Tuesday 18 June 2024

Amanda Johnston - The Sustainable Angle - Curation & Education


Who Made Your Clothes is a question often asked. Today we will ask Who Made Your Fabric as this is created before your dress, your shoes or indeed the fabric that covers the seat you may be sitting on while you read this. This is the question The Sustainable Angle asks each and every day and for 2 days each year it culminates in the magnificent Future Fabrics Expo.

The Expo brings together producers, manufacturers, innovators and forward thinkers who are already creating a better sustainable fabric future and show you what is possible right now and excite you with what’s on the horizon. Part of our Inspirational Woman Amanda Johnstons role is to curate the Expo. She oversees the look, feel and flow of this inspirational space which allows a cross pollination of ideas between exhibitors and is exciting for visitors to become more knowledgeable directly from suppliers and through the brilliant and inspiring seminars held throughout both days. In the run up to Future Fabrics Expo 2024, which starts next Tuesday the 25th of June, now is the perfect time to tell Amanda’s story. 



D: I'm really interested in how influences from your past have affected you as a person and the journey that you're on through your career, with that in mind, I like to start with the question where did you grow up, Amanda?


A: I grew up in Manchester which has those interesting connections with fabric because it was known as Cottonopolis. When I started learning about textiles, I found that it’s at the root of all of the issues we've got with cotton, now.

Growing up I was always totally fascinated with fashion, image, creativity, art. So that was obviously where I was going to find my path, I knew that from a really young age. I've always sewn, I designed and made my own clothes and clothes for dolls and like a lot of designers will tell you, I was hell bent on going on that path and decided I needed to go and study in London, either at St Martins or Kingston, and did my degree in fashion design at Kingston University. I thought I was in heaven; I had met my people, I knew what I should be doing.


Mum was very artistic, she could turn her hand to making anything which means her influence was always there in the background. Interestingly that influence (unless they have it embedded in their family culture) is not there when I when I teach some of the younger people who are learning to be designers today a lot of them don't know how to sew on a button or take a hem up.


D: My grandmother taught me how to sew on a button and to darn and mum made us clothes when we were younger.


A: With our generation, that was a given. But now it's so rare for people that are much younger than we are, it’s rare for them to have that in their lived memory.


D: Where do they go to mend their clothes, or do they?


A: Teaching fashion students, you think, well, they will know how to do this stuff. Some of them do, but not all of them and you can find yourself teaching them quite rudimentary skills.


D: You would think that if this was if they really wanted to do that, learning these skills would be something that you would have learnt as part of the path to university.


A: Indeed, but some of them don't and not all of them necessarily come from an Arts Foundation. When I studied, we all did Arts Foundation, which was amazing. I did two years because I was so into it and did it while I did my A’ levels.

Some of them come from very different backgrounds today, particularly international students and they've not always had that grounding. Whereas we had that bit of playtime, to understand the other specialisms in art, time to play, time to explore, they've not necessarily had any of that. So, they're coming from a different grounding. 


D: After university, what did you do?


A: I went straight into freelance designing. I went and worked in Milan for a little while then came back to London and got straight to work with a colleague, who was the person I eventually co-wrote the Fabric for Fashion books with. We worked together, because he was a menswear knitwear designer and my specialisms were womenswear and textiles so we complemented each other and that joint knowledge increased the projects we could do together. Back in the 1980s that was a very nice earner. I got to have wonderful experiences, which saw me working all around the world and seeing factories in different parts of the world too. This was just prior to the point globalisation started to kick in. I was travelling to India and Turkey, places like that, but not really seeing this fast fashion because it was just about to gear up. What I was seeing as a designer and product developer, was a relentless hamster wheel cycle that started to feel like it was speeding up. It was at that point I started feeling that this is not what I love anymore. We get into creativity in the first place because we feel love for the practise, and it all became a bit tedious. During the 20 years I worked in the industry for all manner of different companies, either fully based here or based here with manufacturing elsewhere, I got to see a broad scope of the industry and eventually fell out of love with it.


Once I had my kids I knew I wasn’t going back to that freelance lifestyle and working as a jobbing designer was not compatible with having a young family. When I did that, I took a pause which was when my very dear friend Dilys Williams who I had worked with in the industry in the late 80s, called me to see what I was up to. She was at the London College of Fashion, hadn't yet started the Centre for Sustainable Fashion. She was course leader on one of the courses and asked me to come and help out. So, I decided I'll try that for a while and absolutely fell in love with teaching, and to be working with Dilys was amazing, she is so fabulous to work with. Dilys was the one that infected me with sustainability knowledge and the bug, because of course, she’d work with Katherine Hamnett really closely in the industry, which in turn had made her question ‘what are we doing?’ How can we as creative’s loving the idea of fashion, not stop to think about what its impacts were. Of course you learn about fabrics, about weights, weaves, and identifying say wool and cotton. But at no point where you supposed to think about the provenance of the materials, or who made them. It was all about how it looked and what collection it would be used for, that's how the industry works. To actually stop and think and be in a position where you realise the impacts, both socially and environmentally and to work with somebody who was working to educate and embed it into the curriculum was amazing. So of course I stayed and carried on doing that. It was Dilys who introduced me to Nina (Marenzi). Because I had just co-written the first Fabric for Fashion book, Dilys said to Nina ‘if you're going to start this organisation, you must meet Amanda.’ When I met Nina she already had my book, which was really nice. She told me ‘I want to start The Sustainable Angle which sounded amazing and of course I wanted to be involved. We did the first Future Fabric’s Expo in 2011 in London College of Fashion, which Dilys facilitated for the first 2 years. The older I get the more I realise is, that what makes the difference to making things happening is all those connections and those fortuitous little meetings where the planets align. I'm such a believer in, that you met that person at that time for a reason, and things flourish out of those meetings and evolve and change and can really change everything. Although it was in an academic environment, it of course drew industry in because LCF has amazing links with industry. Eventually we were invited to spread our wings elsewhere. We were then part of another trade show, which we quickly outgrew, because we couldn't make our own parameters and we needed to own what we were trying to do ourselves without any outside influences. When you pop up inside something else, which we still do now because it's important to disseminate, but when you do that, it’s like you're in somebody else’s house. It's really important for us to create the parameters, to define what we do and how we do it, and for knowledge and education to be the bedrock of that, which it isn't in a lot of events. We have grown massively in the intervening years. 



D: You spoke earlier about connections and The Expo is all about that, that connection of like-minded people exhibiting beside each other.


A: The reason we call ourselves an Expo and not a trade show is because it's so much more, it’s all-encompassing. We create an entity and experience that enables all of those things you just defined. Yes, we are connecting the industry to the best practise suppliers we can find. The Expo is a sort of hybrid. It's a hybrid event that intends to utterly inspire, captivate and provide knowledge and educational solutions in a one stop shop. As the curator I want people, when they walk into that space to be inspired and feel ‘I want to be part of this. What's going on in here? I want to be part of that.’ That way when you've got them at Hello and you've managed to captivate them with the energy and excitement of everything we've put together, then you can start to educate and lead them towards the solutions. My thing is you want to change hearts, minds, spirit, and practise. We want all of those things. We want to grab somebody's imagination, their will to change and make it seem like it's the coolest thing on earth and not a big hill to climb either as we're going to give you all the tools to do it, it’s all here. The other thing of course is to create an environment that is welcoming, an environment which is designed, unlike most trade shows which are like a market, with rows of stuff. We make it beautiful and embracing and open and you'll notice that when you come into the Expo, it’s really open. We want to encourage cross pollination between our suppliers and we have some really amazing projects that are brought to life at the Expo just by people doing that very thing. At the moment we call these the Expo Offsprings. We're always asking, ‘who did meet and who did you connect with? What conversations did you have? Are you doing a project together? Are we going to see it at the next Expo?’



D: That’s a great encouragement. Because they are not there, not there to sell. They are there to learn and connect.


A: Obviously anybody with a marketing budget, if they’re giving us some of it, they want to be able to sell some stuff too. They also really value the fact that they are also being put in front of great brands and whole teams, we attract the communications teams because they want to learn the language and to learn about how's it’s all being disseminated, along with the product development sourcing teams, designers, CEO's everyone across the board and that's important to them. Of course another element is this very open networking, because everybody feels they are all part of a very cool club that’s so dedicated to this particular intention. You don't have anybody else floating around other than people and suppliers who are committed to doing the best possible thing, they're excited by it and they want to share it with everybody. Which is, when you think about it, the antithesis of how the fashion industry runs normally. Which is not sharing and keeping suppliers a secret. That's the old way, that hyper competitive, don't give any information away way. The sustainability world is the opposite of that. It is welcoming, all embracing, open. This is what we are doing visually and physically when we put the Expo together to really encourage that, and to then find out which babies have been born through the cross collaborations that come about because of this, connecting absolutely amazing organisations that are doing very cool innovations between themselves. It's really exciting.


D: They find the key to what’s missing in their part of the process so they can continue to progress.


A: And maybe they never even thought, thought about it. Because you can't go looking for the thing you don't know about. But you can find it. You can discover it in a in a place that's been designed to help you to discover it. That's really gratifying and hugely exciting. 



D: Also the talks that happen as part of the Expo are extremely inspiring.


A: They are designed to amplify our cool themes through the education we are driving, from where's your place in the industry, to making a contribution, to averting biodiversity loss through your choices of raw materials and in your suppliers? Which in turn is related to climate change issues. Because Nina's interest obviously came directly from her study of the impacts of intensive agriculture and how by turning that around and looking at regenerative agriculture and all the scientific evidence that says, you can make massive positive gains by using regenerative agriculture, that is a big thing for us. The fibres that are grown in regenerative agriculture, for example, whether it’s cotton, or a fibre from an animal, the science holds up on that. That's the root of what she wanted to do with this organisation, to really address that, the power of changing agriculture to deliver on restoring biodiversity and addressing climate change. Those core themes, are amplified through our seminar series. We run 7 seminars on each day over the two days of the Expo, and we have a hell of a lot to cover, because it's all of those things plus it's around water, it's around the circular economy, recyclability, the social component. We have so many things to tackle each time we do it, and what we try to do is amplify the cool themes, and each time build on them bringing in new knowledge, or new initiatives that are inspiring other brands. Thinking, ‘oh this brand did that, how did they do that? Let me find out because we should be doing that.’ All the time we try to excite people with optimism, because the sustainability discourse, can be very pessimistic, it can feel very no hope. That's something we really; both in how we put together the whole Expo and the seminar series always want to have. Look, here's a problem, but we've got solutions. Here are the solutions that are coming. We want people to leave with, that sense of excitement.


D: You also have a huge room filled with fabrics that you can use now that will create that change.


A: Exactly. Plus we have a huge innovation area which points to the future. We are showing around about 10,000 possibly more materials, during the two day Expo, across all different fibre categories that are commercially available right now. Which represent a positive impact and optimism, allowing you to change your supply chain, think differently about where your materials are coming from, how you're using them and how they're joining the circular economy for example. So, we're giving everything, every tool that we can put together to drive people forward and make change easy. Our job is really to make it easy.


D: What's in store for this year's Expo?


A: The Expo is always a building showcase, it's always more but this year with an extra spotlight on home and interiors. We started that last year, because we found that architects and interior designers were coming to us anyway, even though we speak directly at fashion and finding materials. We thought we need to do a proper curation that really speaks to this area, because that's informed by fashion too. Of course there are different specialisms within that, as you have to think much more about wearability and fire retardancy, things like that, which then edge into a stronger area of water use, pollutants, chemical use. We did a big research piece on that last year and that will be developed this year. We are also developing a footwear hub. We've had a few footwear suppliers in the collection before, but we've never made it a specialist area, so we will do that too.


D: Footwear is difficult isn’t it?


A: It’s very difficult. We are working with some great people to draw together some design stories, design journeys as I like to call them, but also materiality considerations, thinking about the typical materiality of any built shoe. The interesting thing with footwear; although it's not specialism of mine and although I have moderated footwear students, what I didn't take stock of is, that in your average shoe you can have an average and sometimes more, of 26 different materials for one pair of shoes. Now that makes the whole design thinking thing very different from a dress. If it's a single fabric dress, you might have some buttons you might have a little bit of lining, you might have a zip, but basically it's one dress if you're doing a print dress. But with a shoe, 26 different materials, it's extraordinary. So there are a multitude of considerations to think about changing when we think about footwear materials and design. It’s far more complex. It will be a smallish area to start with, but I think it's going to be brilliant to see and it will be pointing a lot to very future thinking innovations like 3D printed shoes.

The innovations display: we showed 70 innovations last year and there will be more this year. 



D: On the innovation front, you have different categories. Can you tell us what they are?


A: We naturally have projects that exemplify circular thinking. Anything that incorporates recycling and circular, they'll be in the innovations area. But when we talk about the new generation of innovations it's about either working with innovations that are tackling the waste stream, so for example, and this is an ongoing thing, are the opportunities that are presented by agricultural waste. That will be shown again with Canopy Planet because we've been working with Canopy Planet, the NGO for a few years now to address the destruction happening to ancient, indigenous forests. They're trying are speaking to the fashion industry, getting them to think very differently about feedstock materials. This is a research project that the Laudes Foundation who fund Canopy Planet, first kicked off. Now we're seeing a lot of companies bubbling up that are taking advantage of the thinking; we have food and agricultural waste, we really need to be using that a lot more intelligently, that can be diverted to make textile fibres to address the cellulose gap. We're at a point where our global fibre demand is at its peak. There's a big demand for cellulose and we're at peak cotton so there’s a gap that we're not able to supply which means we need much more creative thinking and thinking more broadly about where else we get cellulose from and how else we get it. The other category is the Bio Fabricated material category, which is the new future generation of materials, which is currently seeing a lot of investment, into generating leather alternatives. There are four different streams for this, one is mycelium, which is the root structure of mushrooms, which has been getting a lot of press all over the world. It’s a super interesting material because you can direct mycelium roots to grow into forms. Or you could grow it as a sheet if you wanted. The interesting thing about that is you're not digging it out of the forest, you're growing it in a lab, so this becomes a whole new generation of materials. There are companies getting a lot of funding right now to do this. We show them at the Expo and interestingly they are into leather alternatives but also food. Which means there is this really interesting parallel when you look at that material source, between OK, it's taken out of agricultural space and is grown in labs, it can provide food and it can also provide a material. It’s such an amazing thought. Then of course there is algae. Algae comes under a bio fabricated material because it can be converted to create bioplastics, biopolymers. This is an amazing yarn that is on the cusp of being commercial, that we will be showing and is also made from algae. We are also seeing algae dyes, there's a huge proliferation of technology in that area, but again it's a food source too. There's a lot of research going into its availability in the EU for a food source, so again we've got that food and fibre thing going on and it strikes me as a really sensible way to think about the balance of food and fibre, even if you're growing things traditionally, is really important. Cotton farmers need to rotate crops with food crops in order to keep the soil healthy. It's all this similar sort of thinking.


D: After all we need to feed the growing population.


A: Exactly. We're at this really, really critical time and making the right decisions about how we manage our natural systems, agricultural land versus factory land or whatever is crucial.

The other Bio Fabricated material categories are yeasts and bacteria. With bacteria we've had dyes. Yeasts are used almost like a factory, a bio factory. We've been doing that for thousands of years. We make bread with yeast, we brew beer. Now we are seeing brewed protein using yeasts to deliver a protein structure. Spiber are a Japanese company using a brewed system to generate a fine fibre that is been replicated by isolating the gene of spider silk.


D: Better the genes of the spider, rather than the spider itself.


A: Well, you couldn't possibly harvest it. Although I know that there was there was in the V&A the most beautiful cloak made from a particular genus of spider from somewhere in Asia, that does produce miles and miles and miles of this stuff. It's a golden spider a very particular spider and they had managed to harvest something like 300,000 metres of this yarn and then managed to weave this one off heirloom piece, its priceless, but it took them something like 15 years to achieve. If you’re going to harvest from Nature then that's what you're talking about. Whereas the guys from Spiber can be lab growing this fibre very quickly. That's our bio fabricated materials base. In innovations we show, innovations in recycling or innovations in traceability for example. We're seeing that coming through now, particularly because of coming EU legislation, that will enable the embedding of a tracker in a fibre and that business is going to be huge. At The Sustainable Angle we’ve been tracking a lot of those technologies that are being commercially embedded right now but are not proliferated through the market yet. Any company that's doing something that ensures traceability or provides an added benefit from a sustainability perspective, we will show that. We then group them into themes on the tables. 


D: You mentioned feedstocks a little while ago. What do you mean by feedstocks?


A: I created a thinking system for us to help. Often when people come into the Expo they get a bit overwhelmed and ask which is the most sustainable material. But it doesn't work like that. It's about what you want that material for? Where in the world you are, where in the world your material is from. What does it take from nature, from communities, it's a multitude of different considerations. The first thing we always talk about after purpose, is that as a designer, you need to understand why you're using the material for something. That sounds odd, but actually not a lot of people do it? The next thing is provenance, what's the material it made of? Where did it come from? Who grew it? With all of these important questions so you're actually determining where it's come from.


A feedstock is essentially; if you're creating a man-made material, you need to take some raw material, that is the feedstock. Then you put it through a process and that's your next sustainability question. We talk in feedstock terms when it's something like a viscose type material. A viscose type material will be a wood feedstock, so then you ask the question what wood is it? Is it bamboo? Is it beech? Is it eucalyptus? There are many different types of wood stock you could use and from many places in the world. This is your real first question, what is that feedstock? For example, you can, for a viscose feedstock, put a partial wood and partial reclaimed old T-shirts and jeans into it. To do that they chemically dissolve the wood feed stock, then they extrude it into a fine fibre. That category we call artificial, it's like a natural feedstock, but it's been converted.


D: Does that mean you can also use waste?


A: You can, a lot of companies are doing that now because they're recognising what’s coming out when they extrude the fibre, and once they've broken it down with chemicals, it’s still pure cellulose. It's just that it's been dissolved. It's not really synthetic, because when we talk about synthetics, we mean fibres made from Petro chemicals, but this is not, it's made from a tree, or bamboo or it could even be dissolved cotton, or as I said earlier it can a portion, which a lot of companies are doing now, by taking waste like jeans or shredded T-shirts that are not good for anything else, which then adds to the cellulose component and it means that they're trying to drive a higher reclaimed feedstock rather than cutting the forest down. In this area, and particularly with Canopy Planet and particularly with the agricultural waste I was talking about before, is that normally agricultural waste gets burned on the field, and obviously that is a big problem. Now they're saying, OK, take a second harvest and reclaim that wheat straw, rye straw or whatever the waste is and let's get it into that system as a feedstock for a regenerated fibre.


D: Thank you it's good to have a clarification on what on what that means. Because not everybody, knows where fabric comes from or how it’s made. You're super knowledgeable about fabric, but most don’t know what the worst fabrics or best fabrics are or the role of fibre and sustainability or the fact that there are toxic fibres and the fact that a lot, or most of our clothing is made from plastic which against our skin and it is disrupting our hormones and the link that has to the climate crisis we're living in at the moment.


A: When we talk about the pessimism, every year we take the data from Textile Exchange on global fibre demand, and every time there are still people who are really surprised when we publish that pie chart. Two thirds of all textiles on this planet are made of Petro chemicals, two thirds. And I think that around 54% of that is polyester, that's the most prevalent one. All the nylons and acrylics make that up too, but the most prevalent is polyester. The latest figure is 54% and that material is polyethylene terephthalate, PT. That is exactly the same polymer as single use water bottles and most people don't get that connection. It’s in their gym leggings or their polyester dress and they don't realise it.


D: And when we are washing it, it is shredding straight into the water system and straight into the ocean and straight into us.


A: I read this really interesting quote, scientists estimated that each one of us walks around currently, right now, with a credit card sized piece of plastic in us. I compiled a report based on a lot of reports around this, tackling that exact question. Questioning the sort of effects this will have down the line of living with on a plastic planet. Have taken these decades, almost 50 years, for it to really get to a crisis point in every water stream and in the air, it's not a problem we are necessarily going to solve, but I think it's a problem that we can go a long way to mitigating through technology. We have the technological know-how to do any number of things. It's more about the will and it's more about the critical mass of the will that’s affecting it. This is a real ‘oh shit moment.’ ‘Oh shit, look what we did’ and we know that the fashion industry is a huge contributor to that along with other industries. At The Sustainable Angle we ask where's our place? What can we do? What is happening now that we can all sign up to and get on with? As an organisation we do show recycled polyester. We do not show virgin polyester, ban that, stop making it. But in the meantime we've got a shit load of stuff to clean up. We can't just ignore it, it's out there and is clogging everything up and of course the chemical offshoot from that are there too. All the toxins that that material category is treated with, from dyes to the finishings to make it for example, fire retardant all of these chemicals. It’s a lot, but I think EU legislation is tipping in the right direction, it’s switching people on to the idea. It's making them realise, if I've got it in my collection now, I don't want it in there in another seasons time. Where am I going to when I ditch this material? What we've got to do is bring the demand right down. But unfortunately, the demand is going up for polyester. So, it's about getting as many players as possible to contribute to bringing the demand down in the first place. Then if you are using it, you’re buying it from recycled programmes that are cleaning up pollution specifically, from both land and sea. Those are the ones we give priority to saying, OK, what's the story about, where do you get this PET from? Where did it come from? Did it clean up a beach somewhere? Did you take it off the mountain side? Can you prove it? Have you got the traceability to show us? The people that are committed that usually have, and it’s all bona fide and GRS certified. They can say it's from this location, we've got it traced, and they're very proud of that fact. Usually the people that can be bothered to do that like the, Seaquals, Econyls and Parleys of this world. Their whole reason for being was to address the pollution and to do something about it. So those are the materials that we are prioritising right now. I'd love to not have any Petro chemicals in the collection, but we’re just not at that stage right now. We've got to prioritise the people who are doing the best they can and also be on the lookout for the technologies and the innovations that will help us to mitigate that problem. It’s a tough one.



D: How do we systems change? Slow fashion, slow fabric manufacture?


A: All of those things. It's really interesting because we have a triangular systems thinking that we called the Bioarchy which is speaking to us all as consumers, because let's face it, even if we're working with the industry and manufacturing clothes we are also consuming them. So trying to get people to think about and valuing what they already have and repair what they already have. Getting people to think about what's in their clothes if you are going to buy new. What are your choices, do you know what's in your clothes? Have a think about it. Don't buy from a brand or from somewhere that can't be transparent. The big elephant in the room, and obviously when you’ve been party to so many sustainability discussions is of course the overproduction, because we see can from the incredible BBC programme that was that was made, these mountains of clothes clogging up Accra and the Atacama Desert and these are only 2 of the locations on the planet. Of course, we need to deploy creativity to figure out how we slow that. Of course, we are still gonna make new stuff, we know that. But how do we slow that system down so we're making the most out of a smaller amount of stuff, that's the thing. I think fast fashion has been that model. Back in the 70s, things cost pro rata way more than they do now.


D: And you only got new clothes maybe twice a year on special occasions.


A: Yes it was like wow, I'm going to get a new Christmas party frock. For my daughter too, she would get a birthday dress and it was a big thing. It was saved up for, so you could get a really nice one, it was an event. Even after she couldn't fit in them anymore, I used to keep them because liked looking at them and eventually would pass them down to friends for their kids. But you're right, that thing has been completely dispensed with in a very short space of time. When I think about when I moved away from being a designer in the industry, that was at the point at which production was really starting to speed up. Clothes were becoming cheaper year on year on year. Anybody who walked into a shop would think well a T-shirt is only £3 now I’ll have three of them or I’ll have one in every colour. Whereas that previous thinking was, I will choose my favourite colour, I will only buy what I need. But now because they are so cheap I can buy multiples. Or buy 2 get the 3rd free. And that's also throughout our food system. Why are you telling me I can have 3 bags of salad when I only came in for one and the other two are going to be thrown out. I heard that at the moment the UK is throwing away 30% of its weekly food food shop. I don’t do that, but that’s horrific. And the same thing has rolled over to clothing, that same waste, it's the same consumerist mindset.


D: It means you don't respect your clothing, you don't respect your food, you don't respect where it’s come from, the resources it’s taken to create it or the impact on the planet, nature, people and everyone involved in the supply chain.


A: Even to this day when we're talking about Viscose, or we’re talking about feedstocks and trees you'll still get junior designers say ‘they make Viscose out of trees?’ then look puzzled and say ‘how do they do that?’ Then of course they learn the whole process, because it never occurred to them find out before. When you think about think about it, you've got to cut a tree down, you've gotta chip it up, and all the other processes it’s got to go through before it becomes a thread and woven into fabric. Or cotton picking, cotton collecting, ginning, all these things that has to go through too, before weaving it, knitting it, turning it into a T-shirt, have it manufactured and shipped halfway across the other side of the world. How can a T-shirt cost the same as a sandwich?


D: It can’t, it shouldn't ever.


A: It’s lunacy, because every single one of those loads and loads and loads of stages back throughout supply chain, none of those people involved in that are making a living wage. It is still a form of slavery. Most people buying that cloth at the other end, the young designers, the designers and sourcing chains, that's not something they have any knowledge or understanding of. So when they start to think, you cut down a tree to mash it up to make a fibre it creates change. Apparently, the fashion industry is responsible for the felling of well over 200 million trees a year. Canopy Planet’s message is don’t buy Viscose unless it's from an FSE certified regrown forest. Otherwise let's think about making our clothes out of something else, something more creatively useful with the resources that are little bit more achievable.


D: So that one day many, many years from now when it eventually ends up in landfill it will actually replenish the soil rather than destroy.


A: The whole system is crazyily mad. There have been many calls and it makes utter common sense to rein it in. But it's also a really tough one because that is about, changing culture and that's a tougher thing. We are privately speaking with B2B and sometimes pop up in B2C places like Earth Fest which is connected with the Camden Council initiative. Every now and again we'll do a bit of B2C but we're mainly speaking to a B2B audience. Our place in really influencing cultural change is within companies. We don't have enough of an outreach to really influence the shift in culture that really has to radically take place in order to take us back to what we were talking about earlier, where you bought a new winter coat and you might replace that once every three years or five years. My mums and grandmothers generation, they would do that every 10 years.


D: Or you borrow your granny's coat and go to university with it?


A: I wore totally vintage when I was a student. How do we make that shift again that is a real nut to crack. I know Dilys (Williams) department do a lot of work in this area. Cultural sustainability is really important to them in that you've got to have all of the mechanisms working together, which is why they do work with education, with industry, with politicians.


I don't think things have changed much. If you start doing research on different consumer groups, what they say about sustainability and what they value. They often come back with very encouraging statistics about Gen Z's, 68% of them said they would pay more. Interestingly, though these statistics don't travel through to actual figures of spending. So although they'll say, if you're asking in a qualitative interview situation, ‘Yeah, yeah, I'm really into sustainability and I always look for this and I buy bar soap instead of liquid. They'll say all of this, but then it's not being transferred.


D: They are probably buying from Shien, Claire (Press) posted recently about their profits.


A: I think that even if some, Gen Z are saying, this is what I value, this is what I do. Maybe they are also falling prey to greenwashing too. If for instance BooHoo say we've got a new sustainability collection you may think ‘oh, that's great, I'm gonna buy from that’. But are lacking the critical ability to know what that actually means. Or they are having the wool pulled over their eyes. It's difficult and I don't know what the answer to it is, but clearly the bedrock of it all is to take a deep breath, slow down, think about how we can be creative with what we've got or if we're making new product, then design into it several life times of use. Make that happen, think about how you can make that happen. Do you use technology to make sure this happens; do you have a different method of communication with your consumer to encourage them share this product? We've given you a QR code so that you will be able to track it through its life. Then you're also, through the use of technology enabling; once it's no longer fit for wear, you're enabling it to be recycled and you're making that a cool thing. You’re making that thing that your customer wants to track? You can be friends with your coat, even when it's not in your wardrobe anymore or when someone else doesn’t want it. Then it's gone through another cycle because it's been exchanged again and gone on somewhere else. If someone said to me, on your phone, if you are going to let this garment out of your house, you can still see where it's gone, like it's your child, it would be so fabulous to see its journey. Maybe now your coat is in Berlin being worn by someone else. And she's going to pass it along to her sister and then she's gonna hire it out somewhere else. Then somebody took it to a repair shop in Copenhagen and had moth holes repaired in it. Knowing that journey would be so good.


D: That would also create a community with other people that own your clothing and suddenly you've got a connection with them.


A: Then when it’s come back from the repair in Copenhagen you could say I would love to welcome this garment back into my wardrobe. Then as you say you create new communities, new friendships, new stories about clothing. We do have the technology to do that kind of thing. It’s about each time your coat, or whatever it is, has a another layer to its story and it becomes more valuable. As a business idea imagine if you could say I wore this piece that was owned and worn by say Clare Press. She wore it to a book launch and I got to hire or own it myself, then you pass it on so every time the garment goes through it’s different lives it becomes cooler and cooler because of the stories which are attached to it. Let’s face it that’s what fashion does, making everyone adore the big brands, or the piece that Jackie Onassis wore, all of these stories are what embed value in our fashion, this is so cool because it was worn on the red carpet by whoever.


D: Let’s create new fashion stories.


A: That should be something, lets create new stories in fashion to encourage minimising product.



D: I was going to ask you how you see the future, but that would be a good way to see the future.


A: That would be part of it. I think the future is many, many stories to be had. What nature does, that is the one thing we're always saying with the boards we create for Future Fabrics Expo, refashioning our relationship with nature, this is what we need to do. Think about where our fibres and stuff come from in Nature. There's that, plus there’s also this whole world of new materials that we have been talking about. There are a multitude of different things because what nature does, is nature diversifies. And if we're gonna learn from nature that word diversifying, that is what we must do. As a word we've used it as a banner since 2017. We have other keywords like restore, regenerate, repair, circulate, key buzzwords that will always keep popping up in all our communications and diversify is one. Diversify the fibre basket because if you put all your eggs in one basket that's not good and you're bound to fail. Particularly with what we've done with the global fibre basket where it's primarily Petro chemicals or cotton. With cotton, all of that, apart from 1% is farmed really badly. So we have put all our eggs into 2 very toxic fibre baskets. We need to spread the risk and think about a sense of place, think about diversification, what’s appropriate, do like nature does, it goes with the flow, and as humans we don’t tend to do that. When humans see something that’s successful, we just want more of the same and to grow it out of all proportion.


D: That's consumerism though, isn't it?


A: That's consumerism, plus our ability to invent technologies that enable us to do that. Whereas what we really need to do is to revert back to smaller is better. Less is more. Not giant companies, but lots of little networks, all working collaboratively rather than great heaving monoliths.


D: That would also create diversity, again within cultures, because it would allow the rise of individual creativity within each country again. Which was there when we were kids but it's not there anymore. You talk about mono fabrics, it feels like mono fashion now too because wherever you go in the world, there's the same chain store selling the same stuff they're selling in London, Paris or New York. That diversity is lost there too.


A: Absolutely. I keep saying this to my students, but they don’t know what I’m talking about. I used to love travelling because if you went to Paris or Florence, when you came back, your friends would ask ‘what did you bring back?’ Because there was this sense that where you'd been, that you couldn't get that amazing cheese or that wine, or this brand of shoes back home that you could only get it in Florence. This homogenisation and this idea that everything just looks the same everywhere in the world is so sad. That’s the lack of diversification and uniqueness from a sense of place as well.  





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