ELLE UK September Issue Review - By Jodi Muter-Hamilton & Anna Fitzpatrick
It’s not easy for a huge commercial fashion magazine to dedicate an issue to a subject usually considered niche, such as sustainability. The September issue of any glossy magazine, is always the big hitter: largest of the year and most important in terms of advertising revenue. It sets the tone for the season ahead: a back to school marker of mood and intention. Fashion Roundtable have already discussed the visceral impact that 10 women of colour as cover girls for international fashion magazines has this month. From British Vogue's Rihanna front cover (and lovely shoot of our recent podcast guest Ashish’s home! ); it's clear that our on-going work on representation in fashion is current and a much needed dialogue, to activate change. Elle UK's cover had a pregnant and radiant Slick Woods, to launch their first ever Sustainability Issue. Using Emelie Akerbrant to advise them on the issue, they used their own survey to gauge readers' thoughts on sustainability. Over 1000 readers replied and the results are insightful, showing that consumers not only want to know more about sustainability in the fashion industry, but also that they are more likely to buy from a brand that values it.
This is important: marking a consumer shift in fashion, towards mainstream consumption of sustainable brands. Showcasing some of the well-known sustainable fashion titans (and allies of Fashion Roundtable): including Fashion Revolution, Kering, LCF, Stella McCartney, Dilys Williams from the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, Livia Firth and her business Eco-Age, as well as Lola, Baroness Young Of Hornsey, whose important work on amending the Modern Slavery Act, we have been supporting since before our launch. Three of the speakers at our May Sustainability and Geopolitics event were also featured: from talented new designers Bethany Williams and Richard Malone, as well as Orsola de Castro, co-founder of Fashion Revolution, whose global #whomademyclothes campaign since the Rana Plaza disaster of 2013, has brought the invisible factory workers into full focus. We loved the recycled paper and the inclusion of vintage and used clothes in some of the shoots, as well as reference to extending the life of items. And of course, the interview with Stella McCartney.
While it was definitely a brilliant step in the right direction, we would have loved to hear more about climate change and activists involved, as well as hearing more about the politics intrinsic to sustainability. Brexit too, will have huge implications for both fashion and sustainability, so some reference to this is also important. Sustainability cannot happen in isolation: changes to the UK political climate will potentially impact meeting our targets on slavery, on workers' rights, as well as manufacturing.
Two stand out pieces are Pandora Sykes discussing her responsibility as an influencer and The A-Z to a cleaner, greener, more planet-friendly you. These two items remind us that we are all responsible for our actions, and what we do on an individual basis contributes to the bigger picture. Bravo Elle UK, who used their largest selling issue of the year, to bring sustainability into the fashion mainstream, as well as pledging publicly to internal changes too: no more single use plastics and more.
True sustainability requires collective human and environmental integrity. We look to journalists, activists, designers, and all involved in fashion to interrogate these concepts and how they relate to fashion, from all angles. Organic food in your kitchen and a white cotton t'shirt using over 2,700 litres of water on your back, made by a slave in a dangerous factory? It doesn't really add up does it?
We urge editors to commission and showcase these important voices and others whose critique of current systems, which may be different to ours', or the status quo.
To have your say, please take the Sustainability and Geopolitics Survey, created for Fashion Roundtable by Anna.