Dilys is the Founder and Director of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at the London College of Fashion. It turns out that Dilys and I went to Uni in Manchester at the same time and knew a lot of the same people and although we recognised each other we didn’t know each other. Our paths were parallel. When I turned up for the shoot, she asked me how I knew Alyson Walsh who has been another of my inspirational Women. When I said from Uni, turns out they lived together then. 6 degrees of separation. And it was the wonderful illustrator Megan St Clair Morgan who I know from my street style days, brought us together at last. Amazing how life works.
Dvora: I like to start at the beginning of your story to see how your childhood shapes your now. Where did you grow up? London?
Dilys: No, no not I am not a Londoner at all, I didn’t come to London until I left Uni, and sort of reluctantly and without realising I had done it, suddenly I was living in London. No. I grew up not even in a village, in a hamlet. There was nothing, no shop, no church even.
Mid Worcestershire in a little hamlet that was really lovely but like every country girl we are desperate to be in a city. Having grown up like that though with farmers it kind of makes everything make more sense now, more tied together. At the same time from a really early age, I have always been a bit of a party girl, music or fashion were the two things from a I was really interested in. I also have an amazing extended family on both sides, so there has always been a sort of sense family and community and being gregarious and being really sociable. During those formative years of having a very open family where some people who were relatives and some who weren’t, we didn’t really know who was related and who wasn’t. It was an open house basically. We had a lot of people living with us. It was only later on you think who was that person (laughs). I believe that, that has been really important to me. Allowing me to be able to work with a lot of different people and to work together. I think my practice and what I do is very much about appreciating everything that different people bring the distinctions between us and when that happens it all comes together.
As far as influence and growing up is concerned my Grandma made all our clothes, she made the clothes for everybody. I grew up with a real fascination, the sewing machine on the table was part of the centre of things.
Dv: Did she teach you to sew?
Dv: At the dining table.
DL: Yes absolutely. And then my first sewing machine (Dilys made the action of turning the sewing machine wheel with her hand, which was the power to make it work) it was beautiful. My Mum had it until quite recently. It was in a lovely wooden box that you carried it around in.
Dv: So you were making your own clothes then.
DL: Mmm, no she made them for us, my grandma was a perfectionist, I still have all of her sewing kits and every needle has got its place. So no, I wasn’t allowed to actually go that far. I was allowed to learn how to do stitches, but she did all the actual clothes making.
DV: I was going to ask if art and fashion was something you were always interested in and I can see the answer is yes.
DL: It is a cliché I know but I can remember the clothes I wore at nursery (laughs) and remember loving them, a green ribbed jumper and tartan skirt. I haven’t got a very good memory for numbers and all sorts of things, but I have a really good visual memory. I can remember all the things my grandma used to make for me. And I can remember from an everything that I grew out of, Mum would put in a chest ready to hand on to my cousins. And I remember sitting by that chest crying because they didn’t fit me anymore and I didn’t want them to go. I have always been a bit of a hoarder. So yes, from an early age it was something that really interested me.
In those days we had sewing at school and kids had sewing at primary school. That’s something that was such an import thing for me, being able to do that and I remember even in Primary School my sewing teacher giving me some old Vogues and at the time is was so like, OMG this is so precious, it’s amazing I think she was chucking them out and gave them to me. I think that actually being able to make things yourself, I mean yes I wasn’t allowed because my sewing skills weren’t good enough to start with, but that whole thing of it being part of my family it was part of the natural things that I learnt to do.
DV: And maybe the not being allowed to be able to have it straight away…..
DL: (laughs) Yes, makes you determined to get to that point, and to achieve that accolade and recognition of ‘Oh OK so you can make your own clothes after all’.
Dv: Obviously your Grandmother had artistic skills was your Mum inclined that way as well?
DL: Dad was my Mums 1st boyfriend they met when she was 16, she left school and they got engaged. Mum worked for a short while and stopped and got married. But she was a really keen gardener and still is. I remember the two of them used to sit there and design the garden, map it out on graph paper because Dad did technical drawing, he was an engineer, so there must be something in that, but she would never say that she was creative. She would sit and look at the colours at different times of the year etc, so……
Dv: That is very creative. When you watch gardening shows on the telly now….
DL: But she would never say that was what she was. Creative education probably wasn’t even recognised at that time. The idea of what it meant to be an artist or be creative, I think she would have thought you could only be artistic if you were a professional.
Dv: You studied Fashion at Manchester Met. Which course were you on?
DL: It was a more technical fashion course; it was very pragmatic. Some design, some pattern cutting, business studies and marketing. At the time most courses were either just straight fashion or they were business it was a hybrid course.
Dv: Which is much better.
DV: I wish they had given us some business skills on the photography course I was on. I don’t think there was any. We were let loose on the world as creative thinkers with no business sense at all.
DL: It was a great course. I think quite maverick for its time. Katie England was, I think a year or 2 years below us, I don’t know if she was on exactly the same course but she was definitely on one of the courses it was a small faciality. The whole of the 1st year I remember Marion our design tutor saying ‘Well you know you’ll never get a job in the fashion industry, none of you guys will ever actually work in the fashion industry. And look at us all now, (laughs).
DV: All working in the Fashion industry.
DL: She said you will all end up working in factories or you will all end up working on some part of production.
Dv: Everyone we have talked about today who we both know from your course all work in fashion.
DL: We were all told …..
Dv You can’t…..
DL: And we did. Talking about how things have changed, again its funny how you have different memories and I am sure she was doing this just to demonstrate different shapes but I remember the tutor in one of the early classes saying right everyone who thinks they are a size 10 come and stand here. It was about half of us. While we stood there, she went ‘right, she’s got jodhpur hips, she’s got this’, pointing out the ways in which we didn’t conform to the size or the pattern of a size 10. She was doing it I think to talk about pattern cutting but I remember at the time it was pretty humiliating (laughing).
So, it was quite a good course for making you resilient. Maybe because I am now at the University of the Arts which is more of a mono technic, I really remember the fact that I had friends who were doing architecture, their friends who were doing history so there was a real mixture of people who were like minded on very different courses from each other.
Dv: We always asked for projects we could do with the other courses who were in the same building as ourselves. With the students who were going on to be art directors in
Ad agencies and graphic designers and the fashion department. With the other students we knew we would eventually work with in the real world. But that never happened.
DL: 10 years down the line they do, do more of that now but it is very siloed. You can learn so much from somebody from a different discipline ask questions that people from the same discipline probably wouldn’t ask. We work with more social scientists than hard scientists, with some of the things we are working on you can say “this might sound like a stupid question, but…..”and then you realise how important that question is and you start to explore it yourself, and vice versa. I think there is huge amount of value for not being in your own little bubble as well.
Dv: After Manchester did you come straight to London?
DL: I did, by accident I wrote so many letters and was called up for an interview. Came down and was given a job on the spot. So the next thing I knew, I was in a phone box trying to phone up people from the then flat share section of the evening standard to quickly find somewhere to live. It was exciting it was great, it was also – I went to Manchester because of the music scene but London was also really vibrant at the time, I mean Kensington Market, was just fantastic and the Kings Road was fantastic at the time, as well.
Dv: I had friends who had a store in Kensington Market.DL: There was a store in the basement just selling mohair sweaters and I would sort of go and look at them every week I saved up and saved up and saved up for a bright pink mohair sweater. It was definitely a good time and the music was great down here as well. It was The Mud Club, and The Wag. It was also a very political time and fashion was about
challenging the system it was about that whole anti-establishment side of fashion. It is interesting now with the students who are challenging the system on the Sustainable front. They are doing so because they are anti-establishment. Fashion for a long time went through a phase of being full of people, who had great intentions, who were not necessarily fashion designers, but with good intentions. They had realised the amount of people employed in the fashion industry. They tried to develop something, it wasn’t done out of anger or trying to rip up the system. Now it is really exciting again there are all these different ways to think ‘what is it that fashion is actually about?’ It needs a bit of shaking up. Like it was when we were students the politicisation of what we were doing, it was the first kind of recycling and the first anti consumerism was all those guys.
DV: It was The Punks.
DL: It was exactly.
Dv: When you came to London you worked with Liberty and Whistles and eventually with Katharine Hamnett. It sounds like you were with her during her most interesting and questioning years. I have listened to interviews with her, where she has told about her horror at the impact the fashion industry was/is having on the environment and how she decided to step back from the business because of that. I remember at the time it being a shock that she was folding but at the time I didn’t know why.
DL: Katharine completely turned around what I was doing, it made everything make sense. It started with understanding pesticides and farmers so the social and environment sides of Monsanto having a complete market over, dominating the farmers and selling them GMC that was dreadful for the environment and then go into debt etc. They had made a commitment only to use organic cotton and the licensee said ok fine, fine, fine and Katharine found out that they were using conventional cotton so she took a film crew with her to the factory to expose it so then obviously the factory and then the licensee dropped her and sued her. The business stopped she was then being sued for having exposed it, it was kind of crazy times but she was amazing and didn’t bat an eyelid. We have to do this, and you know you regroup. So then we were doing it really small, garment dye in North London. Getting our fabric from Great Portland St etc. It was kind of like let’s just hone in and do what we can do well. And it kind of grew back again. In fact the Japanese licence was always really supportive. We had an Italian and the Japanese licence and they stuck with us through all of that.
Dv: Whenever Katharine stepped away was it difficult for you to stop designing? Or did you feel that is was absolutely the right path to go, time for change?
DL: This was another thing that accidently happened. When I was working with Katharine, I was invited in to LCF (London College of Fashion) to work on a project with the students. I assumed because I was working in a particular way, that the students in particular would be taught about the environmental and social issues in relation to fashion and that the curriculum had changed from when I was a student. I realised straight away that there was absolutely nothing in the curriculum about critical thinking in relation to the impacts, what are the cause and effects of design? Yet there was a huge appetite from students. Students were asking me “what should I do?” it was very much “what materials should I use?”.
Materials are important but it’s not only about the material so I created more and more projects. I was juggling the 2 things. Over time I think I went down to part-time with Katharine and the balance just kept creeping in one direction. It was never a sort of cut off point from one to the other. Or a decision, ‘right I am going to stop designing and start teaching”. A new head of college came in at LCF, she came in at the centenary of the college and had this big slogan “Fashioning The Future”. I did a sort of back of the envelope “well if you are going to talk about the future you absolutely have to change how you are teaching sustainability properly, not just with the odd project” and I scoped up this idea for the Centre for Sustainable Fashion with other people. There were a few of us who were part of the conversation including Lucy Seagall. A bit like the designers are doing now, getting together and creating a network.
DV: And across the world they are coming together.
DL: Yes and the things that people like Orsola de Castro are doing is incredible. We made an appointment to see the new head of college and presented Centre for Sustainable Fashion, this is what you should be doing, you should have courses, you should do research…and I sort of did it in naivety and she turned round and said “OK well yeah, I will give you a year, see if you can set something up, see if you can make it work, see if you can get funding, external funding to make it happen.” And I was like. OK, (laughs) so that’s when the Centre for Sustainable Fashion started and then I thought I just can’t, do the 2 at the same time. I think I carried on freelance for a little bit with Katharine and when I was working with her I found you just can’t switch it on and off - I can’t think “oh, right I’ve a day of doing design” and start at 9 and finish at 5, you can’t do that. I realised that I couldn’t do both things well. So, it sort of happened gradually and it was never sort of “right I am never going to design again” it was kind of “well this is right for now”.
Dv: And 12 years later –
DL: And 12 years later here I am.
DV: Long before Gretta and XR were on the scene you were talking about this and doing this. Leading the way and having the impetus of learning from Katharine and taking it forward, to educate. That is why we have designers today like Bethany Williams.
DL: Certainly, I was always part of a crew that I worked with. I have always been collaborative with others, it goes back to the family thing. It is amazing it was amazing although it almost felt as though we were late even then. I mean we already knew back in 2006/2007 that we needed to do things now and there were pockets of things happening and I assumed naively that within 4 or 5 years that it would become something that was in all curriculums everywhere and then CFC wouldn’t even exist. That was sort of the original plan. I did make a conscious choice, if you are going to make some change a great place to change is in education. You’ve got to make change in all sorts of places and as a designer I was able to change certain things, but that whole amplification effect of it, if you teach a group of students they all then go out and do things with it and so it multiplies. That then that felt the right thing to do . It felt really exciting. You get so much from working with students it is a really great hybrid space because on the one hand it is a space a of experimentation, as an undergraduate you have 3 years. However fashion is also really practical, you know you want to make a living out of it, so you need to be able to balance that one foot in one foot out and I think that is also where I am. There are some people also doing amazing work in changing the fashion system totally from outside it and there are people who are kind of inside it. I try to be both inside and outside and of sit in that tension which is interesting. Its not always easy and there is conflict there, but you sort of feel like it’s a dynamic place to be. And both fashion and education are very politicised now. The almost privatisation of education makes it less experimental in lots of ways and that is another challenge.
D: You have the job of empowering students to find their path and help push for the changes we need to see.
DL: Yes and then you see people like Bethany Williams and Phoebe English and you think WOW, this is fantastic, it amazing and its beyond anything I would have imagined people could do. It’s tricky times but it’s also fantastic times. Also, in different parts of the system. You have Bethany on one hand and someone who is at Stella McCartney now Claire Bergkamp who has done amazing things there it’s that thing of inside, outside. Bethany started her own thing completely, Claire is doing something inside a big luxury business but the two of them are creating change in different places simultaneously.
What Bethany and Phoebe are doing is redefining what a fashion designer is, working collaboratively working with others and recognising the value of other people and that way of working is a huge mindset change. When we were at college and even until quite recently in some courses and maybe still now. You literally don’t show anyone your sketches even, there is such a paranoia.
DV: But to make the changes they are saying look I have learnt how to do this, maybe if we bring this and this together …...
DL: Yes, and also education should be about giving you the confidence that your own work is distinctive. So nobody is going to copy you and do exactly the same, there are enough ideas out there.
DV: the only people stealing from the students are –
DL: the big guys –
DV: and they do.
DL: That is a whole different thing.
DV: As you said it’s an exciting time to be a designer.
DL: Yes and it’s probably the most challenging, but also potentially has the most opportunity, because the big guys don’t know what to do, because they can’t change their model. Their model is based on over stimulating the market, over producing and selling things so cheaply and quickly it is built on obsolescence and that for so many reasons is broken. So it’s the smaller guys who actually have more chance of survival in some ways. The big guys are either ignoring it or they are trying to do something and know that they are going to get to a certain point where their model is going to crack.
DV: They are green washing a lot of them.
DL: A lot of them are. Some of them have got good intentions, but just don’t know what to do with it. There’s the risk for a big business that’s got shareholders etc, etc that won’t invest unless you do certain things. They are more stuck, not that I am letting them off the hook but some of them have good intentions.
DV: We/They have got to educate their shareholders, and we’ve got a really important reason to do that. Its why Gretta and XR are out on the street and our children’s, children’s children need to be able to live on this planet.
DL: Technical changes take longer, big cultural changes can happen really quickly. So what extinction rebellion have done in 6 months has turned around peoples mindsets, awareness, what they think about, and so many areas of fashion culture now are realising it too That unless they engage in this conversation they are out to sink. Fashion has such an important role in all of this.
DV: I love some of the messages you have been giving us. A couple for examples, ‘What you stand up in’ and ‘Wear your values’.
DL: We did a whole project around it. That’s that whole thing of why fashion is a good way of being able to talk about something that seems like this huge problem. Somebody else’s problem, so we went out and set up these little kind of pop up exhibition spaces were we invited people in, in a disused shop for a day, or on the streets and went and talked to people about “what are you wearing?” Having a conversation about something you are wearing, what do you think about it, and in what way does it represent you? And actually people themselves simultaneously, start saying ‘yeah but I am not sure whether or not this has been made in a way that actually I feel comfortable with’, or ‘I don’t actually know that much about this’. So they themselves start questioning whether it does represent them. We had questions, “Do you stand up in what you stand up for?” “What is it you want to stand up for?” “What do you care about?” When you ask people what they care about everybody does care about nature. Everyone does actually care about community. We get distracted into doing different things, buying different things. There is a fundamental sense of human values that are totally in sync with caring for each other and for where we live. The whole project is saying we do actually care. Most people do actually really care. So stand up in what you stand up for. Ask those questions. There is no one answer, that you can say. That you should buy this, or you don’t buy that. Just be curious, actually ask. Ask who you are buying from or swapping with or whatever, its more of an evolving conversation than the sort of linear that’s good, that’s bad.
DV: Sustainability is not just one person we all of have to come together. As you said ‘it’s like a patchwork and together we create a new cloth’. But also with that we have so much cloth existing already. Why should we be growing, using the planet to grow new clothes when there are tonnes and tonnes and tonnes and tonnes of it out there.
DL: That whole thing of we are running out of resources, we have plenty of resources, we are just not good at using them, recognising them.
DV: And re-using them to create something new, from what already exists. With that in mind, how do we slow the growth of fast fashion while keeping fashion alive because people still have the desire to learn how to do this. We still need people to create clothing for us and put clothing on our backs. How do we then go and educate the masses?
Something I read on Instagram recently was that Sustainability needs the same PR person as the Corona Virus has at the minute. We should be speaking about the environment in the same way we are speaking about the Corona Virus because quite frankly its bigger.
DL: It is, it’s much bigger, that’s that whole thing about spin and what actually gets the headlines and what gets peoples attention. I think fashion is such an important thing to all of us and it is something really personal. Many things are important simultaneously If people even stopped believing the hype and actually started thinking differently and behaving differently. We have always been stylish, but we haven’t always bought so many clothes a month. You could potentially say we used to be more stylish when we had less.
DV: That’s wonderful, yes, I would agree completely.
DL: It’s not about less fashion it’s us really valuing what it is that we have already that we can wear. That we can do different things with it ourselves. It’s the whole idea behind ‘The Makers Manifesto’, I don’t know if you have come across it? It was a load of Techies who created a manifesto, in response to electronics goods that were made that you can’t take apart and put back together again. The manifesto states that good design means that you should be able to completely deconstruct something and easily reconstruct it again. Unless you can do that it’s not good design. I think it’s the same with fashion. Clothes used to be made in a way that you could change them, alter them, do different things with them, so generations could wear them. A lot of it now you just can’t do that with. So if that stuff becomes identified as crap design then you start to change people’s mindsets and it’s culture changing. We all love a bit of novelty, if something is cheap you think if I don’t like it, it only costs whatever so let’s buy it. We need to retrain ourselves and to say, ‘actually I have spent this much over the last 6 months on not great clothes and OMG I could have had this beautiful piece instead.’ And that is why the media and photographers and journalists as well as designers as well as people all have to be part of this it all has to be a new era, a new awareness.
DV: A conversation that is happening all the time so that it is not only something that pops up now and again that it’s there all of the time, part of everyone’s consciousness.
DL: That’s something we all have to have. The energy to keep on, because as much as we have great evidence and some really good things going on, overall the fashion system is still going in the wrong direction and it’s not even plateaued. The environmental degradation because of the fashion industry is still increasing, we still have a lot more to say a lot more to do. In some ways you know, yeah, I have worked with some really amazing people and done some amazing things that I am really proud of over the past 12 years, but actually the situation is worse than it was 12 years ago. Now I feel even more the I need to be bolder, more radical and that thing of being inside, outside not to be afraid, to maybe, not fall out with people, but to be more honest and more straight even, with the people you work with. You know it’s funny we joined with XR to write a letter the British Fashion Council before the shows this season, we also work with the BFC and a lot of our designers rely on them for various things. I thought about it, talked to the team, and we decided we have to do this we can’t just pussy foot around. Interestingly Caroline Rush the CEO of the BFC, came to me afterwards and said ‘yes you are right you are right to call us to account we do need to do more.’ So in some ways you sort of do have to just say these things. I think we need to say them more now. There was a phase where we were needing to bring people on board but now it’s got to be, - Extinction Rebellion, - Rebellion, in its original term means to negate some things and to exalt other things. So it’s not like revolutionary, throw everything out. Its about things we can’t stand anymore, we are not going to stand for it, these are the things we are going to save, these are great, let make them bigger. So I suppose that’s in my mind going forward, it’s like certain things now, I am not going to do anymore at all, and certain things I am really going to support.
DV: Katharine’s words always ring in my ears, if a t-shirt costs less than £10 it means someone along the supply chain is not being paid. On Instagram recently someone was selling 2 organic t shirts for £8. I called them out for it using Katharine’s words.
DL: It doesn’t add up. Although there are also some things that are a lot more expensive that are still not ethical. The environmental audit committee did an amazing report about a year ago and it was cross party so there were all parts of government that put it together and endorsed it. It was led by Mary Creagh who was an amazing Labour MP and she lost her seat. So now more than ever we have got to step up
DV: Talking of politics and business, Katharine is so well known for her political statement t-shirts, in the 80’s and stepping in front of Margaret Thatcher, and all that exploded from there – I see you have been following in her footsteps and were recently in No.10 yourself.
DL: And I was conflicted about doing this for the same reasons, didn’t want to be complicit in their sort of greenwashing where they get to say ‘well you know we invited some people in’, but we don’t get to say anything. So I wore my t-shirt that you saw earlier on (see triptych above). It is a constant challenge of, you are not going to change something unless you actually talk to all sorts of different people. On the other hand, if you are just used, if you are brought in but you don’t actually have any agency you become part of their greenwashing. So, you have to be super careful.
DV: I heard a podcast a while ago where Bono was saying something similar. That although you may not agree with much of what the other political party is saying you still have to go speak to them so you can find common ground to build on. To make change happen.
DL: Also polarisation hasn’t helped us. It's about working out what triggers will work for different people because ultimately we all need to have a planet to live on and we all need each other as a social species, nobody wants to live in isolation (though while I write these poignant words today we are all self-isolating, globally from the CV). Actually we do all want similar things but the way to that is going to be very different according to your political, cultural, religious background and understandings so it is about being able to speak in ways that work for different people and that is critical. At the same time though it is making sure that your not doing something that’s just a distraction. It’s not just tinkering at the edges and doing something really simplistic. That’s not actually making a difference, is our biggest worry that some of the stuff is not enough at all and if we focus our energies on it..…… meanwhile we are sawing the branch off the tree we are standing on.
DV: But we see, if we look again at the CV we see how quickly we are all effected globally.
DL: We can change out behaviour, really quickly. So, do we wait until we have to, or can we be smart enough to start doing it now? It is a kind of crisis of whether as humans we want to self-destruct or whether we want to find ways to live better it’s not just about more money, or more stuff.
DV: More stuff ends up in somebody else’s back yard, trash that we will need back to recycle anyway.
DL: Certainly, from a fashion perspective, nobody wants to design something that nobody’s going to wear. For a designer, I think when I studied, I learnt how to make a collection and thought about it as far as the showroom. Whereas now we are encouraging students to think about the whole life of the garment. Show that what you design can be worn in different ways by different people, what’s going to happen to it and what are the different routes it could take. So, it’s expanded the idea of what fashion is hugely, and expanded the kind of people we work with. We were talking before about different disciplines. I worked in a sample room with great people who were all from fashion whether they were technical, whether they were design people or whatever. Whereas now I work with people who are scientists, people from government people from all sorts of roles in life which is really fantastic.
DV: When did/do the scientists come on board?
DL: It depends on which project we are working on sometimes we work with environment scientists, because the whole sort of mantra of my design practice is that it’s is always values led but knowledge based. So you are led by your values and things you care about. But unless you’ve got an evidence base to know that what you are doing is right or not, you have got to have the science there. But the science needs the design. So we work with environmental scientists or we refer to the work of scientists in what we do. But it is very much about the design practice.
DV: I love what you did with Selfridges and the check list that you created for them. That’s fantastic, everybody should have a check list.
DL: Yes, because it’s no good designing something really well and encouraging designers to do that and the buyers not recognising the difference. So that’s why we thought of simultaneously making what the media, the story in the press, what buyers are looking for and what designers are doing match up. Otherwise you would be doing great stuff, but if no one even recognises it then they won’t buy it.
DV: I guess it also allows them to question what is happening in the factories when they go visit.
DL: Buyers are starting to think differently about what it is that their role is. Is fashion just about selling stuff, or are there other ways in which to be able to look at the fashion and cultural sector, at ways to do things differently. More and more people like Selfridges are putting on projects putting on more exhibitions and events that are not just about selling you stuff.
DV: Let’s look to the future. It is only 10 years until 2030 when we need complete systematic change in place. I am sure you have seen huge shifts in technology in the past 12 years and amazing new fabrics emerging. In only 1 year the fabric expo has expanded from one small room to a huge event. How do we harness that amazing technology for our own good without technology running away with us?
DL: Technology is only as good as its purpose and the people using it and what their intentions are. Hopefully we are coming through a curve, even our personal technology has been in the hands of people who just want to sell us more stuff and most of us have been quite passive in letting that happen and not switching off and not working offline and allowing that distraction. I think there’s the beginnings of a sea change. I see it in students, I see it in my kids tech. They are able and better at having agency to decide what works for them. I am not saying that they are totally aware of all the different things that are going around and what is being captured etc but technology is only as good as the purpose of who is behind it is concerned. There is a lot of technology which is used to try and hold on to the current system trying to make it more efficient. Yet with the law of diminishing returns, any garment possibly has more traceability more understanding of where things come from and there are more ways to be able to do things, to wash less or whatever. Yet there is an exponential rise in the amount of stuff being made. So it doesn’t matter how much the efficiency of one pair of jeans being created with half the water content if you are selling 10 times as many jeans as you were a year ago, then it is totally facile. Its green washing at best, at worst it is just there to distract people and make people think that its fine, that enough is being done. I think there is a role for technology and tech touches all our lives it’s done all sorts of things that we couldn’t do, but I think you have to be really careful, to know what the purpose is behind the use of a particular technology and ultimately we have to live with less. So any technology that says “Oh yeah you can just have as much stuff and it will be cleaner, greener, clean growth’ doesn’t add up. We actually have to learn to live with half or 25% of the stuff we currently live with. We could probably live really well on that. And we will live really well with that.
DV: Our ancestors did.
DL: Exactly. It’s just a question of when people stop holding on to this old world of being able to get cheap things quick and thinking, that is kind of cool to actually think that, to it so not being cool. Its far better more enjoyable, more relaxing to be able to do things with what we’ve already got. And maybe thinking back to the virus people actually realising that you can do things without getting all this stuff all the time. Dreadful as it, but if there are elements of it that make people stop and think that health and wellbeing and the earth actually matter. Nothing else does, that will be a positive.
DV: I know A.I. and that sort of thing is coming through and am sure you have seen the digital fashion coming also with The Fabricant and A.Hot.Second. Will this be our more sustainable future? Might this be a fix for fast fashion? Kids get all techie and create their own digital wardrobe and you can buy your own digital wardrobe and that is the fast fashion fix. Then we are careful with the actual material things we have?
DL: Fashion has always been many different things to different people and I am sure there is a place for that kind of thing. But is not going to be the fix. The problem is that we are not diverse enough in every way. Whether it’s the material we use, because, 90% of the material still used is either cotton or polyester, it’s sort of like a 2 horse race almost 50/50.
Then there is a tiny amount silk, wool, mushrooms, pineapple or whatever. Its tiny. If we were more diverse with the materials we are using, are more diverse with the business models that we are using, diverse in the ways in which we are enjoying fashion then there would be different things that different people could do. So I am sure that A.I. and virtual clothes and things like that will be part of it. But it should be one of many different things. As we said it should be a patchwork. Fashion should be a patchwork of different things that work for different people in different locations.
DV: It has its own carbon emissions as well. All the tech giants with their mega storage facilities.
DL: And they are storing things in the middle of deserts that need huge amounts of energy to keep things cool. That’s where the myth of 100% sustainable is, there is no such thing. The world is dynamic it is constantly changing all the time, so you don’t have a fixed point. There is no fixed point. But some things are more appropriate to a place and the resources in that place than others and some things are actually in balance and some things are out of balance.
DV: As you have always said fashion isn’t just about selling clothes. And I have found that women are leading the way here. I think that if nature was called father nature the planet might be a very different place.
DL: I have never even heard that, yes you are right absolutely right we also have to get over, 200 years of a very mechanistic, technocratic view of the world and very science based view and quantitative measurement view that’s very male. Maybe this is also part of a move towards the female sense of the world.
DV: At the least equality would be good wouldn’t it. I would be happy with that.
DL: And that is why we have to keep being resilient. And women, without generalising with that sense of being able to negotiate with being able to deal with different things that are porous that are sometimes inexplicable, are sometimes unknown, where sometimes there is an uncertainty the female side of all of us can deal with that better because it is relatable. Instead of black white, yes no, up down, which is actually very fragile as there is no clear yes no in the world.
Dilys is wearing
Shot 1 - Cardi/ t shirt Comme des Garcons, saved up for this one, bought 20 years ago, necklace, the amazing Michelle Lowe Holder, uses only re-purposed materials, trousers sample sale from Stella McCartney (navy trousers for life!)
Shot 2 & 8 - Red spot shirt 1980s deadstock, Portobello market, green cardigan, Griffith by Glenmac, probably 1960s, judging by label, Portobello, skirt Martin Margiela, Fara charity shop in Notting Hill, shoes bought for my wedding, broach amazing jeweller Simon Harrison (a gift, this time from a colleague).
Shot 3 - T shirt made by Dilys from a base organic T from Rapanui. Trousers sample sale from Stella McCartney (navy trousers for life!) shoes Swedish Hasbeens, relatively new, 5 years old.
Shot 4, 7 & 11 - Jumpsuit a pretty amazing gift (given to me by my husband who exchanged it with Stella McCartney for ‘musical services’), emergency armband made by students at London College of Communication.
Shot 5 & 9 - Black and white dress with red tie 1980s, Portobello market badge gift from a friend shoes Jil Sander Navy (navy and white sandals for life!)
Shot 6 & 10 - Dress French cadet uniform, date unknown, Portobello market, necklace, the amazing Michelle Lowe Holder, uses only re-purposed materials, shoes Olivia Morris, amazing shoe designer, bought over 20 years ago.