Earth Month: Lucy Siegle

Lucy Siegle is a woman after our own heart; a force to be reckoned with when it comes to sustainability, celebrated for her unwavering dedication to shedding light on the clothing industry's impact. With her ground-breaking book "To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?" and her insightful columns in The Guardian, she fearlessly confronts the environmental and social challenges woven into our wardrobes.

As part of our Earth Month content series, we caught up with Lucy to hear more about the challenges we face, the need for progress and the sartorial steps we can all take to build a greener, more conscious fashion future.


What’s the biggest challenge fashion faces today?

The industry is not anywhere near a path to decarbonise (we need to do this to meet Paris Climate Agenda and keep global warming well below two degrees). Basically the fashion industry is heading in the wrong direction using up more of our global carbon budget to make clothes that stay in our wardrobe for less time than at any other point in history. The biggest challenge the industry has is to stop producing stuff that nobody wants or needs. It’s estimated 40% of fashion produced becomes waste before it even gets put on sale. 

You wrote the book To Die For over a decade ago - are you satisfied with the progress of issues raised? 

No, I am not. The primary issues of over production and exploitation of workers in the supply chain have not been solved and they should have been. My book is prescient in the most horrible way as it predicts huge disasters and loss of life - realised three years after "To Die For" was published in the Rana Plaza disaster of 2013. In terms of pumping out industry the brands became worse because we’re now in the age of rapid fast fashion brands aided and abetted by social media. There really is no respite for young people from brands these days. But what I am so grateful for is a new generation of designers, creatives, stylists, fashion activists, students, innovators, celebrities etc  who give a damn and are a massive unstoppable disruptive force! When I wrote to die for, I didn't know they were on the horizon. Activism on sustainable fashion is off the chart these days. 

My observations over the past few years have been that supplier shows have a big focus on animal welfare, sustainable and recycled yarns - as a designer I have to take the certifications at face value… but we’ve all watched focus such as Seaspiracy and I’m not 100% the certificates are worth the paper they’re written on - in your experience what do you think? 

Unfortunately you get partial certifications based on incomplete life cycle analysis (where the methodology is skewed and doesn’t factor in stuff like Microfibres) through to cases where fraudulent information might have been used. Naturally this causes a crisis in confidence with certification overall. It is important to understand that no certificate can ever replace trust and genuine relationships in the supply chain, often built over many years. There is no quick way and no cheap way. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

What do you look for in a brand before investing in a piece of their clothing?

I look for something that combines good fit and quality fabric with a bit of interesting design and personality. I really want expressive, fun clothes that are also beautifully made and extremely considered. It’s a winning formula for me. But the first thing I will 100% know is that I have a gap in my wardrobe and a gap in my life for it.  Eons ago i came up with #30wears the 30 wears rule.. When you see a piece can you commit right then and there to wearing it 30 times? Or 300 or 3000 (you could up the ante). If not, it’s not for you. 

*with Hayley Menzies pieces I can 100% make this commitment. 

Advice to brands wanting to improve their supply chain?

To really do this you have to get knowledgeable about farming! You have to work with growers to produce the cotton staple length that you need for your collection, two years in advance, or help a producer invest in a rare breed herd of sheep (these examples sound extreme but they are real!). If that’s too much, think of other ideas. One  idea that makes sense is to buy and source cooperatively - i.e. more than one brand/label - so that you can share research and contacts. So many fashion entities don’t collaborate in fashion. In interior textiles there’s a much longer history of sharing space, printing machines, mills etc and having pioneer brands with very different aesthetics in the same space. The best way of improving your supply chain is getting your own pieces back or being involved in the resale market. Don’t just think of a supply chain to make the collection and sell it. Every day we have more evidence pointing to resale and reuse as the next destination for fashion of all price points. 

What’s your take on ‘buy 5’ new things per year and what are they?

I think it’s good if you already have lots of  ‘wardrobe capital’ i.e. some lovely pieces that you know work and are a bit timeless. But does it translate to a broad audience?  We also have to look at human behavior and the way we lay down habits and change those habits (hard). If something seems extreme and possibly appeals for a limited timeframe (like doing a year) will it displace consumption long term? I would likely substitute for #30wears. 

How do you feel Hayley Menzies resonates with your ideals?

I think Hayley Menzies pieces are extremely considered (from a sustainability point of view) but have a personality. I’m not into a black blazer because it will be useful forever because I'll probably die from boredom. I still want joy and clever design. I also think Hayley Menzies has such strong design values with quality fabrics that it has tremendous resilience and is ripe for the resale/reuse market where I can see it holding value.