Thursday, 15 September 2016

Both Sides Of the Story

The tone of our last couple of posts has been a little... well, bleak, I guess. It's hard to be light-hearted when the world seems to be collapsing around your ears.

The thing is, though, a lot of that attitude can simply be down to viewpoint. Shift that and things can take on a different, more hopeful sheen.

The reportage that is starting to build around the parlours state of fast fashion is good news for one reason. In order to solve a problem, you first have to acknowledge that the problem exists. And all of a sudden, the public has become aware of the massive issues surrounding the way we make and consume mass market fashion. As Orsola De Castro notes in a great article for The Huffington Post, the situation is comparable to the food industry. There have been huge changes over the past twenty years as we have woken up to the fact that what the big food business wants is not that good for us. Sure, there's still a long way to go, but legislation and public will is moving us slowly towards a more sustainable model.

There's a sense within the fashion industry itself that things need to change. As climate change becomes a clear and present danger, old methods can no longer be considered. Sure, we can sneer at the limited runs of so-called sustainable clothing from high street behemoths, or their tiny percentage of ranges shifted over to organic methods. But at the same time they are beginning to adopt practices and procedures that ethical superstars like Patagonia and Nudie Jeans have had at the heart of their business since the beginning. You have to start somewhere. The simple fact is that you can't turn a juggernaut around on a dime. These things do take time.

And there are increasingly encouraging signs of change, particularly when it comes to worker relationships with the big brands. No less an entity than Gap, long resistant to to any sort of supply-chain transparency, announced last week that they would be opening their records as to which factories they use in developing countries and markets. This is a huge step-change for a company who have lost a lot of good will for their stance on, for example, compensation for Rana Plaza families.

Now, you could argue that this is simply a PR exercise to put a bit of shine back on a tarnished public image. Or, you could view it as the first step in the right direction for an industry that has long been walking on a dark and dirty road. Either way, the end result is a positive one. If the destination is worth getting to, does it matter how you make the journey?

Look, this post is a bit of a meander, I know. But it's really important to try and hold onto a sense of perspective in an area where the situation can change very quickly. The View From The Pier can sometimes be foggy and hard to see clearly. But we do our best to give you a reasonably balanced idea of what's going on. There is despair, but there's also hope. We need to hang onto that.

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