Changing the world with Slow Fashion

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Fifteen years ago, when I started working at Metro, ethical fashion barely registered as a concept and the offering, to be frank, was poor: sorely high priced, one-size t-shirts in organic cotton seemed the bulk of what was available. One label shone through: People Tree, proudly billing itself as fair trade, and producing clothes that were actually lovely. Twenty five years later, founder Safia Minney remains a leader of the ethical fashion movement. To mark the anniversary, she has compiled an ethical fashion bible, Slow Fashion: Aesthetics Meets Ethics, a comprehensive book of essays by campaigners, innovators, fashion influencers and eco concept stores worldwide: from former i-D fashion editor Caryn Franklin to model and social entrepreneur Lily Cole, from Green Carpet Challenge creator Livia Firth to designers Zandra Rhodes, Bora Aksu and Peter Jensen, as well as Andrew Morgan, director of The True Cost, a profound film examining the immense toll the international fashion industry takes on people and the environment. I thought I knew a lot about ethical fashion but sometimes, it takes those on the frontline to crystallise one's instincts. Here are the quotes from the book that helped me do so:

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Model and ethical entrepreneur Lily Cole:‘Quality and design are essential if we are going to convert customers into ethical consumers. We can’t expect this movement to become mainstream if we compromise on quality and design. it’s much better for the product to lead with its aesthetics and the design, and for the ethics to follow, like a PS: “this was made in a really good way.” Otherwise, we will only see niche customers and won’t win over the masses.’

Singer Leah Wood:‘[Becoming a mother made me feel difference about the way I dressed]. You become more conscious of where you are putting your money, how you would like your children to grow up and what you want them to learn about our planet our food, our fashion industry and how we can do our bit for the environment.’

Model Rebecca Pearson:‘[One of my] worst moments was working for a regular client who had come back from the clothes factory. She was waxing lyrical about a sequin dress, saying @The people who stitch this have to be very young; by the time they’re 25, their eyes are too weak.” I couldn’t believe someone could say something so callous. And then I had to model the dress ... I would love to see a world free of “trends”. I’ve done this job for years and how many times have I modelled nautical, boho, androgynous, body con … coming up with new was to sell old ideas ultimately feeds the “fast” fashion ethos. A great item of clothing never goes out of fashion.’

Stylist Andie Redman:‘Fast fashion is unsustainable - the planet doesn’t have the resources. Before, I wouldn’t have thought twice about spending loads in Topshop or Selfridges only to take it all to a charity shop six months later. Now, thanks to age and education and awareness, I’m a key piece buyer. And I shop vintage more, because that’s where you find well made, lasting clothes. My conscience won’t allow me to shop any other way.’

Anoushka Probyn.

Anoushka Probyn.

Fashion blogger Anoushka Probyn: ‘Having clothes constantly coming in changed the way I though about them. I wasn’t valuing the garments as much as I should. Bloggers are expected to be wearing new things and there’s pressure to be in the latest trends. It’s not healthy or sustainable so I’m careful to only work with brands I love and whose clothes I know will stand the test of time.’ (88)

London-based Turkish fashion designer Bora Aksu:‘Fast fashion will only change when people stop to think before they buy things. The whole idea of consuming more is always going to be an issue.’

Danish designer Peter Jensen: ‘There are too many seasons now, it is like fashion gone mad. I’m not sure we need all this clothing.’

Designer Eileen Fisher:‘Despite all we’ve learned about our supply chain over the years, we still have much more to do. We are working towards full transparency. We struggle with defining and achieving what we consider to be fair wages and benefits for everyone, and we have only begun to tackle work and community happiness. These are incredibly complex issues - true, authentic change takes time.’

Merryn Leslie, owner of 69b Boutique:‘Businesses that don’t get involved in turning their companies around and having transparent business practices are missing out on an inherent human quality, which is doing goo. We have really loyal customers because of the positive side to what we do. They hear about the woman who did the hand beading, and because of this good and fairly paid work, her child has the opportunity to be educated. They hear about how the clothing is chemical free and organic. Because of stories like this, people get an extra feel-good factor, which I think is beneficial to businesses.’

Iman Amed, Lucy Siegle, Andrew Morgan and Livia Firth in conversation.

Iman Amed, Lucy Siegle, Andrew Morgan and Livia Firth in conversation.

Andrew Morgan, director of The True Cost:‘I never understood the size and scale of fashion’s impact on our world. It is at the heart of the struggle for human rights and environmental protection and yet in so many ways we don’t take it seriously. We have been told a story that casts us in the role of consumers, people who merely take in products that were made somewhere far away. The reality is that as human beings we make choices, and the choices we make around what we wear are having profound implications for our planet as well as for some of our most vulnerable fellow human beings.’