It's actually not a balaclava, it's a 'cocoon hoodie' - soon back in stock (in case you're interested)
I read something the other day that got me thinking about sustainable fashion. It was about a company based in the USA, called The Real Real. Founded by Julie Wainwright, in short, it's a glammed up second hand designer store selling old designer clothes and jewellery that owners no longer want. Makes sense doesn't it? Especially when you consider the outlay for a simple designer dress compared to the increasingly cheap (and disposable high street clobber). You could buy 1000 primarni jeans for the price of a D&G kimono say. It's big money. It's a luxury and its a special piece, yes, but how practical is shopping designer? Especially when most of us would adhere to the rule that you don't want to be seen in an outfit twice. I would say it doesn't bother me but I do admit to appreciating having different groups of friends so that I can wheel out the same wedding outfit more than once). Oh and trends move on - so that Balenciaga jewel embellished balaclava that felt so right, is suddenly redundant and at Real Real, you can cash it in instead. What's not to love?
Except that it's not yet in the UK....watch this space.
Founded in Spring 2011 with an initial investment of $100,000, in the first year Real Real grossed revenues of $10m and is forecast to hit $1bn next year. It's devastatingly simple. You're appointed a sales manage who verifies the designer wardrobe you wish to recycle and once it's sold (online or in-store their 6000 sq metre space in NYC SoHo) you get 85% of the sale cost back in your hand. Who knew there was so much money in second hand?
The fashion circular economy (c) MUD jeans
It's not a service for me, I don't own enough designer clothes. I don't think anyone would pay me money for my old Primark shawl or my Next blazer. But the principle of creating this fashion circular economy is welcome give that the fashion industry is one of the major culprits of pollution. I feel liberated when I do a charity shop run and dump all the stuff that I promised myself I would 'fit back into' - the admission that the 'skinny' wardrobe is dead and buried is cathartic and you can just crack on with buying the 12-14/16-18/20+ with some clarity. The liberating upshot of this activity is that you can actually now breathe again when you are clothed and you don't need to keep buying hi rise jeans pushing your 'is it my waist or are we now in tit territory' blur line to extremity.
But even that is not strictly recycling or doing any good for the environment - some statistics suggest less than 10% of clothes that are donated do not end up in circulation again but instead in landfill. Stacey Dooley did a wonderful job at exposing the environmental warfare that fashion is unleashing on our planet in her documentary 'Fashion's Dirty Secrets.'
But sustainable fashion is a relatively recent surge - kind of coinciding with the vegan and plant movement that is gathering pace. Forbes recently reported almost a 50% increase in people searching for sustainable fashion when shopping online - a huge jump. And there are more and more labels that are popping up with much more impressive environmentally friendly credentials pedalled by the behmeoth, Instagram and so called offspring 'Insta-brands.' Trainer label Vega founded in 2004 and worn by Megan on her Oz trip (hence maybe the light shining on this brand), uses organic cotton and recycled plastic bottles on their production lines.
VEGA trainers - good all rounders
But label NOKI was doing this back in the 90's out of London's Shoreditch. Created by a master DIY designer and artist JJ Hudson, his mantra was to celebrate and up-cycle cast offs and not to mass produce. This anti-brand fashion brand put fashion on the line of sustainability and being ethical even back then in pre-social media days. But I suspect from the get-go, his motivation was solely creative (to be mass consumed is to no longer be at the outer edge of creativity). His durable longevity has regrouped to suit today's culture - the original point resonates but today's consumer also increasingly shops with a conscience.
Another Kevin Germanier is taking the eco fashion to heady levels without hemp or other naff hippy fabrics anywhere in sight. Instead he uses materials destined for landfill for his amazing creations of whom Bjork is a huge fan. A very artistic and fashionable endorsement for stuff that's going otherwise going in the bin. Zola Amour UK is also a brilliant go-to for staples such as wide jeans and lounge wear including great wide funnel fleece jumpers - all produced in the UK and all sustainable. Their design conscience includes such in-depth open questions as 'FROM THE EARTH: Can we say this item will return to the earth after its lifetime? What natural and organic fabrics are suitable for this item? Are they sustainable, ethical and fair-trade? Are the threads also a natural organic material? Are all the buttons, fittings and other components either recycled or natural?' How utterly refreshing and should we call out who else is doing this?
This old thing? In the bin? No way!
But if laying out for designer wares is just not a goer for you, then you can splash out a little bit each month and rent the latest designer looks or your favourite designer at Front Row who also offer same day delivery in London. If there's something you fancy and want to look like, email them a photo and they will do the rest. Similarly you can pop along to Girl Meets Dress and look like an effortless film star for a fraction of the cost with the added benefit of not paying for the rental of any items that you don't wear. If you're over the pond, it's Rent the Runway For a mere $30 you can rent pieces that you want to wear for a few days. Or for $159 pcm you can rent anything you want from their wardrobe, 'swap anytime, 'no rent time.' Amazing.
If you want to take it to next level and take decisive action in the march against textile pollution or indeed raising awareness of a topic that is integral the health of our planet's future, perhaps you could help crowd fund a film expected to start filming in 2019. Called Dying to Clothe You, it 'will highlight the cost of fashion to the planet. This is not to make fashion ‘bad’ or create guilt or shame about buying clothes, but to educate consumers on how their shopping habits impact the world.' For a mere 20EURO you can get a social media shout out or if you're feeling flush and have 50,000EURO hanging around, you can be an Executive Producer - 'with all the kudos that brings.'
But if you can't, then we do need to do some more digging around as to how we can make the journey from the clothes we ditch from our wardrobes more ethical (according to Zola Amour, us lot here in the UK have an estimated £30 billion worth of unworn clothing hanging aimlessly in the armoire).
Wait until the shop's open guys
It's fine for us chucking out the XXS and the stuff from Next still donning the amazing NOW ONLY £5 label (note to self, what the F was I thinking?), and dumping it at the closed charity shutters after dark, but we need to sit up and be more responsible for what happens after that. Otherwise we're just complicit and hypocritical landfillers.
I feel a crowdfunding film might be in order.....