Just as many cement their identity within electronic music and clubbing, fashion is a fragment of their identity. It plays a tremendous role in identifying fellow peers of similar interests, in self-expression and creativity and in how future generations will reflect on the dance music community in years to come.

In recent years, The North Face launched a collection of refurbished clothing, sourced from defective or returned and unwanted items. Shifting toward a world where people “share, resell, repair and recycle clothing to keep them out of landfills and in the value chain” is a greater necessity than ever. Highlighting how 85% of textiles produced end up in landfills every single year, their growing collection maintains its quality and style with less impact on our earth. Quality-checked and repaired, the garments go back out into the world at a lower price, with a lifetime guarantee, new purpose and updated relevance in the fashion industry. They have collection boxes in stores for any branded clothes and shoes to be recycled into other products. As a core clothing label seen around Dublin and our clubs, the importance of innovation, sustainability and eco-friendly change is celebrated, and it’s time we take note on a personal level.

The relationship between electronic music and fashion is one of mutual creativity. Both are forums for personal expression, a dance space a place to present one’s fluid and evolving way of being. Fashion and music are consistent elements of a culture, and the combination of the two creates new rules, new styles and new bonds as it becomes easier to recognise peer’s interests, similarities and differences through how they choose to present themselves.

Different music styles have coincided with dress codes over the years, from formal attire correlating to classical compositions played in the ballroom, to brit-pop and ska mirroring the mod movement, right up to the sweaty luminous rave culture of the nineties. Dance music has unspoken dress codes at times, ending the decade with styles similar (but not confined) to hip-hop’s athletic and casual streetwear. The clothes we wear signify our culture, our place in time and the creativity or conformity bubbling beneath the city. 

Heading into 2020, the push for sustainability will continue to rise, as the impacts of our primary contribution to climate change can no longer be ignored.

The link between dance music and sustainability may not appear apparent for some, as production and mixing don’t overtly depict activism. However, for this community to have an important place in a world that’s changing, outside influence and issues should come into play for inclusive and progressive spaces. To be valued on the planet, a fight Irish club goers are eagerly getting behind following the closure of The Tivoli, Hangar and Richmond Street’s Shaw, we need to value the planet.

Sustainable fashion is naturally more diverse, creative and unique than the mass production of on-trend items made with poor materials in poor conditions unethically and costly to our environment. The essence of dance music and clubbing, from freedom of expression to escapism and creativity, are difficult to truthfully embody if the clothes worn for these spaces are produced in their thousands, with finite resources and in unethical conditions, opposing the freedom of the people who make them.

If we all conform, what happens to dance culture? Is there still a valid movement? In the same way the efforts of individuals and groups like Give Us The Night will be reflected on in the future as key components of saving our spaces, the clothes we wear, why we wear them and at what cost are essential questions to define this generation’s importance.

Embody authenticity, change and uniquity. Who will look back as we do to the 90s and think it was legendary, if we don’t create (as best we can) the expressive spaces we long to be in. In the last few years, it hasn’t been uncommon to hear club-goers sigh at the current state of things, or comments on festival outfits and everyone looking the same. Instead of complaining about it, build the environment you want to be in, attend the nights you want to continue running and wear what you feel like wearing regardless of outdated fashion rules.  

Just as many cement their identity within electronic music and clubbing, fashion is a fragment of their identity. It plays a tremendous role in identifying fellow peers of similar interests, in self-expression and creativity and in how future generations will reflect on the dance music community in years to come.

With heightened awareness of climate change and our contribution to the global issue, fashion and the communities it thrives in have new responsibilities. Fashion is important in the dance community, but right alongside it is sustainability. When in a mind frame of ethical shopping habits and climate activism, it’s easy to forget that the entire widespread community isn’t necessarily on the same page. 

As trends come and go, fast-fashion chains produce the clothing guaranteed to sell. In a world driven by supply and demand, is it a wonder that these chains have yet to cease existence, continuing to provide ill-quality clothing perfect for once-off wear at a festival, detrimental to other aspects of society. Fast-fashion decreases individuality, and commonly people spend twice as long trying to spot friends on a night out when the whole world is buckles and mesh and black and combat trousers (I do it too). This isn’t to knock these outfit choices – if that is your style, all the power to you. But you can still wear these outfits sustainably. Plus I struggle to believe that all of us in a warehouse from different parts of the city/country/world happen to identify wholeheartedly with the same outfits as the next person. You see it when travelling to Berlin, as people who have never worn black in their lives suddenly become monochrome rather than reflect aspects of their personality in their outfit.

Hand in hand with social media, the emphasis on fashion has grown, our feeds crowded with outfit snaps for the weeks before and after festivals. Popular DJs have the power to influence their listeners. We have the power to influence each other, so influence each other with messages of sustainability, sharing, upcycling, converting. Brands historical to the scene needn’t be eroded. Nike, Fila, Adidas, Champion, Ralph Lauren, Burberry, to name only a few, are found in abundance on Depop, Etsy and in vintage stores or kilo sales for a fraction of the original cost. With the culture of buying an outfit and wearing it once, there is ample opportunity to exchange with your friends, in swap shops or on Depop also. 

There are enough unworn, stylish garments already existing in the world to dress us all many times over, to style it differently or bring back some pieces to evoke nostalgia. The exact items you look at on fast-fashion sites are often found on Depop, cheaper and unused. As 90s vintage style remains on-trend, it is a better time than ever to shop second-hand or vintage, for aesthetics as well as the bigger issue. Purchasing better quality, sustainable and upcycled key items regularly worn on a night out, from bags to jackets, will be longer-lasting.

Sure there are dress codes with certain club nights – from casual to no runners allowed, to fetish-wear and as little clothes as desired. These define some nights, and your fashion can define others. Images from Brown Thomas’ St Stephen’s Day sale are laughable but also frightening. People lose themselves in capitalism. It is not the essence of the clubbing community or the people in it. These are our cherished spaces. We can put thought into all the components.

Also a forum for expression with makeup, cruelty-free products are in abundance, and biodegradable glitter exists. Sustainability is also as relevant to buildings and its contents. Why are plastic cups still a thing? Thankfully the majority of venues have eliminated plastic straws. Some of it comes easy to us, like e-tickets rather than paper printouts. DJ and founder of Berlin’s Love Parade Dr Motte said “after the Wall came down it was a process of coming back together as one”, creating a new culture for the new times. Globally, we are in new times again. Locally, the city is changing and we must change with it. Music and fashion are intertwined with our identities.

Sustain the venues and nights we have and protest the ones we lose. The biggest protest is attending the few we have left, show that we want these spaces. Innovation with all aspects of dance music nightlife, including fashion,  will have the butterfly effect of transpiring into other areas, building and growing its importance continuously. New generations will want to step into this creative, immersive and unique space, particularly if an issue as great as climate change is considered and cemented in how we experience the fun in our lives. 

Living more sustainably creates opportunity rather than difficulty. Through experimentation and conscious shopping, we get to redefine what dance music looks like in 2020. We get to choose what the spaces are remembered for. Practising sustainability in our most valued spaces is just another way of showing how much we care about it. 

Music and fashion are forms of art and are inseparable since they depict our expressions and viewpoints. The essence of dance music is creativity, losing yourself and enjoyment. The free-flowing, loose spirit which unifies people can transfer into conscious fashion choices: sustaining our venues, our clothes and our planet. Almost everything we do can be done more sustainably and this is no exception. 

Words by Niamh Elliott-Sheridan.

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