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Editor's Comment: Fashion faces up to its sustainable future

Keely Stocker

Sustainability has been a key theme in the fashion industry over the last 12 months but hosting the first ever Drapers Sustainable Fashion event last week highlighted how widespread the ambition is for fashion businesses to move towards a greener future.

Originally dismissed by some as just a trend, speakers at the event showed how they are fundamentally changing their businesses to become more sustainable. Not only is this morally the right thing to do, it will also set them up for the future. In the words of Mary Creagh MP, chair of the House of Commons environmental audit committee, who opened the event, “Sustainability should be at the top of the fashion industry’s agenda and a fundamental requirement for business.”

Our event taught me a few things. First is the huge groundswell of excitement about the topic within fashion itself. While CEO engagement still needs to build, we saw hundreds of passionate sustainability directors who care about making their industry a force for good. For anyone struggling with recruitment or wanting to remain relevant for both staff and consumers, this is a topic to focus on. 

Second is that wishy-washy, PR-driven projects are not enough. Now is the time for genuine change. Fashion businesses need to move to a circular model – there should be procrastination over investment. The status quo is untenable. 

It also taught us that there is hope. Initiatives showcased at the event ranged from Marks & Spencer sustainably sourcing 100% of its cotton, using less water and pesticides and supporting thousands of farmers, to Burberry cutting energy use in stores, moving towards 100% renewable energy, reusing raw materials and repurposing finished goods. 

Fashion designer and activist Katharine Hamnett, meanwhile, highlighted how attitudes have changed since she overhauled her business in 1989.

There is still a long way to go. Creagh revealed that in the UK less than 1% of clothing is currently recycled, and the average piece of clothing is worn just seven times. However, speakers throughout the day warned a consumer mindset shift is happening and, as this grows, retailers that are not open about their sustainability credentials risk getting left behind. 

The event hit home that the industry needs to work collaboratively towards sustainability, being transparent with their initiatives and sharing knowledge and resource to drive sustainable fashion forward.

With that in mind, we have launched a survey to start building a picture of where our industry is at, and what we need to do. Please do take part and tell us your views at . 

If you are interested in sponsorship opportunities at the next Drapers Sustainable Fashion event, please Paul Stewart, Drapers commercial director, on 020 3953 2054 or 07892 716686 or email [email protected]

Draper sustainable fashion scribing 50cm

The 300- attendees at the sold-out Drapers Sustainable Fashion event last week were invited to make pledges on sustainability in their businesses and graffiti artist James the Scribe incorporated some of them into a giant wall mural

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