A summary of and our response to, ‘Fixing Fashion clothing consumption and sustainability’
( Title photo by the Environmental Audit Committee)
Last autumn, evidence was submitted to the Environment Audit Committee on the key issues surrounding fast fashion. The audit was the highest attended public session of this Parliament. Following the release of the report ‘Fixing Fashion’ on February 19th, we wanted to take the opportunity to address this, break down the key factors and have a chance to respond for our Zola Amour readers.
The publishing of ‘Fixing Fashion’ by the Environmental Audit Committee really explores the unsustainable world of fashion as we know it. The growth of fast fashion has developed the industry into a ‘throwaway society’ contributing to rising levels of consumption across the globe. At Zola, we believe this calls for action… we want to see this industry continue to inspire, flourish and thrive but move it towards a new vision for fashion which doesn’t cost the earth.
‘The report recommends that the Government strengthens the Modern Slavery Act to require large companies to ensure forced labour is not in their supply chains. Companies must report or face a fine.’
This should not just be a ‘recommendation’; this must be a vital transformation! Fashion companies appear to have forgotten the basic ethics. We must reflect on the fact that five years ago, the Rana Plaza building collapsed in Bangladesh, killing 1,130 garment workers. It was the biggest industrial accident of the modern age. Labour exploitation in some UK garment factories, still abuse the national minimum wage, have terrible working conditions and use forced labour within their supply chains.
Here at Zola, we want to push to ensure that all garments are made ethically. As a business, we took steps in opening our own production unit to hand make all items of clothing here in the UK for the living wage. We know that transparency can be altered and swerved into unethical directions, but through our own production unit we can be certain on the exact costs. We can acknowledge those who stitched them, right through to who farmed the cotton — and under what conditions. All our clothing pieces are made out of certified GOTS materials, which mean they are ethically sourced, grown and all textiles made from at least 70% certified organic natural fibers. We are also proud to say that all of our bamboo products are OEKO-TEX® which is a worldwide consistent, independent testing and certification system for raw, semi-finished, and finished textile products at all processing levels.
'Concerns have been raised throughout the inquiry that the current ‘fast fashion’ business model is encouraging over-consumption and generating excessive waste.’
But firstly let us re-look at the definition of fast fashion?
‘Fast fashion is low-cost clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends.’ I’m sure you have heard of the main retailers which boom within this fast fashion marketplace. This report raises and calls out very important questions such as how they can possibly pay workers decent wages while charging clothing at such a low price? A number of Bangladeshi suppliers commented within the report, stating that “UK brands were not prepared to adjust their prices in response to exchange rate fluctuations after the Brexit vote. This means suppliers were being asked to produce the same quantity and quality of work at a significantly reduced price.” Clearly there is a lack of value embedded in fashion in terms of labour and nature.
I mean who doesn’t love the prospect of enormously cheap, trendy items? However, ask yourself…Do you feel you could pass that item down to your friends, sons or daughters? Could you see it lasting for years down the line? Is it really worth harming the environment when you don’t truly love it?
£140million worth of clothing goes to landfills every year, this issue is especially important to address, as the consumption of new clothing is estimated to be higher in the UK than any other European country at a crazy 26.7kg per person and is often treated as disposable. Perhaps this could be due to the lack of emotional connection we have with the garment due to its cheap and easy accessibility. Think about your last plastic coffee cup, how easy was it to throw away without considering the environmental cost?
The report makes some recommendations that could act as a lever for change towards sustainability practices in the UK fashion sector.
‘Extending the responsibility of businesses for the clothes that they make through a one penny producer responsibility charge on each item of clothing to pay for better clothing collection and recycling and to incentivise design for sustainability.’
But is this really enough?
We feel that this is a weak response after the shocking information provided within this report. Seeing as the Fashion industry is worth £32 billion, it wouldn’t be a surprise that the government is looking for any alternatives to swerve or slow down their responsibility. This truly is not enough to address the necessary change needed in this industry. We need to do more!
The report does however encourage a ‘move from conventional to organic cotton and from virgin polyester to recycled PET.’ This is a great suggestion which can be implemented in all clothing pieces for all brands.
At Zola we carefully create each piece with the up-most care and attention with only natural, organic certified fabrics and textiles; this helps to ensure each piece will stand the test of time, along with the skilled workmanship
We stand by our transparent supply chain and will continue to push a positive change within our industry. We sincerely hope that the results of this research will inform fashion business, helping them support action in the UK and beyond, and voice for a more transformed fashion system.
We would love to hear what you think