Image credit: @deliciouslyella
Have you been tuning into the Deliciously Ella podcast every week like we have? Discussing episodes on Tuesday mornings has become one of our rituals at Eco-Age HQ, which is why we are beyond excited to have our very own Livia Firth on this week’s episode, talking sustainability in fashion (what else!).
Livia, Ella and Matt discuss everything sustainable and ethical fashion, from starting the Green Carpet Challenge, to whether you can really be a feminist and buy into fast fashion, what’s the scale of the issue and how do we make sustainable fashion more appealing, as well as tips on what to look for when we shop.
On Garment Workers & Feminism:
“If you want to talk about feminism, as a woman, we’re doing this to women. It’s not possible, why are their lives considered less than ours?”
On the shift from Bangladesh to Ethiopia:
“I’m completely shocked that things are getting worse rather than better. And actually as we’re recording this, it’s the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, where a lot of the fast fashion brands make promises. In 2014 I had this huge public row with H&M about wages because that was the year that they announced that by 2018 they’re going to give a living wage to their suppliers, to their garment workers. And that never happened, and this year their CEO said they never made that promise. And actually then you read the report on Ethiopia, which has become the new Bangladesh. H&M is producing in Ethiopia, which is a country that doesn’t even have a minimum wage and the average garment worker gets $26 a month.”
On the definition of ‘Sustainable Fashion’:
“First year, through the award season, I put myself as the guinea pig and I started going on each carpet with a different story to understand what you are asking – what is sustainable fashion? Are we talking about natural dyes? So we worked with a brand called Prophetik who at the time was dying this beautiful organic silk in indigo dyes. Is it about upcycling? I went to the Oscars with this black dress made of waste fabric, and the pants that Orsola found in a bin to make flowers on my shoulders. Is it about alternative fabrics? So we worked with a designer that produced a dress in milk fibre. So we started uncovering the different aspects of what sustainable fashion can look like.”
On buzz words:
“Through the years, what I realised is because there’s no definition of sustainable fashion, and because there’s so many buzz words like organic cotton, circularity, and because fast fashion is the one that appropriates these buzz words very very immediately, so you have the ‘conscious collection’ in organic cotton, or you will have brands signing up to be circulor by 2030, when maybe we’ll be dead we don’t even know what it means, and so the thing that you realise that actually if you put the meaning back in the word ‘sustainable’ – sustainable is something that lasts in time. So it is exactly the opposite of what fashion is today, which is disposable. So it’s as simple as that.”
On freedom from the fear of ‘what shall I buy?’:
“Just buy less, and then make fashion not disposable and sustainable in time. And suddenly you realise you make a huge difference and if everybody thought like that, fast fashion wouldn’t exist anymore.”
“You keep clothes for a long time when they’re good quality and they’re things that actually you really love and you bought with purpose. Obviously, it’s more difficult to try to be super trendy and to have the latest look on but is that really important and fundamental?”
On sustainable glamour:
“Everyone wants to be glamorous and wants to be beautiful and look good. And the power of the red carpet and the success of the Green Carpet Challenge is because it happened on the red carpet, which is a huge platform for communication and is all about glamour.
“Style has nothing to do with whether a gown is sustainable or not, and that’s where the Green Carpet Challenge helped to change the conversation by putting to focus on the story of the gown.”
On what shoppers should look out for:
“If the price tag is too low, someone else is paying the price. So you know there is always a slave labour behind. While supply chains are incredibly complicated, and sometimes you are not even guaranteed with a brand that sells for a higher price that the supply chain is totally clean, you know that if something is really cheap it’s because it has been produced by someone that is not getting paid.”
On the challenge of affordability:
“People didn’t used to buy like they do today. So fast fashion arrived after fast food, which was the first. But today everyone associates fast food with bad health, so everyone knows why fast food is bad. But with fast fashion it’s much more difficult to do that because they’ve sold us the fast fashion myth, as something that first of all that we need, that we need to always have something different, but also that it’s our right – it’s democratic to buy something cheaply because what if people don’t have the money? So now, my answer to that question is – first of all, if you did the price per wear of something that you bought, I am sure that it would be much cheaper, if you have no money, you would really buy good quality pieces because you would want to keep them for a long time.
“The second answer is, do you think the owners of fast fashion brands that on the top 10 richest men of in the world like the owner of H&M or the owner of Zara, they are multi-millionaires and their business of multi-billion business because of people that don’t have money and can’t afford to buy clothes? I don’t think so. It is because we buy too much. People who can’t afford to buy clothes, don’t buy clothes. It’s a false perception, because we are being brainwashed, and we are being addicted to fast fashion.”