Coronavirus and climate change are both global crises. They reveal our interconnectedness as humans, and that for our survival, we depend on the actions of others. Indeed coronavirus is the first check that neoliberal consumerist growth economics has had in more than 50 years. The economic sudden stop it has created has revealed how modern economies are wired (globalised, growth-obsessed, limited ethics). With the pause in industrial activity, satellite images have shown significantly reduced emissions and air pollution. Naturally, scaling down energy use and industrial production does have ecological benefits, yet in the corona crisis this is happening in a chaotic way without an eye on future planetary security. A recent research report from Penn State has shown that in the fashion sector this is already hitting the most vulnerable the hardest, with a devastating effect on factory workers as brands cancel or postpone production orders – refusing, in many cases, to pay for clothing their supplier factories have already produced.
At the same time, coronavirus is teaching us lessons about the nature of our governments’ responses: our elected bodies have shown us that they can spend freely when they want to; that the economy can be turned towards society’s needs; and that this can happen quickly and decisively.
The pandemic is also teaching us the importance of not looking away from the underlying, systemic issues that dogged the fashion sector before corona and that will still be there afterwards, whatever the format of future industry. Now is the time to ‘stay with the trouble’ of overhauling growth logic, the single largest impediment to transforming the fashion sector, and to devise a planned approach to revitalising a sector that is equitable, just, long-term and is based on putting Earth first.
As we redevelop the fashion economy to adjust to a fossil fuel-free world which inevitably requires a reduction in materials demand, to a world that places far greater value on local resilience, on a plurality of different ways of providing for and expression fashion, we must not go back to the status quo ante. ‘Normal’, as Greta Thunberg said recently, ‘was a crisis’. And growth logic was part of this crisis. Perhaps now more than ever, that we must not revert to the old ways, to familiar or prescribed narratives or ‘solutions’. Instead we need to deal in discomfort and uncertainty, and to stay with the trouble of building a new logic for the fashion sector, a new Earth Logic, that will bring us deep and lasting change.
Six years in the making, my first book of autoethnographic writing about clothing and nature, is just out. Published by the independent press Uniform books, Wild Dress is available from the usual channels or direct from Uniform. It is fashion and sustainability, but not as you know it.
Just released – Earth Logic: Fashion Action Research Plan – a bold and radical programme of action for the fashion sector which puts earth, and all her inhabitants, first. Earth Logic, written by Kate Fletcher and Mathilda Tham is downloadable via the Earth Logic website. It is written to kickstart a far-reaching programme of change in the sector in line with uncompromising deadline of just a decade to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown.
A little under a year on from the first edition of the zine The Way of Rebellion, Volume 2 is now out! This issue explores nature and fashion. Inside there’s moss, the importance of biodiversity and the everyone else.
As before we have fifty copies of “The Way of Rebellion Volume 2” to give away for free. Email me your postal address (not email) and I’ll organise for one to be mailed to you.
Contributors: Kate Fletcher, Anna Fitzpatrick, Rene Cuoco, Louise St Pierre.
After a four year co-writing and editing process, Design and Nature: A Partnership, is available now! The idea for the book began on a ferry and ended up with 25 wide-ranging chapters which all explore a changed relationship between design and the planet on which we live characterised by interdependence, humility and new ways of knowing.
The three editors, myself, Louise St Pierre and Mathilda Tham are excited for what will follow its release and grateful to all of the contributing authors.
Design and Nature is available from all the usual bookstores, more information can be found on the publisher’s website.
As signatories of the Manifesto published by the Union of Concerned Researchers in Fashion; we, the speakers and facilitators of the forthcoming Practices of Change seminar at OsloMet, are seeking to enact changes not just to what research examines but also to the ways research is presented and used. This is essential if we are serious about turning things around, and to bring the fashion and textile industry — an environmentally polluting sector characterised by overproduction and overconsumption of goods — into an area of activity with more sustainable and responsible consumption of the earth’s resources, with a focus on life, quality and real world properties and functions of materials.
Those who have signed the Union’s manifesto (over 400 from around the globe) commit themselves to contributing to positive change, through various measures such as consumer and academic education, radical actions and cooperation. The goal is to bring about a fundamental transformation of a sector and not just minor changes. The problem with small steps is that the thinking associated with it, often fails to grasp the fact that the problem is one of the system. It’s a problem that can’t be tackled by taking care of the parts. Further it gives disproportionate power to elites — often industry groups — with the effect of legitimising no change and the status quo. In doing so, small steps may lead us in the wrong direction. One example is the unilateral focus on technological innovations in the field of ‘sustainable textiles’ or ‘sustainable fibres’ and ‘recycling’. This has prevented the necessary slowdown in overproduction and allowed the commercial forces to have complete freedom of action and control as if the solutions for the climate, environmental, waste and health challenges we face, are right around the corner.
By arranging meeting places where research can be presented and put in the right context; where the researchers can convert the knowledge into a phase of actual solutions, we believe that we can carry out the task that UCRF has challenged us to. We recognise that change is urgent, but it must not be rash. Instead it must be based on deep knowledge of planetary boundaries; loss of biodiversity, the demise of our biosphere and, not least, the enormous waste-problem that plastic (also from clothing) has caused.
But to do this work we also need the bodies and organisations that grant funding or support projects to channel research funding into progressive and multifarious types of projects that ask questions that matter for long term, that seek to move beyond the priorities of the dominant forces today. This might for example be concerned with how to make changes for individuals and businesses, among other groups; while considering measures that prevent the actual costs of our destruction of the globe from being borne by innocent third parties, be they humans, animals or natural habitats.
We wish to pose a challenge to researchers and funding bodies alike, and ask which practices they will change and when as we accept both responsibility and leadership for altering how we live on our finite, beautiful and warming planet?
Kate Fletcher, Ingun Grimstad Klepp and Else Skjold.
The Union is inviting people to read the manifesto, and if you like what it says and are prepared to stand up for its agenda, then to add your name. In the first two weeks, the list of signatories extended to more than 150 individuals from six continents.
October 2018 — a Chinese translation of Fashion & Sustainability: Design for Change has just been released, making this book now available in five languages! The Chinese edition includes a special preface.