I’ve fallen victim to our meme culture.
I’m receiving them almost daily from my critical compadres saying things like “when you start your ethical fashion blog and get to put “Founder” and “CEO” in your Instagram bio” (horrendously cringeworthy, but true) or simple graphics with a sardonic caption.
Comedy gold, I admit – and I do confess I’m now a part time social media spammer, inflating my risk of being blocked or muted by a solid portion of my friends one sustainable fashion post at a time.
But as Fashion Revolution Week 2019 comes to a close, I’d like to take this opportunity to say a few words on the matter – and all you Naysayers out there can consider this my apology for clogging up your newsfeeds with consciousness.
What Is Activism?
Activism is about taking action to impact social, political, economic, or environmental change. It can be done individually or collectively through social movements and it takes myriad forms.
Above all else, activism is about change.
As a species, we’re inherently scared of change and yet ironically it’s the only constant we know. Change is what aided us in our evolution – survival of the fittest, made our brain systems flourish and has transformed our lives in gazillions of ways.
And over time, the pace of change itself has…well…changed.
It took thousands of years for us to get from campfires to ovens, centuries for farmers to move from the plough to the combine harvester and decades to go from radios to iPods.
Looking back it may seem that our surroundings have radically transformed overnight but it took thousands of years and our ancestral brains are very much wired to appreciate slower paced adjustments.
In both our personal and professional lives, change scares us. We get comfortable in our routines and we tick along nicely until something shifts our dial a little and we’re out of balance.
We like time to see the change coming, question it with scepticism, question it with optimism, question it with realism and then wrap our heads around it before finally reaching some level of acceptance.
Technology & Fashion Activism
Today, we don’t have that luxury.
The rapid rollout of technology and therefore the pace of change around us is not in sync with our brain’s ability to cope with it. We’re being catapulted forward into a world that is incessantly being refreshed.
Everything around us; every industry, every product, every service, everything we see, hear, feel and touch. Every aspect of our lives is being re-modeled by digital disruption.
So what does this all have to do with fashion activism?
Our brains are very quickly having to adapt to change at a rate we could have never before imagined. That means whenever we’re faced with a modification of some sort, we’re having to whizz right through our assessment stage and leap forward into acceptance.
We’re starting to embrace change as the new norm. In fact, we’re getting excited about it. Rebels with and without a cause, challenging the way everything has been done before.
Our new found open-mindedness, our increased curiosity and our heavily questioned morals means we’re now primed for activism. Our hearts are open and our ears are pricking up.
The internet is making space for a global conversation, providing a platform on which total strangers can get together and share stories. It’s a place where information is disseminated and democratised in the click of a button.
Activists today no longer need to march around outside parliamentary buildings to make things happen, they can sit at home in their PJs with a cup of green tea making videos on their surface pro and rallying troops en masse through their screens.
Their words are reaching much further than they ever could with a loudspeaker and the impact is global.
Why We Need Fashion Activism
When it comes to campaigning, shock tactics and motivational one liners often do one of two things; they inspire change or they inspire eye rolls, tuts, sighs and sarcasm. Getting the balance right is not an easy task and I know this all too well, as not so long ago I too was once an eye-rolling critic.
People, who stood outside Tesco on a hot summers day showing me pictures of slaughtered pigs as I was on my way to pick up some British pork and bramley apple sausages for a barbecue in the park, were party poopers.
Students who stood on the street in their bright green Oxfam polo-shirts trying to tell me about extreme poverty in conflict zones were rudely disrupting my phone call as I pranced from shop to shop.
And everybody else handing out campaign leaflets of any kind were just a huge inconvenience to my day.
So when it comes to getting your message across online, I understand there’s a fine line between speaking up with purpose and spamming everybody’s newsfeeds. I know how annoying it can be if you don’t want to listen and I know I run the risk of losing a few “friends”.
But I also know this…
It wasn’t long ago we were calling transport the biggest threat to climate change until we then found out they contribute only 2% of carbon emissions, whereas documentaries like Cowspiracy helped reveal that actually agriculture is the biggest culprit with around 14.5%.
Coming in at a close second is fashion. It’s an industry that contributes 10% of global carbon emissions and is crying out for change. And given that not all of us use transport and not all of us eat meat, but 99.9% of us wear clothes – I’d say we’re not in a position to ignore it.
Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can change the worldHowaard Zinn