Fashion is as fashion does. It makes statements. That’s why everyone flocks to buy the latest trends, come new season time; it’s why people look oddly at people who don’t wear the right clothes or the right colours; and, more benevolently, it’s why the latest trend of all is actually worth talking about. Yes – recycled fashion is here to stay, and there’s finally something on the streets that makes sense.
What’s the difference? Simply enough: money. For decades the fashion industry has been crushing the life out of little towns and villages in far flung corners of the earth, where the threads that most people are so happy to parade are churned out in huge volume for the kind of wage that would have made even a Victorian miser think twice. It is common knowledge, too – the clothes that hit the high street are sold for thousands of times the price the people that make them get paid for them. And we do nothing about it. Or didn’t, anyway, until recycled fashion came along.
In the best tradition of all good things, this is a kind of fashion that does exactly what it says it does. It’s ethical – it doesn’t promote sweat shop labour; it doesn’t allow kids to be employed for 2p a week; and it doesn’t sacrifice the life quality of whole villages so that a handful of people can swan around feeling pretty. The recycling movement, which has finally and happily landed with both feet on the neck of the fashion market, insists that the things we wear and use be accountable for their effects on both the environment and the people we’re buying them from.
Recycled fashion works as a double statement here – because everyone knows what it means, the statement a person wearing or using a recycled item of fashion makes is all about the ethics of commerce. Sounds tautological, but it actually makes a lot of sense: if fashion is about making statements, then the strongest types of fashion are going to be those that make the loudest ones. Anyone who can think of a louder (and better) statement to make than the one being made by the reused and fairly traded goods coming out of the recycled fashion market has clearly been thinking for too long.
Frankly, after decades spent kowtowing to a bunch of big wigs whose regard for the welfare of the human race is in inverse proportion to the size of their houses, it’s about time some fair minded cat came along and started scaring all the pigeons. See, the thing about recycled items of fashion, both worn and otherwise, is this: fashion is big business. But if the big business is going to people who actually care about their suppliers, and who are actively remaking items from already existing materials – well, then it won’t be big business any more. Recycled fashion is finally putting the boot back where it belongs. Three rousing cheers to that.