Sustainability on the High street

Sustainability on the High street

{ Three of my favourite buys from the High street: H&M Conscious tee, COS turtleneck sweater, & Other Stories pants }

On this journey, learning more and more about sustainability, not only from a professional standpoint, but also especially as a consumer of fashion, I have thought about sustainability on the high street many times, and whether or not it can exist.

The high street, consisting of fast fashion companies that changes the goods on their store selves faster than ever, are the result of a linear business model brilliantly explained in this 20 minute film; “The Story of Stuff“. The film shortly and accurately shows what our linear consumption is doing to the planet, and fast fashion companies on the high street are perfect examples of this linear business model, where more and more stuff is produced, only to end up in landfills.

Many advocates for sustainable fashion talk about how fast fashion companies are ruining the lives of the people in the production, the planet in general and the environment locally, as well as creating a superficial and constant need for something new for their consumers. While I agree that all this is true, I also feel they forget the power of large corporations and how, if they use that power correctly, can actually help drive change faster than smaller fashion designers and companies can.

For example; H&M is one of the leading users of organic cotton in the world, which increases the demand for it. Furthermore, they are helping drive change in the consumers’ mind-set with their take-back system and collections produced from recycled materials. Levi’s has helped develop new technologies to produce jeans, using less water. And G-star Raw created jeans out of recycled plastic bottles. While there will always be the question of green washing, I think all of this helps create awareness, which will make the consumers ask questions and be more aware of their own consumption.

While fast fashion companies’ supply chain might still lack transparency, and the conditions under which a lot of their garments are produced and the speed with which they produce them are not sustainable and never will be, I think it’s time we start talking about how these large companies can change their business model instead of advocating against them all together.

Fashion wise I love a lot of the stuff the high street produces. I’ve talked about my love for COS and & Other Stories before, and the simple, Scandinavian, minimalistic style a lot of their garments have, I can’t seem to find in sustainable fashion. When looking at sustainable brands I often find the story of sustainability, to be the most important thing. A lot of the time I don’t think the clothes speak for themselves and if I do not absolutely love it for how it looks on me, I will never buy it, no matter how sustainable it is.

While slow fashion, good quality garments and a transparent supply chain is still my hopes for the future of fashion, I think we need to understand how we can as consumers can help drive the change by demanding it from the fast fashion companies on the high street. I know I’ll continue shopping on the high street, because it’s convenient and affordable, but I’ve stopped just mindlessly buying whatever I want and when I do buy, I choose quality over quantity. At H&M I only buy garments from their conscious collections. At COS and & Other Stories I’m choosing mono-materials, quality fabrics and classic styles. To me, that is sustainability on the high street. At least it’s a start.

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Hella Lynggaard

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