Sustainable Opportunities & Challenges for the Fashion World: A Review of a Lecture by Dr. Kate Fletcher

Several weeks ago I heard a lecture by Dr. Kate Fletcher, a pioneer of the slow fashion movement, on “Fashion and Sustainability: Design for Change,” as part of a lecture series presented by Fashion Lab’s YARN series. When I arrived in the auditorium-style classroom, I excitedly took my seat in hopes of learning more about how sustainability is remaking the fashion world.

With a sincere tone, Dr. Fletcher began by asking us to think of a garment or accessory connecting us to nature, and then explained how true materialism invokes intrinsic, more intimate relationships with goods and, ultimately, yields new ways to use garments. She predicted future sustainable fashion designers will need to consider a variety of dimensions when creating new looks, like how our bodies change over time, effects of frequent wearing and laundering, etc.

Small Steps toward Big Changes in Fashion

As acting Reader in Sustainable Fashion at the Centre for Sustainable Fashion (London College of Fashion), Fletcher commended the eco-friendly practices of climate neutral businessesmodular designers and social campaigns bringing awareness to the amount of fabric, water and other resources wasted in the process of creating the season’s trendiest styles.

Even though practices like these have been “absolutely essential” to the fashion industry over the last 20 years, they are not enough to lessen the impact of conventional consumer ideas of purchase and disposal, Kate said in her presentation.

The lecturer suggested we begin shifting our thinking about our clothing choices and the industry as a whole. Then we can create a vision of what is possible when advances in technology, skills and research work together to extend the boundaries of the social norms of fashion.

Is it too much to demand that every factory employee receive fair wages and work in safe conditions, or that there will be no toxins used in dyes? That zero waste becomes the standard in clothing manufacturing, and only recycled packaging will be used in shipping? You probably can add more demands to the list.

The bottom line is that sustainability is a forum which we can use to shape fashion into what we want it to be!

  1. Sociallyaware1

    Great topic, I see an increase in what sustainable fashion is, in part thanks to people like you. I work with Indigenous.com and half of the job is education and helping consumers sift through all the misinformation out there. They have a wonderful story and actually connect the consumer to the actual artisan that creates their handmade garments. You can see some examples at http://www.indigenous.com/shop/womens. If you have any questions they are really great people with a mission to make a difference, so I encourage you to reach out to them.

  2. Helen

    I’ve always felt that fashion’s top-down influence on consumers is key in figuring out how to incorporate mindful practices in clothing production. When informing consumers of the devastating side effects of toxic dyes and unsafe factory conditions doesn’t influence their buying patterns, the only antidote seems to be making “green” trendy. A few major players have made headway with this approach, such as H&M’s “Don’t Let Fashion Go To Waste” campaign, which encouraged shoppers to bring in unwanted apparel from any store in exchange for discounts on H&M’s new clothing–resulting in 3.2 million garments donated to worthy causes. But as you have mentioned, so much more has yet to be done to make a substantial dent in this exponentially growing problem. Thank you for the insight!

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