How sustainable is the UK High Street?

I have stumbled across something rather wonderful, and in typical millennial style – it’s an app. It’s called Not My Style – you may have already heard of it. For those of you that haven’t, it is an entirely not-for-profit social enterprise which tells you “how much your favourite fashion brands share about how they treat the women and men who make our clothes”.

It has given high street retailers a score across 22 different metrics according to their public-facing supply chain transparency, I.e. what they say about how their clothes are made on their website. They want to see if brands disclose information about their garment factories, how much they are paying the people making their clothes and how actively they are working to pursue better working conditions.

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Using GPS, it makes use of a traffic light system to flag whether the high street retailer you’re popping into on your lunch break is open about and working towards positive change in their supply chain.

When I used to work in PR, we always used to talk about websites being the shop-window. And of course, for those of us who shop online or who have ever researched a company, it is exactly that. Not My Style works on the premise that consumers shouldn’t have to have a degree in investigative journalism to find out how committed their favourite brands are to making fashion safer, fairer and more sustainable for those who work in the industry. Brands should be clear and transparent about it on their websites, beyond a one-line policy written on their CSR page. And if they’re not, well, Not My Style is here to flag to you that they’re being somewhat close-lipped on the subject.

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Having used the app on the high street of my local leafy London suburb of Crouch End, I was surprised with what I found. The brands that had been demonised in the media in recent years such as Gap, H&M and even New Look have a green status. This means that while they’re no match for charity, vintage or consignment shops (which receive ‘star’ status), Not My Style has assessed that they are actively working toward better practice. Scarily, the higher end brands which you’d like to think could afford to sacrifice some margin for a more ethical supply-chain, are receiving a red status.

Naturally, a lack of information on a website does not necessarily mean a retailer is one of the worst fast fashion offenders, but it begs the question – why so quiet?

The silver lining here though is that in seeing some of the more high-profile fast fashion retailers are at long last being more open about their changes shows that pressure on the industry is working! Yet some brands are still lying low and slipping through the cracks. Not My Style brings that information to the people, and information means consciousness, and consciousness hopefully means better decisions as a consumer.

As you know, I encourage as little first-hand fashion as possible but if you must buy something from the high street, at least you can do it as consciously as possible.

Fashion responsibly!