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How 2020 became carbon’s year of reckoning

Looking back at the year in fashion, the pandemic threw into sharp relief what experts have said for years: the fashion machine is broken and in need of urgent fixing. Few issues touch every sector of the industry like carbon, making it one of the biggest talking points for consumers, the fashion media and brands alike. While this isn’t a particularly new conversation, there’s been a renewed sense of urgency that shows promising signs of long-lasting change on the horizon. From businesses analysing their operations, to technology that transforms old clothing into new, it’s going to take a lot to get fashion on track to reduce carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement. 

We’ve known for a while that fashion is a significant contributor to carbon emissions — in 2015 polyester production alone was responsible for 700 million tonnes of CO2 and in 2016, projections under a “business as usual” scenario saw fashion on track to increase carbon emissions by 49% by 2030. Even with COVID thrown into the mix, it’s showing no signs of slowing down — while the industry needs to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 1.1 billion tonnes by 2030 to be in line with the Paris Agreement, in August McKinsey found that we’re actually on a trajectory to overshoot this target by almost twofold.

COVID, the Climate Crisis & Carbon

The mounting evidence of a link between the pandemic and the climate crisis has helped push forward the carbon agenda, believes Luke Gaydon, co-founder of Terra Neutra, a consultancy launched in 2019 that offers, among other things, carbon offsetting products. “It’s easy to look at bushfires in Australia and the Amazon or flooding in Bangladesh, and think it’s quite a long way away. But COVID is on our doorstep,” he says. “If you think about the news headlines, obviously COVID, the US elections and Brexit have dominated it, but the environmental agenda has still managed to stay at the forefront of media coverage in spite of all those things.”  

While a growing media coverage has certainly helped raise awareness among a wider audience, it’s evident that education, particularly when it comes to fashion’s carbon footprint, is still lacking. “People are engaged with this as an idea, the notion of their own footprint, taking responsibility for it and working out how to reduce it, but a significant majority of people are still unaware of the extent to which their daily lives are carbonised,” says Gaydon. “Do they think that air travel produces harmful emissions? Yes, that’s a given. Do they make the connection between their carbon footprint and the shirt that they bought yesterday? No, the majority of people don’t, so there is still a big job to do just to raise people’s awareness of that basic fact.” 

Considering 70% of greenhouse gas emissions are produced through the supply chain’s hidden activities like material production, preparation and processing, it’s no wonder that consumers don’t know the full extent of the issue. “There is a lot of nuance when it comes to fashion and sustainability,” says Pauline Op de Beeck, Fashion Sector Lead at the Carbon Trust, a sustainability consultancy that works with businesses, governments and organisations towards a low carbon future. “Arguably, it’s way too much information for a clothing tag, so that’s why there’s a lack of information.”

“I would like to see mandatory labeling of products to create that awareness of the link between something I buy and my carbon footprint. There’s nothing like putting a price on something for people to understand: there is a cost.”

At the start of the year, the Carbon Trust released a report in conjunction with fashion tech platform ORDRE that uncovered the carbon footprint of fashion weeks, finding that each year the industry emits 241,000 tonnes of carbon emissions from travel alone. While this is just a fraction of the problem, it proves a point. “That report speaks more to the structure of the industry, that it’s something to be questioned, rather than this being the biggest impact in the sector,” says Op de Beeck. “Fashion shows are a close to home example of how the entire system needs to be rethought.”

Nevermind getting consumers up to speed, fashion businesses themselves are only now starting to face their carbon footprint. “Until COVID, many brands probably didn’t think carbon was going to be important for them,” says Op de Beeck. “Two years ago, carbon was something only the very large businesses were leading on, but now it has really trickled down into all brands, and COVID has really made that difference.”

The trouble is, even for proactive businesses that want to reduce their carbon emissions, the process is time consuming, expensive and fraught with challenges. Genia Mineeva, who founded her accessories label BEEN London in 2018, has built a business that designs with zero waste, uses recycled materials, and is locally made in east London, a few suburbs away from their studio. Naturally, understanding the brand’s carbon footprint is an important part of the sustainability journey for Mineeva. 

This desire to learn more led to a partnership with Terra Neutra, who spent several months this year performing a Life Cycle Assessment [LCA] of BEEN’s best selling Columbia bag, comparing its footprint to a high street equivalent bag. “Terra Neutra were looking for a brand that didn’t have anything to hide and we were looking for someone to do [an LCA] for us, because we wanted a tool that would allow us to do better,” explains Mineeva. “We ship everything by sea and we use only recycled materials, but what happens if we replace the recycled polyester lining with recycled cotton lining? What if we change our supplier from a Turkish to an Italian supplier? I wanted a tool to look at the bigger picture so we could see the red flags and go: this is the area of our supply chain where we really do better.” The results were impressive. While the initial estimate was that BEEN’s bag would have 1/3rd of the impact of a high street bag, final calculations found the reduction was actually 1/10th of the impact — it was 87% less environmentally damaging. 

“The difference between buying one of our bags and buying the high street equivalent is the same as leaving the lights on for a year,” says Mineeva.“You would think that anyone would be interested in finding out their carbon footprint, turns out no! We knew most of the language and the concepts, but even then it was difficult. We had to convince our suppliers, one of them being one of the most celebrated sustainability leaders…it wasn’t easy, but it was 100% worth it.

BEEN London

What Comes Next? Legislation, Innovation & Ambition

Partnerships between small transparent businesses like BEEN London and Terra Neutra provide useful case studies, but to ensure scalable industry-wise change, there are a few things that need to happen, and fast. 

For a start, legislation is urgently needed, says Gaydon. “The more that the fashion industry can align around a set of labels or accreditations, the better,” he says. “Having brands mark their own homework is not the way to go — not because I don’t trust them to do it properly — but because consumers won’t and then the integrity of the whole thing is thrown into question.” He’s right — a recent Compare Ethics report found that only 18% of UK shoppers trust a brand’s sustainability claims on face value. “This is not something we should be letting the free market decide,” continues Gaydon. “People say the markets will work it out, but I’m not willing to trust them to do it. I think the government has a critical role to play and it’s in regulation and legislation. I would like to see mandatory labeling of products to create that awareness of the link between something I buy and my carbon footprint. There’s nothing like putting a price on something for people to understand: there is a cost.” 

Secondly, the industry must acknowledge that aiming for carbon neutrality, largely achieved by off-setting carbon emissions, is the bare-minimum requirement needed to mitigate fashion’s carbon footprint. “I see our responsibility to our customers is reducing first and offsetting second,” says Mineeva. “But you can’t reduce until you have a full knowledge of every move you make as a business. It’s all great to add an offsetting option, but that alone is not a solution.” Gaydon believes that reframing the conversation to focus on carbon positivity rather than neutrality is more aspirational. “Net zero is brilliant, carbon neutral is brilliant, balancing the books is brilliant,” he says. “But as a goal and challenge that everyone can get behind, neutral and net zero don’t get me energised and enthused. Whereas carbon positive — you’re actually doing that bit more.” 

Op de Beeck believes there is value in both approaches, as part of a multifaceted solution to fixing the industry. “For me, the most important thing is not whether a company sets a carbon neutral target or a carbon positive target,” she says. “It’s actually, what is the level of ambition of the decarbonisation plan? Ultimately, if you’re not reducing your emissions in line with the Paris Agreement, then you’re not changing your business model, you’re just planting trees to keep your business model intact.” 

COVID has exposed how fundamentally unbalanced and unfair the relationship between a brand and its suppliers and manufacturers can be. When the pandemic hit, many brands began holding and cancelling orders with their garment factories because their contracts gave them all the power and none of the responsibility of their supply chain. Not only did this create a humanitarian crisis, but at its core, it showed the complete lack of investment — both emotional and financial — that brands put into their supply chains. 

Investing in supply chains would begin to solve multiple issues, including carbon emissions produced through the manufacturing process. “Fashion is set up with really short term contracts with suppliers, brands often go from supplier to supplier, so it’s very difficult to invest in them if you only work with them for one season,” says Op de Beeck. “I think the structural issues around buying need to change so that brands can see the long term benefit of helping their manufacturers switch to renewable energy or invest in energy efficient equipment, because that will eventually reduce the costs of manufacturing. But that’s a cost the manufacturer can’t afford to make because it never has any guarantee on its contracts.”  

“Ultimately, if you’re not reducing your emissions in line with the Paris Agreement, then you’re not changing your business model, you’re just planting trees to keep your business model intact.”

 In both the near and distant future, technological solutions to the carbon crisis are on the horizon. Terra Neutra, for one, is looking for a way to translate the carbon assessment they did for BEEN London into a wide scale tech offering. “At the moment, it’s effectively a consulting engagement driven by humans, so you have a scalability issue there,” says Gaydon. “But if we can find a way of really making it much more accessible and a lot less operationally intensive for the companies, essentially make it digital, then I think that could be transformative.”

Other tech innovations require a little more blue sky thinking. Take Recycling Revolution, co-funded by H&M and the Innovation and Technology Fund of Hong Kong. The project’s ambitious Green Machine, which will begin commercial operation in 2021, can separate cotton and polyester to create new cellulose fibres, which can then be spun into new garments. There is huge potential for this technology to change the way we buy and recycle clothing, says Op de Beeck. “If you had a personal carbon budget, then arguably you could buy a lump of material once and for the next 5 to 10 years change the design of that,” she says. “We’re talking high level concepts here, but it’s not to say that it’s not possible, it exists now but it just takes 5 hours to do.”   

Whatever the solution, it’s going to take a multi-stakeholder approach to get fashion on track to reduce carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement. From businesses analysing and tweaking their operations, governments introducing legislation that keeps brands transparent, technology transforming old clothing into new, as well as consumers getting more savvy about our clothing, both small and large scale solutions are out there. “We’re very optimistic about what we can achieve,” says Gaydon. “We’re excited about the growing level of awareness and desire to take positive action, be that individual consumers, the corporate sector and government. Optimism is one of our company values, but I genuinely do feel like there is increasing momentum that keeps increasing behind this movement.”

H&M Recycling Revolution & Green Machine

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Your guide to joyful loungewear that’s comfy and conscious

Admittedly, I’ve never been one to get truly excited about buying joggers or sweatshirts – until 2020 that is, when my favourite polka-dot dresses, slim jeans and cornflower blue blazer found a new home at the back of my wardrobe. As more time indoors went by, the need to replace my (already overachieving) old comfies cropped up, and that’s when I discovered the rules of buying sweats were exactly the same as buying a new blouse. Each purchase still needs to be considered and loved. They should be made from conscious, soft materials and laundered kindly, not discarded because of the occasional coffee spill. Most importantly, like any fashion purchase, your new sweats should make you feel good, and that’s where ‘joungewear’ comes into play. Joyful loungewear could mean serotonin-boosting colours or cheery symbols that instantly lift your spirits,  supporting female-founded sustainable brands, or guilt-free options that have been ethically crafted with circularity in mind.

In need of a little more inspiration? Take a look through the green-thinking roundup below and remember that you’ll be forgiven for later wearing your sweatpants with real shoes out of the house.


Take it from someone who has pretty much lived in her hoodie and sweatpants since they arrived, the joyfulness of Maggie Marilyn’s Somewhere Sport pieces comes in twofold: firstly, they are so exceptionally soft and comfy thanks to the carefully selected neutral fabrics and the considered fits – the slim joggers are snug around the butt and have elasticated cuffs which tapers them a little, while the hoodie is oversized and slouchy without feeling swampy. Secondly, they’re fully traceable, meaning you can wear them knowing that they’ve been made responsibly from farm to finish. Mindful materials are a big factor here; the organic cotton fibres support organic agriculture, which prohibits the use of synthetic toxic pesticides and fertilizers as well as genetically engineered seeds, while using significantly less water. Not only is organic agriculture better for the environment, but it also protects the livelihoods of farmers and their local communities. Further to this, founder Maggie Hewitt and her team are working closely with their suppliers to encourage the implementation of regenerative agriculture processes. It’s fair to say that it’s been quite the year for Maggie Marilyn, which recently announced its switch to DTC from majority wholesale and an extended size range. “Our purpose is to use fashion to create a better world,” says Hewitt, who seems to be on exactly the right track.


The impossibly stylish duo behind ROTATE Birger Christensen, Thora Valdimars and Jeanette Friis Madsen, decided on the name ROTATE because it evokes the cyclical nature of those wardrobe favourites that you wear on repeat. What’s more, their signature dresses have become major hits on fashion rental apps and platforms like By Rotation. Now, the former COSTUME staffers have released their most environmentally responsible capsule yet: ROTATE Sunday. Created using 100% recycled materials and certified organic cotton, it blends the relaxed, easy mood of weekends with the label’s bold, sexy energy. Think of it this way: if ROTATE is all about partying in puff sleeves, Sunday is there for the day after, when cosiness and comfort are top priorities. It’s the use of mood-boosting colours that turns it from loungewear to ‘joungewear’, like the flame set debuted by Jeanette during Copenhagen Fashion Week and the candy pink sweatshirt Emili Sindlev wore while getting her makeup done for Dancing with the Stars. Plus, the silhouettes are perfectly oversized, thanks to the Creative Directors who workshopped the fits.


“We are of the opinion that if we can do it better, and kinder, we will,” says Ninety Percent. Concerned with the past, present and future of the clothes, it works with industry-leading factories to ensure responsible production, while its team continuously searches for considered fabrics to create with. On top of those two very important things, the label is called Ninety Percent because it shares 90% of its distributed profits between charitable causes and those who make the collections happen – you can even vote for your chosen cause using the unique code on the garment’s care label, which sparks such a warm feeling inside. Added joyfulness here comes from the satisfying number of places that you’ll be able to get away with wearing sweatpants and tanks, thanks to the stylish fabrics and great fits. The stark contrast of the two-tone joggers makes you instantly feel a bit cooler and the tartan set is equally as perfect for lounging in as it for grabbing brunch with your girlfriends.


A feeling of joyfulness with MATE’s loungewear can be derived from knowing that you’re supporting a female-founded company that’s predominately operated by women. Launched by Kayti O’Connell Carr, the “clean essentials” brand gives a damn by creating each collection using non-toxic, natural or organic materials. Its supply chain is localised in LA (ten miles to be exact,) where each piece is cut, sewn, dyed, packaged and shipped in recycled boxes. Whether you’re working from home or curling up on the sofa with a good book, join #TeamDressClean with one of the brand’s TENCEL sleep sets – not only is the fabric is so soft your skin will thank you for it, but the sweeping necklines and elasticated waistbands ensure maximum comfort. These shade of these organic cotton terry sweats are the perfect match to Goop’s ginger and turmeric latte, too.


Though it doesn’t identify as a fully sustainable brand, GANNI is working hard to deliver more responsible fashion collections, particularly through an exploration of quality materials that are better for the planet and your wardrobe. Certain to put a smile on your face, its cheery edit of organic cotton T-shirts are printed with uplifting slogans and a reminder to recycle. You could team yours with the brand’s EcoLife® sweatpants. A certified yarn, EcoLife® is made from 50% post-consumer recycled polyester (such as PET plastic bottles) and 50% pre-consumer recycled cotton from end-of-line manufacturing ‘scraps’ which would otherwise have gone to waste.

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Inside the jewellery industry’s sustainability sea change

Did you know that making one pair of gold stud earrings creates 31kgs of carbon emissions? That’s the equivalent of a 200km car trip, according to ExJewel, a new Paris-based start up that is using technology to appraise and transform the jewellery trade.

Similarly to fashion, the jewellery industry has been coming to terms with its unsustainable and unethical practices — murky supply chains, the lack of industry standard certifications or proper waste management systems, worker rights abuses and the ecological havoc that is caused by mining — issues that have plagued the industry for decades.

ExJewel has just released the 2020 Conscious Jewellery Trends Report, revealing a rising consumer appetite for fair-trade accessories. Since the start of 2020, they’ve seen a 47% increase in searches for sustainability-related keywords, with “ethical jewellery” and “ethical diamond” searches increasing by 75% year-on-year.

That’s good news for the burgeoning market of ethical jewellery traders and brands seeking to right the industry’s wrongs by building businesses with sustainability at their core. From sourcing recycled materials, finding creative ways to reduce carbon emissions and providing fair work opportunities to marginalised people, to using technology to embed traceability into the supply chain, the industry is in the midst of a much needed transformation.


Traceability is an issue that the jewellery trade has always struggled with. Materials often travel through multiple countries and various hands before even reaching the jeweller, which not only racks up carbon emissions, but it can be impossible to tell the conditions that precious metals and stones have been mined in. Enter HB Antwerp, a Belgian tech company founded in 2019 that is lifting the veil on the diamond trade by tracking every step from “mine to market” using blockchain technology.

Centering respect for nature is key to HB Antwerp’s mission. “Diamonds are the oldest and most precious stones of Mother Earth,” says Margaux Donckier from HB Antwerp. “Each diamond carries millions of years of history with it, so we have to make sure that the trade of these rare stones lives up to their exceptional characteristics.” HB Antwerp’s solution is to cut out the middle men. “We’ve created a simplified supply chain, together with a limited number of mining companies and retailers who share the same values,” says Donckier. “From the mine in Botswana, all diamonds are then distributed directly to Antwerp where they are manufactured by us. Once they are ready, the diamonds will go to the jeweller who’ll transform them into bespoke jewellery pieces.” The appeal of HB Antwerp’s ethically sourced diamonds has even led to a partnership with Louis Vuitton, which is sure to gain industry-wide attention.


The last year has seen a boom in brands using recycled materials to create jewellery. According to a 2019 report by Pandora, sourcing recycled material cuts carbon emissions by two thirds for silver and by more than 99% for gold. Currently, 71% of Pandora’s silver and gold is recycled, but their goal is to reach 100% by 2025. Precious metals like gold, silver and platinum are classed as non-ferrous materials, so they don’t lose any chemical or physical properties when recycled. This means they can be reused an infinite number of times. Considering mining for gold and other metals is responsible for dumping around 180 million tons of toxic waste into rivers, lakes, and oceans each year, the benefits for the planet are significant.

For small jewellery brands, working with recycled materials is a no-brainer that many are embracing. “When I create a collection, I obviously look at aesthetic inspirations, but sourcing materials is my biggest concern,” says Carolina Wong, who launched her eponymous line of jewellery using recycled materials in February. “It’s something that I’ve embedded into the brand. If it’s not sustainable, I’d prefer not to make a collection, even if it would make for easy sales or less work.” Wong admits that sourcing recycled materials can be time consuming and complicated. In an effort to gain full transparency, she has visited all of her suppliers in China to make sure they’re practicing what they preach. “Sometimes they’ll tell you they use recycled wires, but you don’t know until you’ve seen the factory,” she says. “All my manufacturers are certified and I’ve been to see with my own eyes that they do the right thing.”

It’s a similar story for Sophie Karg, a London-based jewellery designer behind By Pariah, who made the switch to using entirely recycled materials in October this year. “We use 100% recycled gold and silver, certified by the Responsible Jewellery Council and strive to create timeless designs that will be cherished for generations, not just a fleeting moment,” she says. Since founding her brand in 2018, Karg has seen a noticeable uptick in availability. “Recycled materials are much easier to come by now, plus brands are more willing to question their own practices and share their supply chains more than ever before,” she says.


Using sustainable materials doesn’t mean much without ensuring ethical manufacturing, which is why jewellery brands are focusing their attention on fair work and additional opportunities for their employees. One way to ensure this is by manufacturing close to home, like Wong, who works with her team from their South London studio. “I tend to hire lots of housewives,” she says. “I’ve hired one or two people who are traditional jewellers, but the majority of work is done by local women who can’t find a part time job because they have kids.”

Pandora has done extensive work to build out the company’s social impact initiatives by providing professional and personal development training, parental classes, access to libraries, scholarships, on-site canteens and free bus transportation to and from work for the 11,000 employees at their crafting facilities in Thailand. In 2019, they also partnered with UNICEF to raise funds that support vulnerable children, particularly girls, around the world through jewellery sales.

By Pariah works with a handful of small family-run businesses around the world that use specific heritage techniques native to that region. By doing so, the brand is helping to keep unique traditional craftsmanship alive. “Our new collection is hand carved in a small town in Italy, mostly by elderly men, as that’s where the trade originates from,” explains Karg. “And most of our semi precious stone pieces are carved by hand in Jaipur by a young woman. We ensure each supplier we work with upholds the same values we do.”

The last year has seen a huge growth in sustainability initiatives across the industry, from emerging independent designers, precious metal and stone traders, as well as industry leading brands, all of which are transforming the sector in their own way. While there is a long way to go before the sector can truly be considered sustainable, it’s a promising start. “It is important to keep an honest dialog about efforts,” says Karg. “We’re by no means perfect, but we’re continuing to strive for a better and greener future.”

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Fashion has waste problem. Meet the innovators finding solutions

Anyone with half a foot in the sustainability world will be aware of the issues the fashion industry poses.

Over the space of two articles, we will explore the issues present in the fashion industry, from waste to chemicals, and the innovators looking to change it.

In the last 15 years, production rates have doubled in the fashion industry, in part thanks to new attitudes, particularly among the middle classes, towards the value of clothes. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle. Clothes are cheaper than they have ever been, meaning they are worth less to the consumer, meaning the consumer can generally afford to be more wasteful and buy more, reducing their value further. These has led to a reduction in the amount of time each item is worn by about 40%. The average lifespan of an item of clothing is now just 2.2 years, worn an average of just 7 times.


Wasting clothing is problematic for several reasons. Many types of clothing are created from valuable natural resources, which use energy, space and water to grow. For example cotton, one of the more sustainable fabrics used in our clothing, uses up to 20,000 litres of water for a single t-shirt by some estimates. In fact, nearly 20% of global waste water is produced by the fashion industry.

Needless to say, using up so many natural resources, labour hours and, of course, money for a product simply to be thrown out is immensely wasteful. Much of the clothing we wear nowadays is created using synthetic fibres, which are essentially fossil fuels. Again, wasting these items at any stage of the production process or post-consumer means an increase in non-biodegradable fabrics making their way to landfill, or being incinerated – both of which are harmful to our environment.

The methods of production for any item of clothing can be immensely damaging too, so maximising usage of fabrics and clothing and extending the time it remains out of landfill is in intrinsically beneficial, both to the environment and to us. According to WRAP, £140 million worth of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK each year – that is a lot of wasted resources and money.


So what happens to our clothes after we dispose of them? Unfortunately, in the UK, 73% is burned or sent to landfill. 12% is downcycled into mattresses, cleaning cloths, insulation and other low-value items. Just 1% is upcycled into new clothing – meaning the fashion industry is missing out on a shocking $100bn worth of pure materials each year, as well as the high costs of disposal on top of that. Even the best-performing countries, such as Germany, only reuse around 50% of disposed clothes – the rest may be downcycled or end up in landfill abroad. There is a lot of room for improvement. This is only post-consumer waste, but the consumer is certainly not the only one at fault here. What about pre-consumer?

Pre-consumer waste refers to the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of fabric that is wasted at each stage of production before it is purchased by the consumer. This could be surplus material from cutting patterns, surplus stock (brands over order by around 3-10% to avoid running out of stock, other brands burn stock to avoid ‘damaging the brand’) or faulty items from printing/weaving mistakes. Of the 1,100,000 tonnes of fabric wasted in the UK in 2016, 73% of this was pre-consumer, at a huge 800,000 tonnes.

As with many environmental issues, while the onus is often placed on the consumer to make better decisions and be less wasteful, in reality much of the issue lies in holding brands and governments to account.


The sheer amount of fabric, both used and unused, that goes to waste globally is a great business opportunity for many. There are some great examples of brands specifically looking to reduce both pre and post-consumer waste in the industry. Find below some of many examples:

PATAGONIA has a Worn Wear policy that allows customers to send in old clothing to be repaired or replaced as needed. This is a brand that trusts in the longevity of its product and champions fixing items, rather than disposing of them.

NUDIE JEANS, along with multiple other brands, provide free repairs of their jeans, so technically they could last forever. This is the way we should be thinking about all our clothes.

DEPOP has massively capitalised on the second-hand industry, which is projected to grow to nearly 1.5 times the size of the fast fashion industry in the next 10 years. Rather than sending clothes to charity shops (many of which are shipped abroad or end up in landfill), Depop raises the value of second-hand clothing, ensuring a second (or third, or fourth) life. Brighton based brand ILK & ERNIE purchases surplus fabric from the fashion industry to recycle into beautiful clothes (I am obsessed).

MAISONCLEO is based in France and run by a mother-daughter duo. It also sources deadstock fabrics from French Couture houses to create its designs, all of which are hand sewn to order, thereby further reducing waste. Pieces can be tailored to your measurements. Leather’s sustainability credentials are often called into question, but leather brand TRMTAB upcycles waste leather and offcuts into long lasting accessories and shoes, reducing the amount that ends up in landfill.


Increasing garment lifetime is one of the most effective ways of reducing their environmental footprint – simply wearing something for 9 months extra could reduce its carbon, waste and water footprint by 20-30%.

In the UK, we buy more clothes per person than anywhere else in Europe, and five times the amount we bought in the 1980s. Each item of clothing we buy has its own sizeable environmental footprint, and will eventually be added to the massive waste problem that fashion already has.

At the end of a garment’s life, consider fixing the item at your local alterations service. If you still don’t want it, try to sell it or swap with a friend also looking to refresh their wardrobe. Only send to a charity shop if you cannot find someone else who wants it.

Aiming to purchase clothes (when you need them) from sustainable and ethical brands will likely reduce both pre-consumer waste and the overall environmental footprint of your clothing. Put your money where your mouth is – support sustainable brands and encourage other brands to become more sustainable.

As with everything, individual change is important, but not everything. By lobbying governments and voting for candidates that favour environmental causes, big businesses are held responsible for their environmental impact. Ideas such as a 1p levy on garments sold in the UK could raise over £35 million per year to improve textile reuse and recycling facilities. However, ideas such as this need to be implemented by governments to take effect.

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ByRotation founder Eshita Kabra-Davies’ on to build a conscious community

Since launching in the fall of 2019, By Rotation has been an unstoppable force for change. The UK’s leading peer-to-peer fashion rental app was created by “third culture kid” Eshita Kabra-Davies after something of a wake-up call while honeymooning in her motherland Rajasthan.

During the trip, she began to recognise just how wasteful our consumption habits are and how polluting the fashion industry can be. “Plastic and textile waste covered city streets and rural areas beyond the well-documented overflowing landfills, alongside beautiful murals painted by school children of the government’s Swachh Bharat (Clean India) movement,” explains the founder of what she witnessed first-hand. “Pigs, dogs, lambs and cows, whom as a Hindu I consider sacred, were eating synthetic human cast offs – it made me angry,” she continues, revealing that was the moment when it crossed her mind that she had a part to play in this linear fashion consumption model. “I bought “Made in India” clothes and didn’t always love them enough, sometimes donating them to charity, which I knew probably ended up in landfills in India and African countries.” Taking positive action, Kabra-Davies decided that fashion rental could go a step further and become a fashion sharing community that remains “wholly circular.”

The By Rotation app tackles the issue of over-consumption by simply empowering people to shop less and share more. Plus, Kabra-Davies has created an opportunity for people to find joy in dressing in a way that’s kinder to the planet and their wallets – a cult Jacquemus tote can be borrowed for just £7 per day, for example.  “I really want people of all (socio-economic) backgrounds to realise that they don’t need to buy more poor quality items to indulge their whims, they can have the real thing simply by sharing,” she enthuses, expanding that the diverse #WhatsMineIsYours rotator community includes students, professors, homemakers and celebrities alike. In fact, renting and lending has never been so fun, “it’s like the items have a life of their own – kind of like the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants!”

If you’re still reading this and not downloading the By Rotation app for a slice of micro bag heaven, we applaud you. But, as the title of the article states, Kabra-Davies – who was listed alongside Greta Thunberg, Isatou Ceesay and Stella McCartney as one of fourteen inspiring women leading the fight against climate change – has kindly agreed to share her tips for building a conscious community. Time to take notes, fellow changemakers…


Attend as many networking events and panels as you can and go alone! You’re there to learn and grow. I always sit right in front when I attend panels, and am extremely engaged.


Although we can’t attend events like we used to due to COVID-19, we can still achieve a similar result digitally! I love to jump on IG Lives and also host a weekly series for By Rotation named “A Glass of Wine with” which has had a wide range of guests from across the world!


I love giving back to our community by inviting them to meet up with me and the By Rotation team in a fun setting. It really brings our company and digital brand to life.


From secondhand interiors, artists, fashion brands – I love to support local creators and founders especially during such a difficult time. I love to get to know the people behind it all and what drives them. The personal touch is what it’s all about!


We love to collaborate with brands and companies that share a similar ethos with us, and therefore a similar target audience. It really provides both brands with more depth, and I truly believe people are now looking for brands to be more humane and therefore authentic.

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Meet Kairi, the accessories brand innovating with plant-based leathers

In just 10 years, Beatrix Taylor has worn many hats in the fashion industry — from stylist to picture editor, clothing designer and fashion editor — her career has straddled the worlds of design and editorial.
While working for major publishers like Conde Nast and e-commerce giants Net-a-Porter and MatchesFashion, she couldn’t ignore the allure and challenge of building something herself from the ground up. “I had a fascination with sustainability — I was always Googling ethical materials,” she begins. “I wanted to go explore it and see how I could design with it.”

Those ethical materials are plant-based vegan leathers, something Beatrix has been researching diligently for the last few years. Unlike traditional vegan leather (polyurethane), which is derived from plastic, ethical vegan leathers come from more unlikely sources, including apples, cacti, grapes, mango or pineapple.
While the vegan leather market is booming — it’s set to be worth $89.6 billion by 2025 — just a few years ago, you’d be hard pressed to find any of these sustainable, plant-based vegan leathers available commercially, says Beatrix.

“I used to go to fabric fairs and think: these leathers are amazing, they feel like the future of design, but some of them were impossible to get hold of. 

In 2019, cactus leather came on to the market, and Beatrix knew exactly what she’d do with it — launch her sustainable accessories brand, Kairi London.

Years of working in fashion styling and editorial have honed Beatrix’s aesthetic, so she had a clear vision for the brand from the beginning. “I’ve worked with so many designers throughout the last 10 years, and what I’m always interested in is simplicity in design,” she says. “I want Kairi to be an exciting place to shop. We have quite fun, interesting designs that are really wearable and simple. The fact that we use plant leathers is what makes us unique.”

Noticing a gap in the market for ethical vegan handbags that also felt and looked luxurious, Beatrix has been pouring her years of research into Kairi, creating a range of bags that have the look and feel of genuine leather with the help of a London-based bag maker.

The guy who makes my bags is passionate about leather making, so when I first introduced all these plant leathers he was like, can you please stop giving me these crap materials?” “But I knew they were going to improve and I wanted to develop them as much as I could. Eventually, he got into the challenge!

Together, they’ve been experimenting with plant-based vegan leathers and eagerly watching as the materials improved in quality. “What’s great is that these companies are developing and improving their materials,” she says. “They realise there’s a commercial awareness and that brands want to work with them, so they’re improving the quality and the softness all the time.”

Despite the growing interest and awareness of plant-based leather, there’s still a long way to go before it’s the preferred alternative to cow leather. Education will be a key focus when it comes to marketing her products, says Beatrix. “There are lots of people who don’t know anything about it, and there are a lot of people who say they’ll only buy a bag if it’s made from real leather, because to them that is a sign of quality,” she says. “The next challenge for me is showing people you can have a beautiful bag made from a plant-based material.”

Unlike real leather or even polyurethane, plant-based leather is difficult to mould, so a lot of brands opt for creating simple pouch designs. But not Kairi — the brand’s signature style is a structured shell-shaped bag, which comes in two sizes and a range of vivid colours.

These materials are 50 percent organic and 50 percent upcycled, and we have found backings made of wood or wool that allow us to make basically any shape in a bag with these materials.We have gotten to a point where we could make any design with it, plus it’s all organic and vegan.

The emphasis on sustainability runs through every aspect of the business — from the materials used to the manufacturing process. Kairi shell bags are made to order, which eliminates waste in the production line. “One of the other things I do is reuse everything — we keep every material we use so that we can make even just a keyring out of it — there’s absolutely no waste,” she says. With this sustainability mindset, she’s even helped change the habits of her manufacturer.

Our factory wasn’t used to saving scrap materials at all, but I was adamant that we had to use every little tiny piece. It’s also quite fun because we can see how to rework stuff!

Currently, the line includes a handful of styles, including the Curve, Baguette and Zigzag designs which Beatrix plans to build out as the brand grows. “We’re going to be expanding those themes — there will be a shell range so even if people can’t buy a £400 bag, they can buy the keyring version,” she says. “Rather than churning out design after design — because that’s basically just fast fashion — we want to have a beautiful range that people can buy into.”

As for the future of the brand, Beatrix has plenty of ideas up her sleeve, with plans to release two collections a year. “I have so many bag designs that I want to do, but I think it’s important not to roll them out too quickly.” she says. Organic growth is something Beatrix is adamant on — she’s keen to build the brand in a manageable way by selling directly to her customers through her online store, rather than seeking out stockists at this early stage.

Despite being in its infancy, Kairi has found a dedicated audience by committing to sustainability across all facets of the brand and tapping into a burgeoning market for vegan and ethical products. “I saw a chart that broke down what different generations think sustainability is. People over 60 think it’s about high quality materials — something that lasts a long time — but 18 year olds think that it’s a vegan product,” she says.

“The sustainability space is really interesting because we’re finding out where we fit. We have fair production, we’re made in the UK, we have vegan and upcycled materials that are also high quality and durable, so in terms of sustainability, we tick all the boxes.

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Discover next-gen material Bananatex with creator Christian Kaegi

Today, its bigger goal of full circularity is guided by a deep respect for the wellbeing of our planet, animals and humans. Its team continues to innovate, explore and develop prototypes at the Zürich studio, where every fine detail is eco-considered, right down to natural wax coatings and recyclable aluminium hardware.

Inspired by the brand’s commitment and unwavering curiosity, we spoke to co-founder and creative director, Christian Kaegi to find out more about the QWSTION’s textile testing and advancements, including Bananatex® (the world’s first technical fabric made from banana fibre) and the latest organic cotton BioLight material that’s durable, water-proof and featherweight.

How would you describe QWSTION to someone who is new to the brand?

QWSTION is about developing sustainable and flexible solutions for mobility. All of our bags come with multiple carrying options to adapt to your daily needs and pursuits – be that business, leisure or travel. As a premium brand positioned between fashion und function, we want our products to be durable and practical companions making your life easier. Our collections are timeless and evolve continuously. Reinventing the bag may be difficult – but enhancing it is not. Improving our products is an ongoing process we pursue with great passion.

What first prompted the desire to develop alternatives to synthetic materials?

Why are the vast majority of backpacks made from environmentally harmful fibres? The answer is simple: it’s cheaper – largely due to the fact that fewer humans are involved in the process of making synthetic textiles than in that of their plant-based counterparts. This leads to another pertinent question: Is it better to prioritise consumer accessibility via a low price point, or to offer a steady source of income to a greater number of people? The complexity of tackling this challenge is enormous, which has motivated us all the more to find solutions.

Could you tell us about some of the solutions you’ve discovered so far?

Since the beginning of QWSTION almost a decade ago, we’ve been exploring ways to create bags made from renewable resources – ones which are just as functional as they are sustainable. After years of testing natural alternatives to synthetic textiles, we achieved our goal of using only natural, organically grown fibres for the shell fabrics with our 100% organic cotton. The key was to develop a way to manipulate soft, flexible cotton fibres to create strong, durable bags. But we knew we could push ourselves even further, so we continued our research.

In 2015 we first came across a plant of the Banana tree family known locally as ”Banana Hemp” or “Abacá”, and its potential as the next step in our sustainability mission was immediately apparent. The inherent properties align with our commitment to environmental, economic and social sustainability. Cultivated within a natural ecosystem of sustainable mixed agriculture and forestry, Abacá is sturdy and self-sufficient, requiring no pesticides or extra water. These qualities have allowed it to contribute to reforestation in areas of the Philippines once eroded by palm plantations, whilst enhancing the economic prosperity of its farmers.

What are you most proud of when it comes to the development of Bananatex®?

Even though we are a small company with limited resources compared to other global players in the fashion industry, we have been able to develop plastic-free functional materials and build sustainable supply chains simply by hard work, caring and questioning the norm.

What’s different about the BioLight collection?

Our new line of lightweight bags, the BioLight collection, showcases the best of our technical and sustainable material developments so far, leaving the lightest possible footprint on the environment.

Our continued explorations in material development have resulted in a completely new range of lightweight bags – made from Bananatex® (straps) combined with a pioneering technical fabric made for minimal weight and minimal impact: BioLight. Made from plants and leather-free, the new line integrates our learnings from our Minimal Collection – offering a distinct alternative to the synthetic petroleum-based materials lightweight bags tend to be constructed from.

What inspired the beautiful names of the colourways in the BioLight collection?

Each of the three bag styles comes in three colourways inspired by lightweight creatures of the sky: Raven, Heron and Robin – as captured by Zurich photographer Yves Bachmann in a dramatically contrasting editorial shoot.

How important is durability of materials and versatility of products to you?

Timeless design, function and durability are the three central pillars of the QWSTION brand and form an important part of everything we do.

What’s next for QWSTION?

We want to keep on questioning the norm and keep on exploring new ways to carry.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
All images kindly provided by QWSTION.
Editorial BioLight shots by Yves Bachmann.

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Meet Arjun Bhasin, the costume designer using vintage clothing

From the moment acclaimed costume designer and former GQ India Fashion Director Arjun Bhasin picks up my call, I know we’re in for a great interview. His love of vintage clothing practically drips from every word he utters, along with natural sincerity as he describes feeling lucky to have a job he adores. Interested in art, fashion and cinema from an early age, Bhasin moved from India to attend film school in New York, where he currently resides. Now an industry veteran in Hollywood and Bollywood, his name appears on the rolling credits of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (for which he bagged a Costume Designers Guild Award nomination,) Life of Pi,Gully Boy and more.

Among his many achievements, Bhasin is the man responsible for dressing a star with one of the most talked-about TV wardrobes ever: Sarah Jessica Parker. Styling Parker for HBO’s Divorce —her first leading television role since Sex and the City wrapped — would have been no mean feat considering the iconic outfits she wore as the sex columinist with a shoe addiction. “I felt like Sarah Jessica had been seen in every single designer and every single garment that existed in the world! It had all been done so beautifully and amazingly. I wanted to do something new and to present a completely different character to Carrie Bradshaw,” he explains.

Photo: Craig Blankenhorn/HBO

As all eyes fell on what Parker was wearing as Frances DuFresne, Bhasin rose to the challenge with considered vintage clothes and a great tailor (or three!) on standby. “So much of her other show was about high fashion and incorporating the speed of which brands work. There was this rhythm to Sex and the City that almost mimicked the fashion industry — very frenetic and fast.” When reading the script for Divorce, he felt that the story of someone slowing down wouldn’t work with the kind of noise that often accompanies flashy labels and ceaseless outfit changes. “I loved the idea of being part of a continuum. Sarah Jessica and I spoke about it a lot and she loved the idea of using vintage pieces. Pieces that had once belonged to other people and had a story of their own. Pieces that were being borrowed for our purposes and for what we were doing at the time.”

In another departure from Sex and the City, Parker can be seen wearing some clothes on repeat in Divorce — her coat for example. I ask why; “Well, quite a few things were for the narrative and to show that she was in a bit of a rut. In some ways, the same coat reflected the repetition in her life that she was getting sick of. I also wanted to keep it real and honest to how someone would get dressed. After all, we do wear things again and again! I only have one winter coat and I wear it all winter long. You might have a couple of scarves in colours that make you feel good. Some that you wear on gloomy days and some when you’re happy. I wanted that feeling for her. That she was very much a creature of habit.”

Photo: @arjunbhasincostume

I couldn’t help but wonder how Bhasin managed to find all of these gorgeous vintage clothes that fitted Parker like a dream. Is the key to creating a vintage-heavy closet for ourselves having the number of a fabulous tailor on speed dial? “Yes and no. With Divorce we had some fantastic tailors and the idea of repurposing things was very important to us. We didn’t want it to look dowdy. It still had to feel edgy and funky.”
As conversation flows, it becomes clear that it’s the hunt of finding great vintage clothes that the costume designer enjoys so much. “It’s pretty easy to go to a fancy department store and just pick up clothes. Finding special vintage pieces and repurposing them to make them work or fit is so exciting to me,” he gushes. As for exactly where he finds them, the answer is “almost everywhere”, though he’s starting to do a lot more work online now some of NYC’s stores are shuttering due to impossible rent demands. If he can’t get somewhere in person, at least the internet can connect him with a lady in rural American who just so happens to have a basement packed with 1940s dresses. “When I can, I’ll go from vintage collectors to fairs or weekend markets and The Salvation Army. I’ll go to the cheapest possible place to the most high-end trying to find the perfect thing.”

Familiarly, price tags originally kick-started Bhasin’s relationship with vintage. When he first moved to The Big Apple in the early ‘90s, he was a strapped for cash student who wanted to be seen in cool clothes. Vintage was the perfect solution because it was inexpensive, “I could go down to the charity shop, pick something up and repurpose it for myself. Later, I started to realise that I could do things for work with vintage that I couldn’t do with designer fashion. I could twist it and mould it to suit what I wanted it to do.” Sourcing vintage also made sense as he started to get jobs on small, independent films with low budgets, because he had ways of accessing it. “I did a film called Begin Again with Keira Knightley and on that we decided to use vintage clothing. To dress this young, broke musician, we went to The Salvation Army, picked things up and made them part of the story. It came from necessity, but I made it part of the narrative.”

Photo: @arjunbhasincostume

Today, buying vintage personally holds a special place in his heart, “I would rather buy a garment that was a part of history, that belonged to a curated collection in the ‘70s or ‘80s, than buy something new. I feel like fashion has become so fast that the care and the attention to detail just isn’t the same. I’d rather spend a great deal of money on a beautiful 1940s suit than I would on a modern suit.” That’s his style and his thinking, he says. “I feel that fashion has been quite wasteful recently, too. I don’t think there’s any reason to have clothes going to landfills. That just seems unnecessary to me.”

Bhasin quite rightly points out that the world’s your oyster when it comes to thrifting. In his eyes, flaws or imperfections are opportunities to make a great find even more special, “there’s so much beautiful stuff out there. If something has a little hole in it, I’ll just darn it. If something doesn’t fit me correctly, I’ll alter it. It’s not the end of the world. In fact, I think it makes it precious.”

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By Sarah London: the beauty brand upcycling raspberry seeds

One of them is By Sarah London, an award-winning natural and organic skincare brand founded by two sisters on a mission.

“For us, skincare is like food. It should be nourishing, easy to understand, wholesome and provide health benefits over the long term,” explains the fresh-faced duo behind the label, Sarah and Lauren. They launched the brand in 2017 after Sarah realised she was struggling when searching for some products to help restore Lauren’s skin while she was recovering from leukaemia and dealing with extreme isolation.The problem she found was that it was almost impossible to tell exactly what was in the majority of beauty products out there thanks to cryptic and confusing ingredient lists, or misleading labelling. Determined to change this, Sarah decided to draw upon the knowledge she’d gained from working in the industry for 10 years and began hand-crafting her own blends to soothe her sister’s dry, irritated and sensitive skin.

Since its debut, By Sarah London has enjoyed a succession of hits, most notably the Organic Facial Oil that’s adored by the likes of Deliciously Ella. Last week, the label launched a fruity new product: the Raspberry Seed Cleansing Oil. Suitable for normal, dry, sensitive or combination skin, this nourishing and hydrating facial cleanser is made using a beautiful blend of plant oils, which are all listed on the front of the reusable (and recyclable) 100ml bottle for radical transparency.

“What’s very unique about this blend is the upcycled raspberry seed oil. These seeds are saved from landfill and extracted via a very low energy, solvent-free process.” 
By Sarah London’s founder Sarah

Following conversations with loyal customers about their self-care needs, Sarah and Lauren spent time researching the best natural ingredients available and settled on red raspberry seeds. Why? Well, they contain high levels of essential fatty acids, which help to promote the skin’s health and boost its appearance. They’re also a natural source of vitamin E, which helps to prevent damage caused by free radicals from environmental stressors like UV radiation or pollution.

Sustainably sourced and produced, the upcycled raspberry seeds used by By Sarah London are a by-product from the juice industry and diverted from food waste, “instead of sending the leftovers to landfill, the waste is reused, working to naturally concentrate the active micronutrients that are already present within the fresh pulp,” explains Sarah. The oil is extracted from the seeds of the leftover pulp, which is carefully processed and stored to avoid losing any of those all-important nutrients. No new materials are created in the process and no existing resources are wasted.

Hand-blended in the UK, just like the rest of the line, this new upcycled cleansing oil boasts 20% more vitamin E and is especially rich in omega 3 and omega 6. It’s also formulated using grape seed oil and marula seed oil, plus a plant-based emulsifier that transforms into a milk on contact with water to remove make-up, SPF and daily impurities. It’s great for whisking away sticky sweat after a yoga class or run, too.

With such a plethora of skincare products, buzzwords and ingredients on the market, it can be hard to know where to start when it comes to supercharging your skincare regime – particularly if your average day leaves little time to pamper, or if you’re not fully up to speed with the latest plant-based developments. For us, the trick to detoxing your routine is to focus on a few key hero products — and By Sarah London’s Raspberry Seed Cleansing Oil is one of them.

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Introducing children’s clothing rental company, Kid’s O’Clock

The words “buy less, buy better” are everywhere – they’re even printed on the cover of Edward Enninful’s Vogue that’s resting in front of me on my coffee table right now. It’s a message that The Forward Lab stands firmly behind.
In order to gain an expert’s insight on how a “less is more” approach to shopping works in reality, we spoke to Laura Roso Vidrequin, a senior buyer at Harvey Nichols with a seriously enviable work history. Laura is also the founder of Kids o’clock, a newly launched fashion resale site allowing parents to consider alternatives to buying so many brand new clothes.
Here, she talks about the importance of figuring out how a trend works for you, and why ‘ownership’ of clothes should be a thing of the past.

Hi Laura! To start with, could you tell us a bit about your background?
I am French, Parisian born and raised until I reached 17 and moved to New York for my first job as a sales assistant in a showroom. I loved it and felt completely adopted by the city so I ended up staying for quite a few years. After gaining an understanding of the wholesale side of the industry, I moved into buying and joined Lauren Santo Domingo’s team at Moda Operandi – this is where I learned how to apply taste to numbers.

A couple of years later, I was hired by Ralph Lauren/ Club Monaco and I discovered so much, including the politics behind a big corporation, the retail math and the experience of travelling in America. It was such an amazing company to grow in. After eight years in New York, I had a wake-up call when I was approached by Condé Nast to join – its e-commerce platform. I had a different type of learning experience there since the company failed and I found myself redundant after just seven months on the team. Thankfully, I got an extremely lucky break and joined Net-a-Porter as a shoe buyer. What a company to be part of!

More recently, after my maternity leave, I joined Harvey Nichols’ team as a senior buyer of non-apparel. I work with a strong team to ensure there is the right product, at the right price and at the right time. It’s important that we don’t ‘run out of stock’ of the hits and that we don’t end up with too much of the less popular items. Overall, I think buying for a retail space is an amazing role to have, and I’m so thankful to have met all of the people I have so far in the industry.

You have another exciting new venture to tell us about  congratulations on launching Kids O’clock! What can you tell us about the platform and the inspiration behind it?
Thank you! The platform is essentially a go-to for parents/care-givers and families that want cool/useful clothes for kids from birth to 12 years old. Being a mum and a buyer all at once felt strange because of an internal questioning around spending. I had been buying second-hand and vintage clothes for myself for quite a while, and although I wanted to spoil Albert and myself with good quality garments, I quickly found myself piling up boxes of clothes. Think about it: for the first three years of a kid’s life, there are approximately eight/ten sizes that are used. Typically a kid’s closet has on average 15/20 pieces – I’ll let you do the math!

So, I started looking for a platform that sells and resells, where I could buy or rent kids clothes. When I couldn’t find what I wanted, I decided to create it myself! The timing couldn’t be better because being more responsible and careful is ‘trendy’ and I hope it lasts. I want to change the mentality so that parents start to consider second-hand for their household.

You touched on this just when you mentioned shopping more responsibly is trending. The message “Buy Less, Buy Better” is really starting to resonate. What does the phrase mean to you?
Being thoughtful. It means that a whole new journey is being printed in people’s minds before they actually purchase an item. Easier said for an adult than for a kid! I’m always glad to find a strong media channel or a blogger with a strong following who’s setting an example. My friend Julia Restoin Roitfeld created her own platform that promotes careful spending and I hope that new generations will continue to follow the lead here. We still have a long way to go, but every small action helps and counts.

If someone was looking to ‘buy less, buy better’ and invest in something that would last, what would you recommend that they focus on?
Well, the things that last are those that we take good care of. It’s important to love your clothes, clean them and keep them protected. Don’t buy a copy from fast fashion retailers. Instead, find something that has been produced using good materials and comes from a process that’s both creative and reflective.

Would you say that trends are becoming a thing of the past, or are they still important?
Trends are important as they reflect our economy. What has become a real issue is the amount of trends, often generated by marketing and PR companies, to sell a maximum of a brand’s products.
I have always loved analysing trends after they overtook a city, or a season. What we can totally see now, is that we live in a completely uncertain and dissociative society where all trends clash and are being spotted on the runway, and in the street. Trends have travelled a bit, from being entirely product driven, to now being “behaviour” driven. An example? Wearing the heeled sneakers from Isabel Marant in 2010 vs being responsible in 2020, or is it just me?

If someone does want to try a new trend, what’s the most sustainable or responsible way for them to approach it?
Simple: get it from a second-hand shop! A trend is either characterised by a silhouette, certain fabrics style together or a colour. There is rarely something ‘new’ coming out. Personally, I love purchasing something I’ve discovered while thrift shopping, then redesigning it with a seamstress. I think it’s important to think about what you really love about the trend you’re looking to try out. How is it a trend to you? Most of the time, what we love about a trend is either the creative around it or the silhouettes.

What do you recommend people do with the clothes they no longer need or love? You mentioned the importance of caring for your clothes – could you share any care tips for keeping things in their best condition?
I often like to “declutter” my wardrobe using the following set of rules:

  • Not worn in a year and pristine, branded: sell on a second-hand platform such a Vestiaire Collective
  • Not worn in a year: can I tweak it to change the length or adjust the shape with a seamstress?
  • Not worn in a year: donate

We have to learn to let go, and to be less “product driven”. For me, ownership of a piece of clothing has no future. I hope people start understanding this concept sooner rather than later. We do not need to own forever.

What is the future?
Communication has been so transparent and aggressive towards fast fashion that I think in the future brands will be forced to be more aware of their impact. Now, we must remain realistic, the fashion industry does create a lot of jobs and we have to be careful what we wish for. I think laboratories, tech and brands will have to parner to innovate, not for the sake of comfort but for the importance of our future generation and our planet. The thinking behind ownership of a product is shifting – who thought we would be using something like Airbnb years back? The rotation offers a platform that promotes fashion renting from peers to peers, that would be a HUGE help already. I hope that Kids O’clock engages families to start renting and sharing more.

Finally, do you have any favourite inspirational quotes when it comes to fashion?
I have always been a big advocate of a statement said by Yves Saint Laurent: “Over the years I have learned that what is important in a dress is the woman who is wearing it.”
The amount of trends being “generated” and “promoted” by fast fashion companies is out of control, and because their creative approach is so good, they now manage almost to sell “a dream” via a piece of garment. We must be careful and try to explain, when possible, that postures, style, silhouettes and outfits must remain a personal way of expressing oneself – not a way to “window display” a brand.

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Why fashion’s “must-haves” should be a thing of the past

The impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the fashion industry has forced those in it to consider exactly what the ‘new normal’ looks like. As Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele writes in his intimate personal diary from Rome, “we have to think about what we would not want to be the same.” Following a series of Zoom calls with like minded peers, Dries Van Noten has also suggested ways to rewire the broken system. In his open letter, which addresses sales seasons, discounting and reducing travel, he points out that current circumstances, though devastating and challenging, present an opportunity for welcome change.

Inspired by both, I got to thinking about the changes that I would like to see, and play a part in, as a fashion journalist — after all, everyone can take accountability and action according to their roles. As I thought about consumerism and the language used globally by style magazines, it struck me that the way we’re thinking about consumption is unquestionably changing, especially when you consider the term “slow fashion” has generated 90 million social impressions over the past year. But what about the way we talk about in the mainstream media?

This open letter proposes that all global fashion magazines and digital publications ban the term “must-have” from new headlines and articles.

Why? Well, there’s no denying that the message is clear from sustainable fashion pioneers and experts: buy less, buy better. Other activists, like those behind the nonprofit organisation Remake, are challenging us to stop buying any new clothes at all for 90 days. However, when visiting your favourite style websites or opening your inbox, it’s likely that you’ll spot headlines and stories about this season’s “must-have” colour, “must-have” sandal or “must-have” trends.

I love an editorial article about prairie dresses as much as the next person, but it’s time for us to stop positioning new clothes as essential purchases based on passing trends, discounts or fast fashion price points. The pandemic has forced a lot of people to realise how much stuff they already own, or left them reconsidering purchases following unexpected salary cuts or job losses. For many right now, the only cotton “must-have” is a protective face mask, not a new dress  — and even then there are plenty of ways to make one of those using what you already have at home.

To be clear, this letter is far from a takedown of magazines or writers. It’s great that leading platforms are taking sustainable fashion stories seriously, commissioning more and more articles that respond to a growing thirst for knowledge about innovators. What’s even better is that these articles are no longer littered with clich​és about hippies or the mention of hessian potato sacks. However, despite the pressure for endless content to be created, for the pieces to perform well and for the affiliate links to be clicked, it’s important to remember that a headline about eco fashion trailblazers is somewhat diminished when it’s placed next to ‘The top 10 must-haves from the Zara sale’.

I recognise that simply asking for the term “must-have” to be banned may seem small compared to the far more urgent and pressing issues like brands cancelling orders or not paying up. But, we know that small changes in routine – like upcycling something rather than sending it to landfill – can make a difference. As The State Of Fashion 2020 Coronavirus Update points out, the pandemic “will bring values around sustainability into sharp focus, intensifying discussions and further polarising views around materialism, over-consumption and irresponsible business practices.” Fellow journalists, now’s the time to reflect that with our headlines.

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All about upcycling: understanding fashion’s conscious keyword

When Jean Paul Gaultier signed off from his indelible 50-year career in January, he decided to mark the occasion with an upcycled Haute Couture collection. Over 200 looks were presented at the storied Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, each repurposed in some way by using fabrics plucked from the archives. The nod to humble beginnings (when the designer would transform his father’s worn-out trousers into skirts and use little else but recycled denim thanks to a shoestring budget) was subtle, but the overarching message was clear: look at what can be done without the need to produce an abundance of new materials.

After the show, online shopping searches in France including the keywords “recycle” and “upcycle” collectively went up by 25% over the following 24 hours, according to The 2020 Conscious Fashion Report generated by Lyst in partnership with Good On You – an organisation that helps consumers to make more considered purchasing decisions with its ‘People, Planet, Animals’ ratings system. Other stats in the report reveal that an interest in discovering upcycled clothes is increasing, and ranks alongside other sustainability-related terms like “pre-owned” and “second-hand”.

Of course, upcycling isn’t a new concept (think back to Make Do and Mend or to the world of interior design) and Gaultier isn’t the only major luxury name to back it. Sarah Burton’s eco-responsible efforts at the helm of Alexander McQueen are of note, particularly her team’s use of silk jacquards, organza, lace and taffeta from previous lineups for SS20. Dutch designer Ronald van der Kemp has been fuelling a mindful movement for years by turning even leftover scraps into remarkable garments with impeccable tailoring and construction techniques.

There are also plenty of likeminded changemakers in the industry right now who are attracting attention by choosing to create using the upcycling method – Patrick McDowell, E.L.V Denim, Hôtel Vetements, The R Collective, Bode and Les Fleurs, for example. What links the success of upcycling appears to be a dedication to helping reduce the amount of waste that the fashion industry is accountable for, a passion for art and innovation and a distinct knowledge of craft. Upcycling isn’t about unnecessarily chopping things up, but instead seeing the beauty (and potential) in something old, imperfect or unused.

Here at THEFORWARDLAB, we’ve consciously collaborated with the French atelier Maille Creation, a 27-year-old cooperative that specialises in luxury knitwear and is trusted for its expertise by Chanel and Dior. Our limited edition series of knitted sweaters and tops has given unwanted, deadstock yarn a second life by spinning the different threads and ribbons together in easy-to-wear silhouettes in fresh colour combinations, including black and orangerainbow and sunset. What’s more, these pieces are designed to last – we want you to wear them for years to come and hand them down when you’re done.

Shop the collection here

Francine Heath is a contributor to THEFORWARDLAB.
London-based product editor and sustainable fashion journalist who advocates conscious consumerism and loves discovering those who are determined to drive change and create a better fashion future. She’s previously written articles for British Vogue, Eco-Age, Refinery 29, Mr Porter and i-D.