Sustainable Fashion with Indigo Jones, by Sweet Bike Sista Friend
Please see the original publication by Sophie Penelope Hill here.
It is no surprise to anyone that we are in a critical stage of the climate crisis. No one is immune to the amount of information that is being hurled at us day to day regarding this disaster, however, it’s hard to shift through what is factual and helpful. One element of this that has become increasingly popular in recent years is conversations surrounding fast fashion. I have always had a true interest in fashion, as I assume many of us do, and felt that I truly wanted to get a better grasp on the realities that go into making and distributing most of our clothing. I felt there was no better person to ask these questions to than Indigo Jones. Indigo also went to University of St. Andrews, where she was involved in many fashion-based committees, predominately the fashion show FS. Around the same time, Indigo started her own fast fashion education platform “Live Fast, Buy Slow.” As I followed this account, I began to learn so much about the way garments were made and how to make better choices when shopping. I reached out to Indigo to get a deeper understanding of how she started this platform and what we all need to know about the flaws with the current fashion industry.
Indigo began by telling me how she originally developed her passion for this cause. She spoke candidly on how she always had a passion for human rights and justice but didn’t know what outlet she could best service those interests. She felt that sustainable fashion combined creativity and service in a way she felt incredibly passionate about. She had an opportunity to go to Hong Kong to work for an NGO called Redress. Redress runs a fashion show, and showcase, as part of the world’s largest sustainable fashion design competition. Finalists’ main objective is to offer solutions for some of the industry’s biggest problems, from design to production. Indigo also worked with a humanitarian aid project, in the form of a clothing store, that allowed refugees to come and pick out new outfits. This instilled her in the power that clothing truly does play in our lives, and the ability and privilege formulating our own style has as a means of constructing ourselves.
Indigo made it clear from the beginning of the conversation: “The reality is, every facet of the fashion industry has to change.” She explained that the movement really gained traction and started to become popularized in the global conversation around two years ago. The problems with the garment industry start from the foundation of the garment, beginning with the global supply change. A piece of clothing starts with one material, then thread construction, and textile manufacturing and sewing, resulting in final construction. The final touches are adding buttons and zippers, then the garment goes into packaging, marketing, shipping, and finally selling to a consumer. This is just for one piece of clothing, and this process is happening all around the world for each garment. Essentially, this system is completely fragmented. Of the 400 billion square meters of textiles produced annually, 60 billion sq meters —or 15% of all textiles produced—end up on the factory floor as cut-and-sew waste. Not to mention the unsustainable use of water, land and chemicals in fashion production: in order to grow enough cotton to make one pair of jeans it takes 3,400 gallons of water in irrigation, and another 5,000 gallons of water in processing just to make one pair of jeans and a t-shirt. If fashion production maintains this pace of consumption, the demand for water will surpass the world’s supply by 40% by 2030. And then at the end of a garment’s life, less than 1% of materials used to make clothing is recycled into new clothing.
These statistics are alarming, to say the least. However, we got to this place because of the psychology surrounding fashion; a system of constant cycling out of outfits to stay on trend. We live in a 52 fashion microseasons world, which is perpetuated by fast fashion brands such as Zara and Shein. Shein uploads 700-1,000 new looks a day to their website, which encourages customers to continuously buy new items as much as they possibly can. We have evolved from having a trend last for a decade, like the recognizable styles of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. Now style seems fleeting day by day.
A huge consideration within this entire conversation is varying economical privilege; it’s one thing to say you want to stop shopping at fast fashion brands and another to have the power to do so. Most of the economically conscious alternatives are also incredibly expensive, but Indigo is hopeful that in the next few years there will be more accessible options for consumers. Instead, she offered a few tips on how to change one’s mindset around the relationship to clothing. She encouraged consumers to start thinking more outside the box, perhaps sewing on a button or redyeing a material instead of fully getting rid of a garment. “The most sustainable garment you have is one you already have in your closet” Indigo said. She explained that to get the most use out of a certain garment, you should aim to wear everything around 30 times. Perhaps this seems simple, but when you think about it, how often are we wearing each piece of clothing 30 times? Probably not as often as we think. Small considerations like this have even helped me examine things in my closet and cycle different pieces into rotation more frequently.
However bleak the situation, there are always innovators willing to see how the fashion industry can move forward. Upcycling the waste used in the process is one way of ensuring these fabrics do not go straight to the landfill. Another is using materials that are bio based, and easily decomposing, like bio-based leather and dyeing clothing with pomegranates or avocado pits. Switching virgin polyester, which will never decompose, with wood-based pulp as a fabric alternative. It’s the process of starting to shift the idea of the fashion industry into a circular economy, one that can be recycled and reused in more creative ways. Indigo gave me an example of a coat by young designer Carina Roca that also had a pattern on the inside outlining a way you could turn it into another piece of clothing once you tired of wearing the coat. This allows the garment to have another life, creating longevity. Indigo also spoke about take-back programs that a lot of companies are starting to help with this crisis. You can send back garments to stores like Patagonia once you have finished your journey with that specific piece. Indigo also emphasized that there are so many clothing swaps, resell apps, and places that sell vintage clothing like the Real Real that offer easy solutions to shopping in the more traditional way.
Indigo highlighted it’s not granola to be sustainable anymore, it’s the new way of the world. Even throughout all the negative and horrifying news we are seeing about this crisis, Indigo still did remain hopeful. Strides like LVMH instituting a center for sustainable research is a huge step in the right direction, and hopefully a trailblazer for the rest of the luxury industry to follow suit. Out of all this Indigo’s biggest message was that we need to cultivate a better relationship with the clothing we already have and start looking at each piece as an investment. “Every piece of clothing you have ever had still exists somewhere on this Earth and will exist long after you are gone” Indigo stated. Let this sink in. We all have the power, whether it be big or small or anywhere in-between, to think more thoughtfully about how we shop and what we buy. It’s never about perfection, it’s just about progress.