My Sustainable Journey
Don't worry, I'm not going to preach about sustainable fashion and the steps towards an ethical lifestyle. I am still very much on my own journey to sustainable living and the last thing I want to do is force this information into your inbox. Instead I would like to offer the option for you to educate yourself further, should this be of interest to you.
One thing we can all unite with is the fabric we wear on our backs and one thing we can't run away from, is the damaging level the fashion industry has reached. You don't have to regard yourself as a fashionista or thumb through pages of Vogue, if you wake up and dress yourself each day, then fashion affects you. So let's start with a basic epiphany: Your t-shirt should not cost less than your latte.
Learning to construct clothes led me to fall in love with the desire to make my entire wardrobe, I would see something in a high street store and think "I'll make that instead of buy it, it'll be so much cheaper." Yet when it came to buying the fabrics and trims this was not the case - not to mention the time it would take me to pattern and construct. It got me thinking how companies did it.
It was only once I moved to Cardiff that I took it upon myself to research and further my learning on the underlying issue that is hardly spoken about in this capitalist industry. I stumbled across The True Cost Movie and I can't encourage you enough to watch this.
I understand my empathy may be stronger due to knowing the process of making clothes and the journey behind each garment, but I truly cannot understand how a pair of jeans can be sold at £30/£40.
As a start up brand it would have been so easy for me to maximise profit by getting the cheapest cloth or manufacturing abroad at a fraction of my labour costs, because ultimately, however 'world peace' my idea of sustainability is, business is all about cashflow. If I don't harness these morals as an emerging line then who will? Every small step I can take as an emerging label, even if it influences one other person is a step in the right direction.
When starting Xandra Jane it was essential to come up with a unique selling point (USP) - from developing my aesthetic in London I was confident through my own personal wardrobe and ever growing design aesthetic that gender fluidity was an area I wanted to explore. Primarily I am a womenswear designer, however exploring gender neutrality allows my garments to be passed down through generations and between genders which extends the life of the clothing.
So what is sustainable fashion?
For me, it's considering the long term effects both environmentally and socially that fashion impacts us with. Also known as eco-fashion. For many, recycling is the answer: turning your old clothes into something new (expect future blog posts and tutorials... and collections). If a ZERO garment no longer finds a home in someones wardrobe it can ultimately be unravelled and transformed into something new like a pillow case, bed throw, accessory or new garment. I would like to share my own tips on developing that sustainable lifestyle:
My first tip, before you think you need to overwhelm your lifestyle with a U-Turn is just simply to talk about it. Ask questions. Educate yourself, find a few facts that make you stop and think, to consider. Some statistics may resonate with you more than others, find that nugget of information that sparks a curiosity to the dark side of fashion.
The turning point for me was realising the fashion industry is second only to oil for how polluting it is to our environment. Facts like these are hard to run from. I am a firm believer that ethical and sustainable companies will jump at the chance to answer any questions you have to the best of their abilities. We have nothing to hide, translucency in business builds trust, and you deserve to know.
Completely made up word. Rather than becoming a vegetarian (though that is the dream) I am consciously reducing the amount of meat and fish I consume. I don't believe eating meat is wrong, and I wont lecture you on such things. However the vast quantity of meat we eat, and much worse, throw away, can't possibly justify taking another living soul. Mass consumption needs to be realised and reversed in order to develop a sustainable future. This ties into my sustainable journey as every day food and clothing essentially go hand in hand.
2. Rebel against fast fashion
This doesn't mean I have thrown out every Topshop or ZARA item I own, in fact I try to wear them even more. I've just made a personal vow not to buy from fast fashion stores again. Charity shops are of course encouraged, boot sales, flea markets and definitely eBay etc.
There is an awful taboo with second hand clothing having some sort of devaluation, why? The fabric is perfectly fine and anything I find in a charity store that catches my eye in terms of style, textile or detail I buy. I then alter it to fit me or turn it into a new garment which I know I'll wear. "Brand New" clothing still passes through human hands and is touched by various people before it finds its way to you.
4. Shop your own wardrobe
Creating new outfit ideas and pairing them with all sorts of garments until I find a combination I like. Think about how you can make what you already have look new again. Use garments in unconventional ways or on different areas of the body, who says the front of a shirt can't be worn at the back, or buttoned up into some form of skirt cover up? Accessories can be your best friend too, if you're blessed with a slim ankle try your favourite bracelets on your legs. Or tie a scarf somewhere alternative to enhance an outfit.
And my sustainable journey continues. It's been an incredible 2016 so far with Xandra Jane steadily growing and being nominated for Sustainability Champion 2016. I am forever learning on this rewarding journey and have been so fortunate to introduce the sustainable side of designer clothing to my homeland. I am meeting inspiring creatives along the way all with their own vision united by an eco-luxe drive with exciting collaborations and projects on the horizon that I can't wait to share with you all.