Reblog: Will Gen Z help the fashion industry clean up its act?

I found this article on the Guardian’s Fashion page, and found some of the points raised about the way we’re thinking about our fashion shopping very interesting. It’s encouraging to see the wave of new brands catering to ethical production of our clothes, and demonstrating that the slow fashion movement can match seasonal trends and styles.

Here’s my Evernote clip of the article, where I’ve highlighted important snippets of information.

I’m trialling this method of reblogging and sharing pieces from the internet, and hope it works. I’d love to hear your thoughts – on the piece and the idea that the younger generation, especially younger millennials, might be our greatest allies in pushing for ethical fashion.

https://www.evernote.com/shard/s36/sh/b2cffbd9-6466-4888-9389-d3aacfcd185b/0f1c248f35ce81364c1625d39a64f796

 

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World Recycle Week and H&M

There’s a lot being said about fast fashion and the negative impact of our big clothing brands. With the Fashion Revolution also making headlines this year, H&M’s World Recycle Week comes at an exciting time.

The idea is for people to take in their used and old clothes, accessories, shoes and fabrics to their nearest H&M store, for recycling instead of throwing it away. (The fact that people would throw away clothes rather than donate or recycle is in itself still shocking. Surely there’s enough information available about the impact of all of this waste? But that’s possibly a post for another time.)

The idea is to prevent the huge amount of waste the fashion industry generates. Almost all our clothing, footwear, etc can be recycled into something new, rather than going to a landfill as much of it does.

Recycling just one t shirt saves 2,700 litres of water (the carbon footprint of producing a new one).

Watch this video to see what H&M plans to do with it:

I decided to try out this idea at my local H&M store – all of them are participating, which is great. The timing couldn’t be better for me, since I’m going through a huge spring clean, and also need a few work clothes.

For every bag of clothes you take in, the Hungarian branch gives you a 500 forint (roughly 1.5 Euros) discount voucher.

I have to add here that I haven’t bought new clothes in at least a year and a half. It just so happens that my beliefs in being a conscious consumer align well with my hatred of going into various shops, trying everything on in a small and badly-lit room, and lugging it around a mall. I would much rather pick something out online (in my PJs) or at most, while meandering around a nice vintage or second-hand shop.

So this in itself was an adventure, but an exciting one since it’s not a traditional shopping trip.

Do some preliminary digging into H&M’s ethos and you’ll definitely notice some red flags. We’ve all seen their ad campaigns for their Conscious Collection, and know they try to use organic cotton where possible. This is several steps ahead of many other cheaper brands out there, of course.

Their latest Sustainability Report shows a mixed bag of impact and results. The growth rates of their sustainable cotton use (out of their total cotton use), and the share of sustainably sourced materials (out of all their materials) has shown a strong rate of increase from 2011 and 2012, respectively. However, the rates themselves, when compared with the goal of 100%, is too weak for their impact to be significant enough in terms of their overall carbon footprint.

Source: H&M 2015 Sustainability Report

Source: H&M 2015 Sustainability Report

 

Source: H&M 2015 Sustainability Report

Source: H&M 2015 Sustainability Report

 

H&M’s carbon emissions for 2015 however, when compared to the previous year, show an impressive drop of 56% – and this compares to a tiny fall of 4% in 2014, and increases the two years before.

There’s a push for external certification of these credentials – all of H&M’s denim products are now scored well by Jeanologia’s Environmental Impact Measurement Tool – a software which helps brands increase the sustainability of their supply chain in denim.

On the other hand, various links in their supply chain show that while the group’s intentions may be good, their progress in the past few years (reports go back to 2009) has not been as strong as it could be – or as the group would like.

The progress in factory sustainability globally has risen by only 6% in four years, and the percentage of sustainable raw materials of their total raw materials is very low. Along their value chain, impact is mixed; where they have a low climate impact (12%), the social impact is high – as in the raw materials stage. Their fabric and yarn production, with a high social impact, shows one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome. H&M doesn’t work directly with the producers of their fabric, but through intermediaries such as the Natural Resources Defense Council to help improve performance. However, the environmental impact is still significantly high, with greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution in the production of cotton startlingly high, and largely unchanged (the group has had a 6% impact on their own water usage in 2015).

It’s important to also recognise that not enough high street brands care about their production enough to measure their impact and their value chain’s ethics. There’s certainly great room for progress and the fact that H&M still produce cotton instead of more conscious alternatives like hemp in their clothing, is an example of this. But as a whole, and measured against their competitors, H&M is still doing more to raise awareness of the industry’s carbon footprint. With World Recycling Week as well, buying new clothes at a time like this, from a company that at least tries to counter its harmful impact, is better than choosing other brands.

Rihanna’s dress and the ensuing media frenzy

Yes, it’s happened again.

Another woman has worn something which has made people lose their minds.

Let’s try to think of the last time a man wore something and the press drove themselves insane psychoanalysing why.

I’ve attached the article below, but first let me get down to what annoys me about it and the whole debate that’s whirling around it:

1. This would NEVER have happened if a man had turned up to an award ceremony wearing an outfit which “left little to the imagination”. Besides taking pictures, perhaps commenting on how ‘toned’ they’re looking, I doubt people would very much care.

We’re not even entering the maelstrom of why it’s all right for a man to go topless but not a woman.

2. And most importantly, why does something have to be a “feminist statement” or a fashion choice? Why do we really care so much? Can’t it just be about a woman going to an awards ceremony wearing a glittery dress?

Or just a dress?

Many of you will remember how the media lost their minds when Jennifer Lopez wore this outfit:

(Sidenote: does this take you guys back or what?!)

Seriously, I’d be interested to see what you come up with.

Try and think about the last time we went this crazy when a man wore something in public. Nobody cares if it’s a man.

Why are we losing our minds just because there are breasts involved?

It isn’t progress to view occasions like this as a feminist victory or statement.

We will have moved on as a society when our media thinks the way most of us do: that it is not news if a woman wears a dress. It isn’t news if she doesn’t. It just is. She is a human being, wearing things. Let’s calm down and move on, and just let them be. It isn’t a feminist statement, it just is.

I also have to share this link because this is what I’m talking about. Women aren’t allowed to just walk around, go shopping, go for a run, go out with their kids, without it being scrutinised.

It’s absurdly patronising to talk about a woman without make-up as somehow bold. Does that mean wearing make-up makes you weak? Seriously?

Just because someone is going through a divorce, doesn’t mean she is brave for going to a market with her children (Amy Poehler and Will Arnett). Where are the photos of how “brave” Will Arnett is being, going out in public? Going shopping?

Just let it be what it is.

I happen to think Rihanna looks amazing, because the colour of her dress makes her glow, and the turban is really beautiful too. J.Lo’s dress was gorgeous and I love those colours. Most people would say the same thing.

Why is our media suddenly taking it to extremes?

More headlines like “Woman wears dress to awards show” and less “Young artist, misunderstood by everyone, bears all in brave display of feminist bravado”, please.

Which of course isn’t to say she isn’t a feminist, she is. It just doesn’t make everything she does a show of her feminist strength.

She’s wearing a dress because she likes it. By saying it’s something more than it is, we’re actually reversing any steps we’re attributing to Rihanna’s ‘feminism’.

If all of these ‘headlines’ we’re talking about are really doing as much for feminism as the media says they are, then why do we need to keep making every action taken by a woman as a feminist act? Why can’t it just be a thing that a human being does, because surely that’s when we see progress – when your gender doesn’t matter, it’s what you do with your life?

Here’s an article published in ‘The Independent’, a British newspaper, yesterday. I’d recommend you read all the linked stories too, just in case you’re not familiar with all of these stories, like me:

Rihanna’s practically naked dress: Why it could be one of the most powerful feminist statements the pop world has made to date

Why society still isn’t ready for too bold a display of female sexuality by Ella Alexander Wednesday 04 June 2014

“The naughty outfit left nothing to the imagination,” wrote one publication, adding that “one wonders what Anna Wintour [another show guest and the editor of US Vogue] thought” of the attire. “Rude girl Rihanna is trend-setter, but let’s not copy this one girls,” bemoaned another. But few British newspapers and their online counterparts went as far as to boycott the image and not publish it at all, despite seemingly taking the ‘moral high ground’. Whether they agree with the shimmering statement or not, Rihanna succeeded in shocking everyone – which is probably exactly what she wanted. Rihanna in her Adam Selman dress, covered in 216,000 Swarovski crystals What she didn’t want to do is what the fashion world expected, which was to dress in an understated, innocuous, unthreateningly sexy way so popular with Victoria’s Secret models and Playboy bunnies. Instead, the singer attended the CFDA Awards on Monday 2 June – during which she collected the coveted Style Icon award  –  wearing a part Josephine Baker, part sphinx sheer dress, her modesty covered by a nude coloured thong. She accessorised with a white fur stole, smoking eyes, glittering gloves and a turban that referenced the style of glamorous Twenties flapper girls.

Rihanna at the CFDAs last night The fearless and brave move is largely characteristic of the star, who is unapologetically and refreshingly herself. She smokes cannabis publicly, dances like a serpent and doesn’t believe in the concept of layering clothing – it seems that excess fabric so often gets in the way for her. Unlike many of her peers (she is just 26), she truly appears not to care what anyone thinks. As anyone who travelled on the infamous 777 tour in November 2012 can attest, she is a woman completely in control of her ship. And she couldn’t care less how long you’ve been waiting on that plane for her or indeed whether or not her bare nipples cause offence. She’s too busy having fun. Even Patti Smith – a rock ‘n’ roll poet who paved the way for women in music – is a fan, describing her recent track Stay as “the 2013 song of the year”. “I love that song,“ she told The Independent in March. “I didn’t know much about it, but I found it so touching, so beautiful and it didn’t bother me that in her music video she sung it naked in the bathtub. I thought it was beautiful.” However, perhaps society is not quite ready for such an overt display of a woman’s sexuality. The evidence is clear: aside from the disapproving reactions that her CFDAs dress attracted in the media yesterday, this morning her Rogue fragrance advert was deemed “inappropriate for children” after the Advertising Standards Association deemed it too “sexually suggestive”.

The Rihanna Rogue advert that’s been deemed inappropriate by children The picture depicted her sitting on the floor topless (although her bare chest was not on display) with her legs raised up against a large bottle of her perfume. The ASA admitted that her facial expression was one “of defiance rather than vulnerability”, but gave the advert “a placement restriction” for being “provocative”. The issue of public censorship surrounding women’s nude bodies has been raging for the past few weeks. Rihanna recently deleted her Instagram account, after the social network censored a topless picture shot for a French magazine. Grace Coddington was next to bear the brunt of the network’s conservative nudity restrictions. The 73-year-old US Vogue creative director was temporarily banned after sharing a line drawing of herself topless. The most recent and arguably most documented ban was of Scout Willis’ account and her ensuing topless protest. The 22-year-old daughter of Demi Moore and Bruce Willis was prohibited from using the channel after posting a photograph of a jumper that featured an image of two topless women.

One of the images Scout Willis shared as part of topless protest She took action by strolling the streets bare-chested of New York to demonstrate how women are allowed to go nude in the city, but not on Instagram, also launching the hashtag #FreeTheNipple. Unsurprisingly, Rihanna tweeted her support. “I am not trying to argue for mandatory toplessness, or even bralessness,” Willis wrote in a blog post for XOJane. “What I am arguing for is a woman’s right to choose how she represents her body — and to make that choice based on personal desire and not a fear of how people will react to her or how society will judge her. No woman should be made to feel ashamed of her body.”

It seems that, in the eyes of the media, a woman can be too confident with her body. Too much of an audacious display of female sexuality is not yet a welcome occurrence; apparently, it makes many feel uncomfortable and intimidated. And it’s still too easily and patronisingly pinpointed as to “wanting to please the boys” – a condescending and simplistic approach to women who want to look “sexy” because it’s just one of the many things that can make them feel powerful and strong. So here’s to Rihanna and her audacious nearly-nude dress – a fearless, powerful and fantastically seductive feminist statement that the pop world should be proud of, not scared of.

Op/Ed: Vivienne Westwood’s Climate Revolution – call to arms or empty gesture?

She’s famous for being daring, innovative and for giving fashion a well-deserved makeover during the 70s and 80s. But Vivienne Westwood’s latest collection of Menswear Autumn/Winter 2013, showcased in Milan on Sunday, stunned audiences.

The 71-year-old ‘punk’ designer has been an outspoken voice for the environment and sustainable practices in an industry that has been slow to adopt change.

Her fashion notes for the show read:

Climate revolution is the only means toward a sound economy. When the general public massively switches on to this fact we will win.

Inspired by global warming, and in connection with the United Nations International Trade Center Ethical Fashion Program.

Her message was simple – buy less, choose well, make it last.

But is this more of a symbolic gesture rather than a way to get the fashion industry to pay attention to climate change impacts?

For example, where is the talk of responsibly-sources, sustainable fabric? Or of reclaimed materials, donations to charitable causes, or the root issues behind climate change?