Roll your Sleeves Up to help Sustainable Fashion

By John Murray

For those of us losing the rag with the climate change battle, tip the hat to Scotland’s sustainable fashion pioneers providing the belt and braces logic required to save the planet.

Slowly, but hopefully quickly enough to prevent the world bursting at the seams, earth’s inhabitants have realised changes must be made in order to preserve our home for future generations.

But as we listen to reports of the Australian bush fires, crushing up another empty can for the recycling or watch footage of the flood victims in Hawick while munching on a vegan sausage roll, do we consider the damage done by throwing away a T-shirt or an old pair of trousers?

Last week a UWS News feature garnered insight from Lynn Wilson, an expert in sustainable fashion, on how we change our habits to alleviate sending 30,000 tonnes of unwanted clothes to Scotland’s landfill sites every year.

“There’s a huge debate at the moment saying consumers must slow down [when it comes to buying clothes] and what we need to use faster and what we need to use slower,” says Lynn.

‘Fast fashion’ was a term designers used to describe clothing creations moving from the catwalk to the high street quickly but nowadays the term is also synonymous with how quickly clothes end up in the waste so soon after they have been made.

Slow fashion is its antithesis. It encourages manufacturers to produce clothes in way they’ll last longer and consumers to consider what they’re purchasing and how to recycle garments if possible.

Last January, Siobhan McKenna opened, Rejean, a new shop in the Barrowlands area of Glasgow selling bespoke, workwear style denim jackets made completely from recycled denim. However, the 28-year-old knows the difficulty clothing consumers face.

“It’s hard. If you need a new pair of knickers or a top it is much easier to just go out and buy them than go to an eco-friendly site and pay way more.

“But the fashion revolution is gaining more traction year on year and while its been toxic on nearly every level we can work harder and get people to change.”

“We need to slow down peoples consumption,” agrees Izzie Erikson, one of five directors involved with ApparelXchange, a slow fashion business model focusing on the sale of reconditioned school age children’s clothes.

“A lot of it is about educating people. Some people have no idea about the true cost of what they are doing when they get rid of old clothes. Don’t throw it away. Think about donating it to charity shops – using second hand.

“We have a caring business model. We rely on donations for a lot of our success.” 

ApparelXchange has collection points in schools where it collects old clothes. In addition, it relies on people making donations to its premises in the St Enoch Centre, Glasgow. The company’s staff, a trained group of volunteers, sifts through the collections and anything not considered worthy of sale is ‘recycled with a registered textile recycling provider’.

Garments making the grade are washed and prepared for sale in the shop.

The unique business is leading the way with a new leasing model where customers can pay an annual fee, which varies depending on the items they need, to lease clothes. The benefits are parents exchange their children’s clothes as they grow, they can pick from a wide range of styles and colours and any expense is completely minimised. The top-drawer reason for choosing this way of shopping is the environment comes first.

“The leasing model would work for buying all types of stuff. We don’t have to own our appliances like washing machines. We could lease them, trade them in and have the company replace us with another one and fix things when they go wrong,” says Izzie.

“For our model, we did a trial with eight families and it went really well.”

Both Izzie and Siobhan place Glasgow as a city perfect to sit at forefront of the clothing revolution. ApparelXchange is holding its ‘first sustainable fashion event’ on Friday, February 28 at its store in St Enoch. 

“Glasgow is a city known for style. One of the things we’ve been doing is working with students from Caledonian University doing a masters in international fashion marketing. 

“We want to collaborate with more like-minded people to become a stronger force,” says Izzie.

After achieving an HND in fashion textiles at Cardonald College in 2012, Siobhan headed down south and completed a degree at Manchester Metropolitan. With her studies complete she headed to London figuring it was the best place to find a job.

“I 100 per cent didn’t think twice about staying in Glasgow but I’m so glad I came back here because the creative community is great.”

It was while working amongst the ‘denim heads’ at a Levis Store in London, Siobhan had her epiphany.

“That was where the seed started to grow. I was cutting up perfectly good jeans to make hot-pants for girls.

“They were the trend at the time but I hated wasting all the denim, It’s such a great fabric.”

Anyone wishing to attend the ApparelXchange sustainable fashion event should contact emma@apparelxchange.co.uk. for more details. It’s on from 4pm till 7pm at the organisation’s shop in the St Enoch Centre. 

Categories: environment, Fashion

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