Fashion Revolution week has been and gone. But, that doesn’t mean we should forget about what the campaign is all about. A key aim of the Fashion Revolution is to keep asking #WhomadeYourClothes? throughout the year. We asked four South African fashion activists to tell us why they care about fashion, why they think the Fashion Revolution matters and what we can do to limit fashion’s impact on the planet and on people.
Tamsyn is passionate about her role, as the national co-ordinator for the Fashion Revolution South Africa, to ensure that the international campaign is felt and heard here.
Why are you concerned with the fashion industry? The fashion industry is one of the most creatively expressive and powerful industries on the planet. Because it is recognised as one of the biggest polluters, it holds the potential to become one of the biggest agents of change for the good of the environment.
How and why did you become involved with the Fashion Revolution? I was hosting upcycling fashion events in 2014 and came across the Fashion Revolution through research. I contacted them and ever since, I’ve been coordinating the South African Fashion Revolution team. I strongly believe in a movement which works towards developing a shift in human awareness and creating a global sustainable lifestyle.
What can we do all year around to make sure we’re making our wardrobe’s more sustainable? We need to consume less. Work with what you have, rework your wardrobe, upcycle items, thrift, create swop shops with your friends, spring clean regularly. You will be amazed at how much can be reinvented, restyled, or reused.
Tell me about your shopping habits? I am a minimalist. I prefer spending on experiences, than on objects. I hold out shopping until the biannual pop up shops at my Bello Studio in Woodstock. I curate, host and invite some of the most fabulous local designers to participate. It’s important to understand the story behind the clothes and once you learn more about who is making them, the ethos behind them and what the longevity and aim of the team is, it’s easier to fall in or out of love with your chosen collection.
Having worked in the fashion and film industry for over a decade, I understand the game (unfortunately). As with everything, you can identify authenticity, the brands with the real passion stand out. Those are the brands I will support. They are not afraid to show #transparency. When you shop with traceability in mind, nothing will be seen at face value. I believe the definition of luxury will become about an educated, conscientious style of shopping. Everything has a season, but sustainability is here to stay. There is actually no other choice. The resources are running out. The game is drying up. One can no longer hide behind a fur coat.
Walter, who worked as a tailor in London before returning to South Africa three years ago, lectures at the fashion design department of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. He keeps sustainability central to everything he teaches.
Why are you concerned with the fashion industry? I am very concerned about the speed at which the fashion industry seems to be moving. The pace at which garments are manufactured, consumed and disposed of is shocking. Consumers’ lack of knowledge about the conditions under which their garments are made is equally shocking.
How and why did you become involved with the Fashion Revolution? I was introduced to this cause by one of my colleagues (and mentors) at CPUT, Talita Weideman. She fought tirelessly for Fashion Revolution to be part of every student’s mindset.
What can we do all year around to make sure we’re making our wardrobe’s more sustainable? Slow down and think carefully before you buy anything. Unpack your entire wardrobe and find new ways to combine pieces. We are all very set in our ways and often wear the same garments in the same ways or in the same combinations. Challenge yourself to go through one week of combining completely different things in your wardrobe. Reinvent what you already have.
Tell me about your shopping habits? I don’t shop much at all. I have learnt that style is most often about how we wear something rather than what we wear. Rather than shop we should all go on styling workshops to help us rethink what we already have in our wardrobes. When I do buy something I need to be convinced that it is something that I will love forever.
Luanne is a fashion graduate whose day job is in public relations. After hours, she studies sustainable fashion and researches the challenges local designers and brands face when trying to produce an eco and ethical fashion collection.
Why are you concerned with the fashion industry? I worry that brands are not communicating the story behind their garments. They keep prices low so consumers buy a lot vs buy good quality. With the low prices, clothes have lost their value and the lower the cost, the lower the garment workers’ salary.
How and why did you become interested in ethical and responsible fashion? Instead of looking at the care labels in my clothes one morning, I looked at where they were made and saw that most were made in Bangladesh and China. I started finding out about the conditions in the factories and watched The True Cost. After that, I promised myself I would not shop unnecessarily and would research brands before I handed over my money.
What can we do all year around to make sure we’re making our wardrobe’s more sustainable? Don’t throw your fast fashion items away, rather wear them until you can’t bear them anymore. If you do need to shop, find brands that are championing sustainable fashion and support them. During a TED Talk, Li Edelkoort points out that it’s not normal for us to be paying more for a sandwich, than for a piece of clothing. That’s a thought to ponder. If it’s cheap, someone somewhere is paying the cost.
Tell me about your shopping habits? I used to add two to three items to my wardrobe a month without thinking twice. This year, I have added 5 items in 5 months – two are fast fashion, three are from local designers Sitting Pretty and MERWE S.A.L.T. I’m not saying I’ll never add fast fashion to my wardrobe again, but I’m going to try my hardest to avoid it if I can.
Cyril is the Cape Town representative of Fashion Revolution South Africa, and is the chief executive officer of Afrikan Soul Headquartiers Productions, a marketing, press relations and events company. He is passionate about sustainability and with growing the local clothing and textile industry.
Why are you concerned with the fashion industry? I believe we can do better. The fashion industry is about people and about the planet and we need to do better in both these areas. People matter. Paying below minimum living wage is not okay. We only have this one planet and the fashion industry is one of the biggest polluting industries. This is not okay. We must do better.
How and why did you become interested in ethical and responsible fashion? I wanted to be a part of something that speaks up for good and gives a voice to those who are not being heard. Five years after the launch of Fashion Revolution, people are listening to its message and more than ever they are asking #whomadeyourclothes?. The voices are being heard and the powers that be, in the fashion industry are taking note. Change has begun. We have a long way to go, but change is on the horizon.
What can we do all year round to make sure we’re making our wardrobe’s more sustainable? We need to make smarter choices. If you don’t need new clothing, don’t buy anything new. When you need something, make a smart choice – look at the care label, where was the garment made? What is it made from? Do a bit of research and find out about the garment, the manufacturer and only then consider buying it. Be an active shopper, get informed… it’s the only way to become aware and make sustainable choices.
Tell me about your shopping habits? I only buy what I need and when I need something. If I can fix a garment, I do this first. It’s better to upcycle old clothing. I actively go through my wardrobe and edit what I have and give away what I’m not using. Then, when I do need something, I make an effort to select the right one. I buy what I know will last physically and fashionably. I am a huge fan of supporting local designers and clothes manufactured locally.
- Picture credits: Melissa Ann, and supplied