Why is it so important for the fashion world to lower its impact?
Quite simply, the processes which underpin the fashion industry are broken, and the world needs more brands which make sustainability a core aspect of their business model. We see it as a moral imperative.
Flax London's View
At Flax London, we don’t view sustainability as something to be considered as an extra part of the business. It runs through everything we do. Because, if it doesn’t, you’re not doing it in a way that makes any material difference. If it’s an afterthought, it’s greenwashing.
How is Flax London's approach to sustainability unique?
We’re not perfect but we’re trying our best to do things in a systematic way that prioritises making as low an impact on the world as possible.
Sustainability is a complex and all-consuming thing. To break things down simply, there are three things that need to be considered when you’re assessing sustainability in the context of clothing:
a) the impact of creating a piece of clothing
b) the impact of someone wearing and caring for that piece of clothing,
c) the impact of throwing away that piece of clothing.
Most sustainability efforts in the fashion industry focus on the first of those three, with brands and consumers increasingly aware and concerned about the provenance of their clothes. There’s a long way to go yet but it’s firmly on people’s radars.
What does Flax London do?
We address this aspect by exclusively using 100% European linen - sourced from highly accredited linen mills in Northern Ireland and Belgium – and making our clothes in three specialist factories, one in London and two in Portugal, where workers rights are guaranteed by legislation. Our materials are all inherently sustainable and our supply chain is geographically compact, reducing our carbon footprint and making the most of local climates.
Life after the rail
Far fewer brands and consumers consider the impact of wearing, caring for, and disposing of a piece of clothing. Brands don’t typically have the impetus to worry about these aspects, because it’s no longer their responsibility. But recent studies have shown us just how big a part they play in the overall assessment of clothing sustainability.
Caring for your clothes
Linen is a naturally durable material that doesn’t need regular washing because of its inherent anti-bacterial properties. We actually recommend wearing a shirt 4 or 5 times between washes.
To further aid that recommendation, we have a Care Range to help people actually do it. It includes a steamer to tidy clothes up between wears instead of a full wash cycle and phosphate and preservative-free washing detergent to be gentler on clothes when they are washed.
As a rule, the less washing you do, the longer a piece of clothing lasts and the lower the energy consumption of that clothing. When people refer to a piece of clothing being ‘worn out’, they’re inadvertently referring to something that’s been ‘washed out’. The solution is to create something that doesn’t need washing after every wear and washing it in a careful way when it does need a wash.
Throwing clothing away
The now standard practice of throwing clothes away is a process that was encouraged by the world of fast fashion in which clothing became cheap and disposable. The materials associated with the world of fast fashion only exacerbated the problem, with millions of tonnes of synthetic fibres already consigned to the
Longevity by design
We are breaking the linear, cradle-to-grave narrative for clothing by extending the lifecycle of an item through repairs and repurposing/upcycling fabrics when the original item is beyond repair. Longevity is probably the most underappreciated aspect of how sustainable something may or may not be. Maybe because it runs against the notion of seasonal clothing releases, where obsolescence is a good thing for brands. If you want people to come back and buy all the new things you’ve designed, you may rely on the previous stuff wearing out or losing favour.
To counter the idea that something needs to be thrown away when it’s ripped or worn through, we offer free repairs for life. Anyone who buys a Flax London item has access to our Free Repairs Service, as and when necessary. We also have a hand-in programme for any items that have been worn beyond repair. Hand it back to us so we can re-purpose the usable fabric as pocket linings, aprons, bags, or other things which will give them a new lease of life.