British summer time, simultaneously horribly humid and wet, yet brilliantly hot and sunny, had generated light conversation to distract us from some of the more upsetting topics this August.
Along with the turmoil surrounding Brexit, the Amazonia fires and the continuation of Trump as US President, Hong Kong is facing one of its most unsettling periods since Britain formally handed over the province to China more than two decades ago. Under Chinese rule, the agreement was for Hong Kong to maintain separate governing and economic systems from mainland China, under the “one country, two systems” designation. However, this has been under threat recently due a proposed extradition amendment bill permitting the extradition of fugitives to China, resulting in continued protests in Hong Kong since June. Two well-known fashion and jewellery brands, Swarovski and Versace, have come under fire from the Chinese government for implying that Hong Kong is a country. Swarovski made the claim on their website, whilst Versace had produced a t-shirt that implied Hong Kong and Macau were both independent territories, which led to Chinese brand ambassador, Yang Mi, cutting ties with the brand. This follows criticism of Givenchy and Coach for misrepresenting Chinese territories on their own products. Both Swarovski and Versace have since apologised and rectified their errors.
Social, economic and political factors are often interwoven with fashion, implausible as that might sound to those unfamiliar or dismissive of the fashion industry. But the news story that keeps on impacting readers and consumers surrounds the ever desperate need for sustainability within the fashion industry.
One of the biggest fast fashion companies has been in the spotlight this month. Primark has announced plans to train 160,000 cotton farmers as part of their initiative to make all cotton based products 100% sustainable. Considered one of the biggest culprits in the fight to be more sustainable, it is refreshing to hear this from Primark. However, since this initiative only relates to women’s pyjamas, a range of denim, towels and bedding, and eventually rolled out to some menswear and t-shirts, and as this is across various categories, there is still a long way for a company, as popular as this, to go.
Collectivism within the industry is a positive step to take, so it’s great to hear that 32 companies have presented their Fashion Pact at the G7 summit, publishing a manifesto detailing objectives and targets aimed at minimising the industry’s impact on climate, oceans and biodiversity. Added to that, the fashion pact wants to ensure social inclusion, fair wages and good working conditions throughout the supply chain, focused on empowering small-hold producers and women in low-income countries. In a further boost for the cause of sustainability, clothing brand Hush saw sales jump 35% last year. Whilst sustainability is not their defining USP, the fact that their designs are meant for longevity, rather than impulse buying that ‘it’ item, means the customer isn’t driven by trends and Hush is producing clothing that’s timeless and designed to last.
Last month, Kim Kardashian West came under fire for her inappropriately named Kimono shapewear. Having judiciously decided to change it, she introduced Skims, thinking outside the box when it came to choosing one of her models. Alongside her many business and reality TV ventures, Kardashian West has been working on prison reform in the USA. She met Alice Marie Johnson who had been sentenced to life imprisonment for her minor role in the drug trade. Following a campaign by Kardashian West, Johnson was released after 19 years and she is now featuring as a model in Kim’s new business project.
WHO magazine faced backlash this month, after publishing a story about a black model with the image of another black woman. Instead of an image of Adut Akech, a South Sudanese-Australian model, WHO printed an image of model Flavia Lazarus. Having issued an apology, the magazine said that it had been given the wrong image by the agency who had set up the interview. Akech, who has featured on the front of Vogue magazine, ironically discussed attitudes to colour and her fashion career within the magazine interview. She commented that she felt “it defeated the purpose of what I stand for and spoke about”, adding that it was a “wake-up call to people within the industry.”
At Barack Obama’s inauguration as President of the United States in 2009, he and Michelle were the epitome of happiness and progressiveness. Michelle stood proudly in her lemongrass Isabel Toledo dress and coat. Toledo, described the outfit as “a very optimistic colour, that had sunshine”. She was to become well-known for embracing diversity and difference, eschewing the traditional catwalk show to produce new collections on her schedule. Sadly, Toledo passed away this August from breast cancer. Describing her ideal as “diversity” and “difference”, Toledo’s progressive vision, along with the optimism many felt when the Obama family entered The White House, are qualities that we could all benefit from today.
To end on a bit of escapism, one of the most anticipated shows returned to TV this month, generating a lucrative clothing line. A combination of Peaky Blinders’ popularity and a famous celebrity fan, who goes by the name of David Beckham, has resulted in a Peaky Blinders-inspired clothing line with Kent & Curwen, co-owned by Beckham. Due in October, both online and in 160 stores, this isn’t the only area of fashion that the hit show has inspired. Although minus the classy, on-trend element that Kent & Curwen brings into the mix, there is already an official online store featuring Peaky Blinders t-shirts and hoodies. And in addition there’s a men’s grooming range set to be unveiled at Superdrug, and the launch of a book. For a show into its fifth series, its popularity is impressive.
Images courtesy of The Guardian and BBC News
About Our Author: Katie Calvert's background is in fashion and textiles with a first class honours degree in Fashion Communication and Promotion and experience in trend, PR and events. She decided to take the plunge back into education in 2015 to complete a Master of Arts in Multimedia Journalism. Using these newfound skills and her love of fashion and culture, Katie has been freelance writing for over a year.