Lucy Siegle is the most prominent journalist in the UK exposing the dark underbelly of the fashion industry. So it was with much anticipation that I read her recently published book, To Die For. Lucy is the ethical colunmist for The Observer.
A passioned, yet rigourously researched study of the whole industry from high street to luxury conglomerates, Lucy uncovers foul practice far and wide. Not much was a surprise to me (obviously preaching to the converted) but knowing the detail and travelling the journey was affecting in the way it should be. Depressingly, I have to say that it made me feel rather like giving up what I do. The oceanic forces seemed to be going the other way from the structure of globalised fashion to the way consumers are buying and following trends. I found particularly interesting, though appalling, her study of fashion trends (micro-trends/cheapskating etc), the relationship to celebrity culture and seismic change that has taken place in wardrobe growth.
She charts the environmental impact of the fashion industry from the consumer perspective to the global corporates but the real thrust of this opus is the ethical analysis: what's fair and just. For a comprehensive view of textiles from a sustainable perspective I also recommend Kate Fletcher's Sustainable Textile Journeys.
I like the way she brings it back to our own wardrobes time and time again, making it relevant. Her conclusion, or so it seemed to me, was to spend a little more, buy for the long term (special pieces) rather than being a trend slave, ask the right questions when out shopping about where your clothes are produced and by whom, and consider environmental impact of the garment through its whole life cycle.
It made me think about style and how developing your own style is a good way of future-proofing yourself against trends. If you develop your own style you have a confidence to wear colours in your own way, try silhouettes, play with texture, combine different looks without having to be a slave to trend. Develop a love of clothes that's based on who you are and what delights you rather than taking the lead from mags and celebs. This might be what we can give others: help them detatch themselves from that so-called 'democratising' force of cheap clothing and unleash their own creativity.