ELLE UK: the sustainability issue review

At first glance I’m flicking through the magazine and all I can see is adverts for high-end brands like Gucci, Balenciaga or High-street brands like River Island and my heart sinks. Is this really a sustainable issue or is it just a false sense of security with some green washing? But then I start reading and the further I read this sustainable issue the more I understand the value of little steps to big things and that this is another step forward in the direction of sustainability. It’s a mainstream media approach to the topic of sustainability but it allows any reader to grasp the importance of making changes to the way that we consume fashion and ways in which we can improve our overall sustainability.

The magazine itself isn’t 100% sustainable, all the pages except the cover are made from recycled paper but that in itself highlights how every other issue is so damaging towards the environment. It should be noted that perhaps this is something that could be changed for mainstream publications – is recycled paper the way forward? The magazine writes its pledge to practice what they preach alongside some fairly positive statistics regarding the way their readers are committed to buying less plastic and how a large majority are more likely to buy from brands that care about their workers (this statistic poised alongside an advert for Alberta Ferretti nonetheless). Is this issue really making waves with regards to sustainability and the mainstream media?

What did I learn?

Despite my scepticism towards the issue at first, I did learn more about sustainability and it highlights how one cannot reach an ‘all knowing’ status with regards to the way we could help our planet. It wasn’t just fashion that ELLE touched upon but plastics, oceans, apps that can help you make your contribution to saving the planet like Amazon Smile that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. The messages are clear about what we need to do for the environment and the way in which the magazine highlights this is in no way patronising, nor shaming and its admission at not being totally sustainable could be considered a more encouraging sign for others to make a change as these changes seem more like they can become a reality. So you can’t be the perfect sustainable citizen? There are still ways out there that you can make your mark.

The contributions from both Stella McCartney and Pandora Sykes echo words about the industry that every consumer should hear. Pandora in particular wrote an article that really resonates with the modern day consumer, and her position of influence in social media making her question: ‘do I really need that? And if I buy it, am I encouraging others to buy it too?’ The consequences of her purchases have huge impact because of the audience she shares it too and these consequences are explored, because it is about how you wear items in your wardrobe as well as how you shop for them.

From my own gluttonous love of books, I loved to see that the ELLE book club for the issue was dedicated to books that will ‘inspire, illuminate and urge you to make a difference’ and I am definitely going to buy ‘This Changes Everything: Capitalism VS The Environment’ by Naomi Klein at some point.

Sustainable fashion front runners are littered throughout the magazine as well like the shoot with Orsola de Castro, Tasmin Blanchard and Sarah Ditty. As an ethical fashion blogger I find it hard to imagine not having heard of Fashion Revolution but a lot of people won’t have so the magazine is a fantastic way of spreading awareness and encouragement to women that are doing so much for a better and more ethical fashion environment. Championing those that are doing great things is just one way that the magazine shows the changes that are already happening but also those that still need to be made. There are negatives but it is going in a positive direction.

Is it a step in the right direction? 

The sustainability issue that isn’t completely sustainable but trying its hardest definitely is a step in the right direction for encouraging a commitment to doing your bit for the environment and to do so in a way that reaches such a large audience is commendable. They highlight the importance of the small things we can do and I think that is the most realistic way at inviting the everyday buyer into considering a more sustainable lifestyle.

After finishing reading the issue, it is clear that the founding principles of actions that we can all take are there. The issue is accessible and it is able to manipulate its own marketing into a sustainable mould. This stood out to me in the form of a shoot with brands such as Gucci and Chloé but with the tagline that this season is full of ‘forever pieces’, the ones you want to ‘collect and keep for your future archive.’ When people then question why buying ethical clothing is only for those well off, this isn’t necessarily the idea that one should be perhaps selling sustainable buying with but the idea is there and it is one that can be built on, like for example the use of vintage clothing in some of their shoots (even though as a reader I can understand how this might not be possible to advertise a one off piece in such a widely bought magazine).

It should also be highlighted that the September issue of ELLE is the biggest of the year so the fact they’ve decided to dedicate it to sustainable fashion is pretty great and they haven’t totally strayed away from their usual monthly offerings. The shoots, although using some high-end fashion brands that probably aren’t ethical, were all taken in the UK which isn’t something a reader usually considers but photoshoots would have an environmental impact. It is a step in the right direction for sure.

I commend ELLE for starting the conversation and for furthering my knowledge about sustainable issues. This isn’t just an issue about sustainability but so much more. I’d be interested to know how many people take on board some of the things that ELLE mentioned in the issue but what are your thoughts on the big September sustainability issue?

lots of love, eleanor xx

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