Brighton is often thought of as a free-thinking and eco-conscious city, and in many ways that’s true. Nowhere else outside of London do you find so many vegan and vegetarian eateries and organic health food stores, so you’d be forgiven for assuming that sustainable, ethical clothing choices would also be abundant. However, despite the fact that Brighton and sustainability seem to go together like falafel and hummus, this thriving city with the green reputation is surprisingly short on the ethical fashion front.
Whilst trying to research ethical Brighton brands for a uni project, I found a distinct lack of options. Aside from the ethical FAIR shop on Queens Road, one brand that I did discover was No Ones Collective (formerly Desire Lines), a multimedia creative project consisting of ethical clothing, photography, video and sound, founded by designer Romy Persaud and photographer Harry Crampton. I sat down with Romy to discuss what it means to be an ethical fashion brand and ethical shopping in Brighton.
From the outset, it was clear that being an ethical brand encompasses many different areas of the business, from using sustainable fashion textiles to ensuring fair trade practices in the production of the clothes. No Ones Collective achieves this by only using organic cotton and linens that are woven by a fair trade company in Kerala, India, before machinists in Brighton make up the clothes. On top of this, vintage materials like kimono silk are often upcycled in the designs. Romy explained to me that she finds recycling to be ‘the most ethical way of doing anything’ because it involves using materials that are already in circulation.
One thing that kept cropping up in our chat was the idea of changing consumer behaviour. As Romy rightly pointed out, it’s all well and good being sustainable by buying second-hand, but if the shop is selling mass-produced clothing in large amounts then we still have an issue:
“If you have a shop that’s got loads of vintage stuff obviously it’s good because they’ve recycled all of that vintage, but it’s still making the shopper think about how much clothes they can buy because there are so many, there’s so much choice, and it’s also quite cheap, so they still get into the same mentality as if they were in Primark.”
To combat this, No Ones Collective produce limited runs of simple and wearable designs that stand the test of time. Romy explained that whilst she does remain aware of trends, she tries not to let them dominate the design process so that the clothes don’t immediately go out of fashion and end up discarded like so many others. Having said that, the organic, fair trade nature of the designs does mean a higher price tag than if you were shopping on the high street, although this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If we were to all spend more on individual pieces but buy less, waste would be reduced, and our pockets would be none the lighter, but as Romy says, we still have a long way to go. People would generally rather spend £20 on a dress that they’ll wear once or twice than £70 on one that’s been produced ethically and can be worn endlessly, a fact which is even more pertinent on a student budget.
On a positive note, there is definitely increased consciousness around fashion production, with one example being the recent Fashion Revolution Week which took place from 18-24 April to mark the anniversary of the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in 2013. The hashtag #whomademyclothes encouraged consumers to be curious about the origin of their garments and tweet brands directly to find out more. Alongside this raised awareness, it does appear that being ethical has become, dare I say, trendy in itself. Brands like H&M are jumping on the bandwagon to try and be more sustainable, with an in-store recycling scheme that helps to reduce waste. This is a positive step forward but the £5 voucher incentive does seem counter-productive as it encourages you to buy more (a clever marketing ploy). If you do decide to go down this route, why not save the voucher for something you really need? Even better, make it something from their Conscious range.
At the end of the day, fast fashion brands are not the way to sustainable production. The mantra to stick to if you want to shop ethically? Buy less, buy better, and don’t be afraid to spend a little more on something that you can wear again and again.
No Ones Collective clothing can be found in Snooper’s Attic (Kensington Gardens) and Courtois Concept Store (Gardner St). For more ideas on dressing ethically, check out The Verse’s article 5 Ways to Dress More Sustainably.