Two years ago today, a garment factory collapsed in Rana Plaza, Bangladesh, killing 1129 people, making it the worst single industrial accident in Bangladesh’s recent history. The event, while horrifying, was also expected to be the catalyst for change in an industry known for its complete disregard for its worker’s safety, as well as the wide-ranging environmental effects its production has on our planet.
A few months after the incident, I remember shop assistant’s responses began to change when I asked about the production of their clothes – apparently I was no longer one of a few curious shoppers out there – but as far as I can tell, the change stopped there.
So on the anniversary of an horrific event, I’ve decided to finally launch my very own series on sustainable living & design, focusing on the positives and featuring designers, makers, creators and ordinary humans who are making solid attempts to be the change they wish to see in the world. But first, I figured why not start with a quasi-book review of Lucy Siegle’s To Die For: Is fashion wearing out the world?, a book that completely changed my way of thinking.
When I first started reading To Die For, I tended to carry the book with the cover facing my body. I'm not a so-called fashionista or a person renowned for being on point when it comes to trends - friends and colleagues say they admire my quirky style and individuality - sometimes that is meant as a compliment, sometimes it's not. I don't particularly care either way. What I didn't want though, was to have people suddenly thinking that I consider myself to be any of these things. I was, rather ironically, too invested in maintaining the demeanour of someone who didn't care.
As I continued reading though, becoming more and more fascinated by the book’s contents, I grew lazy and carried it whichever way it happened to land in my hand. And I'm glad, because the reactions and discussions sparked by the book with naught but a coat hanger by way of illustration became a huge part of the narrative and experience of the book itself.
Many of the reactions were exactly what I'd feared - haughty snickering and bemusement at this 20-something in a mix of corporate wear and vintage. I was sarcastically asked countless times, "so, IS fashion wearing out the world?", mostly by men in their late 20s or older who'd then start chuckling.
The fun reactions though were from people I didn't expect. People who would find out what the book was actually about and would then dive head first into a heavy discussion about the impact of fashion and the general high rate of consumption on the world. People regaled me with stories about time spent in South East Asia where they happened to come face-to-face with some of the terrors of the clothing industry and others just joked about the terrifying experience that is being a Perth kid walking into Primark on Oxford Street, London (I know I lasted about two bewildered minutes in there before I was running for the exit).
Others wondered if the fact that their t-shirts only lasted a few washes was having a negative impact and countless people asked me how they could improve their own habits - where should they buy from and what should they change. I did the best I could with answering but, unfortunately, having read one book (and a few articles) on ethical buying didn’t turn me into an expert.
Something that it has seen me do though is to research brands and items of clothing before I fork out for them. I've been doing my own little search for ethical brands, small designers and interesting stories, and given all the interest one little book has generated amongst the people around me, I've decided to share all the positive results of my search here.
I won't be telling you which brands are evil, because there's enough nay-saying in the world, but I will be doing my best to keep you updated on which brands and items I find that keep track of their supply chain, support their workers with a living wage and are aware of and aim to minimise their own environmental impact.
I'll be posting little tidbits about research that I find interesting or useful, and to make it fun, I'll throw in some photoshoots as well (of course!) featuring yours truly and anyone else who is interested in moonlighting as a model for me (seriously, hit me up if you’re keen!).
Oh I think this could be fun!