Wednesday, 11 September 2019

What Do Mainstream Magazines Have To Say About Sustainability in Fashion?

Last week I brought my first issue of Grazia. What made me take a second glance at the front cover of this magazine were the words 'Circular Fashion'. I was really pleased to see issues of sustainability within the fashion industry discussed in mainstream magazines. I don't want to see sustainability treated as a niche and exclusive part of fashion. It quite simply can't be that way if we have any chance of reducing the impact of the fashion industry on the planet. Media and magazines have a huge role to play, explaining environmental and ethical issues to the public, as well as providing accessible solutions.

By now one of the things that I have come to expect from fashion magazines, are pages stuffed full of items of 'MUST HAVE' clothing and accessories that you simply 'NEED TO BUY NOW'. So, as you can imagine, I was instantly curious to see what Grazia would have to say about taking a slower approach to fashion and shopping.

I appreciate the way Grazia emphasised the attractive side of vintage shopping, focusing on influencers who use platforms such as Instagram to remove the un-glamourous stigma of second-hand. It is also great that they have printed advice on how to 'breath new life into old clothes'. These are all ways in which we can make sustainable changes, without requiring a large budget.

However I do think that Grazia is giving rather mixed messages about their stance on sustainability. Whilst talking of 'trendless' fashion and 'make do and mend' on one page, Grazia has a double page spread titled 'WHAT'S NEW NOW' on another, the caption for one picture of a blouse being 'A woman can never have too many square-necked and smocked blouses'.
I guess that Grazia's standpoint is that it is still ok to buy a Zara top as long as you take care of your clothes (see my post Why Sustainable Fashion Needn't Be Exclusive), but one thing they forget to mention, despite having several pages about donating clothes, is the issue of overconsumption.

I also think that the attention is currently on sustainability (which it absolutely needs to be) but magazines should also be sharing the stories of the people who make our clothes.

In Grazia, Amy Powney, the creative director of Mother and Pearl, says 'in defence of the public, I think it's brand new information [to many] that fashion has an environmental footprint'. I agree. I also think it is brand new information that all clothes are handmade - something that has only really come onto my conscience in the last several years. I think the majority of people really do care, but walking into a clean high street store isn't the same as walking into a factory and seeing the real conditions that the clothes were made in. We are so disconnected from the processes behind our clothes. We need magazines and the media to be at the forefront of making those links and raising awareness so that the wellbeing of the people who made our clothes will be on our minds when we shop, rather than simply aesthetic appeal.
I am a big fan of The Sustainability Issue which Elle released last September. Whether you are new to sustainable fashion or you know a lot already, you will find it packed full of relevant and interesting advice. It covers sustainability approximately 90% of the issue (10% ads) and it doesn't miss out on promoting sustainable fashion brands as well as skincare.
There are interviews with Stella McCartney, articles by Naomi Klein and a feature on the founders of Fashion Revolution.
I haven't read any Elle magazine's for a while, but I am not sure that all of their issues promoted sustainability in this way - I wish that they did.

These sustainability and circular fashion issues make a statement, vital in raising awareness. What I hope for these fashion magazines is that 'Circular Fashion' and 'Sustainability' aren't simply viewed as trends and buzzwords which pop up in a single issue, but values which underpin everything that they promote. With the amount of pollution and greenhouse gases produced by the fashion industry, we can't afford to see sustainability as simply a trend.
It needs to become a way of life.

UPDATE: Since publishing this post, a letter I wrote to Grazia about their circular issue was published in their Issue 746. I thought I would share the whole of that letter here...


I picked up my first Grazia magazine this week (9th September). What caught my eye was the issue’s focus on circular fashion, a term I know but have never seen on the front of a mainstream fashion magazine. I am a fashion design and marketing student and I write an ethical/sustainable fashion blog ( It concerns me that sustainable fashion sometimes comes across as exclusive, even though sustainable fashion is as much about our attitude towards what we buy and wear, and how we care for our clothes as to what we buy. It is about only buying clothes that we truly love and not making unnecessary purchases, something that Stacey Dooley emphasised in her article. I hope more magazines encourage their readers to consider and act upon the sustainable and ethical issues surrounding fashion. I also hope all of your issues will be circular fashion issues.

Best wishes,

Rebecca Frost

                                                                                                 Beccy x

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