Everybody’s Talking About Fashion’s Dirty Secrets

Everybody’s Talking About Fashion’s Dirty Secrets: Fast Fashion is Literally Costing us the Earth

In the light of the BBC 1 documentary ‘Stacey Dooley Investigates Fashion’s Dirty Secrets’ which aired last week, ripples of guilt were evident amongst both consumers and industry insiders. This isn’t new news but it did act as a stark reminder that our insatiable appetite for fast fashion is literally costing us the Earth.

During the programme, the fashion industry is revealed as the second most polluting industry in the world (after oil). Fashion’s impact on the planet is so far-reaching it is shockingly responsible for reducing Kazakhstan’s Aral Sea to a dustbowl due to the region’s over-production of cotton. Rivers in Indonesia are shown discoloured and frothing, with toxic waste pouring out of sewage pipes from the factories directly into villages’ main watercourses. More alarming statistics surfaced - 10  billion new garments are produced and 300,000 tons of clothing dumped in landfill every year.

Stacey Dooley Fashion's Dirty Secrets

On social media, fashion influencers (who understandably are frequently held responsible for fuelling consumer desire for newness and on-trend looks) were quick to respond citing investment buys and supporting sustainable fashion brands as the answer. And yet those fast fashion brands at the heart of these disclosures, who all share this responsibility for ethical, planet-saving practices, continued their silence without exception.

Also this week, the UN issued a landmark report stating we have only 12 years to limit an irreversible climate change catastrophe. Just half a degree increase in global temperatures (from the current 1.5C to 2C) could lead to the complete destruction of coral and worsen the risk of drought, floods and extreme heat causing poverty for hundreds of millions of people.

As these devastating environmental side effects are revealed, we believe enough really is enough. All fashion companies, large and small, owe their customers (and the planet) full transparency on their fabrics, production and distribution, so that we can make much swifter progress on educating consumers to make better choices.

At Madderson London, our starting point is BE KIND. By this we mean be kind to our environment, the communities in which we operate, and ourselves. From here, we advocate for a BUY WELL, BUY LESS approach and aim to inform our customers on the provenance of the fabrics used in every single garment, as well as how and where that item is made. This gives our products integrity and critically, longevity thanks to our carefully chosen, high-quality fabrics. Our desire is to make beautifully crafted investment pieces that stay in your wardrobe for many, many years to come. Every garment we sell comes with a ‘30 Wears’ tag, following the lead from EcoAge’s 30 Wears campaign.

Madderson London 30 wears

Take our best-selling Ophelia dress for example, a Madderson classic since the day we opened for business. Ophelia is made from Italian ponte jersey base produced by Mario Bellucci, an environmentally pioneering mill where its jersey has been certified as having no toxic chemicals used in its dyeing process. Ophelia is also lovingly made in London by Greek-born Tom, who runs a small factory with his dad in East London. Their head machinist has worked with them for 30 years and they operate in a cool little clothing community in Haringay which is committed to recycling all waste from its manufacturing processes. 

Sharing the story of each of our pieces and staying true to our design ethos of timeless pieces that can be pulled out of wardrobes for 10 or 20 years, helps us to put sustainability at the heart of everything we do. By manufacturing in the UK and Portugal, where rigorous regulation is mercifully in place, we also reduce the distance travelled by fabrics and finished goods between mills, factories and our warehouse. By using premium fabrics from heritage mills, such as Hainsworth, a British woollen mill founded in the 18thCentury or Vanners a British jacquard weaver founded in the 17thCentury, we are weaving a sense of history into every garment. By upcycling archive trims and fabrics and re-imagining them for new collections, we massively reduce our wastage. And through our Books for Schools initiative, whereby we donate a book to an under-resourced UK Primary School, we give back to the communities where we live and work.

It is our responsibility to ensure that not only do we minimise our impact on the planet, but that we become a force for good. We ask our customers to join us on this journey by championing sustainable brands, and choosing clothes that are to be treasured not consumed.

We’ll leave you with this EcoAge article on how to dress ethically: https://eco-age.com/news/dressing-ethically-where-start


Helen Hughes is co-founder and head of marketing at Madderson London.
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