The future of fashion is about making what you have last longer
By Amira Arasteh
I met with Vivienne Westwood in Berlin to discuss her views on the industry within which she is an icon. Westwood is known for her views on eco-fashion and her words “buy less, choose well, make it last” carry weight amongst both fashionistas and activists. “It’s the best thing I’ve ever said.”, Westwood reflected. Her plea to the public to invest in items to last a lifetime is her way to reduce the fashion world’s obvious contribution to waste and pollution.
Westwood went on to summarise her view on sustainable fashion. “I thought [fashion] was the thing that people really cared about. I thought they were out buying stuff all the time because they just wanted to wear something different every day, if they’ve got the money.” These words inspired a lot of thought in me, particularly recently. Does wealth truly blind people when it comes to quality and necessity? At the Balenciaga exhibition at the V&A museum in London, video recordings reveal how the designer’s most loyal customers would buy only eight to ten pieces of clothing a year; four to five for the warmer months and four to five for when it became colder. Surely if those with money felt content with so few items of clothing, then the rest of the world should follow suit?
When faced with the question of how to make fashion sustainable, Westwood replied that “what we need is quality…to only buy one thing maybe.” Millennials, in particular, have begun to adopt to a growing trend of sustainability in their consumption. Nowadays, both brands and consumers make a conscious effort to minimize the impact that we humans make on the environment in the name of fashion.
“And that’s what I’m saying, ‘buy less, choose well, make it last’. I’d be so happy if everybody said, well I’ve got so many clothes already, I don’t actually need anything else but maybe I’ll just buy that one jacket and style it in with everything — I just want people to choose.”
One might find it odd to have such strong opinions and criticism for an industry of which she has been at the forefront for decades, however Westwood admits that even she had to change her actions to meet her ethics. “I’m fixing it all for quality not quantity. I feel I’ve got to completely reduce and control everything to keep those standards, you know?” Quality is essential in fashion and, arguably, those with true style can look great, regardless of the size of their wardrobe and the number of purchases made.
Unlike many, who focus sustainable fashion being about using bio-degradable materials, Westwood maintains that recycling is, in fact, not the answer we are looking for. Discussing promoted fabrics such as circular polyester, she speaks of its negative aspects and how, despite its reusability, ultimately it lasts for years and can never be eco-friendly. Westwood stands by her instruction of taking control of your own purchases and not buying too much. “I just think people should invest in the world. Don’t invest in fashion, but invest in the world.”
Referencing how trend-led the industry is and how it eventually leads to mass waste, Westwood vehemently shook her head, proclaiming, “I’m sick of all this landfill.” Drawing upon how market-dependent brands and manufacturers mass-produce clothing each season, she went on to discuss how this overkill of fashion is in fact ruining how people express their own look, as cheap products are so readily available in such large quantities, that “they just look a total mix and mess”.
Westwood firmly believes that not only does this mass-production aspect of the industry have an effect on the environment but it also affects the epitome of the fashion industry: personal style. “I want to express my personality and tell my own story and therefore I’m going to choose things that I really like.”
Making her case for quality over quantity, she flies the flag for choosing key pieces that you will wear over and over again, incorporating these unique items into all outfits, thus reducing waste, and in turn, landfill.
How many clothes have you bought simply because they’re priced at a bargain? How many clothes have you been guilty of throwing away because you wore them a few times and you got ‘enough’ use out of them? Where do these clothes end up? Westwood’s words make us all think about our choices post-purchase. ◆
Stay updated on Vivienne Westwood’s crusade through www.climaterevolution.co.uk. The S/S 2018 collection also touches upon sustainable consumption in its designs, you can see it out at @viviennewestwood and at www.viviennewestwood.com.