How Traditionally Sustainable Fashion Rental Looks in the 21st Century

I’m first and foremost a champion of creating fashion shopping habits that support a more sustainable way of life, habits we can keep up without being too damaging to this planet we all love.Because of this, I’m always on the lookout for the best practices, ways to shop that can lower the impact of fast fashion in our lives. While that includes “newer” practices such as shopping for sustainable clothing, there’s also a lot to say about the revival of age-old practices like fashion rental. Fashion rental is hardly new, but it does get some flack pop culture-wise: there’s an old trope, particularly on American TV and film, of young kids renting out bright and inexpensive fashion pieces for big events like proms and weddings. It’s an old stereotype and one that hardly adjusts to reality, particularly with the huge current movement in this part of the industry. Nowadays, renting fashion can be a vehicle to try out different looks at fairly accessible prices, but also taking a step towards a more sustainable fashion industry. The range and style of pieces you can find is extremely wide, from vintage designer clothing to newer collections from exciting and conscious designers, all with varying price tags. 

Photographer: Jose Perez. Wearing Jason Wu, rented from Albright Fashion Library

We all know that fast fashion is problematic: discarded textiles contribute tons of waste every year, and the pervasive idea that clothes are a temporary commodity may be the birth of a chain of events that nearly always ends up in landfills. Every season, the arrival of new collections mean that the previous ones get left behind, immediately less perceived as being less desirable and, hence turning into waste. 

With an increasing number of people looking to live sustainably, clothes rental is steadily becoming a feasible option, particularly when dressing for one-off events. There’s a long tradition of purchasing clothing items for one big outing and then leaving them to gather dust at the back of the closet. We don’t want to be seen in the same special outfit more than once and find no use for it after taking it out for a spin. It’s the kind of scenario that makes fashion rental thrive.

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Mas Salagros, A Magical Eco Resort Right Outside Barcelona

My life can be a little hectic, with a busy career that keeps me travelling on a fairly regular basis and a toddler to care for – and whose childhood I have no intention of missing. When our family look for spots to have a holiday, even for a short weekend getaway, we want a space where we can relax for some down time with the option of action-packed activities if we are up for it. And on this last recent trip to Barcelona, that’s exactly what I got.  An eco resort with a strong focus on sustainability and environmentally friendly practices, which does not compromise on luxury or culinary standards. Sweet.

About 30 minutes away from the busy centre of Barcelona stands Mas Salagros, an eco resort that serves as a haven for mindfulness. Advertised as the first entirely eco-friendly destination in the Iberian peninsula, the resort meets the standards established in European regulations on sustainability in the hospitality industry. More specifically, every single slice of life in this place is crafted to be as eco-friendly as possible. For example, all furniture is handmade in sustainable materials, including the beds and their mattresses. There is an honest commitment to sustainable living, including following energy efficiency practices and using the most organic waste management system possible. These details were what drew me here, so you can imagine I had very high expectations of a spot like this – and I have to say I was quite satisfied. Read more…

Representation Matters In The Sustainable Fashion World

In 2009 the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave a fabulous TED talk called “The Danger of a Single Story,” – a moving piece about what happens when complex human beings and situations are reduced to a single narrative: when Africans, for example, are treated solely as pitiable poor, starving victims with flies on their faces. Her point was that each individual life contains a heterogeneous compilation of stories. If you reduce people to one, you’re taking away their humanity. She ended her talk by saying this, “That when we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.” Personally, I feel the exact same way about sustainable fashion and why it needs to be representative. The eco-warriors of our generation (a title I identify with) do not all look the same or share the same story, but I do believe that the compilation and acknowledgement of our varied efforts, backgrounds and stories can make a difference.

This morning I was sent a link to this fantastic and passionate interview entitled why ‘Why Sustainable Fashion Needs More Color‘. It’s such a great read. I do agree that POC aren’t well represented in the sustainable fashion sector. When I attend key eco-fashion events there are not typically many of ‘us’ in the room, and when we are, we don’t make the mainstream media-facing  cut. I am not exaggerating when I say that all-white panels are depressingly the norm at sustainability conferences, even when the impact of the fashion industry is largely felt by communities of colour – specifically when it comes to manufacturing. That was one of the reasons (not the only or most important one) why being part of the Copenhagen Fashion Summit was such an exciting moment for me – I welcomed the fact that my voice, perspective and contributions were being given a platform – as they should be – with others just as passionate about the space as I have been for the past 8 years. There wasn’t any fanfare about what a person of colour being part of the conversation ‘meant’ and I wasn’t asked to speak for all POC either (thankfully). I was just an expert, like my esteemed panel, being asked for my opinion and to interview my prestigious guests on theirs. I want both, the celebration of our efforts just like those of our non-POC counterparts are celebrated and written about in the media, but I also look forward to representation becoming the norm. Is that too much of an ask?

Panel discussion: The power of creatives from Copenhagen Fashion Summit on Vimeo.

I have followed MelaninASS for some time and say hats off to Dominique Drakeford who has been long since committed to giving POC that voice and a space to shine with MelaninASS. With Red Carpet Green Dress we have always tried to be representative with the talent we choose to represent our ethical fashion campaign at the Oscars (Priyanka Bose, Lakeith Stanfield, Naomie Harris, Laura Harrier were all chosen for their talent and happened to be representative) because, well, why shouldn’t the talent reflect the multicultural world we live in? It would be nuts for it not to.

When it comes to manufacturing even, it is fair to say that a large percentage of the fashion industry is built on the toil of black and brown women in the world, mainly across the continents of Asia, South America and Africa. In 1970, among the biggest garment exporters to the USA for example were Japan, United Kingdom, Canada, Italy and France yet by 2011, the USA was receiving most imports from countries like China, Cambodia, Pakistan, Mexico and Bangladesh. The saying is, ‘If China is the factory of the world, Bangladesh is the tailor’ as apparel makes up more than 80% of Bangladesh’s total exports – with the value of those exports having doubled in the past eight years. In Bangladesh, with 80% of garment workers being women, it’s easy to see why hearing from these many black and brown voices in mainstream spaces and conversations is so necessary and important. How can we talk about how to fix a problem when we don’t speak to the people in the thick of it? They are literally the hands on the garments, sitting on our skin.

I absolutely love that in the article on MelaninASS name checks some of the designers, bloggers and influencers of colour doing great work – in the design world that includes Aliya Wanek, Kanelle, Two Fold, Chelsea Bravo, Printed Pattern People, Bhoomki, Remuse, Chan & Krys, Studio 189, Proclaim and Iyla. I recently wore the incredible Indian womenswear brand Kanelle and it’s one of my favourite brands in the world. Look how gorgeous their pieces are!

Wearing Kanelle

Be sure to read the article and share your thoughts below on or my Instagram post here. Thank you!

Sustainable Toy Brands For Mums Looking To Break The Plastic Cycle – Tenderleaf Toys

Sustainability isn’t just the basis of my work in fashion: it’s a guiding force in my life. I make a very conscious effort to navigate the world through environment-friendly practices, such as trying to cut back on plastic consumption in all areas of life. When I became a mother, this way to see things came with an extra responsibility: I am now raising a small human to be aware of his direct impact on the planet. I wanted to pamper my child with beautiful and fun toys, of course, but I also wanted the things that surround him to be meaningful. And so the quest to find sustainable toys began.

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We love Indian womenswear brand Kanelle

I’m always on the lookout for great brands championing slow fashion, taking many factors into account. I want every item I wear to come from a place of awareness, with less wastage, using organic agriculture that uses less water for irrigation (and is free of poisonous chemicals), fair conditions for workers, and a generally holistic approach to crafting clothes.

One of the tools I use to find clothing items that fit these characteristics is Ikkivi, a slow fashion shop that focuses on selling and promoting Indian brands that match at least two of their core values: the pieces have to be handcrafted, organic, fair, with minimal waste, local or traditional technique, and vegan. Kanelle is one of the brands on this marvellous platform, and it’s been a joy owning one of their pieces: the Asymmetric Lilac Dress. It’s a beautiful handwoven chanderi dress that I’m always proud to wear; it’s not only a gorgeous garment, but there’s a whole set of unique cultural values behind it. I love the care Kanelle puts behind its fashion, crafting clothes that speak volumes.

Out of the six Ikkivi core values, Kanelle fits into four: the pieces are handcrafted, traditionally made, with minimal waste and by workers who are paid and treated fairly. Every item is made by hand in the traditional Indian way, incorporating some modern tailoring elements for two reasons: first, to ease things up for tailors and workers; and, second, to provide a new twist to crafting clothes. The work is a combination of different techniques, combining what has worked with hundreds of years with cutting-edge technology; Kanelle uses block printing, 3D embroidery, and stitch detailing in materials such as linen cotton, chanderi, kota linen, khadi, and silk organza.

While it’s undoubtedly a slow fashion brand, Kanelle focuses its image on its style, which strives to find balance between keeping traditional Indian attire and opening up to modern trends, within the country and well beyond its borders. Designer Kanika Jain is India-born and England-trained, an exciting combination when it comes to creation; she has a background of marketing and fashion studies in London. The style and colours she’s looking to promote never shy away from showcasing her culture, with only a tinge of western sensibilities to connect with her modern outlook on how to dress. The result is breathtaking, with delicate and comfortable garments that expand on the Indian approach to femininity, with lovely overflowing pieces that feel a little like walking around in a cloud. Trendy, minimalistic, and comfortable are some of the words that best describe Kanelle.

Kanika stumbled into the gist of her collection in her New Delhi workshop: as she walked around and saw the beautiful and fashionable women working on her designs, splattering the entire area with colour, she realised she needed to carry that intimate feel to the outside world. Kanelle is a brand made by a woman and inspired by those women who go from style to style effortlessly, particularly the Indian ladies who make fashion look easy. In each item of Kanelle’s apparel, there is a sense of awe towards women with the ability to combine Indian traditional with a modern approach while also adding a few western elements here and there.

Keeping the precious secrets and practices of traditional creation is an essential part of sustainability, particularly when it pertains to fashion. The massification of clothes is only a few decades old, yet the need to clothe ourselves and look stylish while doing so has been going on for centuries. Every culture on Earth has included part of its soul into garments, and it’s our duty as a society to uphold the values and techniques that have worked for generations. The way each piece of cloth is created, treated, dyed and sewed must be preserved as not only a greener manner of living on this Earth but also as a respectful way to the creations of the cultures of the world.

I love the work of brands like Kanelle, those that strive to take the traditional out of corners and expand it to new horizons. Seeing fashion evolve to a different feel while retaining what makes it unique is always a joy to watch – and wear. Visit the official website here.

Sustainable time-keeping? We love VOTCH Watches!

Sustainable fashion doesn’t end at clothes any more than fast fashion does. Accessorising is important to any fashion lover, even those of us who strive to be conscious about what we wear. What’s interesting is that there are more and more new brands that follow the path to sustainable wearables. One industry that has been a little slower on the uptake is watch making, as so many brands still work with less-than-ideal materials for straps – which is how Votch was born.

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Votch is a brand of faux leather watches launched in London but produced in Shenzhen, China. The brand stems from a fully vegan perspective, looking to create fashionable accessories that don’t damage animals and, ultimately, the environment. While they’re always working towards finding new materials, the latest Votch collection uses a mix of TPE, cotton and polyester in its straps. The brand is also free of PFC, PVC, plasticisers, phthalate, bromine and heavy metals; they’re REACH and RoHS compliant, PETA approved as vegan, and including recycled and renewable materials.

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Pure Thoughts, a Britain-Made Alternative to Conventional Candles

I love having candles around the house, particularly those that work their aromatherapy magic. However, I also have an infant at home, and my number one priority is always keeping the safest environment possible for him. Having a small child has made me hyper-aware of the number of mainstream things that contain harmful chemicals, and scented candles are no exception. Babies are highly sensitive to smells and chemicals, and it turns out that traditional candles release a lot of toxins when they’re burning. With that knowledge, my quest to find natural candles that wouldn’t jeopardise the health of my family began: the last thing I’d ever want to do is pollute the air inside the safe space of my home.

As an aromatherapy lover, I’m looking for soothing smells whenever I search for candles. Meanwhile, as a firm believer in sustainability, I also need to find a brand that matches ethical standards. Lastly, as a mum, I’m looking for something that the grownups in the house can enjoy that doesn’t come close to harming the little one. I’m happy to say that, after searching for a while, I’ve finally found the perfect brand: Pure Thoughts. Read more…