Sustainable Fashion and the Individual Style Revolution

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In some ways sustainable fashion and individual style are the perfect partners. Over the years it has been discussed many times how fashion can never really be sustainable. Perhaps this is true when talking about fashion in the sense of trend led clothing. If however fashion is taken as a more general description of clothing that could encompass individual or personal styles, then perhaps there is a chance for sustainable fashion. Therefore it is great news for the sustainable fashion movement, that an individual style revolution has begun based around a desire by consumers to be able to wear exactly what they want to wear, to express themselves through their clothing and to be rock their own individual style!

The trend is there is no trend

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Over the years fashion and trends have come and gone but in the last 10 to 15 years, they seemed to have been moving at an alarming rate. The rise of ‘fast fashion’ has allowed retailers to copy designer looks from the catwalk and get them to market in no time at all providing a constant flow of new styles to be consumed. Magazines and ‘trend makers’ have delighted in telling us what the latest trends and what the ‘must have’ items for each season are.  It is quite funny how, in the past, we were often advised of what colour was the ‘new black’  (just in case we dared to think that we could possibly get away with wearing black for more than one season!).

But recently, things seem to be changing. There are now just so many different looks cycling round the various seasons, we have kind of run out of options. That is not to say that there will ever be anything new ever again but there has to be a limit to how many times designers can keep coming up with completely new trends and many of the trends just seem to be running from one season to the next. Take floral, polka dots, colour block, animal print and maxi dresses, all looks and styles that have been certainly more in fashion than they have been out in recent years. Add to this the fact that many of the trends on the high street  are a watered down version of the designers original look that has been quickly and cheaply manufactured, it all starts to look a bit generic  and it seems obvious why ‘trends’ are starting to lose their appeal for so many people.

On the catwalks for AW13, it was very difficult to categorise the collections into any key trends and even Joe Zee, Creative Director for UK fashion magazine Elle agreed, being quoted in the Daily Mail on his reasons why ‘ the biggest fashion trend for 2013 was that there will be no trends at all’.  The internet has opened up a whole new world of shopping for many people allowing them to move away from the offerings of their local high street and to seek out the brands and styles that work for them.

Whilst ‘personal and individual style’ has been talked about for a long time, it seems that 2013 is the year that fashion designers are really buying into it. In Vogue Australia this New Year Designer Lisa Marie Fernandez resolved that “2013 is the year for authenticity. I will be wearing brands that I feel are authentic and have provenance. No trends, no “it” anything. This applies to art, fashion and music.”

The influence of street style and fashion bloggers

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The influence of the internet and social media  probably are both key factors in this change to a greater emphasis on creativity and expression of our identity through clothes. Street style sites are hugely popular, as is current obsession with normal people ‘doing their own thing’ and wearing what they want often showcased on fashion blogs.

Just flicking through a few of the most popular fashion magazines reveals how their focus has shifted in the last few years to showcasing street style and fashion bloggers and their own unique takes on style. Grazia has a regular feature for street style and even holds events for bloggers whilst Company magazine regularly features interviews with fashion bloggers and sometimes even publishes fashion blogger issues where readers can not only see the unique styles for themselves but find out a little about the people behind the blogs. In fact most fashion magazines have some sort of street style gallery or feature.

Susie Bubble, one of the first and probably the most well-known fashion blogger she regularly appears in street style photos on the glossy pages of Vogue. She could well be credited in part for instigating the individual style revolution with her colourful and eclectic outfits and devotion to certain upcoming designers. There are many others though, each exhibiting their own personal style or dedication to a favourite designer either through a fashion blog or on outfit sharing sites like Lookbook.nu and Chictopia.  These outfits often mix a variety of pieces of clothing including designer, high street, vintage and thrifted. These sites both inspire and are fuelled by unique individual style. Pictures featuring generic trend led outfits just wouldn’t hold the same interest and fascination.

DIY for a unique look

The ultimate in creating your own unique style is DIY’ing whether it be upcycling and customising an existing piece of clothing or creating something completely new.  DIY’ing is the height of creativity when it comes to fashion and is not just a pastime but a growing movement. There are new and innovative communities springing up both online and offline for those who want to get inspiration or share tutorials or learn a new skill.

The Thread Banger channel on You Tube boasts over 191, 000 subscribers and over 45 million video views. The site encourages fashionistas to make their own style and then send them proof (in a You Tube video explaining “Todays hippest trends aren’t in New York, Paris, or Milan. They’re waiting for you in your closet, your attic, and the thrift shop down the street.”

DIY fashion is certainly nothing new though, it has been around for years and throughout history has had a great importance in terms of clothing.  Relatively recently Vivienne Westwood and her punk clothing embellished with safety pins was a form of DIY and in recent years, it has begun to become popular again. Bloggers too are driving the new appetite for DIY fashion, by showcasing both projects and tutorials on their blogs.

In contrast to many of the DIY projects that were created by previous generations, the modern desire for DIY is often for quick projects to create individual fashion pieces without the need for particular skills like sewing or knitting. But sewing and knitting are also increasing in popularity. The Good Wardrobe launched at the end of last year. It is an online style-sharing community hub mixing the best of sustainable fashion with services that prolong the life of your wardrobe. The site also features ‘Sew It Forward’ a campaign to get London sewing.

The trouble with trends

The trouble with trends is that they encourage unsustainable consumer behaviour. They ensure that certain styles become obsolete very quickly and for those influenced by them create a constant need to buy new clothes. This kind of consumerism is not only financially unsustainable for most people, hence why they often resort to buying the very cheap fast fashion, but it is also creates a large amount of waste and contributes towards an unethical fashion industry as prices and lead times are driven down by consumers desire to own the latest fashion regardless of the quality of the clothing.

But even beyond these factors, perhaps the downfall of trends could be the fact that they often lead to generic and unimaginative or almost cloned looks. Some people will, by allowing  ‘trend makers’ to dictate to them what to wear, find themselves wearing clothes that just don’t suit them either because of body shape, personality or lifestyle.

Individual style rocks!

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Being individual is more sustainable as clothes and styles don’t become obsolete. Those who develop their own sense of style, may find that they gain a better understanding of which styles work for them and don’t buy clothes that they won’t wear (well not as often anyway).  They will also probably save money by buying less clothes but hopefully getting higher quality investment pieces that will last for a long time. Individual style is authentic; it will allows the wearer to feel more comfortable in the clothes that you are wearing and to choose clothes almost as an extension of their personality or as a creative expression of their identity.

Essentially having your own individual style gives you choice. It gives you the choice to wear the styles and colours that you love and that suit your body shape and life style, it gives you the choice to invest in higher quality clothes that you can treasure for many years and it also gives you the choice to seek out unique and individual styles by designers and brands that are doing something a little different to the high street.

Sustainable fashion and signature styles

Sustainable fashion designers are leading the way in developing their own unique signature styles based on the unique sustainable and ethical resources available. Whilst the clothes that they create are often contemporary and innovative in their design, they follow the designers own chosen style or aesthetic rather seasonal trends.

From Somewhere, the label of Esthethica founders Orsolo De Castro and Filippo Ricci utilise offcuts, dead stock and waste, rather than becoming a limiting factor for the designs they become part of the DNA, the fabrics available help to shape the end product. The style of these clothes is completely unique to anything that you would find on the high street.

Part of the desirability of many sustainable fashion brands is the close attention that they pay to sourcing high quality fabrics. Nancy Dee is known for its stylish and wearable dress made

Developing and expressing your own style

Here are just a few ideas that could help you to develop and express your own style, although you can probably think of many more of your own.

  • Look through your wardrobe for clothes that have worked well for you and that you look and feel good in.
  • Consider which colours, styles, fabrics and looks will suit your personality, life style, body shape and colouring.
  • Look for inspiration when you are out and about and by looking on blogs and outfit sharing sites. You don’t have to copy a whole look, just get ideas and see what you like the look of.
  • Consider your purchases carefully, look for clothes that will work with your wardrobe and that will last you for a long time and fit with your values and ethics.
  • Invest in high quality basics that hand and fit well.
  • Look beyond the high street for interesting and unusual pieces of clothing – sustainable fashion brands, vintage shops and even charity shops are all a goldmine of beautiful clothes that may help you to define your own unique style.

 what do you think? do you prefer having your own personal style to following trends? do you have any style tips that you would like to share?

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