COVER PHOTOGRAPH: Stefan Lacand.
One hundred billion items of clothing are produced every year; most of them are thrown away again, after just a few wears. Meanwhile, garment workers in the Global South - 80 per cent of whom are women - earn less than nothing. In the midst of the pandemic and the seismic societal shifts launched by the Black Lives Matter, we asked members of XR Fashion Action to answer one question: what would THEY like to see change in the culture of fashion?
Tolmeia Gregory ie Tolly Dolly Posh, blogger and activist: “Besides the obvious of the fashion industry becoming one built on circularity and regeneration, I'd like to see more room being made for more individual expression. I think the access we have to such vast amounts of clothes creates an illusion that we have enough choice to express our individuality - even though we're having trends and choices made for us.
We're being told what to wear every few weeks and it's not hard to walk down a street without seeing somebody wearing something similar or even exactly the same. We need to create a culture that allows everyone to express themselves freely and boldly, which in a way, ties right into sustainability because when we're truly living as ourselves, that can only help to sustain our wellbeing in the long run.”
Jo Godden, founder of RubyMoon.org.uk, the only not-for-profit activewear company for social and environmental good: “What I would like to see most changed about the culture of fashion is that all products have a benefit to people and planet (rather than degradation). That all clothing becomes valuable again and that we can can achieve true system change.”
Bel Jacobs, climate campaigner and animal rights activist; one of the co-ordinators of the XR Fashion Action team: “The culture of fashion? What I’d most like to see changed is consumer perception of clothing - as items of little value that can be thrown away after two or three wears - to what they really are: vehicles of identity and expression, made from materials drawn from a precious earth by people like us, whose lives truly matter. This is one of the key ways we can challenge …
Martina Sorghi, designer and activist: “I’d like to see the the rewriting of the history of fashion, correcting the words where we speak of cultural oppressions by the white-European colonies, analyzing the consequences of colonization on oppressed cultures, reflected in the history of costume and fashion. From there, I believe there would be another more real way for global culture.
Geraldine Wharry, fashion futurist: “I love fashion. Fashion has the power to change lives and, together with music, is the most universal art form and representation of culture. But the culture of the fashion INDUSTRY is a different thing. I hope the culture of fashion becomes less extractive and abusive and less a culture of co-opting social issues for commercial gain or abusing workers “backstage” whilst telling the public, the consumer something else. This would mean shifting to a humble mindset of learning and correcting all day, every day - and to a culture of transparency and sharing, rather than competing and crushing, creating a mindset of regeneration and community. The culture of fashion needs to stop obsessing about new products and instead obsess about new systems, that allow realistic assessments of planetary resources and experimenting with new exchange value.
Robin Habbé (Bruisje), philosopher, hairdresser and XR-Rebel, Netherlands: “I would like people to transform themselves from consumers into creators. I would like the idea of ‘trashion’- the re-use of existing garments - to sit at the core of how we approach the production of new garments. And I would like for fashion to be about self-expression, not about fabricated trends and the exploitation of workers.”
Siobhan Wilson, founder of The Fair Shop, fair trade & sustainable fashion campaigner & activist: “Fashion always needs to inspire. The global fashion industry now has the capacity to transform the way we think about our clothes by combining the power of modern innovation with the wisdom and beauty of traditions from numerous cultures around the world. Understanding the story behind how things are made is empowering and creates true value for the garment, encouraging us to keep what we have and slow down the pace of consumption.”
Fez Sibanda, activist and founder @SustainableSundayz: “I would like to see people acknowledging that the (fast) fashion industry is built on a colonial model. The exporting of labour and goods from smaller developing economies into western economies is a model that relies on exploitation and needs to be challenged. Fashion culture needs to decolonise.”