Fashion & Sustainability by Kate Fletcher and Lynda Grose

After attending a CSA Western region event back in 2008 (see my review of “Fashion Conscious” at UC Davis), I became interested in the ethics of producing the fashions that eventually become fashion history. The conversation about the impact the fashion industry is having on our environment continues to grow and change, and this is being reflected in the cannon of literature covering the topic. Fashion & Sustainability by Kate Fletcher and Lynda Grose, smartly uses the second half of their book to discuss “ideas that are transforming the fashion system at root into something more sustainable.”

I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear the words “fashion system,” I immediately think of Roland Bathes. However, here are what Fletcher and Grose have to say on the subject when considering sustainability:

Betabrand's commuter cycling pants with reflective pockets and hems (a San Francisco Company)

“However much we innovate and act to improve the sustainability credentials of a piece of clothing, the benefits brought by these changes are always restricted by the behaviour of the person who buys it. Producing a garment with lower-impact fibre or better labour conditions, while important, changes the overall system very little, for these ‘better’ fibres and pieces are made into the same sorts of garments, sold by the same retailers and then worn and washed in the same way as before. Part Two of this book explores new ways of engaging with the process of sustainability in fashion, starting at a point that acknowledges the profound and multiple challenges inherent in bringing together sustainability, the fashion industry and our economic system based on growth.”

Fletcher and Grose go on to explore nine different concepts: Adaptability, optimized lifetimes, low-impact use, service and sharing, local, biomimicry, speed, needs and engaged – all of which present creative ways that various designers and innovators are thinking about the design and use of clothing. Not exactly Roland Barthes – but perhaps a bit more practical?


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