Quality Not Quantity – Why Clothes That Last Should Stand For People Not ProfitKate Stuart
Kate Stuart is a practicing artist, writer and craftswoman based in the North East of England. She specializes in up-cycling, zero waste living, quilting and painting with acrylics on canvas. She owns The Phoenix Green Store, which she hopes will become Newcastle upon Tyne’s first zero waste store. She is covering Fashion Revolution Week for No Serial Number Magazine, between 23rd – 29th April 2018. This is the final post in a six part blog series for Fashion Revolution Week, exploring ways to become more conscious about the clothes you choose to buy, as well as the ones you already have.
This consumer society we’ve been raised into has taught us well. It’s taught us that “stuff”, and the buying and selling of it, is the most important thing, and it has taught us to fear the day that people stop buying the “stuff”, threatening absolute collapse of the well constructed pyramid that keeps billions of people trapped in poverty and yes, slavery – in order to keep us supplied in all our lovely new things. In this materialistic society, we’ve been hoodwinked into believing that all the stuff we’re told we need is more important than the once plastic free waters of all the planet’s oceans. More important than the Sumatran Tiger, the Hawksbill Turtle, the Mountain Plover. More important than the lives of all the people who spin and weave and dye and print and cut and sew the clothes we buy for next to nothing.
Placing high value on the ownership of (often) new goods, that are built to break, but are cheap enough that we can just buy more, and that are made without regard for their impact on environment, habitats, animal survival or the people who make them, has been our past. It is still, sadly, our present, but movements like Fashion Revolution have got the consumer pyramid turning upside-down with new ideologies that call for us to reject those products that are damaging to people and planet.
This archaic model of living with as much “stuff” as we can squeeze into our lives is truly taking it’s last breath. Across the planet right now, people are standing up for the rights of clothing factory workers, rejecting synthetic materials, calling for dyes that don’t adversely affect water courses, voting with their feet when brands choose profit over people, and acknowledging that actually, we don’t need as much stuff as we thought we did, and that the stuff we do need ought to be of good quality so that it lasts longer, and produced with people and planet in mind.
One woman who has forged the way to this new path we are all tentatively stepping toes onto, is Safia Minney. Founder and Director of People Tree, and an advocate for the billions of people who work long hours for little pay in dreadful conditions, Safia is a pioneer of Fair Trade movements and champions sustainable, ethical fashion brands that put the producer at the heart of what the business wants to achieve. Her book Slave to Fashion, highlights both the real experience of modern slavery for many, many people, as well as best practice from brands that are taking a moral stand against hardship and inhumane conditions for the men, women and children who work to make the clothes we choose to buy, wear a handful of times and then throw away.
When reflecting on the changes we can make in our own lives this Fashion Revolution Week, and next week, and the week after, we can all step into Safia’s shoes, and advocate for the people who make the clothes we choose to wear. We can ask *every week*, not just during Fashion Revolution Week – #whomademyclothes. Demanding transparency from brands is something we can all do, every single time we shop. Better than that, we can choose to buy from brands that already offer transparency for every stage of their processes, like Where Does It Come From. We can choose to buy from artisans creating bespoke, upcycled pieces that are reducing the impact of unwanted textiles ending up in landfill – like Sue Reed of The Woolly Pedlar. We can support the new, fledgling designer makers in their commitment to breeding ethical, sustainable brands, like Hannah Price’s Willowknd. We can fall back in love with the clothes we already own, and repair them to give them a longer life, like Diana Padwick of Iswas Cottage. We can choose to buy second hand and vintage, supporting brands like Sharron Hudson of Lazy One to keep garments already made and loved in circulation. Perhaps we could even become craftivists ourselves, like Eloise Sentito, founder of The Green Cloth Collective, whose handwoven shawl inspired my Fashion Revolution #LoveStory. There are so many ways that we can each help the tide turn on the unsustainable, unethical practices in industry, and whichever way we choose to make an impact, we can be safe in the knowledge that we are not alone, fighting in the dark. There are a great many of us, ready to stand firm to ensure that what happened in Rana Plaza, 5 years ago this week, never, ever happens again. Stand with us.
If you missed the other posts in our special Fashion Revolution week blogpost spectacular, read them here:
“No Serial Number Magazine is committed to supporting the slow down and preservation of of our collective environmental and artisanal heritages from unsustainable production practices and corporate greed. No Serial Number Magazine is a humble attempt to explore how human creativity, nature and activism intersect in contemporary society.“
The latest issue of the print magazine packed with interviews and features on eco and heritage artists and artisans is available now.
You can talk to No Serial Number Magazine too. Join our Twitter conversation (#noserialnumber) as we talk to eco artisans and designers changing the way we think about our lifestyle choices. You can also share your views and keep up to date with our latest articles by joining the newsletter or following us on Facebook.