Sustainability should be the rule not the exception

Fashion is a large part about designers, and indeed this is how Charlotte Turner (left in the picture below) started her career. With an early passion for up-cycling materials and clothes – though she obviously didn’t realise that re-using old garments from her grandmother to make new things was just this – a degree from the London College of Fashion with a focus on sustainable design followed.

TSA Future Fabrics Expo 2012

But her main interests are the reasons that lie behind the behaviour of industry and consumers, and “how we can turn negative impact into positive impact”, she told the Green Fashion team in a recent interview.

As the project manager for the Future Fabrics Expo by The Sustainable Angle, and a member of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at the London College of Fashion, she is involved in different projects dealing with and researching about textile production, clothing design, and fashion consumption in different societies. “I’m trying to explore how we can alter this culture of mass consumerism we are in, which is in itself completely unsustainable,” she says.

We want it all, and quick

The culture is depicted by the release of more and more fashion collections every year. “In the past there were two main collections a year and that was it. These days you have to meet so many demands of  the customers who want the newest trends, and who aren’t learning to really value their garments.”

Turning our “we want it all and quick” society into one that cares about sustainability is what her work is aiming it. “People need to be aware of what they are wearing and what impact it is causing. They need to know that they can get high-quality and long lasting clothes for a price which is good value, and that this isn’t some marginal and unattractive fad,” she adds.

Eco going mainstream

Recent years have shown that more and more mainstream fashion outlets are opening up to the idea of producing sustainable clothes for a reasonable price. The recent H&M Conscious campaign we reported on is only one of the examples with other major outlets like Lewis and Marks & Spencer having joined the fight for more sustainability in the fashion industry in recent years.

However, money remains one of the main reasons, some outlets still don’t develop more environmentally and socially sustainable products. And even though more companies may be using organic cotton and other sustainable materials to produce their clothes, they still produce in the same factories which may not meet fair working and trading standards.

Imbalance as a problem


“Eventually there will be global legislation that mills, factories and companies worldwide will need to meet, but right now there is definitely an imbalance. You can already see in Europe that there is legislation for minimum social and environmental standards which is not in place in many regions of the world such as Asia.” This is feeding the problem as companies are tempted to produce for lower prices in places with less restrictions, and where standards are not constantly monitored.

Until this changes there will always be an excuse for not producing more sustainably- and this is about money.

Charlotte Turner, however is hopeful that the increase of sustainable fashion will continue: “Consumers are beginning to find out more about where their clothing comes from and how it has been made, and are hopefully beginning to understand the impact this all has on our environment and culture.”

The ultimate goal for her and her colleagues’ work, would be if one day, sustainable fashion and the commitment of some companies wouldn’t make the headlines anymore. Not because it doesn’t exist, but because it is the most normal thing in the world.

Pictures courtesy of Myka Baum

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