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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:

 

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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…

BY HANNAH LEDDEN

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”.

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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.

Take STANCE’s poll here: https://goo.gl/hZUdTP

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France leading the charge in realistic body image

BY HANNAH LEDDEN

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.

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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.

Take STANCE’s poll here: https://goo.gl/EgMU4K

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BARNARDOS BLOGGER BABE – Holly Olivia Stephenson

BY AMARA HOWE

It’s a well-known fact that the coolest girls are from up North. Maybe that’s because most of them identify as part-time fashion bloggers or maybe it’s because Manchester’s Trafford Centre just opened the second biggest Topshop outside of London. With the likes of Megan Ellaby, Sara Luxe and Lizzy Hadfield overtaking the bloggersphere it’s no surprise new bloggers are popping up from every corner following in their footsteps.

One of those up-and-coming bloggers includes Holly Olivia Stephenson, 19, from Newcastle upon Tyne, who I recently spoke to about her fashion blog bisoushollyolivia and her up-coming work with the children’s charity Barnado’s.

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At first glance of her blog you get a vibe only the bravest of ladies can pull off. A mixture of current high street trends with sixties and seventies pieces often found on EBay – a “modern vintage” vibe as Stephenson dubbed it.  With a penchant for leopard print and a knack for layering, Stephenson’s clothing combinations are a perfect mixture of casual meets cool.

Currently taking a gap year after finishing college in 2017 before starting a degree in Fashion Communication and Promotion at the University of Huddersfield in September, Stephenson has since been focussing on her fashion blog as well as guest-posting for various blogs including the Barnardo’s blog.

Stephenson, who was approached by Barnado’s to write for their blog said: “I love charity shopping and the Barnado’s stores are actually some of my favourites. Writing for them is something I have actually wanted to do since I found out about their blog.”

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Posting weekly outfit posts, Stephenson’s street-style pictures depict her favour for combining in-trend fashion pieces and vintage charity-shop finds. “I have started to struggle buying from the high street. One reason is the ethics behind it… I know a lot of shops use cheap labour to make their clothes.”

Stephenson’s enthusiasm for ethical fashion is what gives her blog such a unique selling point. “I think fashion has become really disposable… it’s actually the second worst industry for the environment after oil, so buying second-hand is so important to me.” Stephenson said.

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After launching her blog in August 2014, Stephenson has been working actively for the past three years collaborating with different companies and sharing her passion for both writing and styling. Stephenson said “Being able to combine my passions and write about what I love is so fun. It’s humbling to find brands who love what I do and I always push myself to create the best content for collaborations.”

Collaborating with various brands since starting her blog, Stephenson was ecstatic to have worked with her favourite British fashion brand Dahlia in October. “I’ve admired them for years so for them to like my blog enough to want to collaborate with me was amazing.”

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Working with other brands including Shein, KoKo Couture and James Viana London, it’s no surprise Stephenson won the Best Student Blog award for the North East Blogger awards. “It was amazing to be shortlisted, and even more amazing to win… I really didn’t expect to.”

Stephensons best friend Beka Theaker, 23, a mental health nurse at Bupa said: “Holy is such a down to earth girl who is able to make basically every single work look. I think she’s going to be someone to watch out for. Her blog is just on the rise and it’s because of her ability to make a piece work in so many different ways and she pushes charity shopping so much.”

Despite a social media status which is rapidly increasing, Stephenson is still undecided about her future. What she does know, however, is she wants to work within the fashion industry. “I am interested in being a fashion stylist, a fashion writer or maybe a photographer.” With her unique style and passion for ethical fashion, Stephenson is certainly making a stance this season.

www.bisoushollyolivia.co.uk

Take STANCE’s poll here: https://goo.gl/RajYwz

Read the best books for bloggers:

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