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Is fashion becoming more sustainable?

By Noa Mokhnachi

The fashion industry is one of the biggest players in the global economy and carries a heavy responsibility to help protect the environment and be as sustainable and ethical as possible.

After the tragic events that occurred at Rana Plaza almost four years ago, in which a near-derelict garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed, killing 1,134 people, has the fashion industry changed?


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Rana Plaza in 2013

The fashion and textiles industry is the most polluting industry in the world, second to oil, according to an article in Business of Fashion published in 2015. More recently, companies have started to be more transparent in sharing their code of ethics with their customers, and organizations have raised serious concerns and demanded changes.

With the rise of fast fashion and globalization, consumers have been buying more and more clothes, only to throw them away a few years later. Fast fashion brands like Zara or H&M produce new collections almost on a monthly basis, pushing customers to buy more items in order to be “trendy”. Those high street brands offer cheap versions of runway looks, which consumers wear for a few months before moving on to the next trend.

Capture d_écran 2017-06-01 à 19.40.06“There are some improvements overall in an environmental context. Ideas such as utilising resources in a smarter way and switching to alternative supply chain (which happen to be ‘cleaner’) such as for cotton mean that some elements of baseline (or first rung) sustainability now have mainstream traction. But we are very hazy on figures,” said Lucy Siegle, a 42-year-old environmentalist journalist.

It can take more than 20,000 liters of water to produce 1kg of cotton, which would be equivalent to one t-shirt and a pair of jeans. Worldwide, up to 8,000 different chemicals are used to produce clothes, and to turn raw materials into items of clothing.

And despite all the resources used in the garment industry, a lot of the clothes end up being thrown away. In fact, the UK alone throws away an impressive one million tonnes of clothing every year, according to wasteonline.

As awareness of sustainable fashion is growing, key leaders in the industry are beginning to question the impact of a model built on careless consumption and fast fashion.

Stella McCartney has been one of the first advocates of ethical and sustainable fashion. An outspoken activist, she creates collections using environmentally friendly materials and participates in environmentalist events. She was one of the first designers to publish the first environmental report: Stella McCartney Environmental Profit and Loss, which opened the door for many other luxury designers to publish their code of conduct.

The giant luxury group Kering published a brand new code of ethics in 2013, along with a five- year social and environmental plan, where they vowed to focus on the reduction of carbon-dioxide emissions, reduce paper waste in their packaging, and source raw materials and optimize the use of water. The group is now sourcing 100% of its paper from certified sustainably managed forests and is avoiding using PVC.

Even though it seems like the luxury industry is making considerable progress in terms of ethical and sustainable conduct, high street brands don’t seem to follow its footsteps.

Children as young as 13 are often employed in manufactories to produce clothes for some of the biggest names on the UK high street. The Guardian reported in early 2017 that brands like New Look or H&M were using factories that employed children in Myanmar. They were paid as little as 13p an hour to produce clothes for the UK high street brands. Countries like Bangladesh or China have also been accused of employing children to lower labour costs. Unicef reported that about 170 million children are involved in child labour in the world, with many working in textiles factories to produce garments for the American and European market.


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Piktochart made by Noa Mokhnachi showing child labour facts



“I avoid Primark and Zara as much as possible now, I am much more informed and I can’t pretend not to know about what is happening in the factories in Bangladesh for example. After the Rana Plaza disaster we can’t ignore these issues,” says Hayley Oliveira, 31, a stay-at-home mum of one.


After the tragic incident that killed 1,134 people and injured thousand more, companies, trade unions, and workers’-rights groups agreed to make the factories safer for the workers and improve their conditions within the next five years. But four years later, it seems that not much have changed. Children are still being employed and the conditions in the factories are still far from being ideal. Sociologist Jennifer Blair, told the Atlantic: “It’s very unlikely that all of the Accord and Alliance factories would be fully remediated by that deadline”.

After having her first child, Olivera is much more aware of what clothes she dresses her daughter in. “You can find online retailers selling made in the UK clothes for kids, sure they might be slightly more expensive but it is worth it,” she said.

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Price seems to be one of the main issues for young people not investing in sustainable clothes. High street brands offer a wide range of clothes at a very competitive price whereas sustainable brands seem to be more expensive as the cost of production is more elevated.

If clothing in the fast fashion industry was produced in a more recyclable and sustainable way, the fashion industry would become suddenly more sustainable as fast fashion retailers are the leading clothing retailers in the world.

By definition, dematerialisation and lowering consumption are two central tenets of sustainability. It is clearly impossible to achieve true or deep sustainability without these factors. Two factors that high street brands like Zara and H&M are struggling to achieve.

“Zara is highlighted as the fastest brand (and most successful according to analysts and pieces including Forbes magazine) and the one that has ‘revolutionised’ fast fashion by cutting the time from design to market. That business model cannot in my view be considered or be made to be truly sustainable,” said Lucy Siegle.

The fashion retailer H&M has started to make considerable changes in its code of conducts by introducing an ethical project in 2012 called H&M conscious. Every spring for the past 5 years, the Swedish giant showcase a capsule made from organic and recycled materials such as organic cotton, the collections is proposed in stores all around the world. But the brand might not be as sustainable as it seems.

“Is Zara the brand that worries me most? No, because they do not really message sustainability. That honour goes to H&M who loudly proclaim to be sustainable and supply chain re-inventors while continuing to pursue (aggressively) the same rapid production, turbo charged, high-profit business model,” shared Lucy Siegle.

Small sustainable brands are rising on social media and are starting to slowly become more important but they are far for being able to compete with high street brands.

To learn more about sustainable fashion watch the documentary The True Cost:



The Instagram age – is it almost at an end?

By Hannah Ledden

Instagram. Like many other social networking sites it has become a big part of daily life. You would have to go far to find someone who doesn’t use the site, or at least know about it. But like anything in the technology age, crazes come and go, with only a few things hanging on for the duration. So has Instagram reached its peak, or is it permanently installed as the key way to interact and promote?

Without realising it, we Instagram addicts are all subjected to numerous posts on a daily basis, which either show how great the newest beauty products are or the best place to buy those seemingly sold out festival tickets. Many argue that this suggests a negative side to the popular picture-sharing app, turning it into more of a marketplace than creative platform.

So does this bring an end to trusting the content you see – if the sole purpose behind it was the large pay cheque?

The facts about Instagram
The facts about Instagram. Infographic created by Hannah Ledden using Canva

With humble beginnings as a small start-up for budding photographers, Instagram has risen, culminating in a sale to Facebook worth $1 billion back in 2012. It’s certainly a success story, not only in the world of social media. It is now used by everyone, from the regular Joe posting holiday pictures to major companies promoting their latest products.

Recently, however, the site has shifted its focus to ‘micro-influencers’, people with a moderate following who promote products or brands to grow awareness – for a fee. Instagrammers with even a relatively modest following of a few thousand people can now make a significant income from a few sponsored posts per week.

The price of influencers on social media
Table showing the amount of money to be made by influencers on social media. Data courtesy of Cosmopolitan. Table created by Hannah Ledden

We can’t all reach the number of followers held on the most popular pages, such as that of Kim Kardashian West, who just celebrated reaching 100 million followers, or US pop-star Selena Gomez, who holds the crown with a whopping 120 million. But that doesn’t mean we can’t all sign up and create our own online profiles in the millions – after all, Instagram boasts 600 million users worldwide.

“The benefits of social media for business growth are exponential.”

While the army of so-called micro influencers are in the shadows of Instagram-leaders such as Kardashian West, they have found a new use for the site: to promote their work in the way of an interactive CV, and to interact with like-minded creatives.

Kim Kardashian West Instagram
Kim Kardashian West Instagram. Image courtesy of Instagram


Selena Gomez Instagram
Selena Gomez Instagram. Image courtesy of Instagram

Holistic health coach Melissa Rosenstock, 42, from Santa Monica in California is one business owner using social media to grow her brand. “I am new to the entrepreneurial world, so having access to marketing at my fingertips is a great thing,” she said. “The benefits of social media for business growth are exponential, due to the vast amount of people using these platforms whom are seeking something – to learn, grow, achieve or buy.”

It seems this is bringing the site back to its original use, as explained by co-founder Kevin Systrom. “For the idea to be a hit we knew we had to focus on being really good at one thing,” explained Systrom. “People loved the way it made their photographs unique and how it’s not bogged down with personal information or a list of friends and interests,” he told Fortune.

“We looked at is as instant telegrams when a new picture was posted which is where the name came from.”

This is exactly the element that has drawn many creatives to focus their personal marketing to the site, where new work and content can be viewed by the masses, for free, almost instantly. And alongside occasionally advertising the work of other businesses or brands as a brand ambassador, many focus on using the site as a platform for their own careers.

Photographer and budding filmmaker Richard Murphy, 27, is one of those who uses Instagram to promote his work. A current following of 15.1k shows the success Murphy, originally from Nottingham but living in London, is having on the platform.


Richard Murphy Instagram
One of Richard Murphy’s Instagram posts. Image courtesy of Instagram

“Instagram is my primary way of sharing photos and videos,” he said. “I use hashtags to share my work for the change to be featured on other pages, or I make use of the Instagram stories feature to reach out to a wider audience.”

Richard is one Instagram community member who disagrees with the ‘selling culture’ where brand ambassadors promote numerous products as a means of income. “People who promote products that they don’t believe in, or don’t use, send out a false advertisement to their followers. Content creators should only promote products that they can properly support or that fit with their personal brand.”

He is proud to say that his hard work has paid off, and that he’s beginning to receive invitations to work with brands and companies after garnering publicity through Instagram. “I recently sold one of my images for a couple of thousand pounds to a tourist company. Companies reach out to work with me because their brands fit with the style of my work, which is something I would be interested in because it makes sense with my brand.”

“Something in a niche industry gets a great reception.”

Melissa has a similar view to Richard on the topic of brand ambassadors who don’t use or believe in the products they are selling. “I take issue with that because I personally think that lacks moral and ethical vibes. If someone is promoting something for their financial benefit that they don’t even use, then I think that screams unauthentic,” she said.

“I strongly value authenticity as well as moral and ethical values, so that is why I have a really big issue with people who use Instagram like this,” Melissa adds.

Parkour athlete Eric Moor, 21, from Slough is another creative making a name for himself on the photo sharing site. A following in the excess of 31,000 regularly view his videos and pictures showing his training and current work projects.

Eric Moor Instagram
One of Eric Moor’s Instagram posts. Image courtesy of Instagram

Moor suggests that Instagram is in fact becoming a saturated community with many people trying to repeat the success of others. “There is definitely a lot of people on Instagram trying to do the same thing, like photographers, but something in a niche industry gets a great reception and ends up with a much larger following.”

As with any success, there comes a point where other people want to reap the rewards – without the commitment. Having work copied or replicated is a problem both Eric and Richard have encountered. “This has happened to me a few times and the worst one was where my image was stolen by someone and posted on one of the biggest pages on Instagram and that guy got all the praise,” explained Richard.

Adds Eric: “There isn’t much you can really do to stop it happening but Instagram does let you put watermarks on your original content but I don’t see much use in that, people still find a way.”

It seems the use of Instagram has had a beneficial effect on both men’s careers. They would argue against the opinion that Instagram is drying up. “Instagram is definitely not past its prime,” says Richard. “It is definitely still growing with more features continuously being added. There is a lot of content on the site now but that just means you need to be unique and stand out from the crowd.”

It seems across many industries, from the sports world to creatives, that social media age shows no sign of slowing up in helping people succeed. There is no doubt that in time to come there will be further developments and people may move on but in the immediate future, the road to success includes getting online.


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Beauty pageant winner: Young, gorgeous – and HIV positive

Horcelie (1)

By Youna Kabongo

A typical beauty contestant would choose to hide a secret which could harm her prospect of winning. But Miss Congo UK 2017 stunned the public by revealing her HIV positive status

Fine Arts student Horcelie Sinda, 21, who is to graduate this year from Chelsea College of Arts, was born with HIV. But she only found out about her status at the age of 11.

“It has certainly made my childhood different from others. Though I appeared confident, I was an emotional wreck. It took me ten years to get to where I am now and it hasn’t been easy. HIV is not a joke, it’s a serious matter,” she said.

The World Health Organisation defines the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) as a virus that affects the immune system by destroying white blood cells which are responsible for fighting the disease. It can then progress to AIDS.

Back in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s, people were bombarded with information about HIV/AIDS. Science has made huge progress in tests and treatment, allowing people to live a good and long life with the disease.

Cases of HIV progressing to Aids have been reduced. However, it still remains a major health issue in the UK.  According to the charity Averting HIV and AIDS, there are an estimated 101,200 people living with HIV in the UK. This is mainly because it has fallen off the radar.

Sinda has been campaigning to end HIV stigmatisation and to encourage people to get tested. Her work includes volunteering at Youth Stop Aids and ICS (international citizen services). Before the competition which took place in April, she traveled to South Africa to raise awareness.

She said that she entered the competition with just one goal in mind, to use her title to break into the black community and educate people about HIV. The kind of empathy and support that she received since “coming out” gave her more strength to go out there and not to be ashamed of who she is.

Vava Tampa, founder of the charity saved the Congo here in the UK, mentored the contestants for seven months and also deals with youth HIV in Hackney, welcomed Sinda’s move.

“It’s certainly is commendable on her part to put herself out there, and this has had a positive impact on the all community.”

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan pledged to make HIV prevention a top priority while campaigning to become mayor.

“While treatment for HIV sufferers has improved rapidly over my lifetime, we can’t afford to be complacent about HIV prevention. We need a renewed focus on the prevention of HIV to match the huge progress made in the 1980s and 1990s,” he said in the statement to Pink News.

Sinda learned of her status when she was eleven. She was taking medicines every day and one day just asked her parents why, and they had to tell her the truth.

“This was by far the best competition. Previous winners have gone to become ambassadors of certain issues faced by our people back home. But this relates to us directly here in the UK. It has empowered many and the taboo surrounding HIV/AIDS must stop,” said Francois Tshimpuki, founder of the pageant.

Since winning the title Horcelie Sinda has attracted  lots of press coverage such as the BBC. She urges people to get tested so that they can start treatment early in case they are infected.


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Autism: More support in schools needed

D3By Youna Kabongo

According to the National Autistic Society, around 700,000 people in the UK are on the autism spectrum. This equates to 1 in 100 and 2.7 million families living with autism every day.

Autism is a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them. Although it affects people from all nationalities and cultural, religious and social backgrounds, more females than males suffer from the condition.

With adequate support from an early age, autistic children are able to develop into responsible adults, contributing to both society and the economy. But currently, with schools overcrowding and funds being cut, many children are not getting the support needed to develop into such adults.

“I have been fighting with Cuckoo Hall School in Enfield, north London, for two years for my son’s speech therapy referral and he doesn’t have an experienced teacher. They keep saying that because of school’s funding cut, they are not able to provide a specialist teacher,” said 37-year-old Aphonsine Bendji, a sales assistant at Iceland whose 5-year-old son was diagnosed two years ago.

“Now I have to pay £400 for six sessions of speech therapy by myself as I cannot delay it any longer. It’s really hard with my salary but my child is my priority,” she added.

“There was so less support from the school that I had to educate myself about autism. And even after learning a lot, I felt that my son Daniel’s potential was not being used to the fullest, said Nadine Wauters.  She received training in education and relocated to her native country, the Democratic Republic of Congo. There she opened a school for autistic and special needs children, Les Amis de Daniel, which means Daniel’s friends in French.

“Ever since Daniel started attending the school, he is a much happier child. I don’t regret my decision. He is getting the type of education I wouldn’t have been able to give him here in the UK,” she said, adding that she currently splits her time between the two countries.

Michelle’s -declined to give her last name to protect her child identity- eight-year-old daughter, was excluded from Keys Meadow Primary School, also in Enfield, for behavioural problems. After joining a different school, she was diagnosed with autism.

“She is a totally different child, much happier and doing well in school. In a way, I am glad she was excluded because we managed to find out the root of the problem and give her the support she needs,” Michelle says.

Children with autism don’t develop skills at the same rate like other children. Some are affected more than others. For example, a child might take long to learn few words while another but might speak like children of his age but unable to interact with others.

“I left the school I was teaching because the funding which was allocated for children with special needs was being used for something else. I just couldn’t take it anymore”, said Shikira Alleyne-Samuel from Kreative Pursuit.

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“Now I run my own business, Kreative Pursuit, working with parents and their autistic children through enhancing mental wellbeing with the use of creativity and artistic expression”, she added.

Both Cuckoo Hall and Keys Meadow school declined to comment, stating that they do not comment on individual cases.

It is advised to get a child tested at the earliest If you think your child might suffer from autism

autism in UKmap

Courtesy of Autism UK                                    Enfield Map: Youna Kabongo

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Is Fashion becoming more diverse?

By Noa Mokhnachi

The fashion industry has been highly criticized for having unfair standards for women by constantly showcasing skinny white blonde models on the Runway but it seems to be slowly evolving now.

Any fashion week is a must for any fashionista; it’s a place to see and to be seen with the most outrageous outfits and a chance to spot your most worshiped celebs on the front row of your favorite fashion shows.

In the last few years, Fashion Weeks have come under fire for their lack of diversity on the runway. According to the Runway Diversity Report published by the Fashion Spot, Fall 2016 shows were less than 25% diverse. Every show of all four fashion hubs – Paris, London, New York and Milan – were studied and London came last behind New York and Paris.

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This Graph shows the percentage of models of colors during fashion weeks. source: StanceMag

Three hundred and twelve shows and 8,727 models casting from New York, Paris, London, and Milan were examined and less than 25% of the models cast were models of color. This season London was the only city that was less diverse than its previous seasons with only 19.9% models of a different ethnicity other than Caucasian.

But famous curvy models like Ashley Graham seem to be changing the fashion industry slowly with her huge social media following of 4.1 million followers. Designers and editors are starting to change their standards by employing more diverse models in photo-shoots and magazines but when it comes to runaway the change is still very slow. In Fall 2016 only 14 plus-size models made an appearance in shows.

Maria Diaz is 24-year-old African-American curvy model signed by MSA NYC agency: “ They are pretty unfair standards for models in the fashion industry, we need to look a certain way but I do think it is changing now, I have been lucky enough to always been surrounded by a very diverse group when modelling but I think that is because I mostly do shoots and not fashion shows, ” she said.

From Spring 2015 to Fall 2016, the diversity of models in NY fashion grew to 10%. Kanye West led the movement with 100% of colored models walking the show, and Zac Posen followed closely with 87% of colored models.

Markus Roberts-Clarke is a 33-year-old British androgynous-looking model: “My personality and unique look are what made me successful, but the annoying thing now is that I get type-cast now, I am not considered like a normal model, they have labeled me a little.” He explained that models like him tend to be cast only for particular jobs and not regular shows.

In an interview for the Huffington post, the CEO of Models of Diversity Angel Sinclair said that she has been seeing a constant evolution with all skin colors being represented at London Fashion week in February 2017.

With New York leading the way, the industry seems to be moving in a new direction and heading towards more diverse fashion.

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And now, here come the Dreams…


The lights go down, the curtain goes up and a dream 11 years in years in the making is about to come true. Dreamgirls has finally hit London’s west end ‘and I am telling you’ it’s one to watch.

The Savoy theatre has been transformed into 1960s America, to bring the Oscar award-winning film and Tony award-winning Broadway show to London. It’s hard to find many people who haven’t heard of the musical phenomenon or at least sung along to the soundtrack – and it’s even more difficult to find anyone who doesn’t walk out of the theatre a die-hard fan.

Dreamgirls, the West End show
Dreamgirls has taken over the Savoy Theatre until November 2017. Image taken by Hannah Ledden

Amber Riley, of Glee fame, brings the same level of stardom to the stage as Beyonce and Jennifer Hudson did to the 2006 blockbuster film. The shivers down the spines of every audience member throughout Turner’s performance is undeniable and it was hard to find a dry eye in the house.

Sonia Friedman, owner of the production company behind the West End version, showed her happiness at Riley joining the cast at a press event before the premier of the show: “ I was left with goosebumps, tingles and tears when I heard Amber first sing two of the iconic songs. London is very lucky to be the first to see her Effie.”

Deena, Effie and Lorrell take the audience on a glittering journey of friendship, achievement and betrayal in the coming of age story of Deena Jones and the Dreams. A story that many can relate to  – even if they’re not superstar recording artists.

Chloe Wilson, 20, from Colchester waited years to see the hottest ticket in town. “I grew up loving the film and I was surprised with tickets to the show today,” she says. “It was just as good as the movie, maybe even better because it was live and right in front of us. I’ve only just left and I’m thinking about the next time I can come to see the show again”.

A keepsake from the best show in town. Image by Hannah Ledden

All the things that made the film, and original Broadway show, a musical masterpiece are brought to life 6 nights a week. Costumes with sequins and boas, every smash hit with an audience left singing along and characters everyone loves, and hates.

Maria Scofield, 49, was also in the audience this week. “I hadn’t particularly heard about the original show or the film before but I love going to the theatre and I was told this was one to watch. As far as west-end shows goes, it’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.”

Whether you’re a life-long fanatic, or newbie to the vocal talents of the Dreams, a night at this show will leave you mesmerised and pleading for an encore.

Location of Savoy Theatre
Location of the Savoy Theatre. Map courtesy of Google Maps

Dreamgirls the West End production is at the Savoy Theatre until November 2017.

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France leading the charge in realistic body image


France has taken a step towards creating a healthier body image in modelling by introducing new laws to tackle excessively thin models as the face of fashion. 

The new laws will see models requiring confirmation from their doctors that they are healthy, and further measures later in the year will see manipulated images in magazines stamped with the words ‘photographie retouchée’  (retouched photograph).

Fashion models
Models on the catwalk. Image courtesy of Creative Commons

An emphasis has been placed on the BMI (body mass index) of the models in confirming they are fit to work, with similar laws already in place in other areas of Europe. The difference being that although doctors will be advised to look at the individual’s BMI, a minimum number won’t be put in place like Spain or Italy have already imposed.

Freelance photographer Katie McKenna, 21, from Norwich, believes these guidelines are a step in the right direction. “I agree with everything being said by the French government however there has to be a shift in the wider market and advertisement industry for this to be enforced.”

“As a society, we have become used to seeing these thin fashion images, with manipulation or retouching, mainly without being overtly aware, so I think the wider industry needs to get on board with this new way of working for any real changes.”

Guidelines released by the World Health Organisation suggest an adult with a BMI below 18.5 is considered to be underweight and below 17 is extremely malnourished.

BMI levels. Infographic made by Hannah Ledden

Nathalie Clarkson, 21, a fashion promotion graduate from Southend agrees that this could be the start of a fresh-thinking fashion industry. “The ban is long overdue because they don’t represent real women and people’s views end up being distorted,” she says. “Hopefully the rest of the world will follow in their footsteps.”

France’s health and social affairs minister, Marisol Touraine, said the aim was to prevent anorexia and an unrealistic level of beauty ideals. “Exposing young people to unrealistic images of body image leads to a sense of poor self-esteem that can impact health-related behaviour.”

Fashion capitals of the World
Will all the fashion capitals follow in France’s footsteps? Map made by Hannah Ledden using Google Maps

Having a capital city of fashion take the first step towards a healthier presentation of body image is surely a step in the right direction for the industry as a whole. Severe punishments are also to be put in place for those who fail to follow the new standards, including six months in prison for staff who use models without the correct medical certificates.

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