So it is basically about changing a mindset?
I think it’s simply about sharing resources and it happens in other industries, too – fusion food brings together all sorts of different areas in one place, musical artists sampling other artists. For me, blending into each other is a sign of strength rather than a sign of weakness. The beauty of Fashion Open Studio is to see how willing the designers are to support the new ones that are coming in. Giving your time, your resources, your materials to the younger ones…you just see the world in a really different way.
We spoke about designers and their ability to promote change. Let’s talk about consumers. Researchers say that Gen-Z and Millennials are buying differently…
Yeah, in terms of buying there is definitely hope, because the cyclical nature of fashion implies that what was absolutely overrated yesterday is going to look like shit tomorrow. So there is inevitably going to be a backlash against the fast, the cheap, the too-much. I think that there is going to be a massive shift in that. The real issue is that there is an urgency. We cannot wait for this actual shift to happen as a trend. We need to enforce laws and regulations in order to make it happen faster.
In this context, is transparency the most important accelerator for change?
Transparency is literally step number one. So if you are a concerned citizen, if you are somebody that wants to scrutinize, that is your first step. To have an opinion, you need to study. You need to find out if you believe a brand, if it is making credible statements. And it’s about changing our habits completely.
This is what we’ve needed to do in many ways due to the current pandemic. What impact has Covid-19 had on the fashion industry?
Covid was like the big magnifying lens. In the UK, we had the story of Boohoo – this brand paying garment workers in Leicester 29 pence an hour in broad daylight to make clothes that cost 2 pounds. And there were more examples. I think that was Covid: It kind of exploded, with all of this becoming visible. But at the same time, I think there is an oxymoron in fashion, as with everything. The minute we were out of the past lockdown, every government was saying: “Buy, buy, buy! Spend, spend, spend!” To kickstart the economy. It is a very confusing message, which is why it is important to get it absolutely right. As a citizen, I would like to say yes, I want to “buy, buy, buy” to support dignified paid jobs, living wages for the people that are making that product. There is no sense in “buy, buy, buy” to make certain companies even richer. So that “buy, buy, buy” is fine – but show me where that money is going.
Last but not least: Fashion Revolution was founded eight years ago. What have you accomplished? Are we going in the right direction?
We really woke people up for sure. We wouldn’t take all the credit for it, as it’s not just ours to take, but we were certainly part of a growing movement and we just got it right from the beginning. The branding we used, the fact that we were so open, the communication – we were quite accurate and inclusive in what we discussed. We have a massive global presence in 92 countries, so in terms of citizens’ awareness I feel that we have accomplished a lot of positive steps. What can I see in terms of real change? The real change I see, which is proof enough for me, is in the young designers. Because if these guys are coming out 100% revolutionaries from minute one, then something has been done.
text by Sophia Steube
edited by Melissa Frost