self portrait

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One liner- Although sustainability is preached to a certain extent, it is not practiced enough.

Self Portrait is a London-based brand founded by Malaysian-born designer Han Chong in 2013. The brand is committed to creating designs that are accessible to all women, thus prioritising the comfort of the wearer. But despite the brand's claim that they aspire to reduce their negative impact on the environment, they fall short. Fortunately, they use natural fabrics, such as GOTS certified organic cotton and GRS certified recycled polyester. In addition, they resigned from using animal materials from endangered species. All the paper used in the packaging is FSC certified. But that is where their sustainability-related information ends. The brand seriously lacks transparency; not only by failing to disclose the exact percentage of recycled materials used, but also by neglecting information on supplier cooperation and legal issues regarding production labour, etc.

What it's made of:


SELF-PORTRAIT claim that they are working to increase their contribution to the circular economy and are committed to reducing their environmental impact by using more responsibly sourced fibres in their product range.  In 2019, they began their journey into reviewing their fibre breakdown, and subsequent collections launched in 2020 to reflect those changes with the introduction of GOTS certified organic cotton and GRS certified recycled polyester. However, there is no evidence of the extent to which their use of organic cotton and recycled polyester reduces carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions, hazardous chemical waste or fresh water consumption. SELF-PORTRAIT has a wide range of clothing, including dresses, knitwear, jackets etc., yet they have no clear data on the percentage of environmentally friendly recycled materials used. Most of the clothes are still made from first-generation polyester, not recycled polyester, so it lacks a certain transparency regarding this aspect.

In their sustainability statement, one can see a big change in their swimwear for 2021 as they have partnered with their suppliers such as REPREVE® (recycled performance fibres) to make garments made from 35% to 100% recycled materials. Firstly, I don't think it is enough for brands to use recycled fibres only for swimwear as swimwear is only a small part of a large number of garments.When I reviewed REPREVE®, I found that they recycle marine plastic bottles to make sustainable fibres and they visibly list the  many brands and list all the brands that they work with by alphabetical order, but I could not find information on their collaboration with SELF- PORTRAIT, which is very strange. So I can't find out how long SELF-PORTRAIT has been working with the company, how much recycled material has been purchased, and other relevant information. This is frustrating.

In addition to this, they demand that all suppliers adhere to their policies regarding animal welfare and prohibit the use of materials taken from endangered species, real fur or pelts, angora, real horn shell or Mother of Pearl. Leather, wool, cashmere and mohair are only sourced from producers that practise good animal husbandry. It has no formal animal welfare policy, although it has a general statement on minimising animal suffering. There is no evidence that it can trace any animal products back to the first stage of production.

How it's made:


During the garment production process, SELF-PORTRAIT also disposes of unwanted fabric samples by donating excess material to First Mile, who work with third party charities to reuse them. Items in good condition are sent to wholesalers in developing countries for resale in local markets. Garments that can't be reused are repurposed as new materials such as insulation, sports equipment filler and carpet underlay. This allows for a reduced waste and increased recycling use.  For packaging and shipping, they use FSC certified paper. In terms of the origin of the material, the raw materials used in FSC paper are controlled and can be traced back to where the raw materials came from and are in the chain of custody of production and distribution. FSC paper is sourced from sustainable, legal and permitted forest resources. I think they do a good job in this area of packaging.  Most SELF-PORTRAIT garments are dry clean only; but in 2018, SELF-PORTRAIT started working with Green Earth Cleaning, a company that uses non-toxic and non-hazardous silicone based alternatives to traditional chemical methods to provide a gentler solution for people and the planet. They also advise customers to follow care instructions on garment labels and to look for cleaners that use more sustainable processes.  Green Earth Cleaning currently operates in over 40 countries.

Who makes it:


All Self-Portrait garments are designed in-house at their East London studio and manufactured between China and Italy. Before the pandemic, the Self-Portrait team made bi-annual visits to their suppliers to carry out their own due diligence and risk assessments, ensuring that manufacturers adhered to their code of conduct. But other than that, they have not shared anything else publicly, including what the code of conduct has to offer. There is no evidence that it has worker empowerment initiatives, such as collective bargaining or the right to complain. There is no evidence that it ensures that a living wage is paid in its supply chain. It audits parts of its supply chain, including all final stages of production, but does not disclose any policies or safeguards to protect suppliers and workers in its supply chain from COVID-19. So I think there is a huge lack of transparency in all of these areas.