Can Fashion Manifest A Positive Future?
Last week we had the pleasure of hosting an engaging digital Roundtable Discussion considering ‘Can Fashion Manifest a Positive Future?’ We were lucky enough to be joined by some key experts in the industry with thanks to Jodi Muter-Hamilton (Black Neon Digital and Fashion Roundtable), Hannah Carter (Love Not Landfill) and Tamsin Lejeune (Common Objective).
COVID19 has given everyone the chance to reflect and consider how to live a more sustainable lifestyle. But is this shift just a fad? Are we merely reflecting on these things because we have the time to but will be back to our old ways?
Kicking off the discussion, we considered how manifestation means that you have to imagine a positive future for it to come into fruition. That these change makers will be the future of the industry and how consumers will drive this force owing to a shift in their relationship with brands, by understanding the value of the product and connecting emotionally with what they wear.
Our first speaker, Tamsin Lejeune, founded Common Objective, a business network for the fashion industry centred around sustainability. In her eyes bold leadership is the key to manifesting a positive future; she sees this occurring at the lower levels but is yet to be seen at the top.
Jodi Muter-Hamilton, founder of Black Neon Digital, an editorial platform and podcast series featuring entrepreneurs and visionaries who are using fashion as a way to create change. She is also the communications director of Fashion Roundtable. In agreement with Tamsin, Jodi appreciates the need for bold leadership but with the utmost transparency. She also understands the importance of self-worth within the fashion industry.
Our final speaker, Hannah Carter is the campaign manager for #LoveNotLandfill, a campaign which is all about changing consumer behaviour in regards to consumption and waste. In her opinion we must understand the relationship between value, identity and consumption.
We considered how COVID19 has caused tragedy to supply chain interruptions but it’s not all doom and gloom. Tamsin explained how this pandemic has really highlighted the inequities that exist within the fashion industry. Recently all talks have surrounded the impact of fashion on the environment while social issues have taken backstage. To minimize our environmental impact we should buy less however, the fashion business does still support thousands of people, particularly businesses that are high value with the opportunity of creating thousands of jobs.
Jodi drew attention to recent events, such as the Boohoo scandal, where there was a mass COVID19 outbreak in a factory in Leicester as workers were forced to continue working throughout the pandemic; producing fast fashion products for consumers, who were buying the latest ‘Stay at Home’ collection. This highlights inequality and the need to do more to tackle this. The solution is legitimate policy changes and legislation to ensure that companies can not exploit their workers and get away with it. This incident also raised another issue - it is only when something is happening in our own country we seem to care. Ignoring that people work under these conditions all the time, particularly in India where factory workers have been left penniless since lockdown. Perhaps this is why we struggle to make such changes.
If you look at the history of supply chains, people have only noticed things when they’re on their doorstep. With the increase in technology we have become far more aware and people seem to be more transparent, this is something we need to continue to improve on.
Hannah explained the increasing issues observed with online shopping and returns. Returns are costing the environment to a great extent and with online shopping not looking like it’s going to slow down we must find a way of tackling this. One solution could be digital try-ons, however, this doesn’t help people who are used to feeling the clothes prior to a purchase.
Such complications highlight the relationship between self-worth and purchasing behaviours. For example, retail therapy has increased over the years with people hoping that over-consumption will better their mood.
At LDC, many of our brands are doing made-to-order collections which helps to minimise waste. This also helps to build a consumer-producer relationship which is better retail therapy. Going forward we must emphasise the importance of forming such relationships as well as ensuring transparency across the supply chain.
We need to start dissecting the link between money and worth in the fashion industry. Sustainable garments are typically more expensive, which is why we need to be conscious of the discourse around this topic. Maybe designers need to work closer with the customer to create new things from deadstock. Upcycling is gaining popularity and improving the relationship we have with clothing.
Hannah went on to explain how most people don’t truly grasp the impact of fashion on the environment. This highlights the importance of education and raising awareness in regards to such issues. Once people are aware then this will impact their behaviour as we will observe a value shift. Clothes are also a way to express individuality so people do consider what they are wearing but we do need to be sensitive to the fact that some people simply can’t afford certain products.
The real question is, whose responsibility is it to make this change? Consumers? Governments? Designers? Suppliers? Tamsin discussed how often we observe a deflection of blame and responsibility. The current climate of fashion is a result of years of blame deflection. Now many consumers are calling out large brands, designers are turning towards more sustainable materials, yet we do require more enforcement from the government and continue to push for this.
Rental provides a good solution to societies craving for new garments and wardrobe updates. Allowing consumers to borrow pieces for certain events instead of purchasing new products for one off events. Could this be the future of fashion? When will we notice this shift? Perhaps only time will tell, but these are the conscious changes we can make in the meantime.
If you’re interested in catching up on this discussion, head over to the LDC YouTube channel to discover more!