A Month of Responsible Shopping

One of the underlying themes for December has been sustainable shopping – from thinking of what to buy for Christmas in London, to visiting all my fav sustainable brands in India this week, such as Good Earth and Anokhi. For friends, family and colleagues this Christmas, I bought some wonderful hampers from Social Supermarket, gorgeous Huski Home coffee cups made from recycled rice husks, and the divine products from Forest Essentials.

#Currentlywearing an Anokhi dress, I have my Stella sunglasses on, and I am in Ekaya – a saree store in Ahmedabad where fabrics and sarees have been made by Banarasi weavers.

For now, let’s focus on my sunglasses! Stella McCartney is on a mission to lead her brand towards a sustainable, circular fashion future, collaborating across the fashion industry to employ regenerative strategies at every step, from sourcing to material innovation.

A few weeks ago, I was invited by a dear friend, Sonal, to a private event at Stella McCartney, arranged by Mishcon de Reya, where we got the chance to shop and look at the collection, but more importantly to hear Stella’s team speak about their brand’s restorative vision for the fashion industry. It was really enlightening to learn how a luxury brand has been able to not only find sustainable solutions to creating stunning fabrics for handbags and clothes but, more recently, working to find out what fabrics can be used to fight climate change.

“The future of fashion necessitates creating materials using methods that do not just take from Mother Earth, but give back to her”

The Stella McCartney team is dedicated to breaking linear and extractive production methods. To this end, they have developed regenerative sourcing methods for cotton and wool which do not destroy the land or soil but focus instead on restoring soil fertility and increasing biodiversity. Using nature-positive approaches to farming and fibre production, they have made beautiful bags and garments using Bolt Threads’ sustainable leather substitute, Mylo™, made entirely from mycelium, the underground root structure of mushrooms.

These are just a few examples of the vast amount of research, innovation and future-thinking the Stella team are engaging in. It was inspiring to learn about how many holistic approaches can be employed in the fashion industry in super imaginative ways.

Given the work that I do in the modern slavery space, one thing that always sticks with me is the importance of the role of the consumer. We must understand the power we have in our day-to-day decisions and also learn to ask the right questions: Where are we buying from? Who are we supporting? Which brands are making climate-conscious decisions? How can we also be a part of the solution?

One of the biggest obstacles we currently face as consumers is being able to discern which brands are greenwashing – a tactic used by brands to deceive customers into believing that they are environmentally friendly in their production processes or have a greater positive environmental impact than they actually do. As this becomes more common, we also should be demanding more from the brands we buy from, rejecting tick box exercises, and educating ourselves on brand ethics and procedures around climate justice and their green policies.

I have recently been recommended Good On You which is an app designed to empower consumers to easily check the impact of their favourite fashion brands on issues ranging from the climate crisis to labour rights. The app helps customers discover more conscious alternatives and educates users about sustainable shopping. Buying sustainably can be unaffordable and inaccessible to most, so a great thing about this app is that it also has special offers to help combat high prices. It’s a great tool to have at our disposal in the lead up to Christmas and generally, enabling us all to take part in changing the landscape of retail shopping.

I want to extend a huge thanks to the Stella McCartney team for leading the way and inspiring others. It was a pleasure to learn more about the great work you are doing in the fashion industry and to witness the eco-consciousness that is developing amongst brands and consumers. I’m sure that over time the Christmas rush for unsustainable presents will be replaced with a more meaningful and mindful shopping culture.