Today marks the start of Fashion Revolution Week. I’m happy to have something tangible to revolt against. It’s been challenging for me as a social welfare activist for most of my life to be still, quiet and indoors. Sadly, I have entered the realm of a “high risk” category because of my age and cannot be out and about working at food banks or supporting families that are struggling. I realize today how “helping” made me feel in control when faced with things that seemed uncontrollable like poverty, inequality, and violence. All the new jobs that we gained in the recent past in this country, have been found to have trapdoors and millions of workers are falling through. Those things once again “in my face”.
Of course, I’ve been “helping virtually”, matching up fashion folks with social workers to get them masks, supporting small businesses and staying in close touch with my family, friends, readers, and followers but somehow it does not feel like enough. Every ounce of my social welfare activist DNA is screaming to take action and be heard. So while advancing the idea of small, local and community, participating in Fashion Revolution Week allows me to also practice “sustainable”.
A seam ripper is a small tool that is used in sewing to remove stitches, open seams, cut threads, and open buttonholes. It is a wonderful metaphor for when you might want to start again, open up a new perspective in your life or simply clean up some loose ends. I’ve been doing much of it lately, both literally and figuratively. The virus has been like a seam ripper taking apart value and supply chains in fashion and showing us we can’t go on as before. There are “pieces” of the system scattered all over the globe, no longer able to physically connect. How we will put everything back together is up for grabs. That’s why this Fashion Revolution Week is more important than ever.
Not only am I working on taking apart an old pair of jeans to make a skirt, but I’ve also been taking apart the “garments” I’ve worn as a professor and as an influencer, I’ve been seeing what parts of each role I love and what parts I do not. None of the sacrifices made during this time will make sense if we don’t move forward with care for others at the forefront. I’ve been using this time to see how I might fit in the value chain in a way that I love and that is a benefit to others. Just like sustainability does not mean we have to stop loving clothes, fashion and social justice don’t need to be seen in opposition to each other. In fact, fashion has throughout history been used as a tool of rebellion. I offer Punk, Suffragette White, jeans, black leather jackets and of course Coco Chanel and Yohji Yamamoto as examples.
The fashion system has had to stop right now. It will need to be turned back on but would it not be wonderful if all of the talents in the world of fashion could re-design it? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if small, interesting and local brands collaborated together to increase their chances of survival? If one person could make a garment from start to finish and be able to feel the sense of pride that comes from that? So many creative opportunities to re-imagine.
There are many virtual panels, discussions, workshops, and events scheduled over this Fashion Revolution Week. I’m signed up for many of them. Interestingly, I find the conversations that are being held in the UK to be the most thoughtful and interesting. It’s kind of amusing to me because when I was in academia I always preferred to read European journals rather than those published in the USA. That would be a whole other blog post. So I would suggest that you check out the wonderful organization, Fashion Revolution founded by Carry Sommers and Orsola de Castro. They are offering Open Studios and Workshops as well as campaigns that suggest you ask the brands you buy from, #WhoMadeYourClothes and ask that you tell a story about a loved piece of clothing, #lovedclotheslast. Given who my readership is many of you are probably already familiar.
Another suggestion is to check out Fashion Our Future, a campaign started by Amy Powney of the luxury sustainable brand, Mother of Pearl. This is a grassroots campaign that promotes the idea that it is one small action that can add up and make a movement. It has clever roles (mine is a fixer) that conform to one dedicated action you can take which makes starting down a sustainable path quite doable,
So this week, I’m doing the parts I love about being a professor, research and reading (maybe teaching a lesson or two) and the parts of being an influencer I love, inspiring and guiding. If you have other resources, events, papers or books you might suggest for Fashion Revolution Week, please post in your comments. As always during these times, stay safe and well,