Compassion in fashion

18 July 2019 | Abigail Duncan
The owner of popular high street store, Zara has announced that all of its collections will be made from 100% sustainable fabrics before 2025.

The store has had sustainable ranges for three years and has been backing in-store recycling to tackle throwaway culture, but this announcement makes them the first international high street store to make such a commitment.

Schemes such as in-store recycling are working towards decreasing the amount of clothing that’s sent to landfill. Marks & Spencer’s was one of the first high street stores to offer a place to recycle clothes, launching its ‘Schwopping’ initiative with Oxfam in 2008, donating unwanted clothing and soft furnishings which are then passed onto Oxfam to be resold, reused or recycled. Since launching this it’s received over 20 million items of clothing, which is a superb achievement and great press.

H&M has been recognised for this scheme since 2013, offering customers an incentive with £5 vouchers to spend in store per bag of clothes donated. Additional high street names including &Other Stories have followed suit giving customers the chance to swap unwanted clothes, textiles and beauty packaging in their stories in exchange for a ‘recycling treat’ voucher which takes 10% off purchases.

These schemes have become popular in recent years due to the popularity in ‘Mary Kondo-ing’, inspiring people to have a good sort out of their wardrobes.

It was reported in Spring 2017 that Britain alone was expected to send 235m items of clothing to refill, the majority of which could have been re-worn, reused or recycled. This scarily high statistic is putting major retailers under pressure to tackle the waste. The owner of brands including Gucci and Alexander McQueen have also agreed to set targets for garment collection by 2020.

Further to this, in July 2018 it was publicised that Burberry, the upmarket British fashion label, had been destroying unsold clothes, accessories and perfume (worth £28.6m in 2017 alone) causing outrage across consumers in a bid to maintain its exclusivity. Burberry defended its actions saying that the energy generating from burning its products was captured, making it environmentally friendly. After a huge backlash, it was announced in September 2018 that the fashion label would stop burning unsold goods as well as using real fur. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) foundation, which had been long campaigning against the brand that had been using rabbit, fox, mink and Asiatic racoon fur in its collections welcomed Burberry’s decision.

It was also reported last year that the second largest fashion website in the UK, ASOS, had updated its animal welfare policy, looking to stop stocking products using feathers, silk, cashmere and mohair by January 2019. This comes after Peta’s claims that the mohair, cashmere, down and silk industries “exploit countless goats, geese, ducks and silkworms, causing these sentient beings unnecessary pain and suffering.” Brands including Zara, Boohoo, Primark, Topshop and Gap all followed suit, pledging to stop using mohair. ASOS had already banned fur, angora and other rabbit hair, all materials used from vulnerable animals.

All of this is a step in the right direction to not only help decrease landfill but also shows that brands are listening to consumer demands to ensure that clothing is considered to be more ethical. Does this make you think about what’s in your wardrobe and how you dispose of unwanted clothes? It certainly has for me.