No such thing as sustainable fashion: Vanessa Friedman, fashion critic and director of the New York Times

Vanessa Friedman, the former Fashion editor of the Financial Times and newly appointed chief fashion critic and fashion director of the New York Times, had some fantastic points about fashion and sustainability in her speech at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit yesterday.

She pointed out that the phrasing sustainable fashion is an oxymoron, it contradicts itself. With fashion being ever-changing: new cuts, new fabrics and new colours being “in fashion” at any given time. In order for the industry to sell more clothes, there are new collections coming out more frequently, not only every season or every three months but often every month, as is the case with fast fashion. Like Vanessa puts it: “Designers are effectively running on a creative treadmill that is unsustainable“.

On the one hand the fashion industry is under the pressure to be new, on the other is the imperative to maintain. If you put them together, they repel each other, like the opposite ends of a magnet.

Sustainable wardrobe

Vanessa Friedman reminded us that the phrasing sustainable wardrobe might be a more appropriate focus when we as consumers are making purchasing decisions on fashion items. Look at our grandmothers, who always purchased high quality garments and accessories and were so good at mixing and matching their wardrobe that nobody noticed that they didn’t have so much clothes that they needed their own closet room.

I remember the stories from my own grandmother, discussions that probably came to life when I wanted to follow the trend of teenagers in the 1990s; when you were “in” if you had expensive jeans in strong blue, red or even orange colours. She told me about her wardrobe as a young girl in Reykjavik in the beginning of the 1940s, with basic quality sweaters and skirts but owning different types of collars that gave each set a new life. At that time I thought that this wardrobe strategy would be unthinkable for the future, with fast fashion getting cheaper and the growing economic prosperity in the world.

Vanessa Friedman’s wardrobe

The fashion editor told us about her own wardrobe: with her 10 different sets of clothing that she mixes and matches. Less maintenance, lighter travelling and less time spent on picking out outfits. Inspirational indeed.

Conclusion from Vanessa Friedman: We as consumers can build up sustainable wardrobes but fashion per se is not sustainable.

Vanessa Friedman - Copenhagen Fashion Summit
Vanessa Friedman, Fashion Editor at the Financial Times

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The Copenhagen Fashion Summit of 2014

The Copenhagen Fashion Summit of 2014 took us through all the different elements within the fashion industry that consumers should be aware of and demonstrated how certain companies are implementing sustainable initiatives. Get ready to be in enlightened in the following posts here on Nordic Style Magazine.

Do you have a sustainable wardrobe? Tell us how you go about it or plan to in the comments below.

Top photo credit: Nordic Fashion Association