In a town where the biggest affordable clothing store is H&M, we have a lot to learn from sustainable fashion. St Andrews Charity Fashion Show made an effort to bring issues regarding sustainable fashion to light. While the actual topic of H&M’s presence in St Andrews was not touched, the dangers of fast fashion and the industry at large were discussed thoroughly.
Saturday, October 17th marked the beginning of FS’s F4TE week, a week dedicated to “Fashion 4 the Earth.” In other words, promoting sustainability in fashion and bringing awareness to ethical problems within the industry. This week culminated with two Zoom conferences, a morning and an afternoon panel.
The afternoon conference opened mid-conversation with the panel discussing the harms of aviation and fashion. The confusion caused by the mid-sentence start was soon rectified as everyone regained their footing when FS’s Cordelia Hare then filled the screen and introduced the panel and FS’s motivation behind pushing for sustainability in fashion. Patrick Duffy (founder of Global Fashion Exchange and co-founder of SWAPCHAIN), Ayesha Barenblat (founder of Remake Fashion), Nicole Rycroft (founder and executive director of Canopy Planet), and the moderator, Daphne Grant (head of Sustainable St Andrews) filled the screens with their toothy smiles. Their infectious, happy attitudes brought an unwarranted excitement at 4 PM on a Saturday afternoon and sustained a friendly environment throughout the hour and a half of their discussion. No attendee was left to drift off in their own thoughts. The captivating faces of Ayesha, Nicole, and Patrick left everyone entertained although they did repeat themselves quite a few times. (I highly recommend watching the panel [https://www.facebook.com/standrewsfashion/videos/1009997916093792] as the conversation was informative and very enjoyable to listen along to.)
The three panelists were obviously comfortable and familiar with each other, each playing off of each other’s answers without providing the attendees with awkward silences. They talked about their own work in promoting sustainability within the fashion industry, and each panelist’s accomplishments were just as impressive as the one before. From the repaying exploited and underpaid workers in southeast Asia to reducing material waste, the panel discussed everything with an optimistic attitude. They are catalysts for change in the industry, and they urged all of us to follow suit.
This panel focused on the changes in the fashion industry and how we as consumers can continue to enforce change. Ms. Barenblat brought up that they as the leaders in the field of sustainable fashion have had discussions about sustainability for years, they never included us as the consumers into their conversations. This is problematic because consumers have the ability to organise change in the fashion industry. It is our job to hold these brands accountable. In an unregulated industry with almost no government restrictions, it is centred almost solely around consumer demand. Unfortunately, COVID still affecting everyone’s life, the rock bottom wages and overproduction in fashion are worse than ever.
Hosting events like this in St Andrews forces us all to be conscious consumers. As more consumers are informing themselves about the unethical labour conditions and environmental impacts of overproduction, the industry has seen a shift. FS is forcing us to be aware of the issues and problems in the fashion industry, preventing us from claiming ignorance and dropping a hefty sum at H&M at our convenience.
I hope we see other fashion collectives in St Andrews encouraging sustainability in fashion, and I hope we see more affordable, sustainable stores pop up in St Andrews.