One of the defining factors separating us humans from other animals, is our clothing. We all wear clothes, most of the time. If we didn’t, we would soon find ourselves socially isolated – or even locked up! Humans even have laws to prevent people deviating from this ‘norm’.

Fashion has been increasingly important, continuously evolving for centuries. It defines who we are and where we come from; it can make us stand out or blend in. There are very few, if any, examples in nature of animals adorning objects to enhance their look. The hermit crab can be very selective about his next new shell, sometimes even choosing a man-made object as his new home. It could be argued they are experiencing a similar vanity to humans, but in reality, it is more about the size and comfort or practical nature of the shell, not to mention the sad fact that humans are littering their world.

Fashion has always recycled old styles, updating old looks with new quirks. Appearing to constantly change, but really, it is just a recycled mishmash of old styles and trends. A consumerist whirlwind compelling us to buy or be left out, to dress a certain way with the most up-to-date styles in order to fit in. There is no doubt fashion will remain important to us in the future, but in a world affected by climate change, how sustainable is the current throwaway fashion trend?

Hermit Crab

With the build-up of plastics in our oceans and in our food chains, things have to change, and fashion has to evolve to be sustainable. Fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the world and also raises humanitarian concerns too. Clothing production has also nearly doubled in the last 15 years to meet our demand.

So, what is the solution? Sustainable fashion is defined as: clothing, shoes and accessories that are manufactured, marketed and used in the most sustainable manner possible, taking into account both environmental and socio-economic aspects.

Limiting the negative, environmental effects of the product by a. ensuring efficient and careful use of natural resources (water, energy, land, soil, animals, plants, etc); b. selecting renewable energy sources (wind, solar, etc.) at every stage, and c. maximising repair, remake, reuse, and recycling of the product and its components. A good way to minimise environmental impact is to recycle old clothing, rather than buying new. In Gibraltar we have only 2 or 3 thrift shops. Secondhand fashion, unfortunately, is still generally not a trend. Throwaway fashion however, does seem to be very much in vogue. Fashion shops such as Primark produce cheaper copies of high-end fashion with constantly changing seasons, styles and fads, encouraging consumers to throw away and buy more.

Currently, much of Gibraltar’s secondhand clothing makes its way to Morocco, given to charities or sold there. This is excellent, but more secondhand clothes could and should be resold locally to help discourage this throwaway consumerism.

Apart from the obvious link to the environment, what has all this got to do with Wildlife and the Alameda Wildlife Conservation Park? Earlier this year, the AWCP was approached by Fairhomes (Ocean Village) to discuss ways in which they could help the park to fundraise. Their subsequent offer was two-fold, an Open Day at Ocean Village and a fundraiser fashion show hosted by Dusk nightclub.

As a local community wildlife park, sustainability is at the heart of what the AWCP stands for, and the team strives to incorporate it into everything they do in order to raise awareness of these issues locally and also in the zoo community. Naturally, the theme of the fashion show was an ideal platform for the park to promote sustainability in fashion, and raise awareness of the negative effects of unsustainable fashion on the environment.

The event aims to stimulate local fashion stores to stock sustainable clothing lines, and also to encourage more of a thrift shop culture in Gibraltar. The Gibraltar Youth Group will be presenting a range of clothing put together from secondhand clothing found at the ClubHouse charity store at the ‘Go Wild for Fashion’ event on the 20th of June. This event will be raising funds for the AWCP as well as raising awareness about sustainable clothing. The Youth Group will also be creating accessories and jewellery from plastic rubbish and disused items. Local fashion store Marble Arc will also be showcasing some of their summer collection at the event.

The younger generation have grown up with abundance of disposable fashion items amidst this ‘throwaway fashion’ trend. For this reason, it is critical for the younger generation to be involved and understand the impact of irresponsible fashion trends on the natural world.

To find out more about current attitudes towards fashion and sustainable fashion, we asked this year’s work experience students from Westside School to answer a series of questions about current attitudes to fashion and their opinions on sustainable fashion and secondhand clothing. Their responses were revealing:

How do you feel about fashion in general, how important is it to you?

The general consensus among our work experience students was that fashion, particularly the brand of fashion, was of great importance to their generation. Brands like Superdry, Louis Vuitton, Hollister and Adidas are popular amongst teenagers.

Where do you buy your clothes and how often do you go clothes shopping?

As the students tend to go for more expensive brands of clothing, they tend to receive new clothes for special occasions; birthdays, Christmas or family events. Other clothing will be purchased as and when needed, often at the cheaper retail stores locally.

What do you think ‘sustainable fashion’ means?

Unanimously, there was little knowledge of sustainable clothing and little understanding of what it means other than ‘recycled’ clothing.

Would you wear second-hand clothing, if not then why?

The general consensus was that of distaste at the thought of second-hand clothing. But after further probing and encouragement, some were open to it, dependent on how it looked and where it was from.

Why do you think there are so few second-hand stores in Gibraltar?

The overall agreement was: “It’s just not trendy.” But all acknowledged, if there were more second-hand shops in Gibraltar, the trend would probably catch on.

Do you think this will change in the future and why?

With more second-hand shops in Gibraltar, it would probably become more accepted and maybe even in vogue.

So, it seems, the lack of culture for sustainable or second-hand clothing is the reason behind the lack of interest. The selection of shops in Gibraltar is sparse, and many people order online or visit nearby Spain to purchase clothing instead.

Gibraltar has a recent addition to this area: Threads is a new, stylish, industrial-style shop tucked away in a quaint passageway (between Costa Coffee shop and Edna’s Boutique). Just starting out, the owners have created a selection of branded sportswear, some of which is ‘pre-loved’. It’s a good start, and definitely worth a peek if you like your designer sportswear at a discounted price!

If you would like to support the AWCP ‘Go Wild for Fashion’, fundraiser later this month, tickets can be purchased from BuyTickets.gi or directly from Dusk nightclub at £15. VIP tables for up to 8 people, can be purchased from the venue (limited availability!). A raffle will take place on the night, tickets can be purchased from the AWCP Reception.

Previous articleFriends in High Places
Next articleThe Essence Of Father’s Day
Jess Leaper
Jess Leaper has managed the Alameda Wildlife Conservation Park (AWCP) for over 12 years. Having completed her MSc project on the Barbary macaque, she later returned to Gibraltar and was asked to help out at the Wildlife Park. Vowing to somehow improve the enclosures of the primates there before she moved on, she managed that and much more. Now also active locally in sustainability groups and campaigns, raising awareness of Climate Change, particularly in relation to species and habitats.