Fashion has never been afraid to capitalise on a cause in order to sell products. So news that designers are jumping on the anti-plastic straw bandwagon by creating sustainable, fashionable alternatives in the run-up to 2019’s proposed ban will come as no surprise.
From a Vogue-endorsed hand-blown Murano glass straw by creative design pair Duncan Campbell and Charlotte Rey, which costs £50 for six, to a £145 sterling silver creation by jeweller Stephen Webster, straws are set to become the latest way for consumers to telegraph their awareness.
Naturally, some have taken issue with the trend, particularly the price tag. Orsola de Castro, co-founder of Fashion Revolution, the largest fashion activism movement in the world, told the Guardian: “There are the ways that the fashion industry can comment and act on the issue – but making a silver straw is neither a comment nor an action.”
Webster’s silver straw is called The Last Straw and aims at “taking a stand for social responsibility”. The Murano glass straw is described both as “sustainable” and a “must-have” accessory. De Castro added: “Capitalising to create business is normal. But to pretend you are part of a bigger conversation is risible.”
It is estimated that there are 150m tonnes of plastic in the world’s oceans. Already, a a plethora of reusable alternatives to plastic straws in materials such as bamboo, silicone, glass and metal are on the rise.
Fashion’s attempt to raise awareness or bring about political change via products is nothing new. The recent red carpet blackout in the wake of the Weinstein allegations was one of the biggest talking points of 2017. On the same note, a Dior T-shirt sporting the legend: “We Should All Be Feminists,” a quote taken from the writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie became the most Instagrammed T-shirt of the season. If 2017 was about broadcasting gender politics, sustainability as a selling point is 2018’s equivalent.
The trend is also in keeping with the current vogue for non-essential luxury items. Often referred to as “gateway drugs” in fashion because they are cheaper than clothes – items such as belts and lighters drive revenue more than garments. Dune Ives, executive director of Lonely Whale, a nonprofit aimed at protecting marine life, described straws as “a gateway plastic”.
De Castro concedes that raising awareness is a move in the right direction, and thinks paper straws are a good alternative, although a complete ban would be better still. “There’s nothing wrong with using our lips instead. It’s worked for millennia,” she said.