Forget throwaway trends – here’s how Vanish are inspiring us to make the clothes we love last a lifetime

Here's how MC's Sustainability Festival sponsor Vanish are transforming our throwaway fashion culture

In partnership with Vanish 

On Saturday 27th March, Marie Claire hosted our first-ever Sustainability Festival. A pioneering virtual event celebrating all things sustainable living, ethical fashion and eco-friendly beauty, we were joined by a roster of incredible guest speakers – from Lily Cole to Jasmine Hemsley – to discuss how small changes to our everyday consumption habits can have a huge impact on the planet.

(ICYMI, you can catch up on all of the talks here, and read the key takeaways here.)

And while it became clear just how crucial these small changes are across the board, the question of how we can truly make the future of fashion more sustainable in our post-pandemic world was one of the most pressing.

It’s a question we at Marie Claire have long been working to answer. As our Editor-in-Chief Andrea Thompson told attendees as she opened the festival, “Sustainability is a topic we’ve always been passionate about over at Marie Claire – the first women’s magazine brand to talk about global warming and sustainable fashion back in 1988. We’ve been championing environmental issues for over 30 years.”

So our partnership with Vanish – a brand that’s inspiring everyone from families to fashion lovers to make more sustainable choices when it comes to clothing – is only fitting. Having just joined forces with the British Fashion Council to raise awareness of the 3.5 tonnes of clothing thrown away every five minutes in the UK, Vanish are on a mission to help our clothes live longer lives. Here’s how.

350,000 tonnes of clothing are sent to landfill each year

New research commissioned by Vanish has highlighted just how expendable our attitudes towards fashion are – with 64 percent of consumers admitting to wearing an item of clothing just once, and 50 percent owning an item they have never worn. So learning that a staggering 350,000 tonnes of clothing are being sent to landfill each year comes as less of a surprise than it should.

Of the 1,000 consumers surveyed by OnePoll on behalf of Vanish, almost a third (31 percent) said they disposed of items at a clothing bank or by throwing them in the bin (16 per cent), rather than considering more conscious options like sharing them with friends and family.

But it’s our reasoning behind getting rid of clothes so quickly that really shows up our throwaway attitude to fashion. According to Vanish, many of us are guilty of throwing out our clothes for the slightest of reasons – with 22 percent of consumers citing faded colours, 20 percent citing stains, and 19 percent citing minor damage.

Which is where Vanish is making a difference. A globally trusted brand when it comes to removing even the trickiest of stains (coffee, red wine, errant foundation: you name it, Vanish tackles it), the brand’s products harness the natural power of oxygen to breathe new life back into the clothes you love – so you can wear and treasure them forever, without contributing to our ever-worsening waste problem.

If the past 12 months have taught us anything, it’s just how urgently a reset of the fashion industry is required. Which is why we partnered with Vanish to bring together some of the industry’s key changemakers for our Future of Fashion panel – to discuss what steps the fashion industry is taking, what this means for us as fashion consumers, and how we can all create long-lasting behavioural change to benefit the planet.

Led by Sara Vaughan, MC’s Global Chief Purpose & Sustainability Advisor and host of our Start Somewhere sustainability podcast, we were joined by a powerhouse panel including Paola Arbelaez, Global Category Director at Vanish; Noëlla Coursaris Musunka, Founder & CEO of Malaika; Victoria Prew, CEO & Co-Founder of HURR; and Gail Gallie, Co-Founder of Project Everyone.

Here’s what we learned from our incredible panellists.

What we learned from our Future of Fashion panel, in partnership with Vanish

Global goals are individual goals

It’s easy to think that global goals towards a more equitable and sustainable world are beyond our individual reach, but according to Gail Gallie, Co-Founder of Project Everyone – the not-for-profit communications agency behind the Sustainable Development Goals – we all have our part to play.

“We’re launching a campaign called the Fashion Avengers,” Gail told the panel. “And the idea is that if the Avengers assemble – whether that’s a platform, a brand, a model, or particularly a consumer – and we all assemble our efforts to make the industry better, then we all should get somewhere. We’re all in this together, and if we all act together, then we’ll make a difference.”

She continued, “Anyone can be a Fashion Avenger by thinking before they hit the shops, or thinking before they hit the internet. Whether it’s using a product like Vanish to take a stain out, or whether it’s renting something, just think about what’s already in your wardrobe. Because the impact of every single choice you make when buying and disposing of fashion is a profound one.”

We urgently need to adopt more conscious methods of caring for our clothes

“We all wear clothes – clothes are an integral part of our lives. They make us feel beautiful, amazing and ready to conquer the world. The problem is that our clothes are living unnecessarily short lives,” Paola Arbelaez, Global Category Director at Vanish, told Sara.

“This is why at Vanish we recognise that we can use our products and science to help breathe life back into clothes. We want to invite everyone to start thinking more consciously, and adopt more conscious approaches to buying for and caring for clothes.”

According to Paola, a staggering 350,000 tonnes of clothing are going to landfill each year. To put this into context, “it has an estimated value of £140 million,” she said. “1 in 2 garments are thrown away because they have a stain. And this has to stop. We all have our role to play.”

The circular economy is the future of fashion

“I’m obviously biased on this,” joked Victoria Prew, CEO & Co-Founder of fashion rental platform HURR, “but I truly believe that the circular economy is the future of fashion.” And it’s all about the three R’s: rental, resale and repair.

“I feel incredibly positive that after a year of us all sat at home and looking at all of the stuff we own, [we’ve realised] that owning more stuff doesn’t make us feel happier. My hope is that we all invest in clothes that are going to stand the test of time, that are made ethically, and that are going to last for years to come.”

She added, “This past year, I think, has propelled sustainable fashion five years down the line because we’ve had a chance to reflect and think: ‘why do I own this stuff?’, what a waste of money, and let’s do things differently.”

The fashion industry is changing – but it needs our help

“It’s not enough for fashion just to be pretty anymore,” Noëlla Coursaris Musunka, founder and CEO of girls’ empowerment non-profit Malaika, told Sara.

“The industry needs to represent all shapes, sizes and skin tones – there needs to be a story behind who you are, and what you do. We’re seeing publications using real people, frontline workers, and really uplifting people’s achievements instead of just their image.

“There’s a lot of negativity surrounding fashion, but fashion is complex – there are so many facets in the fashion industry. And there are a lot of people working so hard to change this narrative.”

But in order to do so, it needs our help. “We really need to be conscious of how we consume, how we buy clothes, and how we educate the next generation about clothing, about renting, about wearing, and about washing clothes.”

*Research carried out on 1,000 consumers by OnePoll on behalf of Vanish 

** WRAP Valuing Our Clothes, 2017

Find out more about how Vanish are making a difference on their website, and by following @vanish_uk_official.

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