Posted by Bharat Nahar, Partner
Made in Britain: sustainable fashion for concerned consumers
As a society of shoppers we are becoming more concerned of the implications our shopping habits have on the environment than we’ve ever been. And it’s a good thing too, as we now know that the fashion industry is the second biggest polluting industry in the world.
A history of single-use plastics, toxic waste caused by manufacturing and disposable fashion has brought us to this point. Now that our eyes have been opened to the destruction and waste traditionally caused by the industry, we are becoming increasingly concerned with where our clothes come from, if the materials are ethically sourced and what our favourite brands actually stand for.
For retailers within the fashion industry, delivering sustainability is top of the agenda.
This may seem obvious now but it hasn’t always been. When Babs Behan, founder of Botanical Inks started working in textiles she was troubled by the seedy underbelly of the clothing industry. Having studied fine art and specialising in textile design, Behan became aware of the issues around textile making.
“The final product may be beautiful but it was often made with highly noxious chemicals which created gallons of toxic waste. I found the environment unhealthy and was particularly uncomfortable having those chemicals touching my skin. Being an artist should feel good!”
While at University one of Behan’s early businesses made clothes from recycled saris but it unfortunately closed as she struggled to make it financially viable – a common problem for start-ups. Not to be defeated, a trip to India proved inspirational as she witnessed the way clothes were made by hand using natural products such as vegetable dyes and printed with hand carved wooden blocks made from local trees. Her calling reaffirmed, Behan went on to start Botanical Inks, a business keen to get away from global supply chains and promote the ‘closed loop’ system where every part of the clothing must be either recyclable or biodegradable. Earlier this year Botanical Inks launched its first product – Bristol Cloth, a regenerative textile for the UK. It uses wool that’s farmed only 15 miles away from the studio in Bristol, dyed with organic plant dyes and woven in Bristol Weaving Mill – the first industrial loom to open in Bristol in over 100 years. No harmful chemicals are used in any part of the process and it promotes the ‘closed loop system’. All parts come from the soil and can go back into the soil too.
Given what a hot topic sustainable clothing is it’s no surprise that there has been considerable interest in Bristol Cloth and the work Botanical Inks is doing. “This year has been the year for fashion sustainability in England. We’ve just started the conversation though companies such as the Ethical Fashion Forum have been working on it for the last ten years.”
Behan is already in talks with large fashion houses that are keen to use her cloth in their fashion lines. The demand is heightened for this kind of sustainable clothing as forthcoming government changes mean that big brands in the retail sector will face new restrictions and be forced to change the way they work.
Getting ahead of the game is crucial in preparation for these changes but it’s an exciting time when we think about the positive impact it will have not only on the fashion industry but on the planet. We’ll be keeping an eye on Bristol Cloth and their journey – their future is certainly looking brightly coloured.
If you would like to speak to a member of the Retail team, please contact Bharat Nahar
020 7842 1447 Email us