Well hello again PT fam’!
I must really be going for this whole blog thing if I’m using click-bait titles eh? But I assure you, the tabloid-esque nature of today’s title does serve as a worthy synopsis of what I will be discussing, just perhaps not in the nature you suspected. I am putting the above question out there to truly discover who does care about sustainability in fashion, from both the consumer and the manufacturers/brands point of view.
Lets start with you. Do you care where your clothes come from and who made them? Moreover, have you ever even contemplated anything beyond the price and the sense of elation your new clothes bring you? No? Well me neither for the most part. Nonetheless this doesn’t mean you and I, the consumers, should be completely oblivious to the effects our fashion spending habits have on a more global scale.
Now before I say anything more I must lay down my little disclaimer of innocence to ensure the fashion police don’t apprehend me upon publishing this. I AM IN NO WAY, SHAPE OR FORM ENDORSING OR LOOKING TO DEFAME ANY PERSON, BRAND OR STORE. This is very simply a discussion I would like to start and potentially help provoke a few thoughts in anybody who might be nice enough to read this. We could all do more to help this planet we live on, myself and Primetime included. However this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t at least be somewhat conscious of our actions and have a general understanding for what’s going on out there in the big bad world. Ever heard of Rana Plaza? Probably not as it dipped in and out of mainstream media as fast as every other modern day tragedy. Well Rana Plaza was the manufacturing factory that collapsed in Bangladesh in 2013 leaving over 1,100 people dead. Despite being well publicized at the time this disaster quickly faded into the history books leaving any brands that manufactured in this building relatively unscathed and not held accountable for being part of the problem. Did Primark (Penneys), Matalan and Monsoon directly go out and murder these factory workers? Absolutely not! Could they have done more to ensure their factories maintained higher standards? Irrefutably. Now I don’t expect anyone to take up arms against these companies and picket protest outside their stores but maybe we should think twice about who we go to for our fashion fix.
As a budding young business brain I completely understand how it is fast-fashion has arrived at this point, however that doesn’t make it right. With such high pressures on margin, competition for market-space and the rise of Asian super factories I can definitely comprehend how making a t-shirt for 10c a unit is more appealing to a corporate exec. than putting it out at €1.10 per unit. Although my comprehension isn’t to be mistaken for empathy. Sometimes doing the right thing is simply more important and as I was once advised by a business mentor, “Don’t fuck people in business”. So how do we fix this glaring injustice in the world of fashion? Well unfortunately the answer is what none of us want to hear – ‘pay more’.
This brings us nicely on to the role of the manufacturers in this conundrum. Well to put it frankly, the onus has to put on these brands to find a happy middle-ground in which they can;
1) Make enough money to be profitable and grow as a business.
2) Ensure they are doing their utmost to adhere to best practices in terms of both the environment and the human rights of the workers.
3) Combining point 1 & 2 to arrive at a price that allows customers to engage with the brand on a recurring basis.
To provide examples of how and where this is being done I have highlighted a few of our greenest and most conscious brands that can be found in store. First up we have the good folks over at Swedish-based denim brand Cheap Monday. A staff favorite, currently enjoying its third season in Primetime, Cheap Monday do an outstanding job of offering a cost-effective pricing structure as well as good quality, sustainable product. Here is what they have to say for themselves on the ‘sustainability’ section on their website:
“All our business partners signs our Sustainability Commitment to ensure that they work in accordance with our requirements and dedication to secure good working conditions, human rights, animal welfare and care for the environment. The sustainability commitment covers a range of internationally agreed standards (e.g. the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the International Labour Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights) along with a number of multilateral conventions and multi-stakeholder standards and guidelines on human rights, environment and animal welfare issues. Some of the issues being addressed in our Sustainability Commitment are:
-No child labour
-No forced, bonded or prison labour
-No excessive working hours
-Fair living wage
-Safe and healthy working conditions
-A legally binding employment contract
-Freedom of association”
Bravo to you Cheap Monday. With an average retail price of €50 these guys have clearly found a way to sit comfortably within the previously mentioned trifecta of sustainability, profitability and affordability.
Next up the greenest of them all, Skunkfunk. Based out of the Basque region in Northern Spain, Skunkfunk are undoubtedly one of the industry’s leaders when it comes to Eco-friendly fashion boasting feathers in their cap such as a paperless head office and a full ‘zero waste’ collection which encompasses full usage of each textile when pattern cutting. Too much excess material? Why not make an extra pocket or belt loop? Instead of me paraphrasing here’s an excerpt from their website outlining their mantra when it comes to their environmentally friendly approach;
“We firmly believe in changing the fashion industry, that’s why we make our clothes with sustainable fabric, natural fibers and organic cotton. Also, we integrate the sustainability in an holistic way within all of our processes; from the picking of the raw materials to goods transportation.”
I have often debated with our dear customers regarding the price of Skunkfunk when questioned on the issue and I simply position my argument as follows: If a Louis Vuitton dress is expensive at €500+ and a Penney’s dress is cheap at €15 then what price related adjective would you attach to a €90 dress that is completely fair trade and has been produced in the most environmentally friendly way possible? I would choose ‘fair’.
Moving swiftly on I couldn’t forget about our good friends at Monkee Genes. Born in 2006 as the brainchild of a wonderful man by the name of Phil Wildboar, Monkee Genes set out to change the lie of the land when it came to mainstream denim and pants culture. Having got to know Phil and his brand on a personal level they truly do embody their brands ethos to the fullest extent, going as far as visiting the factories where the garments are made to ensure that their high standards are being met. Here’s what the team had to say for themselves regarding the brands identity and ethics:
Pictured Above; Mr.Wildboar paying a visit to one their manufactures in Turkey
“The Monkee business all started in 2006. The brand was born out of the frustration of the denim market, to offer something fresh vibrant and youthful. Disillusioned with Primark and other disposable high street fashion, the Monkee Genes team decided to raise public consciousness. Our ethos means all factory working standards are vetted and considered as important as the environmental factors. This involves each and every stage of the process being examined, from the cotton growth and picking to the content of the label and button.”
Pictured Above; The Monkee Genes mantra that can be found on every pant
Before I wrap this up I would also like to give an honorable mention to one of our longest standing and most popular brands, Element. Whilst taking steps towards being more ecologically efficient such as shifting a large chunk of it’s manufacturing over to solar-powered factories, Element have gone one step further by putting what they preach into practice via their innovative ‘camp’ initiative. To give a brief overview of what is entailed in this initiative, the clever clogs at Element have decided to syphon off a percentage of their profits each year and redirect it into establishing and running nature based camps for disadvantaged youth. Elemental Awareness’ unique wilderness survival curriculum teaches youth to feel confident about how they relate to their natural surroundings. These take place every summer, delivering intensive courses at Element Skate Camp where campers learn the basics of survival: shelter building, friction fire, spoon/ bowl making, archery, and much more. Whilst this may not be directly linked to better manufacturing and sustainable practices I feel it still gives a snapshot of the type of brand Element are striving to be and lets us the consumer know that they are more than just a faceless entity looking get their hands on our cash and maximize profits.
So there we have it folks, Fin’s rough and ready guide to the pitfalls of sustainability in fast-fashion. I have not written this piece to encourage the boycotting of the high-Street, nor have I written this to encourage left-wing vegans to only wear hemp clothing. This is simply a conversation that is not brought up frequently enough that I felt needed to be touched upon. Furthermore it also provides context for why certain brands make it into the somewhat environmentally conscious utopia that is Primetime. No one needs to go overhauling their lifestyle tomorrow morning with reusable coffee cups and non-packaged fruit and veg, but perhaps next time you buy a pair of jeans for €9 in Mahon Point take a moment to consider all the potential repercussions of that purchase and who maybe had to suffer for you to snag such a bargain.
As always, peace and love,