sustainable fashion:

1 Self and beauty / Culture and consumption
2 Desire and fashion/ Design and innovation
3 Craft and industry/ Transparency and livelihood
4 Speed and distance/ Ecology and waste
5 Techno eco/ New fashion paradigms

The book contains be best attempt I’ve seen at defining fashion, an emphasis on the garment’s life cycle from raw material production through use to disposal, information on the transport networks needed to keep the fashion coming and various ways people are beginning to try and break the unsustainable practices which are now commonplace.

The academic contributors have opened my mind, and led me to look at projects such as The Textile Toolbox and Local Wisdom.  Campaigns like the Asia Floor Wage are also represented, showing a way forward, as are new types of fabric and new production methods, e.g. spraying or growing textiles.

The contributions from heavyweight designers are enlightening, such as Vivienne Westwood “Buy less, choose well”,  Hussein Chalayan “Understanding nature, how we relate to it, and understanding our bodies…”, Issey Miyake ” I have endeavoured to experiment to make fundamental changes to the system of making clothes” and Yohji Yamamoto.  However, the amount of greenwash included by high street brands, some of whom have more integrity than others, does undermine the book at times.

Basically, the book is well worth the read, but at the size of a 1980s Yellow Pages this is not something to be undertaken lightly.  I suspect it will not age well as technology races ahead and the images are very NOW, but will endure to provide a snapshot of our times.

Oct 262011

The way much cotton is produced harmful to farmers and their communities as well as the environment on many levels.  There are a wealth of statistics out there, but here are a few key ones.

  • It takes around 2,000 litres of water to produce a t-shirt.  This has led desertification in many areas, most notably around the fast disappearing Arral Sea.
  • Depending on the statistics viewed, cotton accounts for 10-25% of global pesticide use, and around 25% of global insecticide use.
  • A third of all cotton is produced in Uzbekistan where slavery is a major issue.  Every year in Uzbekistan, the government forces children as young as 9 out of their schools and into cotton fields.

There is currently a lot of work being done to remedy some of these issues by Anti-Slavery and the Ethical Justice Foundation amongst others.  You can also sign a petition to Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament, which calls for a removal preferential trade tariffs.

If you do nothing else, please watch these two videos and consider buying fairtrade or organic cotton next time you need new pants.

Oct 262011

Finally, a comprehensive, readable book on the subject of today’s fashion industry.  Lucy Seigle writes (never preaching) as a fashion conscious woman who is dis-satisfied both with what is in her wardrobe, and the means of production that put it there.

To Die For takes you to the fields where cotton is grown, areas where skins are tanned, to factories both good and far from optimal, onto the High Street and ultimately to landfill.  It is thought provoking at levels above and  beyond the plight of exploited and bonded labourers and questions whether the fashion we are addicted to, whether fast or luxury, serves either us or the world we live in.

Highly recommended whether the environment, human rights or fashion is your focus.