The Big Green Debate on Fashion

The Big Green Debate, held as part of the London College of Fashion's "Is Green the New Black?" activities, had some real heavyweights: Mike Barry from Marks & Spencer, Lucy Siegle, the queen of ethical newspaper columnists, Lucille Lewin, founder of Whistles, a popular clothing chain and a spokesperson for the Green Party. However there was not much debate; more of a discussion of some of the issues affecting green fashion and the fashion media. The first speaker was Lucy Siegle (pictured right), defining green fashion. She was articulate, lively, and very knowledgeable. She is very concerned about the social aspect such as workers’ rights and fair trade since 14% of the world’s workforce has something to do with the garment trade. The founder of Whistles was there (pictured left) as a representative of small business and if her views are representative then green fashion has a long way to go. She didn’t know anything about green fashion, said that she hadn’t thought about it until this evening and it was too expensive. She did have a bit of an epiphany when she realized that she no longer bought her apples pre-packaged. We may see something new there yet. Mike Barry is the Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Marks & Spencer, the biggest clothing retailer in the UK. As such many questions were directed at him. M&S; has now bought one third of the world’s fair-trade cotton supply. This means that there is a lot less for everyone else who wants to get into that area. One young designer complained that she was unable to buy it because she only wanted small amounts. He admitted that they were working to get more farmers to grow it.

Labelling of clothing was discussed—most labels reveal little or no information. M&S; now puts a washing temperature of 30 degrees on its labels. The lack of recycling of clothing was a great concern, as is the need for the government to get involved, since 80% of all clothing ends up in the landfill sites. Many wondered why the fashion media wasn’t more responsive to the green story. But journalists there explained that the media goes for the novelty, so they need new products all the time. It is harder to work with the smaller labels because they don’t have the product or the time. In addition they agreed that fashion journalists mainly write about coveted and sexy items and were not political. Although everyone agreed that we should buy fewer and better clothing, no one had much hope that the fast fashion craze would be over soon. :: London College of Fashion

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