Fashion Revolution Week has come to a close for 2018 and it seemed to be louder and more wide-reaching than ever! It was amazing to hear that over 1000 events were organised across more than 100 countries worldwide - I had a great time at the Fashion Revolution Thailand event here in Bangkok last week. It was awesome to hear from sustainable Thai brands like FolkCharm, Bhukram and Seeker x Retriever, and about the importance of fair trade from the World Fair Trade Organisation Asia. I took my Salma clutch along for the ride!
While I am committed to fighting for this revolution year-round, the intensity of this huge global movement's energy has left me with a renewed passion for making changes both in my business and personal lives. How about you?
Stay in community
I've always found the ethical fashion industry to be friendly and approachable - it's easy and fun to connect with like-minded people through channels like Ethical Hour's Twitter chat on a Monday evening, and more often than not people are truly keen to help each other out to achieve the common goal of changing this industry for the better. But there are still times when it's hard to be swimming against the current, or when you feel the difference you're trying to make is just a drop in the ocean, or if you get just plain lonely working from home, like a lot of people behind startups do.
The buzz of Fashion Revolution and the kick of working together as a big, vocal, passionate movement is a reminder to really dig in to community, whether it's online or face to face. Together we're stronger! When we moved to Bangkok I found it hard to 'start again' connecting with an ethical fashion scene, between my sorely lacking Thai language skills and not knowing where to look for sustainable clothes, brands or bloggers amongst the ocean of fast fashion. Attending last week's event introduced me to some brilliant people and now all I want to do is pack a bag and head off to the tranquil villages where their clothes are made and learn everything about ethical production from their perspective!
One small change at a time
It is so easy to feel overwhelmed when you want to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Where do you start? Your wardrobe, your kitchen, your bathroom, your travel, your banking? Sadly I think it's common for us to let the fear of not being able to do everything stop us from doing something.
I'm committing to making small, achievable changes in my personal life that I can really stick to. And then, when those changes feel normal, to add one or two more small changes, and so on. I can't afford to radically overhaul everything in my life at once - and dragging a bunch of stuff to the garbage room unnecessarily doesn't solve anything! Currently I'm enjoying taking my super cool bamboo straws from Boo Boo Bamboo Straws out wherever I go, and I've recently invested in some cute beeswax wraps to use in the kitchen instead of clingfilm. I'm keen to visit this refill station for toiletries, to reduce my plastic use and use locally made products. My next goal is to get our favourite local takeaway joint to pack our order in our own tupperware instead of styrofoam. It's so nerdy. I feel awkward. But it's important!
Respect the buyerarchy of needs
So here's the deal: I have a bag business and in order to continue running this business and being lucky enough to work with all these amazing craftspeople, I need to sell bags! However, I also fully subscribe to the 'buyerarchy of needs'. Huh - am I a walking contradiction? Well I hope not! I truly believe that buying new (ethical) items should come only after mending/thrifting/loving what you already have. But when you do need to buy something, there should be beautiful, sustainable options available to you - things that you can keep and love and use for years and years. Like our bags :)
In my personal life, my budget for wardrobe fun is tight - and I'm living in a city which is flooded with cheap clothing. Some days, the struggle is real! Back in the UK I am a lean mean eBay-shopping machine and love finding a secondhand bargain; here in Thailand pre-loved clothing is often marked up extensively as 'vintage' or available mostly in much smaller sizes. Respecting the buyerarchy of needs reminds me to love what I have first (#30wears challenge nailed, and then some!), get things mended when they need it, and also look out for events like clothes swapping parties. Following the Fashion Revolution event last week, I now know some awesome local sustainable brands for when I do need to add something to my closet!
Zero waste production
I found the attention given to zero waste, closed-loop production models really inspiring this Fashion Revolution Week. For my first collection, I worked closely with the tailoring team to tweak patterns in order to minimise fabric waste, and donated any reasonably-sized scraps to the training programme they run - I hope they ended up as little squares on a colourful quilt! I'm inspired to get more creative with this going forward, and give a lot of thought to both reducing scrap materials even further, and using anything that is left for something impactful.
Be a bridge, shine a light
I love the artisans and tailors I'm fortunate enough to work with, and I want to do everything in my power to help their businesses continue to thrive. As a small company there's a limit to how often I can place orders with them, which is why I'm committed to being a bridge between them and a wider audience.
I don't guard my supply chain information as a secret, I don't hide my producers' names - much to the horror of some people who were convinced I was shooting myself in the foot and losing my competitive advantage. But I've always wanted this brand to be founded on transparency and if, by shining a light on these talented people and their beautiful textiles, I can send more people their way, then I'd be very happy. These bags are a collaboration! Want to know more about our production chain? Send me a message, I'd love to chat. The more people on board for this revolution, the better!
What impact did Fashion Revolution Week have on you? Have you resolved to make any changes in your life?