In a town with fashion shows so deeply embedded into the social calendar, there seems to be an endless flow of events. However, amidst the glamour and flowing champagne, the eyes of eco-conscious St Andrews students turn to a pressing issue whose relevance increases by the day: that of sustainability within the fashion industry. How can it be justified to contribute to an industry which, according to Forbes, produces 10 per cent of the global carbon dioxide output and a fifth of the world’s plastic, and if we do so, how can this interaction be as environmentally conscious as possible?
Many of St Andrews’ fashion collectives are taking steps to counter their environmental footprint. One such attempt is FS’s F4TE week, taking place from 30 October to 9 November. According to the group’s website, which recognises the issues fashion can cause, the goal of F4TE week is “to be part of the solution, not the problem”. Consisting of a pop-up (30 October), Vic night (2 November), yoga session (3 November) and clothing revamp workshop at BrewCo (9 November), there are a wealth of activities for students to engage in.
At the Adamson pop-up, clothes ranged from donated designer pieces which would otherwise have been discarded to more affordable options. “All of the fashion here is locally sourced, in the respect that nothing has to be shipped out of here or shipped in. So there’s no carbon impact for that”, Janine Jafar, FS’s head of sustainability, explained. The event also included handmade pieces, most notably jewellery made from local sea glass and repurposed denim purses. One clothes rack was suspiciously devoid of prices, leading me to believe that despite being second-hand, affording some of these pieces was not for the faint of heart.
I initially had doubts about the effectiveness of a week of spending, partying and relaxation, particularly regarding the yoga event. However, for FS, sustainability is not just about being responsible within fashion, and can also be about self-preservation, as Janine argued. “Through yoga, sustaining our mental health, ensuring that students have access to events that are well-priced with a really good yoga teacher, this makes it accessible for people that can’t necessarily afford it. And, you know, helps people kind of get out of the library and onto a yoga mat”.
As for the Vic event, she notes, “It’s our most popular event. It’s easier to drag people in when it’s a social thing where they talk”. This is telling in regards to the priorities of the average St Andrews student, to whom it is naturally more appealing to dance the night away than address environmental issues head-on. However, whether they realise this or not, each ticket sale includes a donation to Genetic Alliance UK, FS’s Charitable Partner this year, which, according to former Head of Charity Emma Hartpence, “give(s) a voice to people suffering from rare and unnamed diseases”, as well as supporting genetic testing. While supporting an environmental cause might seem more appropriate for this particular week, all charitable endeavours are inherently good, and this lines up with FS’s emphasis on philanthropy as well as fashion.
Its final event, the upcycling workshop run by Lottie Spink, provides a more hands-on approach to sustainability. As she explained, participants are encouraged to bring along a t-shirt or pair of jeans which would otherwise have been discarded, to be shown how to transform these into once again desirable items. Through teaching a skill that students can take away with them, this will hopefully lead to fewer salvageable clothes in landfills.
In conclusion, while some F4TE week events don’t seem hugely impactful in terms of saving the environment in themselves, its baseline motives seem to be in the right place. “It’s about educating people on the ways in which fashion can be sustainable through smaller brands, vintage clothing and also implementing charity”, Janine added as a closing statement. While the fashion industry is destined to have a complicated relationship with environmental campaigners, for a student fashion collective, FS seems to be making a good effort.
Photo: Alex Barnard