Fashion Revolution Week runs every year from April 23-29 and encourages people to ask brands #whomademyclothes. It brings people around the world together to campaign for a fairer, safer and cleaner fashion industry and celebrates those who are on a journey to making it happen.
Around 80% of the 75 million people who make our clothes are women - and sometimes children. Many, especially in countries like Bangladesh and India, are paid very little and often work in unpleasant and downright unsafe conditions. Our drive for a constant supply of cheap fashion in the Western world has had a horrifying impact on the environment and on the conditions of people who make them.
But here’s the good news: there’s now an abundance of designers and brands producing beautiful clothing in a more conscious way. The people who make them have been fairly paid and the way they are made is much more environmentally sustainable. And they look stunning.
Conscious fashion has come of age. There are more choices than ever for the stylish woman who wants to have a positive impact with her clothing choices.
We interviewed a group of fashionable professional women about their personal style and why they’re drawn to conscious fashion.
Hannah Tufts: cyber security consultant, international speaker on ‘tech and mindfulness’
Personal style: casual with a bit of glam
Hannah runs her own business - Exhale Barcelona - so needs a wardrobe that’s versatile and chic. She might be meeting a client, squeezing in a walk with her dog, before going to yoga. She tends to wear a lot of black and accessorise with bold but classic accessories and beautiful shoes.
She recently became more conscious of the impact of her fashion choices:
‘I went to a talk given by Paula, who runs Sheer Apparel. I had no idea about the appalling impact of how clothes are made. It was a real watershed moment for me. My fashion choices had already ‘grown up’ a bit, so I’ve been choosing to buy fewer quality pieces over cheap ones that I could only wear a few times, so it came at a good moment.
I enjoy knowing that, by changing how I shop, I’m investing in classic pieces I’ll wear for years, my budget goes further and the person who made them isn’t being exploited. It makes wearing beautiful clothes even more of a pleasure!’
Maggie Dugan: International Innovation Consultant, Founder of Inclusive Innovation
Personal style: bohemian yet practical
One look at Maggie and you know she’s a woman with a distinctive, striking personal style. Originally from the US, she’s lived in Paris and Barcelona and regularly works all over the world, from Rwanda to Cambodia. Working in developing countries has made her more aware of the impact of her choices on the choices of others in places like Asia. A recent visit to an exhibition on the social and environmental cost of cheap clothing shocked her and forever changed what she thinks about when she chooses clothes.
She describes her style and life: ‘Because I facilitate groups, I wear clothes to provoke but not distract. I dabble with designers but don’t follow any. I’m bohemian but not a hippie.
A lot of the things in my closet are 10 years old. I’m prepared to spend money on something I know I’ll keep for 10 years rather than spending 35 euros on something that will fall apart after one wash.’
Conscious fashion options are finally broad enough to suit Maggie’s unique style and taste for quality classics, and that’s a draw. ‘I’m definitely shifting where I buy things. I want to know how and where they were made.’
Gillian Kennedy - holistic nutrition and lifestyle coach and yoga teacher
Personal style: Casual chic to suit an active lifestyle
Gill describes her style as ‘liking to dress down dressier outfits and dress up casual outfits.’
‘I swap between teaching yoga, working in an office and cycling everywhere. I’ll also often meet friends for an evening out. I need to be professional and look smart but comfortable.’
Becoming conscious about her fashion choices was a natural next step for Gill. She grew up in an environmentally-conscious culture in Canada and is a wellness coach. Choosing clothes that are beautiful and that she knows have not been damaging to the environment is, for her, true beauty.
‘I’ve definitely changed how I shop as I’ve gotten older. Now I ask questions I never used to - Do I need this? Do I want this? Will I be able to wear it for 7 years? I buy more classics now. Trends change so fast - but they come back in style fast now, so I re-wear classic clothes.’
Gill is proof you can look like you’re not trying too hard and look like you care about your look, about the environment and about the people who made your clothes. Check out her website.
Liz Evans: professional photographer
Personal style: Sports chic/ luxe with a hint of Scandi architect or Victorian gothic
Liz looks for a wardrobe that looks stylish but can handle the need to sometimes run or lie face-down on the ground to get a shot. She’s gotten more conscious over the years of how she eats, and, like many others, that led her to think about her clothes.
‘It was dawning on me that the fashion world has a drastic impact on the environment. We’ve all heard about sweatshops and child labour in the industry, but I’ve erred on the side of optimism and assumed the brands I’ve bought from are different. Turns out they’re not. When I realised couture fashion is made in the same places by the same people with the same material shocked me. It made me uncomfortable, it made me angry, and it made me do something. I shop differently now.’
Shadya Karawi-Name - psychologist, writer and international speaker
Personal style: comfortable, classic, with a bit of va-va voom
Shadya laughs, ‘I’m Latin and Arab. We don’t underdress. My look has to be powerful but practical. I wear a lot of black I can mix and match and I love skirts and dresses worn with strong accessories.’ She loves to play with her look and shops for things that can go from a session with a client to lunch with a friend to an evening out.
One of Shadya’s great passions is animals, and, as a result, she became a vegan three years ago. That made her a label-reader, and her focus on consciousness about what she ate naturally translated into becoming more curious about the process behind what she wears. So she shops differently now, and is steadily changing her wardrobe and approach to re-wearing clothes, rather than always wanting something new.
‘We can all make a difference - one by one. We sometimes think what we do doesn’t matter, but when we combine our energy we can really change things.’
These gorgeous, stylish women are proof that it’s possible to look beautiful and feel beautiful about your fashion choices. Your choices do matter. It’s never been so easy to have a wardrobe filled with clothes that are beautiful in every way, from how they look to how they were made. Conscious fashion has definitely come of age.
Photos: Liz Evans Photography
About Betsy Reed
Betsy is a campaigner, speaker and sustainability advisor to big brands and governments. She runs her own consultancy, Big Sky, and teaches yoga in Barcelona. She describes her style as ‘urban Scandi chic with a dramatic flourish’ - mostly dark colours, knits mixed with flourishes of African prints or statement jewelry. And bright lipstick is her signature look.
‘It was while I was leading a national fair trade campaign in Scotland that I truly understood the cost of my wardrobe. You can’t un-know that most of the clothes available to us have contributed to the poverty of those who made them. The anger and discomfort that created has been transformational.
But there are now so many beautiful options that are made ethically, that I can afford and that make me look and feel good, I enjoy shopping again. I’ve run enough campaigns to know that when people like us wake up and choose to do better - and demand brands and governments do better - things can change quickly.’
This blog was originally published on the Sheer Apparel site, to mark Fashion Revolution Week, April 23-29, 2018.