Fashion brand House of Sunny took the internet by storm in the summer of 2020. The vibrant green Hockney dress, made popular by Kendall Jenner, became what many called the “cult dress of the summer.” A dress that also found its way into my own wardrobe. Although the brand was initially launched in 2011, it has skyrocketed in demand over the last few years. This is in part due to the influence of such celebrities, but also because of the brand’s distinct 70s inspired style, the Y2K revival, and most importantly, its commitment to ethical fashion.
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House of Sunny’s creative director and founder Sunny Williams has been celebrated, and rightfully so, for the eco-friendly direction he has taken with the company. In a 2020 interview with British Vogue, Williams stated that “we try to avoid wastage where possible, and our goal is to only develop and produce small and precise edits. This has always been at the forefront of what we do.” This is in reference to House of Sunny’s two seasonal collection rule; its aim is to slow down the means of production so that the brand can focus on sustainable fabrics and manufacturing methods. This is unlike other fast fashion companies like Zara or H&M.
House of Sunny also advertises other incredible ethical responsibilities such as using recycled materials (its bags are compostable) and new technologies, animal welfare, ethical labour, reducing its carbon footprint, and fabric wastage. So, when a company makes a decision to shift into a more environmentally ethical model, we should celebrate, right? Not always. Are companies actually being ethical or are they simply greenwashing?
Jay Westervelt first coined the term greenwashing in 1986, but what exactly does this mean? The current greenwashing definition in the Cambridge Dictionary describes it as “behaviour or activities that make people believe that a company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is.” It calls into question whether companies like House of Sunny are really putting in the work towards sustainability or are just on a big ‘green’ marketing campaign. If a consumer feels better about their purchase being a ‘green’ one then they are more likely to repurchase from that same brand. It’s a win-win situation for the brand.
Amina Razvi, Executive Director of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, told Vogue, “It’s easy to say something is sustainable and not have to prove it, it’s not backed up by real credible data.” Be wary of those constantly used buzzwords, we’ve heard them all by now: ‘green’, natural, sustainable, eco-friendly, biodegradable, etc. Instead, research those companies; look at the numbers, and decide for yourself if they are really doing enough. Some of these words can be incredibly misleading to consumers looking to shop more sustainably (myself included).
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Good On You is a platform that provides trusted sustainability ratings for fashion brands and is backed by celebrities like Emma Watson. Unfortunately, House of Sunny doesn’t rank as highly as you would think. Good On You rates the brand as overall ‘not good enough,’ giving it a 2 out of 5 for both its planet and people categories but a 4 out of 5 for its animal category. This scale is defined as, “1 (we avoid) to 5 (great).”
Looking further, I decided to delve deeper as to why this might be the case. Although House of Sunny has made huge waves with its compostable bags and new denim technologies, its fabrics are still largely made of arguably unsustainable materials. Acrylic, nylon, and Polybutylene Terephthalate (PBT) knit seem to be dominant materials in a majority of the brand’s line; although it claims to source recycled or ethical versions there doesn’t seem to be any evidence to actually prove that. These synthetic ingredients are also not biodegradable, with one 2019 study stating that “synthetic clothes contribute by about 35 [per cent] to the global release of primary microplastics to the world’s oceans, thus becoming the main source.”
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Although House of Sunny is making an impact as a slow fashion brand, it can’t seem to completely escape our fast-fashion world. Dupes of its most iconic pieces are popping up everywhere. Fashion presenter and TikTok user Annalise Dayes documented her shock at finding a dupe of the Hockey dress already in a charity shop. Her video highlights how quickly these trends are coming and going; consumers will buy something trendy and throw it out when it’s not. Don’t even get me started on the brand’s Peggy cardigan.
House of Sunny has definitely had an impact on the conversation of sustainability and its achievements cannot be ignored—for now, the conversation surrounding the fashion industry and sustainability is more about progress than perfection. That being said, it is vital for us as consumers to hold brands accountable for their environmental failures. If not us, who will?
We live in a world where fashion trends are constantly evolving. For the fashion-forward and environmentally-conscious, this can pose a problem. Fast fashion produces extensive greenhouse gases due to the energy used in its production, manufacturing, transportation, and disuse. The synthetic fibres used in most of our clothes are derived from fossil fuels, and most of our garments are manufactured in countries powered by coal, which produces mass carbon emissions. So, if you are wondering how to reduce your carbon footprint while keeping up with fashion trends, keep reading.
If there is an event you are desperate to have a new outfit for, before heading to the fast-fashion sites, ask around your friends whether they have anything you could borrow. That way, you get to wear a fresh outfit without the added cost and environmental impact. Also, certain apps and websites allow you to swap clothes with people in your area. For example, This For That lets you chat, barter, and swap items from your digital wardrobes within the local community.
We can fall into the trap of buying countless clothes to make up for low self-esteem. But learning to think positively about yourself starts with creating healthy habits and a self-care routine. For example, you can boost your workouts if you check out STEEL and pair it with a nutritious diet. When you feel your best, you may find you are more confident in the clothes you already have.
Thrifting is an excellent alternative to purchasing fast fashion. Most styles (if not all) come back around, so there is always a hidden gem to be found in a charity store. For example, fashion from the noughties, the Y2k trend, is back in all its former glory. If you find a few pieces you like but need a little TLC, you can take them to the dry cleaners to be mended, taken in, or thoroughly washed. If you are a creative person, you could even upcycle old clothes to align with your style by adding gems, cropping tops, or distressing jeans, for example.
Duh! Shopping for clothes from stores that have environmental ethics at the heart of their business is one of the best ways to tackle the impacts of fast fashion. Stores like Patagonia and Pact ensure to manufacture their products responsibly and with the planet in mind. Plus, companies like Patagonia are eco-activists, which means they fight to protect our resources and protest against environmental damage.
Before splashing out on a statement piece, ask yourself: how many times will I wear this bright orange jumpsuit? If the answer is any less than 30 times, then you might want to reconsider buying it. Shopping for classic staples that you will wear time and time again will prevent you from adding clothes to landfill sites when you grow tired of them or when they begin to clog your wardrobe.