March 05 2019 – Mercantile London
Last Summer we packed our bags destined for Berlin on a mission to make our store greener and more ethical. The results were staggering as Europe embraced the need to clean up its act in the Clothing industry whilst Britain fell deeper into the quagmire of Brexit and a messy divorce.
What our German and Spanish friends are up to is something pioneering and forward thinking. Whilst there are British brands that are making strides in the right direction brands such as People Tree that have been at it for years what struck us as people that have been in this industry for over thirty years is that its not just the new brands, the young things or the Spanish that are using new technologies, there are small changes within our existing suppliers processes that we need to celebrate and there are some exceptional companies that we have found that really are excelling at finding a solution rather than problem.
People Tree Yasmin Pant
Two things really jolted us into a state of embarrassment pre the trip to Berlin. The Blue Planet, viewing the state of our oceans and the general rate at which Fast Fashion is growing. Learning that people feel its acceptable to buy new socks from Primark rather than wash theirs. Facts like this: 'There are 36.9 million people trapped in poverty - fuelled by the global demand for cheap labour - which is what makes the fast fashion industry swell and grow.
Along with many other clothing store owners we watched the Stacey Dooley documentary on how damaging the cotton industry is, how pollutant the leather industry is, and how appalling the clothing industry is as a whole and felt ashamed. But rather than leaving the industry because few solutions were offered we feel compelled to change it little by little by starting to find partners that make product we can sell and be proud of.
Colorful Standard Faded Mint Crew
We've seen the industry change and there is scope to make further changes to claw back skills and crafts and to recognise them for what they do not - capitalise and exploit, which is what fast fashion and trend fashion does.
This season more than ever we have delved into the questions so many of our customers are asking...
- What do I buy if everything is processed and has some damaging effect to the environment?
- Isn't organic clothing just another buzzword?
- How can so much organic cotton be produced that its selling in Walmart?
- There is transparency in food labelling why is there scant information in clothing?
Its been a great journey, one where we never stop learning because what is great about clothing is that its perpetually evolving yet is intrinsically unchanged in so many ways.
What we are embracing at The Mercantile is using traditional techniques alongside cutting edge scientific advancement. Finding solutions in packaging, working with slow producers, making local, recycling, honing new skills and ways of working, stripping back to the basics, avoiding gimmick and just in balance making it feel more real than forced and pushed, and commercial and fast and aggressive and exploitative and with disastrous consequence all along the chain.
Armedangels Olive Green Chino
We celebrate the movers and shakers within the industry that are changing, and change happens real slow when you are working with farmers that are trying to work organic and have cleaned up their fields and swapped systems but can't get accredited for three years so have to sell transition crop which costs them more but they are paid less. Change happens really slowly but now thank goodness it is
Here's what we've seen:
- biodegradable packing is being used just a little bit more
- small British brands are working with small British factories
- organic garments are being packaged more eco conciously
- more and more companies are pledging to be 100% organic by 2020
- there is more transparency about where garments are being manufactured
- our small suppliers in India and Bali are shouting proudly about the community work they are doing
- there are a lot more options to buy recycled material products
- organic doesn't just mean basic beige hemp
What we are seeing and would like to see more of...
- more companies investing profits back into their suppliers
- more natural dyes being used in a percentage of collections
- more brands going completely electronic and paper free
- designers being more mindful of waste, environment and harmful processes.
Some of our lower price pointed brands are making the effort so there's no excuse.
For our edit of Eco Aware product shop here