Give sustainably this Christmas with a 30 year guarantee

Tom Cridland is a 26 year old London-based fashion designer who has made the bold move of offering a 30 year guarantee on his Christmas sweatshirts, all in the name of promoting sustainability in the fashion industry. After Leonardo di Caprio bought a few pairs of Tom’s chinos last year, Tom learned about the actor’s environmental work. He decided he would become part of the change he wanted to see in the fashion industry, that is, to make lasting, durable clothing, and to become a vocal opponent of the fast-fashion industry.

Pip Andreas from caught up with Tom during pre-Christmas shopping madness.

Consumers seem to have become accustomed to paying very little for highly disposable clothing either through fast-fashion outlets or regular sales at online and bricks and mortar stores, large and small. How do we, as advocates of sustainable, slow fashion, convince the public that it’s worth the money to buy well made, ethically produced clothing that will last for many years?

Let’s ignore for a minute the absurdity of t-shirts being sold for 5 bucks. Let’s not take into account the fact that this couldn’t possibly be sustainable or even ethical. Let’s not ask the obvious questions such as, what kind of material costs that little, if the retail price is so low how long did it take to put together, how well were the people that put it together trained and how could they have been paid a fair living wage? If we ignore the fact slow fashion does not cause the same social, economic and environmental problems as fast fashion, and simply focus on what’s it in for the public to switch to making sustainable choices, such as The 30 Year Sweatshirt, we can make an even better argument as to why it’s the better option. More is spent on making the 30 Year Sweatshirt, meaning the Italian cotton used to put it together is of the highest quality and the craftsmen who put it together are world class. It’s therefore a better looking garment and you’re going to look better in it that you would in the alternative from a fast fashion retailer. As it is durable and comes with a 30 year guarantee too, however, it ends up also being cheaper in terms of cost per wear.

Apparel companies in Western countries bemoan the fact that it costs too much to produce clothing in our own countries so that is why they rely on manufacturing in (predominantly) China and Bangladesh. How can we bring clothing manufacturing back to countries like Britain and Australia?

We are able to make truly luxury clothing in my home country of Portugal and Italy, where clothing costs more to make, because we have realised that the traditional fashion industry model is broken. It’s dominated by fast fashion, which is pricing out bricks and mortar retail for independent brands selling higher quality clothing. We therefore sell direct to consumer, online only, cutting out retail markups and therefore offering luxury clothing that is proportionately extremely expensive to produce at a more accessible price point.

What do you think about fast-fashion behemoths having small collections of eco-friendly / sustainable clothing in their stores, as well as recycling programs?

It’s quite clearly a marketing ploy and it’s something I’m going to be meeting with H&M to pick their brains on. I say we’ve got to build bridges not walls. That’s how we’ll fix the fashion industry, which has now become the second most polluting on the planet.

Something not many sustainable / eco / ethical clothing companies seem to talk about is the pressure that suppliers place on manufacturers to adhere to minimum order quantities (MOQ) which encourage designers and manufacturers to buy ridiculous quantities of fabric and finished product, much of which will never be sold, and will end up in landfill. Is there any way around the dreaded MOQ?

There is. Simply refuse to work with unreasonable partners, demanding ridiculous MOQs. That is what we have done and if more people did it we would not have this problem.

What is the best solution, in your opinion, to deal with textile and clothing waste (apart from not producing it in the first place)?

I think cutting down on producing it has to be the top priority. With The 30 Year Sweatshirt we aimed to invoke a bygone era where clothing was made with exquisite care but also treasured. People saved up to buy items that would become part of their physical identity and cornerstones of their wardrobe. The concept of heading away on holiday and going straight to H&M on arrival for clothing that’s cheaper than checking in a large suitcase on the plane was not one that existed at that time. Once clothing is in landfill, it’s difficult to deal with and I certainly don’t have the scientific expertise to come up with a better way of doing so. I firmly believe we just need to stop treating fashion as disposable in the same way that we would treat food (another extremely damaging and corrupt industry).

Your country has some fantastic, high profile advocates for slow, ethical, sustainable fashion, such as Lucy Siegle, Vivienne Westwood, Livia Firth, Stella McCartney, Katherine Hamnet etc, yet the word about the damaging environmental and social effects of hyper-consumerist, fast-fashion seems to be getting out very slowly. Do you think there is a certain hypocrisy with being a fashion designer or having a love of fashion, while advocating that customers buy less?

Not at all. If you buy items that you’ll treasure and re-wear, there is nothing wrong with having a love of fashion. It’s an art form. The people you mention are great ambassadors and I’m sure they would advocate consumers buy less, but buy better, which is the cornerstone of the Tom Cridland ethos. I think Livia Firth summed it up best by saying one should consider before buying something if you’ll wear it at least 30 times. If not, you don’t need it.

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