How sustainable is luxury, bespoke clothing?

Wednesday, May 8th 2019
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Sustainability might be a hot topic at the moment, but it’s one I’ve always felt has particular relevance for the Permanent Style audience.

As consumers, we care more than average about clothes. We know and we care about quality. We deliberately buy things that we think will last better. Sometimes, we even purposefully support a particular craft or industry.

But on the other hand, we buy more clothes than most. When storing excess clothes is a regular topic of discussion, we can’t be the most frugal or focused of consumers.

So how do we fare from a sustainability point of view? And more importantly, what should we be doing better?

Spurred by comments on a recent post about fur, I recently spoke to American journalist Alden Wicker about fashion and sustainability.

Below is the interview, but this is only the start of more coverage of the issue on Permanent Style.

There will be a separate extract just looking at animal rights, and pieces driven by engagement with the academics on this issue in the UK in the future.

Permanent Style: Hi Alden. Could you start by telling me a little bit about your writing, and where you get information from?

Alden Wicker (above): Sure. I’m a journalist here in the United States, writing largely about sustainable fashion. My site, EcoCult, has been going since 2013, and was partly spurred by the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh.

A lot has happened since then. The topic has grown wider, gained more attention, and many companies have started to track sustainability through their supply chain - the ones under the Kering Group in particular.

I interview experts and academics, but actually there is a surprising lack of original research on this topic. It’s often pigeonholed as something just relevant to women’s fast fashion, and not that central to debate about the environment in general.

In fact a lot of the information about sustainable fashion on the internet is not true - if you try to track it down to its source, it’s just people repeating what someone else has written. Even the UN often repeats these facts, rather than doing their own research. There is a new group in New York now though, called the New Standard Institute. Hopefully they will improve matters.

I think you understand the typical Permanent Style reader and what they’re buying: wool tailoring, cotton shirts, leather shoes, largely made in Europe but with raw materials often from elsewhere. Can we break down how sustainable and environmentally friendly the different items are?

Sure. The first thing to say is probably that by buying things made in Europe, rather than Asia for example, the clothing is more environmentally friendly. Everything made in the EU is governed by the REACH guidelines, which cover things like chemicals that can be used and how they are disposed of.

But that won’t affect the raw materials if they’re coming from elsewhere?

No it won’t. And Italy is particularly bad at allowing goods to be largely made in another country, finished in Italy, and then stamped as ‘Made in Italy’. So that’s not much guidance.

But if you know the leather you’re buying was tanned in Italy or France, for example, then it does guarantee something. You know that heavy metals like chromium are not going into the water supply, in the way they are in other countries.

So a good rule of thumb is that the more of the product is made in the EU, the better it is likely to be in this regard?

Yes. There are exceptions, but that’s a good place to start. And the raw materials are particularly important because they will do the most damage.

Among the materials we mentioned earlier - wool, leather, cotton - which are the best and worst for sustainability?

Well taking them one at a time, wool is a great material. It’s biodegradable, it can be farmed in an ethical way, and often it’s very sustainable in its environment. Most Italian suiting will use wool that comes from Australia, and they’re pretty good in this regard.

[We will set animal rights aside for the moment, and deal with those in a separate article.]

There is a movement in the US at the moment around ‘regenerative’ farming which is trying to treat anything like a sheep or cow like another hooved animal - like a bison, perhaps. Allowing it to roam freer, and to take part in the maintenance of a sustainable environment.

How does an animal do that?

By grazing the land, by pooping on the soil, by walking on it which helps aerate and draw carbon down into the earth. All the normal things wild animals would have done. Patagonia as a company is doing a lot in this area and will be making things from regenerative wool, sold and registered as such.

It sounds like how most sheep farming is done in the UK, and a lot in Australia too. It’s free-range farming, rather than anything mass-farmed or done in cages.

Exactly. There are other specific requirements to call it regenerative, like pasture rotation, but any raw product made in this general manner is extremely sustainable. 

Good news for the British mill trade. The best thing you could buy might be cloth woven in Britain, from British sheep.

In general wool seems very good though - largely because the raw material is coming from these highly regulated countries. How about cashmere, how does that compare?

Cashmere is very different. There’s just too much cheap, destructive cashmere coming out of China, and it’s leading to desertification. There are better producers of course, but if you’re buying cheap cashmere from Uniqlo, you’re not helping.

Is there a way to know whether cashmere comes from more sustainable sources?

Not really, no, but the price is often a good indicator. You just can’t mass produce the more expensive cashmere. It takes more time and attention, you can’t overcomb the animals and so on. Buy from heritage companies that have been buying good cashmere for a long time.

However, I would suggest to your readers that rather than go for cashmere, they could look to vicuna or guanaco. There are four South American camelids (the other two being llama and alpaca) and they’re all very well farmed. They roam over large areas, and they’re often farmed by indigenous peoples too.

I guess vicuna is often too expensive for people.

Yes, and it deserves to be expensive for its qualities - it’s lighter, softer and more insulating than cashmere. But the way it’s farmed also makes it more sustainable.

If vicuna is too expensive, then they could try guanaco (below). It’s essentially the same as vicuna, it’s just hard to get out of Argentina and doesn’t have the marketing power of Loro Piana. Some Italian companies even mix guanaco into vicuna because it’s cheaper, but no one can notice the difference unless they look at it under a microscope.

I know cotton production has led to lots of issues with desertification as well, mostly in central Asia. But do the same points about mass manufacture apply here too? Is luxury cotton more sustainable because it can’t be produced in the same quantities?

Yes, cotton has big issues with water use and pesticides, and in general those smaller, luxury productions will be better. Egyptian and Pima cotton are good, for example. Organic cotton would be even better.

How about leather?

The first thing to know about leather is there are no good alternatives. There are some in the pipeline, which luxury companies are excited about, but really the only alternatives are plastics.

PVC is quite toxic, polyurethane is just a plastic, others are better but they’re pretty much all made with petrochemicals and not biodegradable. So I just don't think it's worth looking at the alternatives.

Also the best thing about leather is that it will last you forever. You can wear and repair it, for year and years and years. And of course that’s always the most sustainable thing you can do: buy something and wear it forever. Leather can do that.

Tanning isn’t very environmentally friendly, is it?

No, it’s a very intensive process. Traditional tanning uses chromium and other extremely toxic substances. And if it’s tanned in Morocco, say, or India or Pakistan, it’s likely that the effluence is just dumped into the waterways. People who live near the tanneries in Bangladesh have a life expectancy of around 45 years.

There is vegetable tanning and wet-white tanning, which are better, but they don’t tend to be used on leather jackets, more on shoes and on satchels.

Fortunately Permanent Style readers are fairly obsessive about the natural ageing of veg-tanned leather, so that’s another bonus.

Yes that helps. And as I said, tanning in the EU is always better - even in Turkey, which has its own version of REACH.

The separate issue with leather is the raw material, and here I think it’s important to make a distinction. Cows are not raised for their leather. They’re raised for their meat, and leather is about 5% of the value of the cow. So if you stop buying leather, there won’t be fewer cows.

Is that the case for really high-end leathers, like we might be dealing with? Calf, lambskin, goat etc?

No, those are raised for their leather. It’s a tiny part of the market, but they’re raised for leather.

OK, so a strike against us there - most of the leather for our shoes will be calf. How about exotics, are they similar in being raised for their skins?

Actually, exotics are a whole other area. There’s a lot of misinformation here. There was a good op-ed in the Business of Fashion about this recently, actually, following Chanel’s decision to stop selling exotics.

A group of conservationists pointed out that a lot of exotics are farmed by indigenous peoples, who use them as a way to make money from preserving wild areas. If that income is taken away, they have to turn to other uses for the land, like mining, logging or other activities.

[This is an area we'll cover in our second piece, on fur. It suffers from some of the same issues, just more intensively.]

It sounds like a more sensible approach is that taken by other fashion houses - to continually put pressure on producers to farm as ethically as possible. And on the point of farming animals, is that not very sustainable? There could certainly be animal rights objections, but from a pure sustainability point of view, those farms are producing and then killing the animals - there is no depletion of populations, no overuse of natural resources?

Yes, that’s true. You just need to add ethical treatment to that and you’re on the right lines. I remember going to a crocodile farm in Australia, run by an Aboriginal group, and watching the animals all swimming around the creeks and rivers that criss-crossed the property. 

By the way, there’s a surfeit of leather on the market at the moment, because everyone’s buying trainers, which are largely plastic. Some companies are making trainers from recycled plastic, and there are ones using merino wool, but they’re small.

On the subject of companies that offer more sustainable products - how do you think customers should treat them? There’s a tendency to be quite cynical.

People should question what they do, certainly. But the biggest way to enact change is often to reward those companies. It’s what drives the capitalist model: buy that type of product and they’ll make more of it.

There’s a nice phrase about that: ‘Those that care don’t shop, and those that shop don’t care.’

Exactly. Like Ralph Lauren has a new ‘Earth Polo’ on sale at the moment. You could be quite cynical about that being a tiny part of production, and just a PR stunt. But there will be people looking carefully at how that sells. If it does well, next time there might a full range, then the next year a full brand. Companies are set up to monitor demand and respond to it.

Yes, and use every chance to tell the company what you’re doing. Tell the sales associate, fill in a feedback form. I had a friend that worked at a large consumer company, and they told me how some feedback on sustainability was passed up the chain - often managers want to make a difference, they just need a commercial reason to do so.

We’ve often commented on the website that ethical aims can be conflicting: cotton might use more water, but alternatives might create more carbon. How do you feel about this area?

To be honest, I don’t think people should worry too much about it. They shouldn’t agonise over which ethical aspect to care more about. Just by making an ethical choice - with any aim - is a big step, and puts you ahead of the vast majority of consumers.

Buy Fair-Trade or buy local, they’re both positive choices.

As a final point, do Permanent Style readers do well on sustainability because many things are made to order? So there is no stock, no wastage?

Absolutely, that’s a big point. The fashion industry is very wasteful when it comes to seasonal collections that need to be replaced, things being wasted or thrown away.

Overall, having things made to order and just consuming less is the most important thing. Most of the problems with the fashion industry are from mass production: making things at scale so they can be as cheap as possible. Avoid that and you’re doing very well.

Thanks Alden. There are clearly areas of improvement, but Permanent Style readers will probably be quite reassured by this. Buying better products, often to order, and looking after them well.

I agree. I don’t think many consumers think about it anywhere near this hard, either, so that’s very positive.

Alden Wicker is a writer and founder of the website EcoCult.com She has contributed to several magazines including NewsWeek, and travelled the world looking at sustainable environmental practices. 

There will be a further part of this interview looking just at fur and animal rights soon. And more coverage on sustainability, including debate on film. In the meantime, here are some other resources:

The UK Parliament inquiry into sustainability and fashion.

London College of Fashion’s Centre for Sustainable Fashion.

Alden on wool, cotton and leather.

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Linus

Interesting article Simon, always interested to read more on the implications of sustainability on classic menswear.

About the last point on MTM and bespoke garments are better for the environment – how feasible do you think it is to have more people coming to this side from RTW using the banner of sustainability? Certainly price is one of the greatest deterrents in this case.

Robin

Really good article that goes beyond the rhetoric ..
Although, I agree we should all do our bit, the reality is are over 2 billion Chinese and Indians going to listen to us ?

20 years ago developing nations wore tailored colours made by the local tailor and had them recoloured when they faded.
Now they wear off the peg , ill fitted designer nonsense.

We’ve planted the seed of western style consumption and all that it entails.
We colonised and lectured them and now we lecture them from afar …. don’t be surprised if they say “It’s our turn now . Don’t deny us our moment !”

Child labour is wrong , says the western intellect.
My child’s labour puts food on the table , says the poor family.
Just like your ancestor’s child did over 100 year ago.
I don’t mean to trivialise but these are very difficult issues and sometimes when we think we’re doing good (not using child labour ) we’re possibly causing more harm (note – I am NOT advocating child labour).

As I grow older I despise waste and I never throw out clothes .
Reading PS and my general shift in mindset means I don’t need another cheap shirt so I’ve started buying MTM shirts.
But for me, a man of limited means, to continue on this path that MTM shirt needs to last a lot longer then a cheap high street shirt.

Bobby

Ah, the myth of the Noble Savage.

People in the Third World can make up their own minds to adopt mass consumption, thank you very much. And I think you’ll find they will defend that model, and encourage it at home and in the Western world too. Because high-volume, low-quality production is what lifted those billions out of dire poverty onto something better, and set their nations on the path to development (and in the case of China, world domination).

The trouble with the argument for “sustainable” clothing is that if the West went sustainable, the economies on the far side of the world would collapse.

In any case, sustainability is a very loose term. Nothing we ever do as a population of nine billion (or is ten?) is ever going to be sustainable. Just to give an example, the current global sheep population stands at one billion. If every person on Earth had to have a sustainable suit made out of wool, even assuming all the sheep produce wool that can be spun into half-decent yarn, there wouldn’t be enough sheep to go round.

Jack Millington

Simon, this is a fantastic read and we’ll be sharing it far and wide. One question, and I may have misread this, but is Alden suggesting that goat leather (and calfskin/lambskin) is from animals reared for their leather? I’d argue that the vast majority of these animals are raised to be eaten too.

MatthewV

Great article, my wife and I were just discussing these issues this morning. A lot of the major mass produced clothing retailers like even Primark state that they can trace their products regarding ethical production, but the issue of mass production and waste will still remain. It is nice to think MTO / bespoke is sustainable, especially as we are bound to look after and treasure those items.

Rafael

Excellent points. Having worked in luxury supply chains for over a decade I would also like to add a secondary point on the impact of transporting goods. At large RTW companies even the ‘ethical’ products may be transported by air freight multiple times – even trims like zippers, studs and buttons rack up worrying amounts of air miles. This is a hidden impact that consumers may never be able to calculate when making a purchasing decision.

The brands featured on PS would mostly be much better in this regard, even the RTW ones such as Blackhorse Lane or Private White due to their scale and focus. Which brings me to the cost barrier. I cannot afford bespoke, however even within fairly average economic means we as consumers can choose say BHL denim, proper work boots and a few shirts from someone like SEH Kelley. Style preferences aside, these items are a fraction of the price of bespoke and last forever. Personally I hope that the future will see more brands such as these where shareholder wealth is not the core driver of value.

Dom

If you are getting a quote from some builders for a new kitchen, and one is drastically cheaper than the other there’s a reasonably chance that the cheap one is dumping your old kitchen and all the rest of the rubbish in a layby. The cost of the kitchen hasn’t decreased, you’ve just forced someone else to pay for the rubbish disposal. Probably your neighbours via council tax.

I’m not sure clothing is much different. The cost of the garment is the same, you’ve just forced some poor soul in the developing world to pay some of it.

Nicolas Stromback

Dear Simon,

I recently read about the OEKO-TEX® certification. How does that compare to this REACH that Alden mentioned in the article?

And, on another note, even if a factory or company has these types of certifications, how is one to know if they follow the code of conduct? Sure, I would like to buy Loro Piana, but until that happens it would be nice to source materials for suits etc. from solid companies.

Edmund S

Great piece Simon. As you know, there is a UK brand making sustainable cloth from yak. Tengri, which was founded by Nancy Johnston, works with 4500 families in Mongolia to harvest the fibers annually. She’s doing amazing work. Might be worth a deeper dive. I hear she has projects with Cheaney Shoes and Savoir Beds in addition to the project she had with Huntsman.

Annon

This is a one sided discussion and may I say : confirmation bias. Only interview folks who agree with your lifestyle. Makers making their goods sustainably is half the battle. Consumers buying excess of it, makes slow fashion fast fashion. Sustainability is “meeting the needs of the present generations without compromising the needs of future generations.” Alden is probably not the best person to interview about not consuming excess given her lifestyle.

Niklas

Great post! Looking forward to upcoming posts on these topics.
One thing I would love to se covered on PS is high end/sartorial vintage/second hand shopping since that is one of the best ways to get clothes in a sustainable way.

Anonymous

Agreed

Peter K

I don’t think I would want to be the fellow in the red ball cap facing that group of alligators!

I hope they harvested him sustainabley.

More seriously, I think buying good quality, buying less and wearing it forever are the best things we can do. And buying classic items that don’t go “out of style”.

One thing that wasn’t mentioned was buying lightly used clothing in thrift shops, consignment stores or online. I’ve acquired some good shoes and sport coats that way.

ANM

Simon,

When I first saw the title, I thought the article would be on the commercial viability of bespoke clothing, etc. The challenge being the same one watches faced some years ago – why would anyone pay more money for a less accurate timepiece, when one that was fantastically precise could be had for the price of a pint, or a fast food meal.

After reading the article, I see it refers to the sourcing of raw materials, etc.

In that sense, is there a follow up article potential on whether or not more could be done to make the manufacturing end of clothing more “sustainable’?…

What happens to scraps/trimmings?

Can clothes be re – cycled? (I believe much of the cotton “bond” paper industry uses jean industry trimmings as a raw material)

I believe there was an article in the NYT recently about one of the big fashion houses accepting its’ used clothes back, and doing everything from turning them into art pieces, to re – cutting and using the fabric…

So the clothing industry appears to on its’ way to being “woke”….at least as far as the environment is concerned..

Anonymous

My niece has just obtained a first class degree from a famous uni. Her subject, “making new clothes from old clothes” Interesting.

ANM

Simon,

I believe Lapo Elkann has famously re – purposed his grandfathers suits (although given probable differences in height, and build, it must be quite the challenge to do so…)….

colin macdonald

Hi Simon,
There seems to be a lot of trendy nonsense in this article, one point, up here in North Wales our sheep are virtually wild animals. This kind of husbandry we used to call it “free range” and grass fed, it puts a huge cost on the product, as such Welsh lamb is pricing itself out of the home market.

Hugh

Conscientious consumers need to understand that everything they buy is damaging the environment- the best thing to do is simply consume less. Darning a sock is better than all the “earth polos” or “eco-fleeces” money can buy. Die Workwear had a good article recently on how people have forgotten how to mend, choosing to chuck and buy new instead of patching up.

Hugh

Also any source on guanaco cloth Simon?

Gonzague

Asking for Cupro lining rather than viscose is a good way for sartorialists to foster sustainability. Although the production processes are close, the former is pretty eco friendly while the latter definitely isn’t.

Jason

A very interesting article.
I agree fully with Peter K’s point.
The best way to address this issue is to buy the classics, made in absolutely the best quality and wear them forever. I would also add, only buy what you need and ensure the provenance is as local as possible.
I have always had a preference for well worn clothes so as well as being sustainable, this mantra suits my sensibilities and my desire to support – whenever possible – my fellow citizens as a priority.
I would also add that I look for brands that encourage longevity. My tailor repairs, sponges and presses my suits. I favour ‘Private White’ for outwear because apart from the fact that they are Manchester based and have fantastic designs, locally sourced fabrics and great manufacturing quality, they also give a lifetime guarantee. Ditto with Joseph Cheaney who will completely refurbish your boots and shoes for £150 !
These are the things that attract me. Style forever – fashion never. Where are all those Pitti Umo bum freezers now ? Probably in some landfill. That trend lasted a long time didn’t it ?

Anonymous

Interesting article. Clearly you make, with some validity, an argument for the environmental benefits of bespoke. There is a danger however, in conflating the issues within bespoke with those in luxe fashion and fast fashion. Inter-related they might be but given that so few men (as a proportion) commission bespoke it really is a minor aspect of a very large industry. Luxe fashion, now bounded by near-oligopoly control, sets a different paradigm by creating continuous want at an expensive, vicarious, superficial level. This unattainable want translates, for the vast majority, into fast fashion: by far the most wasteful and polluting level. Essentially the value is not in the garment itself (say skinny jeans) but whether the item follows the current fashion trend. It has a subjective value (in value theory). Of course once the majority adhere to the mainstream fashion those that lead fashion (essentially the fashion designers, brands and editors) then change the paradigm. The fundamental drivers of change have been low-cost/low quality output resulting in high levels of disposability combined with historically low supply chain costs. The key factor, compared to a generation before, is that we have many multiples of the same thing (for example: how many pairs of shoes do you own?). Separately, picking on Uniclo, an erstwhile retailer with decent supply chains seems moot, they are no different to M&S, Tesco, John Lewis etc. who, across the winter, all sold ‘affordable’ cashmere. To suggest Vicuña or Guanaca, some of the world’s most expensive yarns, as an alternative is also rather strange. Setting an agenda for quality in cloth, cut and construction, being informed as to what to buy and selecting, as core items, classical, long-lasting pieces seems the best response to the issues raised.

jason

A spot on analysis from Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous.
I particularly liked their comment ; ” by creating continuous want at an expensive, vicarious ,superficial level.”
For me, that sums things up.
At the end of the day, it is possible to like nice things without being superficial or glutinous. Filling your boots with all this fashion forward stuff will destroy the environment and make you look ridiculous in the process. Style forever, fashion never !

Matt

Simon,

Really enjoyed this article. I look forward to the follow-up articles as well. Thanks to you and Alden for the insight.

Matt

Really good article. It really gives me great insight into luxury bespoke clothing. Thanks for this one.

Anonymous

Re. Vicuña: fully accept that it is probably one of the better sustainability models. It is worth noting that they are wild animals in limited numbers and defy domestication. The argument to expense is wrong as it is only accessible for a very few – proposing Vicuña (12 tonnes annual output from 125,000 animals in the Andes) over widely sold Cashmere (25,000 tonnes annual output from 130,000,000 + animals in China, Mongolia, Central Asia, Australia, USA, NZ) doesn’t answer the market demand even at a high end luxe level. You posit a 3:1 ratio for sweaters but the real output ratio currently stands at 2,000:1. Once these numbers are analysed the proposition that Vicuña might be a replacement even when ownership numbers of knitwear items are altered down is simply not achievable.

Paul

Great interview Simon

A gentle suggestion, since you lightly touched on it from the leather perspective, is whether things that are bought “for life” will fundamentally help improving the reputation of the fashion industry?

There’s a small subreddit named (BIFL – Buy It For Life), and it reminds me of the approach of many firms featured on Permanent Style – Frank Clegg can be said to follow that path. Do you think something similar to BIFL would take off, or has it been reflected through the work of Permanent Style?

Cheers

Richard Jones

Great article Simon. It’s got me thinking the last couple of days. Having already built a solid wardrobe, of which I wear everything regularly, and more importantly identified my own personal style, it’s clear that when menswear is a hobby / passion – consumption and spending is inevitable. Being conscious of sustainability – here is my 2019 purchases and repairs:

Jan (avoided sales, just about)
Sunspel sweatshirt – £70
LVC 501 repairs at Son of Stag – £45

Feb
2 x Simone Abbarchi shirts – £340
2 x Cheaney Imperial factory repairs – £290

March (my birthday)
Cheaney Howard penny loafers – £365
Sunspel sweatshirt – £110
Replacement Castaner espadrilles (regretfully they’ll only last till the end of summer) -£35 (wife pre-bought in Jan sales).

April
Desert boot heel replacement, Kokos – £25

May
Nothing

And here is my wish list / forecast for rest of the year. Which I’ve been doing a good job sticking with.

June (fathers day)
Shoes Like Poetry canvas trainers – £110

July
M&S chino shorts – £25
Anglo-Italian cotton chinos – £305

October
Replacement CP white achilles low £290 (my current of 3 years should reach £40 on eBay).

December Christmas
Cheaney Howard Penny loafers – £365, to alternate with my March purchase, and replace my Church’s Pembrey – 10 years, close to 1000 wears, 2 factory repairs and 1 repair at Kokos. The uppers are not worth another repair. I won’t sell or bin – I’ll intend to wear for rough days, but mostly likely, I’ll hoard.

I’ll need some new socks in 2020.

P.F.

This is one of the most interesting posts I’ve read in Permanent Style. Very enlightening. My personal take away is to buy only what each of us think we need, invest in long lasting high quality products and repair whenever possible instead of simply replacing. On a personal note, although I was thinking of changing my 16 year old leather jacket for a new one, I am now considering re-lining as an option.

Great article, looking forward to more articles about sustainability and animal welfare. Thank you Simon

Fabian Jahn Högler

Very interesting article, Simon. Great for people to get a reminder about wastefulness, since it is easy to go overboard when you are in this industry and have this interest. It is also good to hear that buying European and MTO/MTM/bespoke is advisable. Makes one feel better.

Angela Sum

Great article. Honestly what needs to be done first and easily is to put value back into clothes and slow down fast fashion. The way clothes are being consumed and disposed of I feel ties in all the biggest problems: waste, ethical production, … And there’s every benefit for the consumer to learn to adapt to slower quality fashion (and it doesn’t have to be boring…).

Jeldrik

Very, very interesting interview.

I think one of the main problems with sustainable fashion for a long time was that many things simply looked unattractive (not to say ugly). Obviously this has been changed for some time.

Thanks for the interview. I’m looking forward to further posts on this topic.

JB

I have pretty much stopped buying OTR clothes, largely because they simply don’t come in my sizes, high street fashion still being slim and short, me being built and tall. Had I been able to fit into some of it, I’d possibly buy a bit more like casual chinos if I could, but it’d probably be from the likes of Drake’s or The Armoury, so I guess at least somewhat smaller scaled production.
Summer shoes like simple supergas are exceptions, but that’s about it.

I think you touch upon a very valid point that we can all have a think about, which is the amount of clothing we buy, regardless of the quality. We all pride ourselves with getting high quality basics, your navy sports coats, grey trousers, oxford shoes etc. But the deeper the interest goes, the more clothes we buy. They might be more sustainable than an H&M suit, but it’s still a massive excess in many cases. Let’s be real, none of us need 15 odd jackets.

I remember a time when I got around on 3-4 pairs of trousers, 2 jackets and a suit. I’d like to believe I could go back to such a small rotation one day, but I honestly doubt it will ever happen.
Clothing has become a hobby after all, and not adding stuff every now and again, not out of necessity, but out of joy, would make it a pretty dull one.

JB

Simon, I think Swedish brand Asket (I believe you’ve touched upon them before?) is worth a mention here. They champion slow fashion with well made basics and they’re striving for full transparency for all their product. They’ve told stories of how mills have actually mislead them at times, how they’ve called them out on it on a higher level and still made it work etc. https://www.asket.com/traceability/

I don’t own any of their products yet, but I’m keen on trying the t-shirts and perhaps the socks.

JB

Hi Simon,
Another thought popped up: Did you discuss trunk shows at all? While a classic, mtm/bespoke wardrobe probably has mostly benefits for the environment, I wonder how much all the travelling back and forth (mostly by plane) reduces said benefits?

Diego

Hi Simon – long time reader and fan of your work but first time on the comments section.
Excellent post. As mentioned by someone else it would be useful to highlight a bit more Alden’s profile and include some counter arguments.
Alden mentions that calves are raised for their leather but that there is a surfeit of non-calf leather on the market. Do you know what is the commercial name of hides that are byproducts of the meat industry? Since reading your post 3 weeks ago I have been trying to find non-calf options for good bench made shoes (bespoke is out of my budget) and it has been incredibly challenging. Information is scarce and when I manage to trace their origin they all end up being either calf or horse (leather is also significant on their business case). Deerskin and kudu does not seem to be popular among the top end manufacturers for instance. Owning a large number of shoes already (all of them calf leather apparently), I am not keen on continuing sponsoring the killing of another living creature just to use it on my feet.

Diego

Yes, I guess the solution is to control my consumerism.
Thanks for your response, much appreciated.