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Time for Fashion Activism

As Fashion Revolution Week wound down at the weekend, I've been musing over the multitude of great discussions and articles that were shared over the week. Understandably, it's a lot to take in. The problems with the industry as it stands are many and varied, and all wrapped up in layers of cultural, political and legal complications.

The work towards reform is a daily year-round effort, of course. But this week-long focus helps to break down the component parts into bite-size chunks.

In an Instagram Live with Christopher Raeburn, Orsola de Castro - co-founder of Fashion Revolution - discussed the way in which we've all become virus 'experts' in a short time because Covid-19 is an issue that impacts us all greatly. In a similar vein, I hope we've all become a little more knowledgeable about the clothing industry over the past week.

I believe clothing is something which touches us all, figuratively and literally! We all need clothes, in one form or another - for warmth, protection, utility, modesty and expression. Clothing is essentially our second skin.

Like many slow-fashion advocates, I feel an ever-present contradiction in my own ideals. I love fashion. I love it's mood-altering abilities and the opportunity for creative articulation. But there's a darker, uglier side of fashion. One that exploits, damages and drains. And I don't love that, one bit.

I was a panel member in an online webinar last Thursday evening, in the wake of a a virtual screening of The True Cost documentary. It was a great opportunity to re-watch the film, and left me feeling a renewed sense of determination to do something to make some waves and help turn the tide.

Still from The True Cost

A shocking statistic from the film is that clothing consumption has risen by 400% in the last two decades. Our clothes have become disposable commodities, and many are made from plastic-derived fibres - such as polyester - which take 200 years or more to break down. Charity shops are overloaded with our cast-offs, and those that don't sell within a two week period, are shipped off to developing countries to clog their streets and market places.

We are using up exhaustible natural resources with our inexhaustible need for more.

But knowledge is power. We now have a multitude of learning resources at our fingertips to start to curb this damage.

One of the most urgent calls-to-action for me, is the need to take a step back and examine our motivations as consumers. Our worth is not communicated through the purchasing of material goods. And that is not the route to contentment either. I hope this period of lockdown will allow us all the space to re-assess what is important to us. To re-connect with our own needs and what makes us feel good in the long-term, not just momentary gratification.

As individuals, there's lots of small steps we can take that will collectively make a big difference.

The most sustainable clothes are the ones you already own.

  • Learning some basic repair techniques to fix items in need of a bit of TLC (check out these visible mending techniques)

  • Using fabric dye to give a new lease of life to something faded or stained (here's some inspo from Raeburn Studios x Dylon)

  • Give clothes a new lease of life through upcycling or embellishment. Check out Pinterest for ideas or join a Facebook group for an added sense of community

  • Trade clothes you've fallen out of love with by passing them on to family & friends, using clothes sharing apps like The Nu Wardrobe or selling online through various second-hand resale sites.

When you do add to your wardrobe, shop with brands who represent your values. We can use our purchasing power for the greater good and vote with our pennies for the change we want to see in the world. Support local creators and small businesses too, to ensure their impact and innovations can be sustained (find some suggestions in the 'FRW 20' highlight on the pkt gram).

Try shopping second-hand too. You never know what you might find. There's a plethora of amazing clothing out there, both in bricks-and-mortar shops and through online sources such as ASOS Marketplace and Depop. There might be a little more searching involved, but embrace the hunt. It makes the treasure all the more satisfying once unearthed!

Broaden your knowledge of the topic and ask questions.

  • Head over to the Fashion Revolution Website and take a look around. Read a few guides, look through the resources or download some templates for emailing brands

  • Write to a brand to request some further information about a product you bought from them. The more they get prompted with questions about their supply chain, the more likely they are to improve their transparency. Retailers need to know we value ethical manufacture and are more likely to support brands who respect their garment workers and the environment

  • Check out the Love Your Clothes campaign for information on laundry and care habits that can reduce our water & energy consumption, whilst also keeping clothes looking their best for longer

  • Seek out slow-fashion advocates on social media and follow them to learn more through the articles and stories they share

  • Up-skill and learn some age-old sewing, knitting or other craft techniques from friends and relatives. Keep these artisan practices alive and reap the rewards of slowing down

And here's more other recommended reading:

And, as always, feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or would like some more tips & resources.

Stay well & safe all,

Holly x

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