Welcome to The Sustainable Shopper. Each week, Stylist will talk to the people focused on creating a more conscious shopping space for all. For the second instalment, Amber Leaux and Prinny Rae – co-founders of fashion and lifestyle podcast, Her Style Secrets – explains to fashion editor Harriet Davey about the term ‘greenwashing’ and how we can all be more conscious with our shopping habits.
The word ‘sustainability’ has become a buzzword, particularly within the fashion industry. Of course, there are companies who put eco-friendly methods at the forefront of business operation. But how do we really know who is doing the most to offer customers sustainable options? The Sustainable Shopper is here to highlight the brands being transparent, and the individuals who are focused on doing what they can to protect the planet.
Fashion and lifestyle podcast Her Style Secrets launched at the end of 2019 by cousins Amber Leaux and Prinny Rae. Every Thursday, the two women host the show discussing topical fashion issues, from trends to celebrities. More recently, Amber and Prinny dropped ‘The Sustainability Series’ with three episodes focussed on what it means to shop smarter. The first episode, Are You Sustainable Hun, focuses on greenwashing, fast-fashion cycles, production pollution and brand scandals. The second episode, Pollution But Make It Fashion, discusses the impact of fashion pollution, sustainable textiles and the use of plastic and water in clothing production. And the final episode, Conscious Queens ft. Thrift Queen Lola, sees the duo joined by he founder of sustainable label Revival London and content creator Thrift Queen Lola, to talk charity shopping tips and the future of the fashion industry.
Amber Leaux: I first learnt about sustainability at primary school with the three Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle), since then I’ve always tried to be as conscious as possible but my awareness surrounding fashion has developed much more recently. I’ve watched lots of documentaries and read a lot of articles surrounding the issues, it really does open your eyes about the problems fashion is causing and how we are all a part of this problem. You would never know this unless you really did the research, which is shocking.
Sustainable fashion is all about being mindful of the way you shop. Buying items for a need rather than a want. People don’t realise how much of an effect fashion has on our planet and how poor buying habits are a large contributor. It’s so important to consider other factors such as quality, where the fabric has been sourced and who made the items when you’re buying clothes, rather than just updating your Instagram feed.
Prinny Rae: The issues we discussed on our podcast has really increased my awareness of sustainability – the unsustainability within the industry is definitely fashion’s best kept secret.
For me, sustainable fashion is all about consuming clothes in a way that has longevity. Buying a new cheap outfit for every event is not a sustainable lifestyle, stockpiling items in your wardrobe that you won’t re-wear is not sustainable. Doing all this and contributing to ruining our planet and environment is not sustainable, something has to give.
Amber: Depop are definitely one of the brands at the top of the game when it comes to being sustainable. They’re really pushing for younger people to shop more consciously and to resell clothes instead of throwing them away. It’s a great incentive to make money from old clothes, I think it has definitely made a huge difference, I know it has for me personally. We also have to shout out smaller brands such as Revival London and MISEMI who upcycle items of clothing or use recycled fabrics to create their clothes (they’re also black-owned).
Often it’s the bigger brands that are fooling us. After discovering ‘greenwashing’, I’d say all the positive sustainable experiences I thought I was having are actually void. In short, it means lying. It’s when a company uses false claims to create the image that they are sustainable and conscious about the environment, when really they’re not. It’s creating the facade that they are doing something helpful for the planet when they’re not. We go into detail about greenwashing in our podcast episode 36. ‘Are you sustainable hun?’
Companies continue using greenwashing methods because it works – I know this because I’ve been a victim to it. Buying something with a recycle logo, or that contains recycled thread made me feel as if I was doing something great, when in actual fact I was doing nothing at all. And because of this they can get away with pretending that they are a sustainable company when they’re not.
Prinny: For me, leading brands in terms of encouraging sustainable lifestyles are companies such as Depop and Vinted who are taking the stigma out of shopping second-hand. I also love fashion brands that are essentially built on upcycling and using recycled and reclaimed materials – most are small companies so you also get that exclusive feel. My favourites are Ecoalf and 1/Off.
I tend not to buy into sustainability messaging from fashion brands because a lot of them are only addressing one part of the supply chain. A lot of brands encourage you to recycle old clothes yet are bringing out designs on a weekly basis; or brands make one-off collections using sustainable materials whereas the majority of the products are made from synthetic fibres that are harmful to the planet both in production, washing and disposal processes.
Amber: In the next five years I would like to see sustainability not just being ‘cool’, like it is right now, but for brands and consumers to start making changes that are permanent. Creating long-lasting items, using methods that are safe for the planet and really thinking about the items that are being produced.
Prinny: In the future I would love to see less performative action and more real impactful action. This will be reintroducing quality over quantity into the sector, offering people luxury and durability at more affordable prices so as to squeeze out the need for fast-fashion brands. It would also be great to see fast-fashion brands having to slow down and focus on bringing out less pieces annually and having to improve the quality.
Amber: Swapping clothes with friends instead of buying a new item for every event is a step to that helps me be more sustainable. Your friends have more gems hiding in their wardrobe than you think, as do you if you look.
If you must buy clothes, then ask yourself: ‘Will I wear this more than 30 times?’ It’ll make a difference to the way you shop.
Prinny: A way for us all to be more sustainable is to re-wear clothes. It’s such a simple solution but it really makes a difference. Fast-fashion exists because of the demand from consumers, naturally (keeping my fingers crossed) if the demand slows, so will the supply.
Amber’s sustainable fashion picks
Mother of Pearl
Updating the classic black blazer in true Mother Of Pearl style with pearl buttons, this beauty has been produced with less water, supports sustainable forestry and it’s made from natural fibres.
Olivia Rose The Label
Shirred tops are key this season and this style is handmade by designer Olivia Rose in Edinburgh. The Esmerelda top takes five hours to complete so each one is unique and custom made to order reducing overproduction.
Revival London crop top
Ever wondered what you can do with old jeans you no longer wear? Revival London uses reclaimed jeans to create new items like this one-shouldered crop top. Pre-order it now on the website and layer over a high-neck top for autumn.
Misemi upcycled joggers
Send Misemi your old joggers and the brand will upcycle them for you to create a whole new look. Choose from four different customisable options – they only upcycle four each month so you have to get your order in quick.
Prinny’s sustainable fashion picks
To be transparent, Ecoalf uses the BCOME system which shows customers the percentage of how sustainable each item is. These ‘act now’ kicks are not only vegan, they’re also made from 100% recycled nylon as well as being waterproof and breathable.
The perfect shacket (shirt/jacket hybrid) is here. Made from nearly 90% recycled materials, it’s a style to wear on repeat across all seasons.
Revival London denim top
Making use out of all the parts of old jeans, this upcycled top made from pre-loved pairs is from one of Prinny’s favourite sustainable brands.
All images: courtesy of Amber and Prinny