Let’s get ethical: does fashion have a conscience?

Style: High-street brands are making efforts, while closer to home we even have a dress made from farming waste

H&M Conscious Collection dress (€199).

H&M Conscious Collection dress (€199).

 

Pricey organic T-shirts and scratchy hemp may be the first things that spring to mind when you picture ethical fashion. But over the past few years “conscious fashion” that is both desirable and fashionable has been on the rise. Sustainability is also now glamorous enough to have celebrity supporters – with Rooney Mara, Olivia Munn, and Emma Roberts all donning ethical gowns to this years Oscars as part of the Green Carpet Challenge.

Eco-collections have now become a regular part of the high-street’s output each season. But are they simply token gestures or is the high street finally addressing issues in environmental wastage, unregulated manufacturing and the fast pace of the fashion system itself? 

Mango Committed collection dress, €99.95.
Mango Committed collection dress, €99.95.

Mango is the latest high-street store to make moves in the ethical production front with their 45-piece sustainable collection, Mango Committed. Purposefully neutral and natural in colour – it’s all about minimalist shapes rendered in earthy tones.

Mango Committed jacket (€69.95), T-shirt (€15.95), and jeans (€39.95).
Mango Committed jacket (€69.95), T-shirt (€15.95), and jeans (€39.95).

To create the collection, the brand worked with manufacturers in Morocco, Portugal, and Turkey to source and use fabrics such as organic cotton and recycled polyester. While last season, the reigning champion of all thing fast fashion, Zara, debuted an ethical collection entitled JoinLife. The offering of neutral-toned trousers, tops and dresses are made with materials like organic cotton, recycled wool and Tercel, meant to reduce the brand’s environment impact.

Recycled cardboard

In addition to introducing the new collection, Zara has been making other efforts to be more sustainable – shipping in boxes made of recycled cardboard and adding clothing donation bins in their store.  

Zara JoinLife collection jumper (€39.95), top (€15.95), trousers (€39.95).
Zara JoinLife collection jumper (€39.95), top (€15.95), trousers (€39.95).

Little by little we are edging towards a better high street. At the helm of making sustainability fashionable and accessible to the masses is H&M. Across their entire offering, 26 per cent is now made from sustainable materials with their Conscious collection as a key part of their move towards a more ethical future.

For this year’s Conscious Exclusive collection, H&M is introducing it’s most innovative sustainable material yet – Bionic, a recycled polyester made from plastic shoreline waste (think plastic bottles, takeaway containers, grocery bags). Apart from the ladies’ Conscious pieces, new for this years collection are menswear and childrenswear too.

Competition

And it’s not just the high-street looking towards innovative materials to produce ethical fashion, finalists of the Junk Kouture secondary school competition have been challenged to create unique and original outfits from recycled materials and junk. Sarah Clarke, Jane O’Brien and Rebecca O’Rourke from St Joseph Mercy Secondary School in Navan, made a dress entirely from farming waste such as baler twine, silage wrap, hay netting and turkey feathers. The Tangled Threads team consisting of Aisha Saka, Muireann Carton and Munachi Soribe from Sacred Heart Secondary School, Tullamore, used pre-worn synthetic hair extensions as their material of choice. 

Another Junk Kouture team used pre-worn synthetic hair extensions as their material of choice.
Another Junk Kouture team used pre-worn synthetic hair extensions as their material of choice.

 The Junk Kouture grand final takes place at 3Arena on April 27th. For more information www.junkkouture.com

H&M Conscious Collection launches in selected stores and online on April 20 www.hm.com/ie

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