For many, sustainability is the very antithesis of fashion, with any item with a lifespan longer than a season the very epitome of redundancy.
Whisper it quietly, but all that may be about to change. Rather than sustainability being the Kryptonite to the fashion sensibilities of every super stylish woman (or man), it could be that flaunting your love for all things Rain Forest or sporting re-purposed Pirelli as your lobewear du jour is the haute couture currency of our times.
In short, in order to show your solidarity with carbon neutrality correctness and to stake your claim to a few I’m building-a-better-world brownie points, your heart must be on your sleeve – but only if said sleeve is entirely free from fur products and exclusively sourced from a Sri Lankan fair-trade fashion house which complies with every UN resolution relating to working hours and fire exits.
How then should the inappropriately clad avoid accidentally endorsing a sweat shop or third-world despot through a poor wardrobe decision at a future soiree?
In truth, there are but two options. First, you can diligently peruse the twitter feeds of the world’s leading right-on celebs and style icons and check that your favoured brand never features on their list of companies prioritising profitability over the fate of the Yangtze finless porpoise.
Alternatively, you can fill in Gafencu’s self-diagnostic questionnaire below. By answering just a few straightforward queries, you will quickly be able to tell whether your sense of style is profoundly sustainable (good) or irretrievably in hock to a totalitarian take on fashion last seen when Hitler chose to update his look in time for his annexation of the Sudetenland (bad, very bad).
1) When you last bought a pair of shoes, what accompanied your purchase?
- An unrivalled sense of entitlement and privilege.
- A note reading, “Help, I am a seven-year-old orphan trapped in a Vietnamese footwear factory”.
- A piece of bark from the kind of tree soon to be planted as part of a mass re-forestation project in Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady Delta Region thanks to your investment in a pair of authentic, handcrafted Burmese kitten-heeled clogs.
2) What do you most look for in a pair of leggings?
- A shapely, contoured look that helps hide the excessive pounds you’ve piled on thanks to your regular Friday night foie gras binges.
- A snug fit, an ivory clasp and a gusset reinforced with Sumatran rhino hide.
- Ill-fitting, uncomfortable but with a clearly discernible World Wildlife Fund-approved label.
3) You read online that the Bangladeshi factory that produces your second favourite brand of chinos is suddenly wholly subterranean following a series of tectonic aftershocks. What is your first reaction?
- Anonymously send a PayPal donation towards the immediate relief effort.
- Wonder if the rubble-damaged dusty and distressed look could prove an exciting new direction for next season’s cotton twill pant sector.
- Organise an emergency cocktail party and sympathise with the displaced work force over several Brandy Alexanders before sending the pics from your selective little gathering to the local style press.
4) When shopping for a new outfit, which of these is your preferred purchase channel?
- A city centre mall – it’s convenient and they have all the latest looks, even if it’s a bit pricey.
- A bespoke boutique – off the peg is really not for you.
- I know a little man in an eco-yurt who shares a bio-sphere with the Sunda Shelf mangroves of coastal Borneo, who does a lovely line in natty evening attire.
5) Looking back, what was your greatest ever fashion faux pas?
- I once went for invitation-only nibbles wearing the same waistcoat as the hostess’s Chihuahua.
- When I first met my in-laws-to-be, I was only wearing an “I love Satan” camisole set. It’s a long story and I was a different person back then.
- Once, while attending a private viewing, I had to change my underwear halfway through as I wanted to stay on-message following an unexpected regime change in a minor Balkan Republic.
Key: If you mainly answered (1) or (2), then you’re sadly way out of tune with all things sustainably sartorial. As you clearly care far too much about personal aesthetics, quality and comfort, it’s probably best that you stay at home with a bag on your head until the fashion world undergoes another seismic shift. Early February at a guess.
If you plumped for (3) pretty much every time, then congratulations – couture with a conscience is second nature to you. While your fleeting commitment won’t do much to alleviate third-world suffering, it will allow you to cast withering glances at less conservationally-clad chums while talking for hours about free-trade calico without the need for any notes.