Why Sustainable Fashion Has to Be About Individual Style

Fashion By Ceri Heathcote

For a number of years now, I have been trying to be sustainable with my style–not buying too many clothes, buying clothes to last and focussing on natural, organic and ethically made fashion.

Gradually the number of labels offering timeless and sustainable styles of clothing has increased, and I have found it increasingly easy to satisfy my desire for amazing clothes without indulging in fast fashion at all. But the transition hasn’t been completely painless. At first I found it difficult to move away from the lure of the latest trends. It is pretty tough to get away from them, when you are bombarded by style advice from magazines and retailers advising of the season’s latest “must-haves” and “essentials.”

But without making that transition from following trends to developing my own individual style, I don’t think that I could ever really have been able to describe my wardrobe as sustainable. Following trends meant that I was highly susceptible to the marketing put out there by the fashion industry to convince me that the clothes that I bought last season were no longer “fashionable” and that I needed to buy new clothes.

Each Fashion Week we see magazines showing their take on the latest catwalk shows and summarizing their takes on what will be the key looks for the season ahead. While many of us just can’t afford to buy expensive designer clothes, let alone invest in these “new looks” for each season, we are sold more affordable versions (some might say ripoffs) via the high street, which allow us to keep up with trends at a fraction of the cost. Although many will choose to ignore it, we all know there is a significant cost to these clothes in terms of the human rights abuses and environmental impact associated with their manufacture and disposal. From a style sense of view, many of the features that made the piece of designer clothing desirable in the first place–the great cut, the luxurious fabric and the huge attention to detail in the construction–are lost in the high street copies, leaving little more than a superficial or watered-down representation of the original “trend” or “look.”

Slowly but surely, I think individual style (and common sense) is winning over. People are looking to street-style blogs and photographs featured on sites like Pinterest, Instagram and lookbook.nu to get their inspiration. Someone who is rocking their own unique and very stylish look in the real world is proving to be highly inspirational for many. London Fashion Week is now as much about the unique and individual style of the people photographed outside of the shows as it is about the collections being shown on the catwalks. The trends for vintage, secondhand, upcycled and DIY clothes is also a great example that many are fed up with the bland, reproduced looks on the high street and would rather do their own thing.

It can be difficult to step away from the cycle of trend-led clothes that fill the high street shops. But once you do, you will see how many more satisfying possibilities there are. Fast fashion is a bit like a drug: You are constantly needing your next “fix,” but it will never really satisfy you for long. The only way to be truly sustainable with the fashion that you wear is to develop your own individual style–to buy the clothes that work for you and make you feel good but will also do so for years to come. I couldn’t put it any better than Vivienne Westwood when she said, “Buy less, choose well.”

It just so happens that there are plenty of innovative and socially and environmentally responsible fashion brands with their own unique signatures. These brands are great for anyone who wants to create their own unique and amazing style that won’t ever go out of fashion.

What do you think? Can trend-led fashion and sustainability ever go hand-in-hand? Could catering to individual style make for a more sustainable fashion industry? Join the conversation in the comments.

Image credit: istockphoto.com

Ceri is the founder of www.style-is.co.uk, a search engine for sustainable and ethical fashion featuring fair trade, organic, vegan, vintgae and recycled clothes, shoes and accessories for women, men and children. Ceri also blogs at www.ethicalfashionblog.com and Oxfam Fashion and writes for the Ethical Fashion Forum’s Source Intelligence magazine.

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