I recently went to a free talk. About sustainable fashion. On a Friday at 10am. In a local pub on the beach front. All of this sounds like everything I would not do. I rarely attend ‘talks’, free or otherwise. I have no interest in fashion, but I do in sustainability. I never go to a pub (not even at 10am). But there I was second row from the front. To my surprise, I enjoyed it very much.
The discussion was between Clare Press and Zoë Gameau. ** It was organised as a promotion for Clare’s book Rise & Resist, about gentle activism which as it turned out was much more what the event was about than selling her book. She didn’t even read from her book. Clearly, she wasn’t there for self-promotion.
She describes Gentle Activism as a more beautiful, fair and kind activism for a more beautiful, fair and kind world.
Clare Press is the first Sustainability Editor for Vogue. Just the title gives one pause. It seems there is a blossoming global movement to make fashion a more sustainable industry.
You may be aware that the process used to make synthetic fabrics is incredibly toxic to the planet, even cotton unless it is organic requires masses of pesticides to grow.
In the years 2000-2015 we, as a humanity, produced 100 billion garments PER YEAR. 1/3 of which never sold. And 60 to70% of them ended up in landfill. Like you, I was asking, why don’t they send them off to third world countries rather than dump them in the landfill? Well, they do, of course, but that isn’t always a blessing as it impacts on the local garment workers whose trade then drops off. Many of these garment workers are dependent on their earnings in order to stay alive. Now there is a movement to make manufacturers responsible for ‘end of life’ of their products. It’s a start.
But rather than make the fashion industry the ‘bad guys in ever fashionable black’, the Fashion Revolution movement is supporting change by starting to recognise the supply chain, not make fashion a bad word. The current catch phrase and something everyone can do is ask "Who made my clothes?" #whomademyclothes on social media to follow what's happening here.
It’s not surprising to learn that 80% of garment workers around the world are women, primarily between the ages of 15 and 35, most often being paid an abysmal wage. Ask the retailer, ask the brand name, “Who made my clothes?” They probably can’t answer the question but it will help make a change towards them becoming more aware of the supply chain.
In the audience that day were many young women who have started their own sustainable clothing labels, who are striving to create fashion that doesn’t cost the planet, who are incredibly passionate and well informed about the planet, people and politics.
Check out Hemp Temple – for earthy fabrics and designs and a new way of marketing….. “The danger of traditional marketing is that it feeds on the wounded.”
Check out Spell & The Gypsy for a super success story of a small Byron Bay designer that is now taking a global lead on sustainable fashion. In the bridal section are directions on how to dye bridal wear with vegetable dyes so that bridal clothing is not a one-time outfit but can be worn for many occasions thereafter.
But back to where we started which is with gentle activism. Think ‘Yarn Bombing’ – improving the urban landscape one stitch at a time.
Do what you can from where you are.
The PussyHat Project*** is another example. Two friends who had taken a knitting class together found themselves in the situation where they wanted to attend a women’s march but only one of them was physically able to do so, the other one knitted a hat for her friend to wear to keep her head warm and to be a symbol that she was there – even though she couldn’t physically go to the march. Pink knitted hats turned into a global movement of recognition of the power of women.
Then there is Craftivism– anyone who uses their craft for the greater good. This is now a huge movement but started only a few years ago when a woman wanted to get the attention of a political person in power. With a dainty cross-stitch on a handkerchief, she wrote “Don’t blow it…” Yes, she got their attention with a laugh! Nowadays when the crafters use this method of communicating, they do some research and find out what colours the person wears and tailor the thread and fabric of the hankies to the individual, to make the activism special, loving, and personalised – person to person.
In the words of Sarah Corbett, “Figure out how to lift people up rather than push them down.”
As you can see from the snippets I’ve shared, it was a power packed morning talk and one I’ve continued to think about and do my own research on, just out of curiosity. I know ultimately, everything we do makes an impact on our collective experience. How I dress, how I shop, how I make a cup of tea, how I climb into bed to put myself to sleep, how I type these words on the computer – all of it is gentle activism. We each need to find our place in the scheme of things, and do what we can from where we are to make the world a more beautiful, fair and kind place to ‘be’.
* ‘Be Curious, Find Out, Do Something’ is the mantra of Fashion Revolution
** Zoe and her husband, Damon Gameau, residents of the Northern Rivers of NSW, are filmmakers to take note of, with their latest film, titled 2040, chosen to screen at the UN Environmental Summit. Damon’s earlier film, That Sugar Film, is still drawing much attention in the health industry, and if you haven’t seen it, you should!
***A Pussyhat now resides in the Rapid Response collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the permanent collection of Michigan State University’s museum, and other collections as an important piece of feminist history. What started as a simple means of protest, participation and solidarity, has become an iconic global symbol of political activism.
Gayle Cue loves writing about life, reflecting on every day miracles and pondering on the big picture.
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