Sustainability and ethically-sourced clothing are topics on everyone’s lips – and hopefully in their wardrobes – and so they should be!
Undercover investigations at clothing factories in the British city of Leicester recently led to allegations of unethical and unsafe practices amounting to ‘modern day slavery’. This made the headlines in newspapers, TV, radio and social media feeds this July, including Sky News, The Times and BBC News. Since then, the company that owns many fashion brands, including Boohoo, says it has launched an investigation into these allegations.
With recent ‘slavery’ investigations in mind, some consumers have chosen to take their custom elsewhere – hopefully to more sustainable and ethical outlets. We caught up with Singapore-based Susannah Jaffer, founder of the sustainable fashion, multi-label, online boutique, Zerrin, to get her thoughts on the importance of ethically and sustainably sourced clothing.
Jaffer told us that when she was in her teenage years, she dreamed of working for Boohoo or ASOS, but after a few years, she was really yearning for the opposite, reflecting that, “Between the ages of 24 – 45, most shoppers get to a point where they’re more interested in being sustainable and giving back. Whereas younger people tend to be more easily ‘sold’ brand marketing.”
This is where brands like Zerrin and OFFENSIVE Fashion come in. They are on a mission to make the conversation around sustainable fashion exciting, engaging and empowering for their customer.
Jaffer goes on to say: ‘There is a certain amount of educating that needs to happen, to allow people to make fully informed choices.’ Stacey Dooley’s BBC Documentary, Fashion’s Dirty Secret which featured shocking and heart-rending images of farmers and workers made chronically ill from exposure to toxic by-products helped educate viewers about the harmful substances that are used to grow and dye cotton and other fabrics – something OFFENSIVE Fashion avoids: When making our garments, we use Oeko-Tex Standard 100 Certified Fabrics to ensure the least toxic methods of manufacture possible. Our garments are all super-soft, yet highly durable, while being as ‘inOFFENSIVE’ to the planet, and factory workers, as possible.
Susannah agrees, saying, “I feel kids should be taught the difference between polyester, cotton and so on, at school: urging them to ask questions about which options are more sustainable.”Jaffer named the business Zerrin, as it means ‘golden one’ as a reflection of a desire to be ‘best in class’ in every respect when it comes to fashion.
RE-CONNECTING THE CONSUMER AND THE MAKER
Until just a few decades ago, Fashions were created by going to your dress maker or tailor, who’d pin fabrics onto your body and make clothes specifically to fit you. There was thus a physical connection between the customer and the maker. They met each other and trusted bonds formed. Then, as high street retail chains grew, the ‘tailor’ became invisible to the customer. Now, in light of the rise of online fashion, it seems that an ever greater void has grown between ‘tailor’ and customer, blinding shoppers to various unethical practices in factories etc.
Jaffer tells us that: “People’s comfort-level with online shopping in the UK is way higher than in Singapore. Singaporeans do have an eye for quality if fabric and fit. Britain is generally more trend and retail-led.” As such, when people shop online, they generally know less about the origins and journey of the garments going into their basket.
She goes on to say, “We curate a selection of the best in sustainable fashion, amongst emerging brands. They are all beautiful designs, and real care is taken about the people involved in their production, and their effects on the planet. Shoppers come to the brand looking for sustainable style and alternative fashion options – new or old. We’re not so much ‘breaking news’, but championing the independent business community.”
At OFFENSIVE Fashion, our mission is to produce clothing that will last far longer than the average 14 wears per garment, and we encourage consumers to buy quality over quantity. Although we are still a small, family-run business, we are determined to produce high-quality, comfort and style that is inOFFENSIVE to the planet.