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Sustainable fashion should get the credit it deserves

As the Sustainable City Awards adds a fashion category to its accolades, Helen Turnbull discusses the importance of promoting sustainable fashion.

We receive regular reminders from the government and green peace purveyors to save, cut-down and reduce our waste to reserve the world’s non-renewable sources. The fashion industry is undeniably one of the most wasteful sectors but with the help of celebrity status, namely Livia Firth, and positive promotion, eco-fashion could yet enter the mainstream.

It does have a long way to go to shake off the connotations of being unfashionable and even uncomfortable, but the reputation eco-fashion has is an exhausted stereotype . There is a handful of indie designers and high-street retailers out there championing a newfound ethical ethos, proving us all wrong.  

One initiative advocating the eco-friendly fashion movement is the Esthetica exhibition that tags onto London Fashion Week, showcasing the best ethical, emerging designers. This September, one young graduate caught my eye.

For Spring 13, Diana Auria Harris presented a 14-piece swimwear set comprising candy colours and pop-art prints having teamed up with illustrator Margot Bowman. The premise of the collection is underpinned by ethical elements – each piece is made completely from recycled polyamide sourced from discarded fishing nets and carpets – and not a potato sack in sight.

At the other end of the scale, you have the behemoth that is the Great British High Street.

With its focus on fast fashion rather than fair trade, one might not associate it with cutting edge eco-practices, but Marks & Spencer, H&M and New Look are among a list of names implementing ethically sound practices.

Marks & Spencer’s dedication to the cause is particularly worth flagging up. With four extensive fair-trade ranges boasting everything from basic t-shirts to corduroy trousers– produced in one of their four Eco Factories – the brand is a worthy winner of the high-street retailer award.

Granted, the fashion industry will never become a wholly sustainable operation due to the disposal nature of its beast and the fast-fashion fix we’ll always crave but recognising its existence, in an attempt to remove its pigeonhole position, is a sure step in the right direction.


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