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Sustainable fashion exhibition at Leeds Museum showcases ‘slow’ and ‘fast’ shopping

Sustainable shopping for clothes in Leeds

By Samantha Lewis

Please note material for this article was gathered before COVID-19 lockdown.

Leeds City Museum is holding a fashion exhibition which explores how shopping in Leeds has changed over 300 years.

The exhibition looks at how handmade and sustainable fashion, is making a resurgence in an age of climate change action.

There are 27 garments across three sections that highlight different aspects of consumption, these include bespoke, ethical consumption and ready to wear.

The exhibition shows how ‘slow’ fashion has become ‘fast’, but also how being more sustainable draws similarities to fashion trends 300 years ago.

Vanessa Jones, assistant curator of fashion and textiles at Leeds City Museum, said: “This idea of sustainable or ethical consumption, people are much more aware of their consumer behaviour.

“We’ve tried to look at how people now do that, but also people in the past have been more sustainable and ethical, in their consumption choices but how it was a necessity, not necessarily because they want to be sustainable”.

The exhibition will run until Thursday 21 May 2020, with a series of talks and workshops throughout.

Sustainable Fashion Campaigns

There are several ethical clothing campaigns that have a zero-waste ethos and strive to reduce the environmental impact of clothing.

Among these campaigns is Fashion Revolution Week, launched in 2013 (24 April) to commemorate the deaths of over 1,100 people and 2,500 injured in the Rana Plaza Collapse – an eight-story building which housed a number of clothing factories and around 5,000 employees,

The Campaign sees demand for greater transparency in the fashion supply chain, where people can use the hashtag on Twitter #whomademyclothes to gain insight into the industry.

High street in Leeds

Manufacturers, brands and producers are encouraged to take part and respond with: #Imadeyourclothes.

A Fashion Revolution supporter (and contributor to the hashtag) Izzy Mcleod, 23, said: “If companies were more open about where our products come from, then we’d be more inclined to support them, until then, shop second hand.”

Izzy also created a digital campaign for people to participate in throughout the week – she wanted people to still be able to learn and get involved even if they couldn’t leave the house. To get involved, use the hashtags and tag @muccycloud on social media.

‘Love Your Clothes’ is another campaign, established in 2014, which aims to raise awareness of the value of clothing, and to encourage people to repurpose the clothes they already own.

The Love Your Clothes website offers advice and information on purchasing, disposing and reusing clothes.

Taking Part

Fast fashion brands have begun to take part, and are now producing clothing lines that claim to be ethical such as H&M with their Conscious Collection range, and ASOS with ‘Responsible Edit’.

As people are becoming more conscious of their fashion purchases, the option to buy clothes with an ethical ethos (not to mention brand new) is in a sense, killing two birds with one stone.

ZaraMia, owner of ZaraMia Ava – a zero-waste exclusive independent label – said: “Quite a lot of fast fashion brands are greenwashing, saying they are ethical and sustainable but are lying just to follow the growing trend. They need to have transparency and credibility.

“More and more brands are understanding the importance of sustainability and consumers are becoming more aware. It’s all about education and for people to see the benefits.”

Another way to take part in shopping for clothes sustainably is by heading to a charity shop, or attending a local Kilo Sale – a preloved sale, bought by the kilo.

ZaraMai said that this is one way of being ethical as it helps the circular economy, and prevents huge amounts of garments from going to landfill.

Clothing lines claim to be ethical

Second hand clothes from charity shops are ethical

Clothing gone to landfill

*According to Wrap, the value of unused clothing we own is estimated at around £30 billion.

*350,000 tonnes which equates to £140 million worth of clothing goes to landfill each year.

*In the UK, the average lifespan for a garment of clothing is roughly two and a half years. Extending this by nine months can significantly reduce its environmental impact.

*ClothesAid’s statistics claim that 700,000 tonnes of clothing in the UK is recycled – which is enough to fill 459 Olympic-size swimming pools.

Leia Gurnhill, a student at Leeds Art University said: “I think that people are taking their shopping choices more seriously, although buying clothes brand new because they are more ethical doesn’t make sense.”

She goes on to explain how conscious clothing decisions can also include reusing and repurposing clothing, which is a sustainable and ethical choice.

The idea of sustainability and fashion cannot be said to be a new one, as it is seen from the exhibition, that three centuries ago it was a necessity.

Now it’s becoming a trend, the norm. We are more conscious in the choices we make so that we so that we can protect the environment.

What do you think?