On Saturday 29 February, Manchester experienced its first Sustainable Fashion Party at the beautiful FiveFour Studios. be that leap year magic. Clothes were showcased, conversations were had and drinks were drunk, all on the topic of sustainability and what we can do to make one of the planet’s most polluting industries reduce its formidable footprint.
Organised by Alison Carlin of Ally Pally Vintage, the event kicked off with a panel of speakers, followed by a fashion show, a vintage marketplace and a dance party. Before descending into our gin-fuelled jig though, we did take away some important lessons from the event.
1. Systemic change is necessary
An important point made by sustainable fashion journalist and speaker Sophie Benson was that large scale change won’t happen without systemic change. Think of plastic bags, Sophie said. Lots of people used them until legislation stopped them being handed out for free. Now barely anyone does. The individual can make a difference, but the government can make a much bigger difference.
You may know that in June 2019, the UK government rejected all of the Environmental Audit Committee’s recommendations for measures to make the fashion industry more environmentally responsible. Sophie says one of the most impactful things you can do as an individual is write to your MP. Put your concerns with the sustainability of the fashion industry at the forefront of their agenda.
2. Learn to fix it
We heard from Anita Smith from Sew What MCR, Vinnie Tao from SneakerPharm and Rich Gill from Bags of Flavor. They all had a similar message: don’t throw it away, clean it up and fix it. Or make it into something new. That’s the sustainable way forward.
Anita teaches people to sew. She made the point that if we knew how much labour went into one garment, we would appreciate it that much more. And the only way to really know is to try it yourself. I may very well be taking you up on that, Anita.
3. Make it unisex, it’s 2020
Niamh from Nemcee makes comfortable unisex clothing in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. She says her clothing is unisex “because it’s 2020 for christ’s sake.” And I couldn’t agree more. One of the most infuriating things about the fashion industry is the constant perpetuation of the gender divide. Like we can’t remember what’s between our legs / in our heads unless our perfumes shout FOR MEN or our get-up is entirely pink.
But unisex is also more sustainable. By making clothing accessible to a wider demographic, we can make less of it.
Keeping it local: Didsbury Gin. // My sustainable getup: jeans and blazer: thrifted from Cow Vintage, coat: Max Mara via Vestiaire Collective
4. Accessibility is key
An age old feature of the fashion industry is its exclusivity. We seem to love a bit of designer price tagging, a few closed doors, some very dark sunnies worn indoors. But a constant gripe that people have with sustainable brands is that they tend to be very expensive – pushing sustainable fashion into that exclusive zone.
It doesn’t have to be that way, and making events like the Sustainable Fashion Party accessible to the general public is a very good start. Yes, they’re fun, but they’re educational too. And they allow everyone to join in with the conversation. What’s more, the proceeds from the tickets are going to Emmeline’s Pantry, a charity helping women and their families access the things they need most, including food, toiletries, baby equipment and clothes.
5. Celebrate local makers
The speakers, brands and makers at the Sustainable Fashion Party were all local from the Manchester area, down to us drinking Didsbury Gin whilst enjoying the fashion show. Aside from the transparency benefits of knowing where your clothes have come from, there’s something so special about a beautiful piece that you managed to hunt down at your local vintage store, which is run by a guy you’ve spoken to, who’s told you the trouble he went to to find that piece.
Plus, for me as someone quite new to Manchester, it was great to get to know the locals making sustainable magic happen.
Thank you Alison and co for the fantastic effort that went into this event, we’re all already looking forward to the next one. If you missed this one, make sure to follow Sustainable Fashion Party on Instagram – a little birdie told me the next one is already in the works.