I, Kate Auguste have been working in the fashion industry for over 20 years with the last three being a business owner of mi apparel LTD, a Sustainable Fashion online shop that stocks Ethical Brands from around Europe. Here, I have seen first hand how ethical businesses can research, design, manufacture and sell ethical, sustainable clothing for citizens around the world that don’t have a devastating impact on our planet or people within this industry.
I welcome the opportunity to submit evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry to follow up on a selection of original points from the 2017 Fixing Fashion report; Clothing consumption and sustainability. In summary, I believe that:
• We can see there is a recurring theme of not-for-profit organisations and academia being formed who are passionately leading to create change from within our fashion industry. However, due to lack of government regulation and legalisation we are not seeing much progress to over turn factors such as social justice and textile waste plight we have in the UK alone.
• We need to involve climate Justice and social justice impacts into the metrics of the fashion industry statistics as well as the environmental impacts. People are on the front line of our climate emergency globally.
• The UK should be learning from other industries and countries from around the globe who have proven their own mandatory regulated initiatives in textile waste and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) can work and be successful.
• We should make the UK a leading example across the globe to view the issues at hand and how we can bring regulation & legislation to make our fashion industry a better place for our people & planet though our own UK Fashion Pack.
• We aren’t going to stop people from producing clothing, nor can we stop them from buying, we can however make sure within the supply chain people are treated fairly, with dignity, working in a safe environment, paid a living wage or more and our planet is not damaged in the process through the production & manufacturing of goods required to make a garment via toxins, chemicals in agriculture, air pollution, water pollution.
What progress has been made in reducing the environmental and social impact of the fashion industry since the Fixing Fashion report came out?
• Leading organisation The British Fashion Council launched their Institute of Positive Fashion[i], a platform a platform designed to celebrate industry best practice and encourage future business decisions to create positive change. Here the focus is through three strategic pillars; Environment, People, Community & Craftsmanship. This initiative came into place after the successful launch of the Positive Fashion category & exhibition at London Fashion Week 2019.
• A collaboration between global media company Condé Nast and respected fashion institute Centre for Sustainable Fashion, London College of Fashion (CSF), University of Arts London, collaborate with the publication of ‘The Sustainable Fashion Glossary[ii]. This work has brought together a collective dialogue of terms and references throughout common language to strengthen and develop sustainability literacy in fashion media, in order for editors to understanding the new era of fashion
• In 2018, prior to the submission of the original Fixing Fashion report, ‘The Union of Concerned Researchers in Fashion’ (UCRF)[iii]was formed by Kate Fletcher, Linda Grose, Timo Rissanen and Mathilda Tham. A manifesto, to which individuals can sign, has been produced from the recognising that the fashion sector or productions and activities contribute to the destruction of earth and humans. The union wants all involved to unite to take action and tackle through leadership, use of scientific and artistic knowledge to disrupt the current way of working within the fashion industry. There are currently 264 signatures who have signed the manifesto from around the globe whom meet monthly and gather annually (AGM).
What impact has the pandemic had on fashion waste?
What impact has the pandemic had on the relationship between fashion retailers and suppliers?
• ‘Brands have a huge safety net - access to credit, teams of lawyers, deep financial pockets. Suppliers have no safety net’ - Elizabeth L.Cline outlining the power of imbalance in fashion supply chains.
• 'For too long the West has controlled the dialogue whilst profiting from labour in the global South. There's a power imbalance. We need to put more workers and producers at the heart of the conversation’ - Ayesha Barenblat speaking about creating a worker-driven fashion industry.
• ‘When you support a brand that isn't ethical and isn't paying their suppliers, you're having a direct impact on people's lives.’ - Mostafiz Uddin speaking about the response he got from buyers who refused to #PayUp during Covid 19 and the impact on his livelihood and workers. The need from these remaining brands to #PayUp is as strong as ever. They've protected their cash reserves over the lives and livelihoods of their suppliers.
• ‘Social Media is playing a pivotal role in educating people about sustainable fashion. Social media is emerging as an indispensable tool to share brand stories, create communities, and sell/purchase fashion products. As they perform these activities, several fashion creators are using these platforms to raise awareness on ethical issues in fashion and even promote fundraiser campaigns to support the ethical fashion industry. Fashion bloggers are increasingly focusing on sustainable fashion. In response to such activism and education, in 2019, internet searches for ‘sustainable fashion’ increased by more than three times compared to 2016, and this trend is expected to continue in the forecast period.’
How can any stimulus after the Coronavirus crisis be used to promote a more sustainable fashion industry?
• Protecting creatural assets to service the economic crisis
• Solve immediate inventory channelise in partnership with suppliers
• Integrate sustainability throughout business recovery strategies
• Accelerate transparency while increasing sustainability ambitions
• British Fashion Council (Organisation)
• Vogue UK (Media)[xvii]
• Centre for Sustainable Fashion (Education)
• UK Government (Political)
• The Sustainable Markets (Initiative)[xviii]
How could employment law and payment of the minimum wage be more effectively enforced within the UK fashion industry?
Is the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan adequate to address the environmental impact of the UK fashion industry? How ambitious should its targets be in its next phase?
What actions could Government take to improve the collection of fashion waste?
• The clothes collected by H&M are processed by I:CO, a unit of German textile recycling company Soex
• Zara has laid out it’s scheme by donating unwanted clothes to none-profit partners such as Red Cross and Oxfam[xxiv].
What actions could the Government take to incentivise the use of recycled or reused fibres and materials in the UK fashion industry?
• In New York, they have a not-for-profit incentive called Materials for the Arts[xxvi]. Here they collect materials, keep them out of the landfill and give them to thousands of nonprofit organisations and public schools for Creative Reuse projects.
• Fabscrap[xxvii], a non-profit organisation dedicated to recycling and reusing textiles that are unsuitable for donation
• The Materials Recycling World[xxviii] is a place of resource to gain more insight into the UK waste sector.
• San Francisco are already leading the way since 2002 to a net zero waste initiative by 2020. They have no introduced the Zero Waste Textile Initiative to Keep Apparel, Footwear, Linens Out of the Landfill[xxix].
How could an Extended Producer Responsibility scheme for textiles be designed to incentive improvements in the sustainability of garments on sale in the UK?
• End-of-life factors considered during design: Making producers responsible for the costs of managing their products at the end-of-life, they have an interest in anticipating and reducing these costs. Combined with targets for garment reuse and recycling, the result is a change in the incentives around the design and production of garments.
• Waste prevention: EPR need not be limited to garments sold, but could be extended to over-produced items that never reach the consumer – thereby incentivising waste prevention through better stock control.
• Investment in reuse: EPR has the ability to build a stronger, more transparent reuse sector, where organisations such as Salvation Army and Goodwill are recognised and rewarded for the role they play in preventing clothes from going to waste.
• Effective collection and processing: More widespread collection programmes, whether at the kerbside or via producer take-back, will be required to ensure producers can meet reuse and recycling targets. There will also be an incentive to invest in and improve recycling infrastructure, and to make more use of recycled fibres.