Livia Firth speaks to presenter and Eco-Age contributor Venetia Falconer about all things sustainable fashion in this week’s episode of Talking Tastebuds podcast, recorded in our Eco-Age London office.
Talking Tastebuds is one of our favourite podcasts, so we’re so excited that in this week’s episode it’s our very own Livia Firth in the hot seat as she talks to presenter Venetia Falconer about the fast fashion business model, whether slow fashion is for the privileged only and her life with food.
In each weekly episode, Venetia – a passionate advocate for sustainable fashion and plant-based, low-waste living – chats to a special guest about their life with food, but also opens up the conversation to cover far-reaching topics including mental health, wellness, activism, sustainable living and entrepreneurship. (If you haven’t already, subscribe here)
Listen to the episode in full on iTunes or Spotify and see some of the many highlights of the conversation below:
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On fashion magazines
“I never cared about fashion. I remember when Lucy Siegle challenged me to the Green Carpet Challenge in 2009, we started talking about fashion, she said I can’t believe you don’t care about [fashion] – you’re not a fashionista and I said no I never even bought a fashion magazine growing up and until I started the green carpet challenge and talking about fashion at eco-age I never bought a fashion magazine, I always bought interior design magazines, I loved interior design, or good magazines, but never ever fashion.”
On investing in clothes
“When you don’t have fast fashion available and you have to save money to buy a piece, you want to buy the best quality piece, and something that has been made with long-lasting intention. In Italy most people grow up with a relationship with a seamstress, or somebody in the house who knows how to sew.”
On her frustration with H&M
“This is what happens more and more and this is why I think in particular my frustration towards fast fashion goes to H&M in particular. Because they are very aggressive on their sustainability campaigning and they sit at every single NGO table that there is in the world with pledges so they confuse people. They even launched their recycling week with the take back scheme, which when you look at the impact of that it’s less than 2% of what they sell in a shop. So it’s so confusing. There is a generation the last 30 years that grew up with fast fashion. They don’t know the difference. They don’t know that actually this is not acceptable and that fast fashion is disposable fashion. So they sold us this myth that it’s democratic to buy so cheaply but then when you look to Bangladesh or the countries where they produce you think, well it’s the democracy of who? It’s certainly not the democracy of these people. And then they’re sold this myth that they get taken out of poverty in those countries when in fact they’re enslaved in a circle of poverty that they never come out of.”
“Predominantly we are shopping at a rate that we’ve never done before. We’re consuming at a rate that we’ve never done before. So when you say, oh what about us who can’t afford to buy luxury, fast fashion is not made a big multi-billion businesses by poor people who can’t afford to buy clothes. I grew up with no money – I didn’t buy clothes. It is made by all of us who buy relentlessly every week. […] We’re all shopping!”
On the fast fashion business model
“[The] fast fashion business model can never be sustainable. You can sit at so many NGO tables and make pledges. You can produce so many conscious collections. You can turn your entire production with organic cotton. But you’re still producing tonnes of volumes of clothes, with slave labour. Because when they are so cheap, someone is paying the price. […] You can’t make that business model sustainable.”
On having a positive impact
“Everything we do, every single day, has an impact – on the environment or on people. So as citizens, whoever you are and whatever your job position is, […] we have to make sure that impact is a good one. If you are passionate about fashion, you can absolutely have a sustainable fashion business model – and if you look today there are plenty of businesses who are looking at that in a different way, both in terms of emerging brands who want to do it differently from the beginning, to existing brands – Stella is always the one that springs to mind, all of the Kering brands are doing it really well, Osklen in Brazil, a lot of the brands we work with are doing it really well. They are looking at how to have that positive impact, because every business relies on raw materials and people but at the same time you are also giving a lot of jobs, and the society benefits if you are doing your business properly.”
On why sustainability isn’t just for the priviledged
“Sustainability, if you look in the dictionary at the meaning of sustainability, is something that lasts in time. So if you really have no money, well buy something that is good quality or make a dress for yourself or something – it’s going to last for a long time. So it’s not for the priviledged, it’s exactly the opposite. But today, again, we’re so confused because we’re used to being consumers of fast fashion so then we see the alternative as something that is very expensive and that we can’t possibly afford. […] It’s so much more expensive to use fast fashion in the long term. So when you think long-term, to be unsustainable costs a lot of money.”
Read more about how Eco-Age began in Livia’s Bringing Business to Life.