There couldn’t be a better way to close the door on Fashion Revolution week than with a coffee, a fresh butter croissant and two hours pottering around the V&A.
London I love you.
I greeted the weekend at the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane, but instead of a pint in my hand it was a pair of organic cotton espadrilles at People Tree’s Meet the Brand event. The founder, Safia Minney, reminds me a little bit of my childhood Hero Anita Roddick – she’s warm and softly spoken but you can tell there’s a passion for goodness inside her that roars louder than a thousand lions.
Minney fell in love with Fair Trade when she was travelling around South East Asia and a few years later, while living in Tokyo, People Tree was born. During a time when activists’ whispers could barely be heard amongst the big brand babble, she’s managed to nurture it into one of the most sought after names. And now, while fast fashion continues to scream and shout, more and more good humans are starting to talk.
The World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) defines Fair Trade as: “a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade.”
Products made through Fair Trade partnerships can help to revive organic agriculture, protect craft skills, are made within the country on the label and by processes that respect the environment. In mainstream fashion, producers don’t get paid until they deliver which pushes small merchants out of the market. Paying a fair trade wage means paying half up front, and paying more for the product itself which is why brands like People Tree deserve such a pat on the back. It’s a heavy investment.
After a weekend emptying my own pockets, admiring the quirks of the East and getting lost in the labyrinth of London’s Underground, I headed West to visit a place I’ve left a piece of my heart in – the Victoria & Albert museum.
The Fashioned From Nature exhibition explores the garments and accessories that have been inspired by nature’s power and beauty throughout history but also investigates fashion’s impact on the natural world and the devastating effects of manufacturing on our environment. As you begin to walk around the exhibition, the sound of birdsong and animals in their natural habitat is intercepted by the sounds of man’s devastating impact on the planet with the din of heavy machinery and machetes cutting down trees.
Probably the most curious item on display was the pair of late 19th-century earrings, made from the heads of two Red Legged Honeycreeper birds. They are reflective of a period when the natural world was plundered to supply fashionable consumers’ unquenchable appetite for animal products. Materials like ivory, tortoiseshell and feathers were transformed into jewellery, hair combs, pins, brushes, hats and fans. And while animal protection societies have since helped to stop the wholesale ruination of wildlife, fashion has simply rerouted its path of destruction elsewhere.
But you gotta have faith.
As you walk upstairs to the second part of the exhibition you’re free to hang up your gown of guilt and swap it for a handbag of hope. Celebrities like Emma Watson are spreading the word for sustainability and designers with big hearts have big ideas for change. Fabric innovations are taking creativity in a new direction with brands such as Vegae turning the leftovers from wine production into vegan leather. We’re raising a generation of conscious and curious consumers that wouldn’t dream of dangling decapitated birds from their earlobes.
It’s been the biggest and best Fashion Revolution week yet and I’m so happy I’ve taken part. In just seven days I’ve woven thoughts of mindful consumption into the hearts of others, turned strangers into friends and knitted together a promise for a lifelong Squanderlust Rebellion.
Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world
~ Howard Zinn