At a gathering last year I listened with interest as Vanessa Friedman, Fashion Director at The New York Times, explained that in order for consumers to get on board with the words ‘sustainable’ and ‘ethical’ then we, the designers and makers of clothing, needed to find a way to make it sexy.
Margot Robbie in The Big Short, youtube.com
Like a naked, bubble-bathed Margot Robbie explaining the key concepts of the financial crash in The Big Short kind of sexy (watch above).
At first, this thought depressed me.
In order to get people’s attention, do ideas really need to be pitched in this way?
Surely we as consumers deserve more credit.
In her 2013 TED Talk, Eva Kruse commented that when it comes to fashion, she wanted ‘to make it fashionable to think’.
Increasingly it seems that education and cultural capital are becoming more desirable than material goods in many industries, but this approach is proving far more difficult to take hold when it comes to fashion.
Because fashion is meant to be frivolous. It’s meant to be fun. It’s meant to be about having things. But at a time when clothing is being produced to such a low standard, is this quantity over quality really so desirable?
The words ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’ are general blanket terms that together can refer to hundreds of processes and people. And perhaps it’s this lack of clarity that makes them difficult to get on board with.
Fair wages, valuable work, environmentally friendly materials, zero waste… These are all foundations of a better fashion industry. But what we, the wearers, are drawn to is creativity, craftsmanship and innovation. These are the words that capture the very essence of what the fashion industry should be.
And these stories are what many of the small brands falling under the ‘ethical’ or ‘sustainable’ umbrella bring to the table.
Walking down any high street today is like walking through a graveyard…. not a soul in sight.
And I’m talking about the clothes, not the people.
Rack after rack of items. No craft, no finesse, no imagination. Their lack of story and purpose renders them soulless.
What if we dispensed with the words ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’ altogether, and instead focused on the real, authentic, connecting human stories behind the clothes that we love.
It is sometimes difficult to find these brands and their stories, but when you do, rest assured that you will be rewarded. The time you invest in learning about and discovering your clothes will be returned to you, as you delight in wearing them for years to come.
It’s sexy to be interested, it’s sexy to care, it’s sexy to take action.
Understanding our value and power as consumers is key, and exercising that power can be pretty sexy too.
All of the brands represented on the STUDY 34 platform are driven by individual desires to work towards change – whether that be the sourcing of responsible raw materials, investing in real craftsmanship during the manufacturing process, or seeking to create timeless pieces outside of fast fashion trends.