With plastic consumption choking our oceans, there has never been a more critical time ‘Think Global. Act Local.’
Words by Alana Sorokin, Founder of Joseph & Alexander
Every person reading this has used a plastic bottle, many of whom likely used one in the past day or week. Do you know how many plastic bottles are actually purchased by humans every minute? One million. Per minute. That equates to almost one and a half billion per day. And that is plastic bottles alone. What is more staggering, is that 91% of all plastic is not recycled, and most of it ends up in the ocean or landfill. For most, these insights are enough to send shock waves through us. Because for almost every one of us, plastic, in recent decades, has become a staple of convenience and a daily part of our modern lifestyles. For me, plastic has become the staple of my brand.
While eco-friendly fashion has never held particularly glamorous connotations, some of the best designers of a new generation are stitching sustainability into everything they do. With widespread claims of fashion royalty such as Burberry making controversial environmental decisions (pointing to reports that the brand burned £28 million worth of old stock), the subject of sustainability has also been kicking up a storm on the high-street. “Fast fashion” retailers such as Zara have demonstrated an awakening, responding to consumer pressure to address unethical standards in the industry’s everyday practices. Many major brands like Adidas and The H&M Group (H&M, COS, & Other Stories, etc) are bearing the flag for ethical operations.
Looking on the homefront, I have based my entire business model on the recycled use of ocean plastics in garment creation. While each plastic water bottle takes 400 years to decompose – that is the lifetime of four generations – consumption shows no signs of slowing. So at the very least, for what people are putting in, I’m taking a fraction out. These moves, I’d say, are “commercial with a conscience”. In fact, we are increasingly seeing that sustainable production and environmentally conscious choices, all along the supply chain, have emerged as a priority for brands globally. One day, the ethical decisions may at their very foundation, mean survival.
Our role as consumers has also matured to a degree that unless we begin to critically question what we buy into as a population, brands turning a blind eye to the irreversible environmental degradation they cause will never be compelled to change their ways. When conceptualising the lasting message of my own childrenswear brand, I knew I wanted to create a talking point between parents and their kids. With printed designs that reflect environmental issues, it compels the next generation to question the status quo, discuss the hard topics, and address the small changes. Think global, act local.
The rabbit hole of sustainability and inciting meaningful, powerful change of consumer habits is not one easily grappled with. Yet one thing is clear, the ever-growing demand for plastic is unlikely to be abated soon. Globally, we will have to manage the increasing risk of plastics in our environment and the harmful consequences that lie therein. In the case of Joseph & Alexander, it’s about finding ways to do our bit for Mother Earth as she reaches her tipping point, and educate our youngest consumers that the fundamentals of consumer change lie in their little hands.