Government’s ‘No’ to Sustainable Fashion Signals Radical Social Change

Parliament has failed us, now it’s time to build the vision of fashion we want ourselves

This week the biggest ever inquiry into the UK fashion industry was tabled by Parliament. Presenting wide-ranging and key recommendations for policies and legislation to end fast fashion (one of the world’s biggest industry contributors to climate change). Ministers rejected EVERY SINGLE RECOMMENDATION made by Fixing Fast Fashion Report: Clothing Consumption and Sustainability.

Conducted by the Environmental Audit Committee, the report cites startling truths on overconsumption including that, come 2050, almost three planets will be required to resource current lifestyles.

The government’s passivity of the urgency for change has sent shockwaves through the public, environmental activists and fashion designers. Ministers’ rejection of the report’s direct and tangible solutions to the fashion industry’s prolonged damage to the environment is especially startling as just last month, Parliament declared a state of climate emergency.

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The report evidences urgent need for fast-acting, top-level action to tackle the current system’s environmental destruction and to clean up dire working conditions. Its recommendations to appease throwaway culture include a 1p garment tax. It also promotes a sociocultural shift by encouraging clothing design and mending lessons in schools and tax incentives for repair services.

The facts are unavoidable and they are sinister. It’s critical that prompt action is taken to regulate fashion’s contribution to climate damage. Producers must slow down and stop producing. A move, of course, that requires legislation and policy change enforceable by the government.

Parliament’s refusal to legislate towards positive cultural and environmental change confirms the uncertainty of the period we’re in. It is also a crucial turning point in history for us to reclaim our power and devise empowering new alternatives.

“By 2050 the equivalent of almost three planets could be required to provide the natural resources needed to sustain current lifestyles” says the UN.

This rejection certifies loud and clear that the government as an institution is not fit for service in a just and equal society that people are calling for. This indifference illuminates the institution’s archaic, rigid structure as obsolete in times where people are demanding more and better for our lives.

Supported by critical movements like the Women’s March and Extinction Rebellion, we are shaping new parameters for the world we want to live in. That requires models founded on agility, adaptability, responsiveness and compassion (AKA antonyms for the current state of UK Parliament). As a society that wants more, we are outgrowing the function that this government can serve.

This inaction serves as a mirror reflecting back to us where our collective power has long been absorbed in this out-of-touch institution – sustaining class difference, healthcare cuts and social divisions whilst funding £80,000 salaries for its MPS.

Beating on Parliament’s door is not working because Ministers and MPs don’t want to hear us. Stepping forward, we must channel angst into action and create the vision of the future we want. No one person can take on the entire epidemic of climate change, but we must recognise our responsibility to do our bit, wise-up, recognise our own power and act on it.

That requires a considerable perspective shift, redefining where our power lies and initiating new solutions – solutions that do not rely on winning the attention of unconcerned Ministers and MPs. It means focusing on the mass empowerment and emancipation of the UK’s citizens by recognising that the power is with us, not them.

Sans government, how can we step forward with determination and resolve to create positive, radical social and cultural change?

Money and technology. Whilst these commonly evoke cautious reactions, a paradigm shift from defensiveness to opportunity thinking could be the answer to reshaping fashion.

Embracing our capital power in a consumer-led society, we can initiate change through the way we spend. Money, regardless of how much we think we have, is a form of power, and reframing the act of spending and consumption is a positive force. Every pound we spend is a choice that creates the world we want to live in. Becoming conscious of this, we can cut off the power supply of fashion’s worst offenders forcing brands to either adapt to our demand or dissolve.

“Every time you spend money you are casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” says Anna Lappe

In addition, at the rate of technological advancements, dominant power is moving from the hands of the traditional lawmakers and into the hands of the app-makers. Instant communication allows for global awareness-raising, birthing ‘clicktivism’ – the means through which anti-Trump protest marches were organised to take place simultaneously across the world. It allows for global networking and faster inspiration, creativity and creation for problem-solving through inventions, knowledge and environmental solutions.

Searching for solutions to fast fashion, legislation, education, media, brands and consumers all entwine in a messy and complex web of a globalised landscape. The government is continuing to fail us as citizens and its unwillingness to fix fashion could be the catalyst needed to spur a radical paradigm and culture shift.

Author: Holly C. Campbell

Holly-Campbell@live.co.uk

Feminist Fashion Catwalk & Exhibition, Friday 9th Sept, Shoreditch London

We are hosting our first event under ProjectFEM.

Experience a truly empowering and inclusive fashion culture with diverse and representative models and ethically and socially responsible designers.

We are working with the Women’s Equality Party’s #NoSizeFitsAll body image campaign to combat the ideals perpetuated by the current fashion industry.

Let’s join forces and create the change we NEED to see in the world! 

Tickets: http://bit.ly/2bJPjvB

Our Top 5 Change Makers for Diversity in Fashion

To highlight those in the world of fashion who are championing diversity and positive change, we have selected our favourite change makers to showcase the positive action being taken in the industry today…

  1. Lorde Inc.

Lorde Inc., a London based modelling agency, were established in 2013 by 26 year old founder Nafisa Kaptownwala. The agency recruits only models of colour to encourage racial diversity within the industry. As highlighted in our London Fashion Week article, non-white models are severely underrepresented demonstrating a deep-routed racial imbalance. In an interview with Nylon Nafisa criticises the lack of authentic diversity in alternative agencies, and aspires to normalise non-white models by making them readily available for hire with the aim of making models of colour a principle part of fashion, opposed to the tokenised or culturally appropriated representations that we see all too often.

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  1. Rein London

The high-end brand Rein was established in 2015 by London College of Fashion graduates Rebecca Morter and Gemma Vanson, with an explicitly feminist focus on ‘celebrating the female form, inspired by and for women…exploring clothing’s ability to empower’. Rein use visual culture through their designs to challenge social constructions of acceptability with revealing cut-outs and sheer materials. Furthermore, the designers value ethical manufacturing through using only local and sustainable sources. In Rein’s short history, they have already had much success including debuting at London Fashion Week in 2015 and dressing established women such as Lady Gaga. Rein’s success makes us hopeful that we can pave the way for feminism within fashion, not only through designs, but in explicit associations with feminism, sustainability and social action.

  1. Rain Dove

Androgynous model Rain Dove identifies as agender and has modelled for both men and womenswear collections such as Chromat and Malan Breton.  Not only is Rain breaking boundaries of gender on the catwalks, but is also using their knowledge and experiences to advocate for gender diversity within fashion. In an interview with Buzzfeed Rain says: “The gender thing doesn’t exist; it’s a social construct you don’t have to fit into… I model as all genders. I model as a human being”. Rain takes a refreshingly critical stance on gender constructs and fashion; season by season we see designers construct and reconstruct the idea of gender, of androgyny, femininity and masculinity, but Rain is using their voice to evoke positive change for more genderless clothing campaigns. Rain recognises the power fashion has to change the world and is using their platform to encourage that.

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  1. Claire Barrow

London based designer Claire Barrow debuted her work at London Fashion Week 2013. At just 23 Barrow caught her break when one of her iconic hand-painted leather jackets was featured in Vogue. Not only are we inspired by Barrows journey of running a business alongside a degree as well as maintaining her creative work at just 23, but her ‘do-it-yourself’ ethos which reflects British subculture is culturally and politically engaging.  The inspiration from Barrow’s artwork ranges from feminist statements within girl gangs to recognising the prospects for young people today. We highlighted Barrow in our London Fashion Week article as the only designer to use a plus-size model, and to represent ethnic and age diversity. Barrows used male and female models to showcase her genderless collection, and continues to make political and current statements through her work.

 

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  1. Lucy Jones

In 2015 Lucy Jones won the Womenswear Designer of the Year award for her Seated Collection, which consists of accessible clothing focusing on aesthetic and comfort for wheelchair users. The collection was inspired by a fashion assignment which aimed to change the world; Jones recognised that people with disabilities are overlooked within fashion and wanted to make accessible solutions. To achieve this, Jones researched over 100 people with disabilities, all of whom felt marginalised by the fashion industry. Jones began to notice and solve the issues of accessibility faced by wheelchair users and their clothes, such as reinforcing sleeves and altering the cut of trousers. Jones believes that disability should be considered in a designers approach to design from the outset, as most wheelchair users have to simply make do with uncomfortable and impractical clothing, compromising either style or accessibility.

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Positive and genuinely representative images of race, disability, age and gender is fundamental to diversity within fashion and ultimately to the self-esteem of those observing and participating in it; from watching the catwalks to reading fashion magazines, the singular idealised image of accepted beauty which still permeates the industry is problematic, especially for young women. If fashion does not authentically reflect ethnically diverse, disabled, non-binary human beings, they are further marginalised from a culture which has such propensity to empower and change the world. The change makers highlighted are fundamental to sustaining positive and authentic diversity in the fashion industry, and we must value and champion those choosing to use their voice to create an inclusive culture.

Author:  Holly C

Use Your Voice!

It is fundamental to ProjectFEM that we promote a diverse range of people’s experiences, values and perspectives on our blog. We value hearing about your associations with fashion, beauty and the industry and what it means to you.

Whether you have years of experience within the fashion industry, or are passionate about social justice and creating change. We value each and every contributors voice and perspective.

We are welcoming anyone with a passion for our cause who has experience in writing, blogging or journalism to guest write a post for us. Don’t miss out on an exciting opportunity to voice your views and make a positive change, get in touch!

PROJECTFEM-BANNER ProjectFEM@Hotmail.com

 

D&G Capitalise on Same-Sex Families After ‘Opposing Gay Adoption’

At first glance, these handbags emblazoned with images of same-sex, inter-racial families struck me as a brilliant fashion statement of inclusion and equality.

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It then dawned on me that the image, posted on Instagram this week, was published by one half of D&G, Stefano Gabbana, . The brand who, in an interview with Panorama magazine in March 2015, stated “We oppose gay adoptions” and “The only family is the traditional one”. After a backlash and calls to boycott the brand by celebrities including Elton John and Courtney Love, Stefano later defended his comments in an interview with CNN , claiming his “freedom to speak” and that “this is just [his] point of private view”… Not very private when you’re airing your harmful views in an interview read by hundreds of thousands of people and causing a backlash from lesbian and gay celebrities for the world to view.

The handbags were launched as part of D&G’s Family Project which is based on Stefano’s ideas of the ‘traditional family’ and Sicilian culture. The collection’s catwalks and magazine spreads have projected images of young, thin, attractive female models posing as biological mothers to their offspring. The fundamental ideal promoted by the project’s campaigns is that of heterosexuality, whiteness and the biological generations of one Sicilian family.

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D&G’s ideals are quite obvious with a quick scan over the DGFamily Project’s adverts; the traditional family is paramount, with no representation of same-sex couples, adoption or any other deviation from tradition.

The handbags, insultingly embellished with images of same-sex couples and adopted children, seem starkly out of place for a campaign unwaveringly founded on D&G’s idea of the traditional family.

After the backlash of their comments against gay adoption, it seems that they appropriated the diversity trend. The bags are unfitting to the ideals consistently promoted by the brand. The debate was raised by myself (HollyCC__x) on the Instagram post, see Stefano’s (@StefanoGabbana) response below:

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Stefano did not offer any helpful comments or justifications (to his brand, or to critical onlookers) for releasing the out-of-place handbags as part of his Family campaign. Further, his obvious ignorance of the context and placement of the handbags emphasise just how poorly thought out the move is. The brand have failed to maintain any responsibility for their offensive comments and it appears that they will continue to do so.

The handbags, initially appearing as a revolutionary statement within a currently restrictive fashion culture, put into context are actually a perfect example of trend-spotting dependent on social attitudes. The masses have retaliated and the hegemonic fashion leaders have made a botched move for acceptance.

ProjectFEM‘s aim is to create a revolutionary, inclusive and empowering fashion brand that promotes pieces that make unapologetic social statements. Out of the shameful context of D&G, we would champion these handbags. However, we must not waver from our principles and responsibility to be conscious and critical within the mainstream fashion system.

We would love to hear your thoughts, leave us a comment!

Written by Holly C