Discussing friendly fashion with STELLASSTYLE

Shoppers across the world buy more than one billion fast fashion garments each year. Trends change on a daily basis, and clothing companies churn out items to keep up with them at a low cost to consumers. But what cost does this have for the environment, and the people behind fast fashion production? After oil, fast fashion is the world’s second largest polluter, emitting more than 1.2 billion tons of CO2 per year. Shockingly, it would take us 12 years to recycle the garments that are produced in just 48 hours by the fast fashion industry. With a high human cost, many clothing factories are also home to unsafe working conditions, abuse and minimal salaries.

Whilst this may sound disheartening, there are plenty of eco-conscious, people-conscious clothing stores taking a stand against the fast fashion industry, particularly in Amsterdam. STELLASSTYLE is one of them, and owner Stella Soekhlall is committed to seeing a change in the buying choices of Amsterdammers. “The sustainable fashion market is increasing in the city day by day,” she says. “One thing is for sure, sustainability should be in the DNA of the industry.”

Amsterdam’s eco-friendly market

In many ways, Amsterdam is at the forefront of eco-friendly fashion and thriving green innovation. Vegan-friendly, meat-free restaurants line the cobbled streets here, with eateries like TerraZen Centre cementing their place within the culinary scene. With 850,000 residents, Amsterdam has 847,000 bikes which account for 68% of commuter traffic, making it one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world. This has aided the gradual decline in Amsterdam’s emissions since the 1990s, but there is still a lot to achieve in the Netherlands, and greenhouse gas levels are relatively high when compared to many other European countries.

As Stella Soekhlall tells us, there is room for improvement in the country’s fashion market too. “Many consumers in the Netherlands still prioritise look and feel over sustainable fashion,” she says. “There are too many people who just aren’t aware of the negative impacts of fast fashion, and looking at the time and world that we live in, it is more important than ever to thoughtfully choose our clothing.” Positive changes are on the horizon, however, with Amsterdam opening the world’s first museum for sustainable fashion – Fashion for Good – in 2018. A call for sustainable innovation, it boasts three floors showcasing the past, future and present of the fashion industry, and has sparked conversation in the city.

Dealing with unsustainable fashion

There are many ways to raise awareness of the effects of fast fashion, and ensuring that garments boast exclusivity and timelessness is one of them. Having a connection with a garment, knowing its background, and keeping it as part of your wardrobe for a long time can really reduce fast fashion consumption, and this is the ultimate aim at STELLASSTYLE. “Looking at our core business, we have seen that sportswear has changed into activewear. This makes it multifunctional, and due to its high quality it can be worn on many occasions,” Stella says. “One-off, exclusive items also evade the repetitive nature of fast fashion, and don’t age as quickly. This is vital for sustainability.”

Personal responsibility is also important, but can only be achieved through an understanding of the environmental and social costs of fast fashion. Greenpeace International’s HQ can be found in Amsterdam, and the organisation is successfully bringing attention to the impacts of the industry. “The fast fashion industry has quite deliberately developed a consumption model that is very similar to that of single-use plastic,” they said in one article. “Buying far less, spending a bit more on better quality garments, and supporting ethical brands” are just a few ways to embrace sustainability, they continued. With the prevalence of pollution, excessive water consumption, water contamination and petrochemical-based materials, awareness of fast fashion’s place in the climate crisis is paramount.

Social accountability and ethics

A huge part of the sustainable fashion industry is based on a more conscious global outlook, and enforcing preventative measures against practices that harm both individuals and communities. As Stella says: “Sustainability has many elements. For us, it’s so much more than a company selling garments produced in the same country and reducing its carbon footprint. It’s also about commitment to manufacturing products under safe, fair and humane working conditions. It’s about using sustainable, recyclable, non-animal materials. And social responsibility is also important, such as supporting equal rights and giving human aid. We select the brands that achieve sustainability on all levels.”

STELLASSTYLE champion a wide range of ethical activewear brands, such as NO KA ‘OI. The Italian company are committed to size-inclusive clothing, sustainable production, and ensuring that women are empowered through senior-level positions in their factories. Stella also told us: “The Australian brands that we represent are actively supporting the organisations dealing with bushfires in the country. Many brands use recycled fabrics, and others have gone down from four collections per year to two.” Elsewhere, she makes sure that brands guarantee transparency. “We always ask for certifications; we want to know that the brands we represent are truly sustainable.”

The future for sustainable fashion in Amsterdam

Looking to the future of eco-friendly, socially conscious fashion in Amsterdam, it seems that an increasing amount of entrepreneurs are getting on board. “We can see that more companies in the city are focusing on their impact, but each one is at a different stage where sustainability is concerned,” says Stella. However, with both sustainable and fast fashion brands popping up in Amsterdam, she’d like to see a different approach to the industry. “We could have a greater collective impact on both planet and people if we embraced co-creation, and worked to establish sustainability together.” For those at STELLASSTYLE, a tightknit conscious fashion scene can’t come soon enough.

The success of sustainable fashion in the city will depend on the awareness raised, and brand commitment to assessing their sustainability, declaring what they’re doing right and thinking about what they could improve. Stella tells us: “Even at STELLASSTYLE we don’t loudly claim the sustainability of our store and the brands within it. As the future of fashion changes, we need to ensure that it is championed.” Amsterdam is incredibly well-positioned to lead sustainable fashion in Europe, with its Fashion for Good museum, its eco-conscious populous and its vital green businesses. The future certainly looks exciting for the city, and the people and environment well beyond it.