Yves Saint Laurent wasn’t wrong. Image modified, original by Photoshelter
It’s a very exciting time to be working in fashion, as the mechanisms of change are busy at work. From within fashion, expressing your individual style has ironically become the latest trend. Meanwhile, the issue of sustainability is one that inevitably needs to be addressed. I think both of these changes have the potential to work together, and in turn form the blueprint for the near-future of sustainable fashion.
The Sustainability of Style
Fashion always has been and always will be ever-changing. Trends will continue their ebb and flow through the seasons, and new designs will forever be exciting to discover. After all, at the heart of fashion lies a vivacious creativity. Zandra Rhodes sums it up succinctly when she proclaims: “the only constant in fashion is change”.
But one fashion blogger has reframed the future of the trend for me. Over the weekend, I stumbled across a blog from last year by Leandra Medine, in which she talks about the slow process of building your own individual style. She identifies ours as a post-trend era, which values the unique, the original, the personal. So she writes a call to arms, encouraging fashionistas to initiate some good old fashioned self-discovery.
“Good style doesn’t mean consistently changing. It means learning to make the same point over and over through the use of different methods. Maybe that means prints or colors or silhouettes that deviate only slightly.”
Her emphasis on learning to make the same point chimes with the aspect of sustainable fashion that requires research and depth. If a staple of your look is loafers, then you can really spend time hunting for your most favourite pairs, and alternate them in your everyday looks. Spending time researching is also part of the sustainable fashion movement, as it takes a dedicated Google search or three to find beautiful sustainable fashion from brands that are built upon a commitment to ethical production. The more research into the fashion you wear, the better you like it and the better its made.
As a form of self-expression, style is particularly powerful. I’ve always seen appearance as an important part of communication, be it of your identity, values or mood. Exploring and building upon your own individual style will be a gradual process, but an important one. Yves Saint Laurent wasn’t wrong when he said fashion fades, but style is eternal.
The rise of personal style coincides with the pressing need to deal with the issue of sustainability in fashion. As the fashion industry is the second biggest polluter after oil, practices need to be drastically scrutinised, and pronto. To catalyse this change, this issue needs to be addressed from both the retail side and the consumer side. Of course, it takes two to tango.
Fast Fashion vs Slow Fashion
Fast fashion is cheap and convenient, but it relies heavily on transient trends. If the aim of the game is to be wearing a trend as quickly as possible, then quality and ethics get overlooked. I’ve got my fingers burned (metaphorically) by cheap, poor quality shoes in the past that have eroded away into dust after a handful of cursory outings. The money I spent on those shoes was totally wasted. But if you buy two good quality pairs of shoes that fit into your personal style over a year, overall you’ll spend less money than buying many shoes at cheaper prices. Cheap fashion is proving to be a false economy. Not only does it damage the environment, but it adds nothing to your personal style in the long run.
As personal style takes centre stage and you decide on your definitive garments and shoes, the time pressure loosens its grip, and you’re free to forage the internet for responsibly produced, long-lasting items that fit your look. At the core of Beyond Skin, we are focused on finding innovative, high quality, durable and ethical materials to create irresistible shoes, worthy of merit for their aesthetics alone. Our pursuit of even more environmentally friendly materials is ongoing, and as more materials are created, we include them in our collections. Next season, our PU will be 100% recycled and uses vegetable polymers for the faux leather coating, minimising our footprint even further. (And I’ll never tire of telling people that – I’m far too excited! This is the virtual equivalent to shouting it from the rooftops). Throughout this blog, the pieces I’ve chosen when creating ethical outfits are always versatile, designed to become a part of your wardrobe for many moons, like our shoes. Versatility is emerging as an important aspect to consider when buying sustainable fashion.
As my wardrobe has grown, so has the confidence to wear brighter, bolder pieces, that amplify and elaborate on my personal style. For example, part of my style is statement shoes, so I’ve been fawning over our Izzy pewter Mary-Janes, match-making them with a slouchy off-white cotton jumper and grey acid-wash skinnies, or with a simple understated wrap dress in charcoal. Because I will always have a place in my look (and my heart) for pewter shoes, I will find no end of outfit combinations for them.
Sustainable Fashion = The Future
The need for sustainability coincides happily with the organic rise of personal style in fashion, as they both embrace sustainable fashion. The search for sustainable fashion can therefore be combined with unearthing and exploring your individual style, which sounds less like a struggle and more like a delicious way to spend a quiet Sunday afternoon.