Despite Fashion Revolution Week being over for this year, the revolution certainly lives on! I had such a great week flitting between pop-ups, panel talks, and showcases, so I wanted to put together a summary of what I learnt from the ethical makers themselves.
If you’re just getting started on your own fashion revolution, I’d really recommend reading about my journey into ethical fashion (and avoid the mistakes I made!), or perhaps try planning a capsule wardrobe – I’m still working on mine!
There’s also the V&A’s Fashioned From Nature exhibit that is running until January 2019, which is well worth a look around to see how fashion has got to where it has today!
London Sustainable Fashion Rooms & Panel
One of the most popular places last week was the London Sustainable Fashion Rooms at Old Truman Brewery. I headed there for an evening of browsing the sample sales and listening to Safia Minney, Founder of People Tree, Sven Segal, Founder of Po-Zu, Bronwyn Lowenthal, Founder of Lowie, and Nina Marenzi, Founder of The Sustainable Angle on their panel talk.
It was interesting to hear how these four have really shaped ethical fashion, making mistakes that the designers of today can learn from. Safia spoke of a brittle cruelty-free silk she had made, and Bronwyn explained the difficulties of up-cycling pre-worn scarves into hats and bags, making sourcing, quality, and coordination incredibly difficult.
Sven retold his first time visiting a shoe factory, where the solvent-based glue was so strong he worried about workers’ welfare. Despite shoes being especially difficult to manufacture (the mix of materials, durability, and need to carry our full weight), Po-Zu’s latest designs use coconut coir, a waste material, for cushioning, and avoid toxic glues completely.
My three biggest take-aways of the night were:
- Safia Minney’s call for more men to become interested in ethical fashion: “We need more men to demand ethical and fair trade fashion, otherwise we won’t have a market for it.“
- Nina Marenzi’s encouragement for more ethical designers to show how they’re “an agent for change“, making their consumers “activists“
- Bronwyn Lowenthal’s understanding of ethical fashion shoppers, and how there’s a real “feel good factor for buying sustainable fashion.“
Uhuru Launch Party
From ethical fashion veterans to new-borns, I was also excited to attend the launch of new online boutique Uhuru London. If anyone knows how to do a launch party right, it’s their Founder, Megha Shah. She had cupcakes, candy floss, fake tattoos and a polaroid camera, alongside a showcase of the brands they stock!
Who Made My Activewear Panel
On Saturday afternoon, I travelled to Benk + Bo, an eco café and workspace where Eco Consultant and Barre Instructor Zara Williams held the Who Made My Activewear? event. After taking barre, pilates, and yoga classes during the day, the day ended with a panel discussion between ethical activewear founders to discuss the problems and solutions for creating a better industry.
Hosted by Heather Knight of Fashion Revolution, she introduced the session by explaining how us shoppers make up 50% of the ethical fashion life-cycle, through our purchasing, owning, and finally disposal of clothes. Her top three recommendations are to seek good ethics, to buy less, and to care for our clothes.
This is especially true of activewear, as it’s often made from synthetic materials, meaning they will rest in landfills for hundreds of years when we throw them out. When put like that, natural or recycled fabrics are an obvious choice.
Between the panelists, I was intrigued to hear how different their approaches were. Natalia Zawada, Founder of Starseeds, explained how they only use natural recycled materials with eco friendly packaging, and make a special coffee fabric that absorbs strong smells. Bridget Haywood, from Jilla Active, says they’re making small steps by using high-quality bamboo, and are actively looking for more sustainable fabrics.
On the people-side of ethical manufacturing, Stella Heng, Co-Founder of Sports Philosophy, puts in place social programmes for her staff, choosing to operate in high-risk areas of to confront poverty and lack of education. She and Phoebe Greenacre of Silou London both nodded about the difficulty they’ve had getting their manufacturers to stop delivering items individually-wrapped in plastic, but they’ve finally achieved a change to cotton totes or potato starch bags.
And one of my activewear favourites is Julie Ngov’s brand Adrenna, which focuses on zero-waste manufacturing. She explained how they achieve this through creating garments only when they’re ordered, and that her designs crossover materials so she can make cut offs from leggings into straps in sports bras, for example.
Ethical Brands for Fashion Revolution Week
The final event I attended was the Ethical Brands for Fashion Revolution event held by Ethical Hour and Where Does It Come From?. It linked ethical fashion brands with a wider collection of small businesses all vying to create a fairer, more sustainable marketplace.
It was great to meet and chat with the women behind Arthur & Henry, Birdsong, Bourgeois Boheme, Coromandel Coast Coffee, Cossac, Luciana’s Soul, and Kashka Jewellery. They’re all brands I’ve admired from afar, but finally got to see in person. Hearing how they got started, and how they’ve grown their brands is probably the strongest inspiration I have for writing and continuing Curiously Conscious – still shouting about kinder ways to live almost four years on!