Brighton Fashion Week went all the way with sustainable fashion!

It was Brighton Fashion Week last weekend and every single event had sustainability at it’s core. There were talks, upcycling workshops, debates, a competition to see who could create the best piece of clothing out of rubbish, catwalks and a clothes swap.
I would have loved to go to all the events, but I couldn’t make most of them unfortunately. I did make it to see Orsola de Castro talk though and she was brilliant.

Sustainable gift wrap course
Orsola is a fashion designer who started upcycling clothes before anyone knew what upcycling was. She said it all started by accident. She was going out somewhere and wanted to wear a particular jumper, but it had holes in it and she decided to fill the holes by crocheting. Then she took it to a shop where her designs were being sold and her upcycled jumper idea took off, even becoming popular with the rich and famous! In 1997 her label From Somewhere was born and she upcycled mountains of pre-loved clothes. It was all going really well, but there were problems with not being able to provide a standard product as they had to rely on what was available on the secondhand market. Then Orsola had the idea of taking the scraps from the cutting room floor of high end clothing manufacturers and her label still follows that model today.

Orsola has been involved in keeping sustainable and ethical fashion high on the agenda and most recently helped to co-found Fashion Revolution  – a campaign to get people asking the question ‘Who made my clothes’. In particular on one day a year they ask people to tweet a picture of the label on their clothes to the brand who made them and ask them who made them. To find out more visit the website here.

In connection with that Orsola was also involved in encouraging people to show their #haulternative ‘s. Apparently lots of people share their shopping ‘hauls’ on YouTube. Some of those people have thousands or millions of followers. So the idea was to get in touch with some of them, tell them about the problems of cheap labour and fast fashion and to get them to show their #haulternatives (searchable on Twitter) instead as part of Fashion Revolution Day.

This lady is local to me so I’m sharing her #haulternative as an example:

I’m loving the whole #haulternative thing, although on a slight tangent I am a member of a Facebook Group – No New Clothes For a Year set up by Jen Gale of  Make Do and Mendable (join it here), where the challenge is to not buy any clothes for a year. It started in September and I joined it and went out and bought some clothes from a charity shop pretty much straight away, but I haven’t bought anything since and I’m going to try and stick to the challenge (barring underwear).  Anyway some people in the group are posting what they are wearing each day, so I wonder what a no new clothes #haulternative would look like :). Maybe a video showing outfits that people have worked out how to wear in new ways e.g. new combinations or with accessories they hadn’t paired with them before or adjustments they had made to them???

Orsola isn’t just passionate about upcycling, she is also passionate about the factory workers who make the clothes having good working conditions and fair pay and one of the things that stuck with me about her speech is that she said something along the lines of this:

In the same way many of us don’t want to eat food that has been soaked in pesticides and fertilisers, I don’t want to wear clothes soaked in other people’s misery. 

Whether or not misery can actually direct infect us through the clothes we wear, it can be just as damaging to us in the long term as pesticides are. Workers in poor conditions, being paid low wages are not in a good position to protect the environment, but often they are on the front lines in places where the environment needs protecting the most. These workers may be suffering alongside the environment from the hazardous chemicals being used in the clothing industry, but they are fighting to live, to feed and shelter their families and can’t make their health and safety their priority let alone anyone or anything else’s.

There is no doubt the fashion industry needs to change and it’s so great that Brighton Fashion Week decided to address the challenges facing the industry head on. I’m looking forward to next years event! If you want to know more about Brighton Fashion Week take a look at their website here!

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