Yesterday, Misum in collaboration with Mistra Future Fashion hosted a fantastic after-work Hybrid Talks event at SSE. Annika Shelly, who is the founder of Hybrid Talks aims at creating a platform for ”us, them, and the others”. These events should bridge the gaps in knowledge and information as well as raise attention to an issue from various perspectives. Looking at the guest list, I felt being in a room filled of ”us”, rather than “them and the others”. My impression of “us” is like-minded people who advocate sustainable solutions. It did not need much effort to fascinate the audience.
All speakers were pitching their ideas geared at a more sustainable fashion industry. The diversity of ideas showed, that it is not only the responsibility of a single entity or one specific actor to act more sustainable. It requires a common effort of all kinds of actors involved.
Professor Rebecca Earley from University of Arts has conducted research on sustainable clothing for more than 20 years. She pitched the idea to rethink the concept of fast and slow. Indeed, when we think about fast fashion, we always think about the production times and the frequency of fashion cycles. She encourages us with her research to think about fast and slow from a material perspective. Rebecca argues that materials which are composited to last for decades but are perhaps only used for one season should be replaced by materials that are decomposable and easily thrown back into the material life-cycle, recycling respectively. What really caught my attention was that she repeatedly mentioned the need and understanding of how to change mindsets. For instance, one of her examples was to achieve a shift from the “haulers” (also here) to “haulternatives” (see Noodlerella).
This change in mindset was a common thread for the following talks too. Eduardo Escobedo from RESP in Geneva, Martin Johnson from Rajda and Dr. Susanna Pasley-Day from Cambridge University introduced ideas that require a change in mindsets from the NGOs, clothing factories, but also people who design and consume textiles products and so forth. Frankly, everyone.
Martin Johnson show-cased a factory in Kolkata, India which is specialized on the production of leather products. The factory owners teamed up with a local group of monks to get inspired by ideas how employees as well as the immediate environment should be treated. I have visited a couple of clothing factories in India before and I feel that this approach can be a good role model for enhancing working conditions and the treatment of the environment. The fact that “human” and “environmentally friendly” working practices have to be decided by a strategic board rather than these are common practice anyways make me doubt about the key roots of this situation. If this business philosophy is profitable and as easily implemented as in his presented case, then I wonder why this is not standard behavior? What are the reasons for other factories to avoid creating this environment? Is it the profit margins?
Then, Dr. Susanna Pasley-Day’s talk was truly fascinating. She narrated about her inherent motivation to give something back to nature. Her idea is that if humans borrow beauty from nature, that are illustrated on paintings, fabrics, and so forth, something should be given back to nature. Her chain of arguments was very logic. For instance, if one purchases a t-shirt that illustrates a figure of a movie, a certain percentage of the price goes to the trademark owners. The same principle could apply to nature. I am excited to follow the development of this idea.
I left the event with a mix of feelings of inspiration and intimidation. What is on the agenda? It is: a change of mindsets of everyone, make sustainability accessible to everyone, transparency about products and business practices, closing the gap of knowledge and application, and many more. I guess that it takes a lot of effort and time to achieve “true” sustainability in the fashion industry. However, I truly believe that these ideas can contribute to a change in mindsets in the mainstream, the remaining question is how to bridge that gap. After all, it was again “us” talking to “us”.
Written by: Tina Sendlhofer, PhD student at Misum