Wardrobe Crisis Podcast: Clare Press Meets Katharine Hamnett

Image: Photograph by William Pine.

It’s time to completely reinvent the fashion industry, says Katharine Hamnett. “We have to! There’s no future if we don’t.” This week on the Wardrobe Crisis podcast, Clare Press interviews sustainable fashion’s original rebel force.

Cancel Brexit. No More Fashion Victims. Stop Acid Rain. Save the Future. Choose Life. These are just some of the stellar slogans that have been splashed across T-shirts by veteran British designer and activist Katharine Hamnett over the years. 

In 2019, she clocks up 40 years of challenging fashion and culture to lift its game. And last week, on World Environment Day, she launched her newest T-shirt campaign: Global Green New Deal Now.

“I am lobbying for new legislation that only allows goods into our economic blocs that are made to the same standards outside as are mandatory inside: chemical use, labour laws, a realistic living wage, no underage workers, health and safety, human rights and the ability to form and belong to trade unions,” she says. 

Listen to the full interview here.

Hamnett believes it’s time for a Global Green New Deal, in line with the Green New Deal agenda recently pushed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the US, but addressing the fashion industry in particular. 

“We’ve got to reinvent the fashion industry from scratch,” says Hamnett. “The production of raw materials is destroying the planet.” 

Hamnett speaks fresh from her appearance at Copenhagen Fashion Summit, where she told the audience they should really have stayed at home to save emissions, and suggested that organisers run the event as a series of webinars in future.

So why did she agree to go? “Well, I tend to talk straight. And I realise that I’ve been a bit rubbed out of history, so I thought I’d go there like the wicked witch who wasn’t invited to the ball and let them have it! Because I think it’s all too glitzy, you know?

Image credit: Chris Floyd.

We’re having glasses of champagne, we’re talking about climate change, climate victims, people who are surrounded without water in flooded areas with no food,” she says, adding that Davos was “the worst one” and that “nothing changes.”

She continues: “The contrast is too severe, and we’re actually achieving f**k all. The environmental movement like the peace movement. Really, when you think about how long it’s been going, we’ve achieved so little. We’ve really got to up our game and do things differently. I went there [to Copenhagen] to say that. I thought it was an opportunity to get some points over, including my legislation idea, which I think fixes everything!”

That’s a bold statement, but Hamnett’s fine with that. Bold is what’s needed in the face of fashion’s far-reaching negative environmental impacts. Hamnett wants fashion to adhere to the right livelihood – “the Buddhist principal that each person should follow an honest occupation, that fully respects other people and the natural world.” 

She says she has a new job description for the fashion industry: “We must make our livings, yes, but for the good of all living things, because otherwise we won’t survive.”


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