Sustainable fashion must be more inclusive

While in the traditional fashion industry it is difficult to find plus size clothing, it becomes even more difficult when you start looking for sustainable options and in second hand markets.

“Inclusiveness definitely poses a challenge when it comes to sizing pre-loved purchases,” said Carrie Ann Moran, a sustainability and circular economy professional.

“The mannequin itself doesn’t really support sizes 16 and up, and that’s the system,” Moran said. The fashion industry often encourages people to buy clothes that are not for themselves but an idealized version of their body.

The fashion industry as it is today is not sustainable, especially fast fashion. Not manufacturing for people above a certain height only adds to this lack of durability. A lack of production options leads to a lack of options when it comes to pre-likes.

Size inclusiveness a problem in mainstream fashion

“When you think about it logically, what fuels the pre-loved market is all this clothing [manufactured by well known brands]. A lot of charity retailers are really stuck for these sizes, ”Moran said.

While Moran says clothing options for tall people are limited, she sees hope in the body positivity and inclusion moves she sees online. People also educate others on where to buy second-hand, size-inclusive clothing. “We’re breaking down that perfect body look,” she said.

A factory worker sews clothes at a garment factory in Qianxinan Miao Autonomous Prefecture, southwest China’s Guizhou Province, March 10, 2020 (Photo by Liu Zhaofu / ChinaImages / Sipa USA )

However, mainstream fashion continues to refuse to recognize the range of sizes it should fit. Moran points to comments made by fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld about fat and curvy women and that he refused to create clothes in larger sizes.

“We know there are a lot more people in the world who are sitting outside of the perfect size 12 body,” Moran said. But when she was trained as a fashion designer, it was on a size 12 model and she was only taught to note a size or two above and below.

“Even the size 12 that we used in college was absolutely tiny,” Moran said. “It’s the system. It’s the way it was put together and the way we are trained as designers.

Attitudes around plus size fashion are changing. Last year Irish model Roz Purcell launched a fashion label that didn’t go beyond a size UK14-16 brand. There was a huge backlash and Purcell apologized saying she felt stupid and inconsiderate.

“She had a lot of reactions back then,” Moran said. “But as she said herself, it’s not that it’s not being designed. It’s because I couldn’t get my hands on it.

Nuw deliberately seeks clothing in all sizes

Founder of the clothing swap app Nuw, Aisling Byrne said that after speaking with Aja Barber, she realized that her business did not have enough clothing of various sizes.

“We did a series of focus groups with Aja. Basically, she went deeper into how we make Nuw more inclusive. It really opened my eyes, ”Byrne said.

“You can’t just say ‘we’re an inclusive sized community and a diverse community because we say we are,’” Byrne said. “The work is on our side to create these spaces. “

From these workshops, Byrne learned that there was a limitation on brands that made fashionable items in all sizes.

“When you’re doing vintage shopping or pre-loved shopping, it’s really hard to find pieces in size 18 and up,” Byrne said.

“When Nuw drops vintage on their site, they are specifically looking for clothing sizes UK18 and up.”

Plus size must be part of a lasting solution

“If we are to launch a lasting solution, we have to make sure that everyone who comes forward has the opportunity to participate in that solution,” Byrne said.

Nuw has previously operated swap stores for tall people. One of the issues raised in focus groups organized by Nuw is that tall people assume that they will not be supported by durable clothing.

“We have to challenge that assumption and we have to make it right,” Byrne said. “Because if we try to challenge the hypothesis and it’s a shitty experience, it’s no good.”

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