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  • Prof. Dilys Williams

Put fashion back onto the agenda

hands hand-sewing fabrics – Centre for Sustainable Fashion

Our first priority at this, and all times is the health and wellbeing of our fellows, especially those who are most vulnerable, in our shared world. Our interdependencies with each other, in nature, have never been so apparent. So too, our vulnerabilities; greatly exacerbated by the economy-centred nature of what is most visibly valued. It is the economic fall out of the pandemic, over the social, that appears to be the focus of much of what we read and hear. Through our work, we look for ways in which fashion’s value can be recognised in environmental, social, cultural as well economic terms. It is for this reason that we have written to the re-convened Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), (following the election) to ask them to continue the amazing work of the previous committee, in relation to fashion and sustainability. The EAC’s 2018 inquiry into the fashion industry, culminating in the EAC report, ‘Fixing fashion: clothing consumption and sustainability’ lays out a clear path to progress for the sector, ready for the uptake.

The amazing Mary Creagh is sadly no longer heading up this work, but others involved in its authorship, including Caroline Lucas and John McNally continue to sit on this committee, now joined by new members, led by Philip Dunne. The committee has set out its plans, which, so far, do not include a continuation of this work. We have written to the committee to ask that they put fashion back onto their agenda. With only a short time to send any requests to the committee, we would like to invite you to submit a letter too, so that our amazing designers, doing pioneering, critical work, that foregrounds the health and wellbeing of all, within an earth-centred value system, can be valued above those whose sights are restricted to an economy centred lens. To the fifty designer entrepreneurs on our Fostering Sustainable Practices project, to our amazing graduates and to all others foregrounding sustainability, we stand up for you and for all that you are doing.

finger pointing at fashion design development drawings
Image: Guillaume Valli

Short written submissions are invited to aid the Committee in prioritising its programme of work. These should be submitted via the Committee’s website by 5pm on Thursday 9 April.

Once the Committee has identified which inquiry it wishes to focus on first, a further call for evidence will be issued to invite more detailed submissions from stakeholders on the chosen topic.

For ease, here is our copy and paste email for you to submit via the Committee’s website:

The work of the EAC is vital in the UK’s ability to prosper in the context of the Climate Emergency including its potentially dramatic economic and social implications. The EAC enquiry and subsequent report into the hugely significant UK Fashion industry makes it clear that we have an unparalleled opportunity and imperative to support and grow the contribution of this industry to the UK. The fashion industry is equivalent to the world’s seventh largest economy (as compared to individual nations’ GDP) and in the UK, the fashion industry contributes over £30billion to national GDP. Clothing is the eighth largest sector in the UK in terms of household spending, but the fourth largest for environmental impact, as expressed by global carbon emissions (after housing, transport and food).

The creativity of the UK fashion sector is unparalleled, as evidenced in its world-wide recognition. There is an opportunity for this leadership to extend to new practices and new models of production and consumption, if the UK government and parliament convenes action by its stakeholders and supports best practices. Industry leaders are keen to engage with parliament, to make changes that enable short and long term prosperity, through reducing its climate impacts; they need clear governmental guidelines. This letter requests that the EAC includes fashion in its remit. There are already key initiatives for change in industry and academia, such as the Transparency Index from Fashion Revolution, the work on Vogue Business on sustainability, the pioneering work of Fashion Roundtable, as well as our own work at Centre for Sustainable Fashion, where we partner with business at scales from micro and small businesses, through to multi-national fashion businesses, we develop new knowledge and understanding of fashion and sustainability and we develop sustainability led creative curriculum, which we share with universities around the world. We ask that you continue to include this vital sector in your work, to shape global Britain as leaders in sustainability, contributing to prosperity in environmental and social as well as economic terms.


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