Once a week or so, I browse the internet for interesting reads on fashion and sustainability. With so much happening within this field; research, innovation, collaborative efforts, product launches; there’s always too little time to keep updated.
The last few weeks though… I’m not feeling as inspired as I usually do during these rounds. I kind of feel, it’s all the same. Not enough effort, no radical change achieved.
I imagine that’s what the two women who prove to be the exceptions of my just-not-enough analysis felt when they went and did something about it:
Rachel Kibbe launched Helpsy as an e-commerce stocking sustainable brands eight years ago. Then, when she got the opportunity, she closed the store and merged her brand into something new: a clothing collection company. With some 1,850 collection containers and retailer collabs with actors such as Bloomingdale’s, Helpsy, collects, deals and diverts used clothing. About half of what Helpsy collects gets reeoffered for sale at second hand shops in native US and overseas (source).
“I came to the belief that sustainability and fashion are essentially oxymorons and the world doesn’t need more clothes, they need scalable solutions for clothing trash,” Kibbe said in an interview with WWD.
Maxine Bédat co-founded Zady, a brand considered to be at the forefront of the ethical fashion movement for a while. Four years after it launched, the brand disappeared. I read that Bédat felt she had to pursue her vision of making fashion more sustainable in another way than producing her own brand. ”We can’t buy ourselves out of the problem. A big part of the sustainability question is just how many garments are being produced, and having to slow that down.”
Bedát has now launched her new gig, the New Standard Institute , which is a non-profit data hub intended to ”’right misinformation wrongs” in the ethical fashion space by supporting research and publishing findings on best practices (did you know the idea of the fashion industry being the second largest polluter in the world is not true?). In other words, Bedát chooses to share what she’s learnt from the Zady journey (and then some) for it to be approachable for others.
Although I do appreciate new brands and product launches that pioneer new ways of doing things–I think they are needed for us all to wake up–I also agree with the more radical approach of Kibbe: “You can create as many small-label collections as you want; that’s not going to solve the environmental problem of most clothes going to the trash.”
Does the world need a new organic cotton dress collection? If nothing else, a question worth considering. It’s a fact that we still produce more clothes than we need. As Anand Giridharadas argues in his book Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World from 2018:
”It’s not that starting a new label is always wrong, it’s just that it may not be the best use of one’s creative potential, money or time if addressing the climate crisis is a serious priority.”
That’s it for now. Talk soon.
Images: Unrelated and unknown.
Editor’s Letter: A Tribute To the Emmas and Gretas
This hyperobject that is global warming is something we live through but cannot grasp. At least not most of us. I think about it all the time–that I don’t act the way I know I have to. It pains me.
I also think about it in relation to my Make it last co-founder, my beloved Emma. Our approaches to the questions we face daily at work–sustainability, climate change–are essentially different.
Emma relates to the planet, and to existence–things larger than our own lives–more hands-on than I will ever do.
Thus, Emma worries acutely about the climate and the world her son and the generations beyond him will live in. It affects the way she reasons about having children.
It’s beyond some weekly magazine’s definition of ”climate depression” (that more readily applies to us really only feeling bad about not feeling bad about the planet about to collapse).
It struck med the other day, Emma has no ordinary fear of dying, probably because she sees herself as just a part of a bigger picture. My fear of death, to compare (and this makes me laugh) is ever present and I eat happy pills on the daily to conquer the idea of life constantly progressing towards an end (yes, I do unfortunately see an end).
Sure, Emma can be self-aware or anxious like the rest of us when it comes to everyday things, but touching on questions of life, death, earth, water, air, she thinks in ways that all seem to have in common the fact that she doesn’t see herself like the focal point.
She’s not the centre of her life.
If you ask me, that’s is pretty uncommon. And although I’m not diagnosing Emma with anything but this ability, of which I am deeply in awe, it makes me think of Greta Thunberg.
Greta credits her Asperger diagnosis with why, when she became aware of climate change as a young child, she couldn’t move on the way most of us can. For her, it was, and is still, black and white. I’m sure her diagnose is a double-edged sword, but in this specific case, it means something for the world and I wish I had a hint of something similar. Like Emma does.
Monday was Earth Day in the calendar.
But every day is Earth Day.
Climate change is on top of the agenda.
But we’ve known about climate change for decades.
If we don’t reduce CO2 emissions by at least 50% by 2030, it means the end of the world as we know it (said Greta Thunberg at the European Parliament a week ago, please read the full notes here).
But the eco-woke have tried to set deadlines to force change, since, say, 1988.
You know how I feel about these buts at this very moment?
That they’re small.
Small in comparison to the magnitude, the attitude, the feeling of momentum. Yes, it’s a feeling. But a common one in some parts of the world right now.
It’s like a movement waiting to happen, like Greta Thunberg puts it (in i-D). The 16-year-old is not the first to address the climate- and ecological crises, obviously. But she is unapologetic, so blunt you have to listen.
Not only because what she says is true in the purest sense.
But also because it’s a reminder of how we’re not raised to speak about climate.
In fact, it’s not how we’re raised to speak about anything, at least not as women.
This is not a joke. It can’t be ridiculed, undermined.
The Global Strike for the Future that Greta Thunberg inspired on 15 April 2019 was one of the most comprehensive manifestations in history. But… no buts.
Norwegian psychologist Per Espen Stoknes has suggested that the movement Greta may have created a social tipping point; a moment when social development takes a big and unexpected leap, gets in touch with politics and brings about lasting change. Sverker Jagers, a Swedish political scientist, has said the effect of a social movement like this is often indirect, but can create a critical mass that is able to pressure on decision makers in politics and business.
So perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick on stating the game is already lost. It’s so easy, and regardless, where will surrendering take us?
And let’s not forget, there might be a collective end-date if governments and corporations won’t follow IPCC guidance. But it’s affected by the smaller parts; the climate wars fought in the different corners.
In fashion, we’re on it too. It’s a slow process and has a lot to do with changing ideas of what’s relevant, one picture at a time. i-D Magazine putting Greta Thunberg on their cover will not change the world. But doing so suggests she’s a role model. It gives her the opportunity of conveying a story about another type of society. So, it instills hope and is fare more constructive than, say, shaming. At least if you ask me. And people like Per Espen Stoknes.
It means something.
It all means something.
Images: Greta Thunberg on the cover of i-D Magazine photographed by Harley Weir. Leaves by Louise Enhörning.
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