Why ethical fashion shouldn't be on the fringe



BECCA - "I WANT TO CELEBRATE THE ARTISANS"


On Monday, we were asked to speak at the world renowned Glasgow School of Art as part of Fringe Fashion Week organised by RADIAL - a collective of creative thinkers from the university community across Glasgow all connected through a shared need and desire to live sustainably. Running at the same time as Fashion Week in London, the fringe fashion event brought together ethical / sustainable fashion enthusiasts, innovators and thinkers to celebrate ethical and environmentally conscious clothing and design.

Speaking alongside ethical fashion industry experts BeYonder, Kalopsia Collective and Kat Garbutt, we told our ethical fashion story in the best way we knew how. We started with our passion - artisan craftsmanship and building a business for good - which led to long conversations about changing business models and shaking up a trillion dollar industry. And we ended with the launch of Nu Blvck and our plans for the future.

But as well as telling our story we sat back and listened and learned from the other experts. Here are our Top 10 Takeaways from the evening:

 

1. THE COLD HARD FACTS

36 million people globally are living in modern day slavery, many of whom are making clothes for western brands. Every year in the UK alone, 2 million tonnes of clothing and textiles end up in landfill which when decomposing releases chemicals and dyes into the soil and water tables, as well as emitting methane, a harmful greenhouse gas.

2. OUR MOST PRECIOUS RESOURCE

People are the world’s most precious resource, however, the basic living wage is more often than not, not paid to the people who make our clothes. Paying a living wage would increase the cost of clothes produced in places like Bangladesh by a mere 5% - a price surely worth paying to protect some of the world's most vulnerable.


3. IT’S HAPPENING HERE IN THE UK TOO

The abuse of garment workers is (sadly) synonymous with places like Bangladesh and Myanmar, however, a recent Dispatches documentary and Guardian article exposed fast fashion brands for paying their British-based garment workers less than half the legal minimum wage.

 

4. NECESSITY NOT CHOICE

This (fast fashion) can't go on. The world can’t sustain it.” Adam, Kalopsia Collective.

Like it or not, we don’t have the resources to continue the mass consumption of clothing at the rate we currently do. The need for change is not a matter of choice; it’s a necessity. 

5. CHANGE IS COMING


Trends in consumer behaviour are moving towards a more conscious purchasing decision. In an age where information is available at their fingertips, consumers are demanding answers around the ethics and provenance of the products they buy.

6. WHO WILL DRIVE THE CHANGE?


“Is change going to be driven by the consumer or by the fashion brands?” a question we’re often asked. The consensus on the night was that whilst consumers need to be better educated on “who made their clothes” change will only come about if consumers and brands work together.
 

7. CHEAP ≠ VALUE

According to TNS Worldpanel, we now buy 40% of our clothes from ‘value retailers’, with just 17% of our clothing budget. But, cheap doesn’t always mean value. Badly made clothes often fall apart after a few washes and although they may not cost much to buy, the price per wear is high.



8. THE FUTURE OF FASHION

The design of a piece of clothing (or accessory) is so important in the process of  making it ethical / sustainable. However, fashion design students receive very little information / teaching about designing with ethics / sustainability in mind. This needs to change.
 
9. MASS MANUFACTURING TO MICROMANUFACTURING


Changing the model from centralised mass manufacturing to a network of micro manufacturers will offer a more sustainable solution for fashion.


10. TIME TO DISRUPT


Disruptive businesses in marketplaces often grow because they launch in markets that incumbents overlook. These markets exist because big brands typically try to provide their most profitable and demanding customers with ever-improving products and services - in fashion’s case, more regular trends at cheaper prices.

But there is a now new conscious consumer in town, and the fast fashion brands are ignoring their demands, blinded by profits. At Nu Blvck, we’re providing that conscious consumer with beautiful, ethically made products - working with amazing businesses like BeYonder and Kalopsia to disrupt a worldwide industry from right here in Scotland.

- ORSOLA DE CASTRO -


Thanks to The Glasgow School of Art, RADIAL, BeYonder, Kalopsia Collective and Kat   Garbutt for an evening of thought provoking discussion.