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When Kate, Princess of Wales donned a gingham, black and white Zara skirt that was available to buy for just £5.99 for a visit to south Wales last month, some royal fans praised her for her resourcefulness, while others were less impressed. Some royal watchers scolded her for buying an item made from less sustainable materials, by workers who were likely exploited.
Although inaccessible to the majority of the public, Kate’s favourite designers, such as Alexander McQueen or Catherine Walker, use sustainable means and materials to produce their clothes.
Their garments are more expensive because they make an effort to be more environmentally conscious. They also pay their workers well.
High street brands like Zara and Accessorize, on the other hand, sell clothes for cheap because their materials are cheap. Furthermore, their workers’ conditions around the world are poor.
In December 2021, more than 400,000 garment workers in Karnataka, one of India’s garment-industry heartlands, who were producing clothes for Zara, H&M, and Marks and Spencer, among others, had not been paid the state’s legal minimum wage since April 2020. This was according to an international labour rights organisation that monitors working conditions in factories, the Guardian reported.
As similar stories have continued to circulate since, people are being encouraged to buy fewer clothes, less often.
Even influencers, such as last year’s Love Island contestants, are urging their followers to buy second-hand, from everywhere from eBay to charity shops. Clothes-selling apps like Depop and Vinted are also becoming increasingly popular.
With discussions around fast fashion and its consequences in the zeitgeist, famous figures like the Princess of Wales risk appearing regressive and out of touch if they wear anything cheap, according to some.
Not long after Kate’s £5.99 skirt’s outing, artist and poet Charly Cox claimed in a post on Instagram: “Shopping sustainably is an incredible privilege, one of which she [Kate] can both afford, fit and do a hell of a lot of good promoting. Relatability politics is a pile of nonsense, she’s not one of us. She owns paintings worth more than our flats and likely life insurance.
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“But when Kate chooses to dress from the high street, being able to afford to shop from designers both established and up and coming, it’s not only a wasted opportunity but it’s condescending and defaming of her ideals and message.
“What about the women enslaved to stitch her shirt? The children who have to pick her cotton? The emissions that far outweigh private jet transport.
“It all goes in the same bin of people in power and of extreme privilege spouting how we should all do better when they themselves actively choose not to. What’s good enough for Kate sure ain’t good enough.”
Others agreed that Kate should stick to more expensive clothes and rewear them, encouraging others to do the same. Twitter user @indica wrote: “Fast fashion is a huge contributor to pollution and climate change. Kate Middleton would do us all a favour by rewearing clothes more.”
Some royal watchers have, however, noted how Kate does often rewear some of her clothes. User @NiraulaAnzela tweeted: “You know, if Kate Middleton is okay wearing the same outfit twice, so are we, mere mortals. However, individual guilt can only get us so far. This culture of fast fashion needs to go. Hold H&M, Zara, and the likes accountable.”
User @UniquelyW1 added: “I’m with Kate Middleton on rewearing my clothes a lot. I love them and hate the fast fashion mentality.”
But celebrity stylist and fashion expert Miranda Holder told Express.co.uk that these mixed opinions show that “Kate is pretty much damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t when it comes to her fashion choices”.
She continued: “One moment she is splashing too much of the public’s purse, then next moment she is championing fast fashion, despite it being a far more affordable option for the rest of us.
“Kate has to try and find the middle ground here, and it is not an easy task. On one hand, wearing pieces sourced from the high street keeps Kate relatable to us all, as we can easily recreate her look without it being out of our budget, and this also positions her as sympathetic to the current cost of living crisis we have in the UK.”
However, Miranda agreed with Charly that Kate should wear less fast fashion. “Her Zara obsession isn’t in my opinion the best of decisions,” she said. As well as the £5.99 skirt, Kate owns multiple blazers from the Spanish label.
The expert continued: “I suppose the advantage of Zara is that it is available in almost every country globally, which keeps Kate’s fashion appeal truly international.
“But, with last year’s Palace announcement still ringing in our ears that the Princess’ outfit details will no longer be released, in an effort to refocus our attention onto the charities she supports, the argument for this is more or less negated.
“In my opinion, a better move, both for the economy and Kate’s reputation, would be for her to champion some more homegrown sustainable but affordable British brands which would give the UK and the Princess a boost,” Miranda added.
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