ASIP at the Vogue Festival 2013: Can fashion change the world?
THE ASIP BLOGGER
TUESDAY 30 APRIL 2013
When you open your wardrobe in the morning and choose what to wear, do you think you’re changing the world in a small way? Do you know the impact of your fashion purchases, both socially and environmentally? Dame Vivienne Westwood thinks most of us “don’t have a clue” what’s going on in the world. And she has a lot to say on this subject – far too much to squeeze into the five minute slot Vogue magazine had given her at this year’s festival!
ASIP Members settled down to hear an esteemed panel – Livia Firth, Katharine Hamnett, Tom Craig and Dame Vivienne – discuss the big question, ‘Can fashion change the world?’ at the Vogue Festival 2013 on London’s Southbank last week. The festival itself is a whirlwind two days of talks from some of the biggest names in the industry. The in-the-know fashion crowd milled back and forth from talks by the likes of Paul Smith, Alexa Chung, Mario Testino, Victoria Beckham and Donatella Versace with the most stylish being snapped for ‘street style’ pieces (including one of our own ASIP members below who was papped by American Vogue!).
Ethical fashion was a heavy subject to address, and certainly one too big for the designated 45-minute slot, but its mere inclusion on the programme shows that the social and environmental impact of clothing manufacture is being taken more seriously by the fashion industry.
The recent tragedy of the clothing factory collapse in Bangladesh hung heavy over the discussion. Katharine Hamnett admitted she had scrapped her planned talk to address the immediate underlying political issues that surround the West’s demand for cheap clothing. Clearly angry and upset with the situation, Hamnett is now campaigning for suitable legislation at EU level to ensure clothing imports adhere to strict ethical certifications. If that means fewer cheap clothes, so be it.
Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman described panellist Livia Firth as having long disguised herself as ‘red carpet arm candy for Colin Firth’ in order to infiltrate the high-end fashion world via her Green Carpet Challenge. Today, the challenge has the cooperation of some of fashion’s biggest names including Lanvin, Gucci and Chanel. Livia, as creative director of consultancy Eco Age, travels the world visiting fabric manufacturers and garment makers to get to the heart of how we can improve the supply chain for the benefit of the environment and local people. Firth advises us to think of the ‘fashion mileage’ per garment, buying sustainable pieces that last – ultimately helping to “change fashion one wardrobe at a time”.
Firth name-checked some of her favourite ethical labels, including People Tree and Pachacuti – but how much change can small, independent labels and the luxury designer brands create when the bulk of our desire for cheap, unethical clothing is found on the high-street?High-street chain H&M is generating a name for itself in this arena with its H&M Conscious Collection. Its 2013 range, launched with a Vanessa Paradise-fronted campaign, is very wearable without a scratchy hemp shirt in sight! Each piece is made from sustainable materials such as organic cotton and recycled polyamide, and the H&M Conscious Foundation behind it supports community projects and aids development initiatives in Third World areas. The collection has now expanded into occasion wear with film stars Michelle Williams and Helen Hunt wearing the dresses during the latest red carpet season.
ASOS is another mainstream brand expanding into ethical fashion with its ASOS Africa collection, a range made by a band of thirty women from African manufacturer Soko. The Spring/Summer range sold out online after Michelle Obama wore one of the jackets. ASOS understand that it’s not just about improving your ethical credentials but actually making fashionable, desirable clothing that stylish women want to wear.
Back on the panel, Dame Vivienne, in the sort of outspoken and eccentric mode for which we all love her, led the audience on a rather rambling but insightful journey through a potted history of government action, economic models and climate catastrophe (she urges everyone to visit her website www.activeresistance.co.uk – be in no doubt this is a woman on a mission to change more than just your fashion perceptions). As the time ticked away Vogue’s facilitator couldn’t cut her short – “it’s not my fault that you haven’t organised this properly”, Dame Viv spat, to much laughter!
"Can fashion change the world?' wasn’t a subject to cover in an hour, but it did end on a simple note from Dame Vivienne: “The world wouldn’t be in trouble if people didn’t buy rubbish and just bought beautiful things.”
The ASIP blogger