Fashion

Sustainability in the Fashion Industry with Oliver Spencer

A topic hot on our lips and high on the news agenda is sustainability. From greener energy, cutting down on food waste and reducing our plastic problem, it would seem the world has officially woken up to the realities of our climate crisis. When it comes to the fashion industry consumers are starting to shop consciously and are becoming more aware of sustainability in fashion. From high street to designer we’re seeing positive change from brands who are implementing strategies to produce more ethically sourced fashion, and one of our favourites Oliver Spencer is ticking all these boxes. We sat down with head of sustainability at the brand, Bleue Wickham-Burnham for a chat about how they’re doing their bit.

#1 Sustainability in fashion is a hot topic at the moment, and clearly a topic Oliver Spencer is taking seriously. Has there always been a Head of Sustainability position at the brand? When did you come on board?

There hasn’t always been a head of sustainability position, but the company has always had the right moral positioning to things positively. However, there was no specific knowledge or strategy wrapped around the brands moral positioning. That’s where I came into the mix.

#2 Why did you want to head up the sustainability strategy at Oliver Spencer? Has it always been a passion of yours?

I actually starting working for Oli in the store after finishing university where I studied sustainability within the fashion industry. After working for the company for a few months I could see that they cared about environmental and social progression, so I put together a proposal and we took it from there!

#3 If you could urge your customers to do anything to help lead a more sustainable life when it comes to fashion, what tips would you advise?

Buy less, choose wisely and care for your clothes. Simple. If you really want to make this easy for yourself, give yourself a quota on how many new items you can buy and if you need anything outside of this quota – buy second hand using a marketplace platform such as eBay, Depop or Vestiaire.

Outside of fashion ‐ eat less meat if any, drive less, use a renewable energy supplier and apply the same principles needed to for fashion in the purchase of other goods.

#4 Why do you think it’s taken the fashion industry this long to start implementing sustainability strategies?

I think because the environmental footprint wasn’t so clear before. I’ve had my head in this world for a while and I can remember when I first started most people I spoke with thought I was crazy when talking about the environmental footprint of the industry. Now everyone has the information people are changing the way they behave with fashion. Also getting people who are making a lot of money at the expense of people and the environment to change how they make money isn’t easy!

Oliver Spencer

#5 Is Oliver Spencer sustainable?

We are not sustainable. Environmental sustainability means doing what you are doing in a way which doesn’t compromise future generations’ ability to do the same. Unfortunately in the business of clothing, unless you have effective regenerative agricultural practises you are always going to be taking more from the planet than you give back, so we are not truly sustainable.

What we have been doing is looking at ways to reduce our environmental footprint as much as possible, whilst being positive socially. We have been solidly focusing on our sustainability for just over two years now and we have managed to transition all of our locations to renewable energy, reduce our packaging footprint by 36,000kg of carbon, plant 300 trees, and increase our use of low‐footprint fabrics to 32% of the garments made.

However, we want to do more and be a business that is a positive influence on future generations so we are focusing on what we can do outside of direct business activities to ensure that we do give back to the environment more than we take. This is tricky but we are working towards it and we encourage everyone to do the same. We are in a crucial time for humankind and the next steps we take will define the next generations’ lives.

View this post on Instagram

ECOLOGICAL & LOW FOOT-PRINT PRODUCTS AW19: As part of our sustainability drive, at Oliver Spencer we are making as many garments as possible from more environmentally-friendly fabrics. Ecological wools have large positive repercussions for the environment. At Oliver Spencer, we sourced eco wools that are not dyed. Crucially undyed wools use significantly less water, chemicals and energy than regular wool. Organic cotton has many benefits over standard cotton, which requires unsustainable quantities of water and toxic chemicals. Organic cotton avoids the use of harmful insecticides and is grown from untreated, GMO-free seeds in plantations with healthy crop rotations. Water usage is noticeably reduced whilst safe peroxides are used in the whitening process. This season 41% of our cotton is organic. Hit the link in our bio to shop our ecological wool and organic cotton products. For more information on our commitment to becoming a more environmentally concious company, head to www.oliverspencer.co.uk/sustainability

A post shared by Oliver Spencer (@oliverspencer) on

#6 Are there any plans to further the sustainability efforts at Oliver Spencer?

It’s a continual process and we will continue to make sure we listen to all information available to us and use this to make informed decisions on our business practices. As I mentioned above our current focus is trying to give more than we take.

#7 Are sustainability strategies implemented into 100% of Oliver Spencer designs? How far has the brand come since its launch?

Yes – the mind‐set of using the lowest footprint fabrics and making sure garments are durable and long-lasting is something that filters into 100% of our design. Quality has always been key but environmentally the brand has come on significantly since its launch. In fact, we’ve come on significantly in the last two years let alone 15!

 

#8 What’s your favourite sustainable piece from the collection?

I’m a big fan off the Gibson shirts in Abbot White and the Alford fabrics and the Povera Shirt in Iverson Black. They look great and they are all made from GOTS certified organic cotton!

#9 Is there anything else you would like to share?

If we want the future generation to be able to live a safe life it’s imperative that everyone takes action in their own lives, so please act.

SHOP OLIVER SPENCER AT COGGLES>>>

Words by Emma Bowkett

Interview with Bleue Wickham-Burnham



Emma Bowkett

Emma Bowkett

Writer and expert


SHOP THE SALE