From the fashion industry's response to the war in Ukraine, celebrating the women who inspire us, common greenwashing tactics, to tightwads and spendthrifts. This month's wrap-up is a bit of a mixed bag!
Wow! What a month March shaped up to be. Just when you thought things may start to get better...
I hope you managed to have an OK month considering, and maybe if you're in Munich, like me, you have been enjoying the glorious Spring weather e have been treated to.
I must say, for the most part of the past few weeks I found myself trying to decipher this weird mix of emotions I found myself confronted with. From sadness and a sense of helplessness when considering the state of the world at the moment. To nervousness, not yet excitement, regarding my long awaited trip back home to Oz next week, as I laid low, and did my best to avoid dreaded Covid.
But as I essentially kept away from people, I found myself with a little extra downtime. During which, I worked on some new things for this site, and a new personal project, which I am very excited to dive into, and maybe share something more with you about in the coming months!
So this months wrap up is a bit like the way people may be feeling at the moment, and maybe mirrors what our news and social media feeds have been like - a bit of a mish mash. But hopefully you will enjoy, and find useful what I have to share.
Wrap-up of this month
What I was reading in March
New on the blog
Thinking about Spring cleaning your wardrobe?, which offers some tips on getting started, what to ask yourself before parting with an item, and how to better care for the things in your wardrobe.
Pattern review: Merchant and Mills - The Florence, a versatile, timeless and comfortable addition to your wardrobe.
The fashion industry and the War in Ukraine
The invasion of Ukraine coincided with the first day of Milan Fashion Week, with Paris following shortly after. My social media and news feeds quickly became this weird mix of models walking down the runway, and street style looks, being contrasted against a backdrop of war, with images of fear and devastation. As Vanessa Friedman from The New York Times put it;
"The fashion bubble can feel discombobulating at the best of times. When a global confrontation occurs, however, the contrast between life inside and life outside is particularly jarring...On the one hand: the stuff of fantasy and frippery; on the other, feeds and headlines filled with threat and fear. It can seem almost impossible to reconcile."
Similar to when Covid hit really, there became this weird tension between what is the right thing to do and feel - Is it appropriate to post, or even talk about things like fashion. Where does something like fashion even fit into all of this?
When it came to fashion week, on the one side some argued that "the show must go on". Designers and their teams had spent months, and invested a lot emotionally and financially into these shows. On the other hand, many took the stand that it would be insensitive to continue. Isn't it just common sense and basic humanity to acknowledge the situation?
Some brands did manage to continue, while also acknowledging the situation and it's severity, and ultimately show their support. For instance, Giorgio Armani chose to stage his Milan show in silence out of respect for those involved.
However, others remain silent, choosing to turn a blind eye to the situation.
Outside of fashion week, some businesses have been coming up with their own responses. Retailers, from the high street to luxury brands (e.g LVMH, Kering, Chanel, Hermes), have been placing an embargo on Russia, closing their doors and suspending sales in Russia in response to the call for sanctions. Some luxury giants have been pooling together funds to make generous donations to the war efforts. LVMH, for example, who own Louis Vuitton and Dior, pledged millions to the International Committee of the Red Cross
To find out more, I recommend taking a listen to Wardrobe Crisis with Clare Press, Ep 159, A Conversation with Vogue Ukraine's Venya Brykalin on Fashion's Response to War in Ukraine. This insightful and helpful episode unpacks how fashion should respond to the war.
Additionally, the article How you can support Ukraines fashion industry, from i-D magazine, is an important read about the consequences imposed on Ukrainian fashion creatives - a group of individuals whose needs and circumstances have been somewhat overlooked.
International Women's Day
Earlier in the month we celebrated International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate women, and those who inspire us every day.
The day also serves as a reminder that when it comes to textile, clothing and footwear production, women make up the majority of the workforce. Yet, despite the millions of profits generated by brands annually, exploitation of these workers and cheap labour are rife, with most being denied a living wage. To find out more, take a look at my article 'A living wage is a human right' which details the importance of fair and decent wages.
A truly ethical and sustainable fashion industry doesn't exist without fair pay!
I recommend taking a look at the article International Women’s Day: Fashion Is Women’s Work, from Fashion Revolution, which is a really insightful read, detailing the myth of ‘girl boss’ feminism, and the lack of transparency on issues that impact women workers
How to spot greenwashing
What is greenwashing?
Greenwashing is essentially marketing spin that gives the impression that a product or service is more environmentally friendly than it actually is. It is misleading and deceptive. Sadly, the practice is rampant within the clothing and textiles industry, with brands attempting to position themselves more favourably in the eyes of consumers. As a result, we may find ourselves not actually supporting brands that align with our values.
So, how to spot greenwashing?
There are some common tactics we can learn to look out for. Here are just a few:
Buzzwords: Think "eco", "ethical", or "sustainable". These are not only big umbrella terms, but mean nothing without being back up by evidence. They are also easy to use with no real regulations surrounding their use.
False dichotomies: Think about an "eco" or "conscious" collection from a fast fashion brand that signals a brand is "doing good" by people and planet. However, what these collections are doing is simply distracting from bigger issues (e.g. overproduction, lack of living wages). Also, these ranges often only form a small portion of the brands overall product offering.
Aesthetic: This works in a similar way to buzzwords, and involves the presentation of images of nature, or fuzzy animals, in order to project a caring image. But remember that these too are easy to present.
Fibre content: Look out for those labels that proclaim things like "made from recycled materials" or "organic". Sometimes they can appear better than they are. Check the percentage breakdown, as the sustainable portion may only make up a small portion. Also, be weary of blends - organic cotton being blended with polyester, still won't biodegrade, and cannot be separated.
So what can we do?
Do our research, and take some time to look at a brand beyond the surface. A good rule of thumb is that if a brand isn’t providing much information, it’s usually a sign that sustainability and transparency aren’t high on their agenda.
If in doubt contact the brand in question via email, or social media. You will easily recognise if they are legit or not in their responses, or lack thereof. They should be happy and more than willing to share with you all the great things they do, right?!
Look out for legit certifications or those recognisable stamps (e.g. B Corp).
Seek help from third-party organisations in relation to how brands rank socially and environmentally. Some good places to start include Fashion Revolution, Fashion Checker, and Good on You, and a new one I recently stumbled across, Greenwash.com, a project from Changing Markets Foundation, where you can interact and literally "see what comes out in the wash".
What I was reading in March
Can fashion shows ever be sustainable?, from Vogue Business, is a timely read, considering that fashion shows were back in full swing this month (and in person). The piece looks into the unsustainable format of the fashion show, and how this could change for the better in the future.
What is Ultra Fast Fashion? Investigating Why It’s Ultra Bad, from Good on You, deep dives into the (scary) world of ultra fast fashion, describing everything from the role of social media and algorithms, the social and environmental impacts, why it is so addictive, and what we can do. I think the quote below sums it up perfectly.
“We’ve reached the point where clothing is now essentially being sold as a ‘Fast Moving Consumer Good’, in the same category as snack foods, fizzy drinks, toothpaste—as something entirely disposable, to be consumed once and then thrown away,..Except, of course, with fashion there is no ‘away’. Those synthetic clothes will be weighing down the planet for a century or more.” That’s only where the bad news begins.” - Lauren Bravo, author of “How To Break Up With Fast Fashion”.
Most of us by now (should) know about the environmental impact of our clothing. But, in case you don't, The Global Glut of Clothing Is an Environmental Crisis, from Bloomberg, is another great high level look into the industry's reliance on fossil fuels and resulting GHG emissions, to waste and micro-plastic pollution, and the model that is based on overproduction.
Greenwashing UK fashion firms to be named and shamed by watchdog, from The Guardian, details how the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is set to call out fashion companies that are involved in greenwashing in an effort to build back consumer trust in sustainable products.
I am an avid follower of both The Happy Pear and Aja Barber, so I was pretty excited when I stumbled across this episode, and it did not disappoint.
The honest conversation touches on various topics, from modern day colonialism, the secondhand clothing industry, globalisation, to making more sustainable choices, and changing the fashion industry for the better.
I hadn't even heard of 'tightwads' or 'spendthrifts' before stumbling across this episode, but I ended up going down a bit of a rabbit hole on the topic.
This episode, which features Scott Rick, PhD, of the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, discusses some of the causes and emotions behind our buying behaviours. More specifically, the episode focuses on why some people seem to be able to part with money easily (spendthrifts), and why others find it more difficult (tightwads).
As mentioned above, this insightful and helpful episode unpacks how fashion should respond to the war.
Coming up in April
Packing tips, and travel essentials
Fashion Revolution Week
Independent sewing pattern recommendations
Please get in touch or leave me a comment, I would love to know about your March. Also, let me know what have you been reading, watching, and listening to.
Thanks for reading, and see you in April!
This is a personal blog. Any views or opinions contained on this site are my own. I am not affiliated with any brands, products, or organisations mentioned, and do not receive any sponsorship, payment, or other compensation for any of the content on this site.