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While the world’s fashion designers and press descend on the UK for London Fashion Week, Highgate is undertaking a number of initiatives to raise awareness about the social and environmental impacts of “fast fashion”, and the ease with which we can do without it. As part of this, Ms Sarah Mynott, from our Geography Department, will wear the same outfit throughout February.

Ms Mynott explains: ‘Our society’s current obsession with “fast fashion”, which aims to quickly market cheap new clothes to consumers, is bad for the environment and the people working at the sharp end of the production line. When companies are under pressure to reduce costs and time to get an item from design to shop floor, then environmental corners are more likely to be cut, resulting in water pollution, use of toxic chemicals, and increasing levels of textile waste. Making huge volumes of clothes requires growing huge amounts of cotton, which leads to excessive use of pesticides and pollution from dying, plus the production of artificial fibres from oil, which give off thousands of microplastic fibres every time they are washed.

‘I want to challenge the beliefs that we, as a society, must keep up with ever-changing trends and constantly refresh our wardrobes. This is a particular issue for women. Social expectations for women to be fashionable are often much greater than for men, as evidenced when Michelle Obama revealed that, while her outfits as First Lady were always under scrutiny, her husband wore the same suit jacket for both White House terms without comment! This desire for new clothes is driven by corporations seeking profit, rather than a genuine need for new items, and it can be a relief not to worry about it.’

Ms Mynott adds: ‘By wearing the same dress for a month, I hope to raise awareness amongst the Highgate community of many of the problems associated with the fast fashion industry, and show how easy and positive it is to make the shift to a more minimalist wardrobe.’

Ms Mynott was inspired to take action after reading about an American teacher, who wore the same outfit for 100 days in 2018. A number of pupils and staff will join Ms Mynott in going fast-fashion-free for February, either by adopting a minimalist or capsule wardrobe (wearing just a few essential items of clothing that don’t go out of fashion or season) or by pledging not to buy any new clothes that month. Ms Mynott has already pledged not to buy new clothes for the duration of 2019, and encourages others to try to reduce their consumption. Further suggestions for eschewing fast fashion include buying second hand or from high quality ethical brands, such as People Tree or Patagonia.

Ms Mynott’s fashion challenge follows a successful Highgate Swap Shop, where pupils and staff exchanged pre-loved clothes for free. With almost 10,000 items of clothing going to landfills every five minutes in the UK alone, Highgate’s Swap Shop (which our pupil-led Environment Committee hopes will become a regular event) provided a sustainable option to re-cycle unwanted items. They hope to hold a number of other events throughout Fast Fashion-Free February, including a screening of the documentary, ‘The True Cost’, and a drop-in session for pupils to learn how to mend clothes.  VG

Photo: Ms Mynott and Vivika, one of Highgate’s sixth formers, are ready to go fast-fashion-free in February.