Aside from the fact I love a bit of Radio 4’s Dessert Island Discs (where presenter Kirsty Young asks famous guests to pick eight records to take if they were to be stranded on a dessert island), Stella McCartney’s Dessert Island Discs seemed a good excuse to define sustainable fashion in eight dresses.
The local dress
It’s not always the case that made on your doorstep is more ethical, but shopping in local boutiques makes it easier to enquire about the designers and makers.
Stella McCartney – “I’ve also thought it takes a lot to buy something made well, that is mindful in design and manufacture. You have to make those decisions based on who you are and have them bring something else to your life, make your life better, but not make your life not your life.”
The ethical dress
Eco-friendly designers and eco-collections support fair wages and working conditions, use eco-friendly fabrics and are mindful of animal rights, energy, water use and toxic pesticides. Look for certifications like Fairtrade and GOTS aka Global Organic Textile Standard and self-enforced codes, which you will find on the brand’s website. They will be easy to find if they advocate transparency.
Stella’s Winter 2017 campaign explores waste & overconsumption
The charity shop dress
A great way to shop guilt free. I’ve been shopping in charity shops since I was a teenager when my mum did a stint volunteering at an alzheimer’s charity shop, so it comes naturally to me. They are often the most local option for clothes and occupy what could otherwise be empty shops on your high street. Most of us are guilty of buying something we never get around to wearing. What’s one woman’s afterthought is another’s treasure, and these untouched gems regularly end up in charity shops. Dresses with the tags still on, designer and homemade dresses, I’ve discovered them all in charity shops.
The vintage dress
The antithesis of fast fashion, true vintage appreciates value with time. Vintage is an overused term, too often used to describe pre-worn clothing from any era, but real vintage is at least 10, more likely 20 years old. My personal favourite form of sustainable fashion, vintage shopping comes with an appreciation for an item’s unique journey.
Kirsty Young – “If you go out and about and see somebody wearing a jacket or a pair of trousers that you designed 10 years ago, do you think that’s a triumph then if she is still wearing them 10 years later?”
Stella McCartney – “Yes, Definitely…and actually it was funny, there was was somebody I saw in the street, only yesterday that had a bag of mine that was about 10 years old and she looked at me and I looked at her and I thought, this is awkward and I was really chuffed. For me it’s a real achievement.”
The make do mended dress
We live in a disposable era. Cheap fashion discourages the need to develop basic mending skills. I’ve read many articles telling people to save the planet by learning to make their own clothes. If you have that skill, creative urge, and time, amazing. If not, get to know a good tailor who cannot only extend the life of the clothes in your wardrobe by mending and altering them, but also help when you find one-of-a-kind wonders in charity shops or vintage shops that need tailoring to your size.
Stella McCartney – “I’m not interested in landfill, I’m interested in reuse and continuous design, I think staying power in every sense of the word is really important.”
The leased dress
Online rent-a-dress options have been growing, which is good news for party dresses that get worn once and then left for landfill. Imagine – one dress provides multiple women with happiness! That’s now a sustainable business plan for sites like Chic by Choice, Dream Wardrobe and Girl Meets Dress. I have yet to try it, but I suspect it will become increasingly popular as emerging brands like Laura Ironside (above) slow down the fashion cycle and lease their collections.
The swapped dress
You’ve heard of the phrase, go shopping in your wardrobe? Well, how about shopping in your friend’s wardrobe? Obviously ask first.
The Stella McCartney dress
Saving up for an expensive dress, even if it’s the dress of the season like this Spring 2011 Stella dress, is slow fashion because I’m still enjoying it today. When you genuinely invest in clothes, you reduce the amount of clothes you need to shop for.
Stella McCartney – “I definitely understand the idea of being yourself and not trying too hard through what you’re wearing.”
Kirsty Young – “That seems like a contradiction to say not trying too hard from what you are wearing because surely buying expensive clothes is about trying hard.”
Stella – “No, I think you have to wear the clothes, not let the clothes wear you. It’s really important for you to take control of your wardrobe.”
©Photographs Reclaimed Woman and courtesy of Stella McCartney & Laura Ironside