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We hope that ‘The Fashion Activist’ can help to pioneer the ship of change and steer it along it’s true course.

Winston Churchhill


We are at the very beginning of our journey and would like to take the chance to thank you for picking up this initial introduction to ‘The Fashion Activist’. We hope that the content thrills and engages you as much as the adventure to this point has thrilled us. But more than anything we hope that you are inspired to be a part of the chain reaction and help us out on our voyage towards an active fashion industry that seeks to be kind to both people and the planet.


dankë Before we begin I would personally like to thank all the people I have met along the way. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with me so freely, thank you for listening to my ideas and helping me build upon them and most importantly thank you for being you! To my first fashion activists, a huge thanks for your eloquent words and wonderful photographs. I hope your form of fashion activism inspire others as they have me and start off that all important chain reaction. Emily I cannot even begin to thank you enough, without you this first instalment would not have been brought to life with such a beautiful aesthetic result, your input is immeasurable and I cannot begin to thank you enough. Finally to all the people, stories, places and ideas that I have yet to encounter,

thank you, narrative is the string that binds us all together and I very much look forward to hearing yours. In the words of Ghandi I hope we can all “be the change we want to see in the world”. Please join me and share your forms of Fashion Activism so that we don’t end up with a fashion industry of broken windows.


what’s inside? 8 foreword 14

broken window


the research


notes from the fashion activist


what to do

34 artists 38 sources


foreword In the modern world in which we live nature is frequently perceived as a force separate to us. We have acquired vast amounts of scientific and technological knowledge but have we acquired any real wisdom?

industrial structure which imparts extreme pressure on the environment through its use of large volumes of water, hazardous chemicals and the burning of fossil fuels to produce energy. 1

Globally we are facing a social and ecological crisis; disparity between the rich and poor continues to grow and as the population rises we continue to impart pressure on the planet and its finite resources, which, are being stretched way beyond their capacity.

Once a garment has travelled through the manufacturing process and reaches our shelves little is known about the labour behind its label and the most vulnerable employees of this industry are often left facing a mĂŠlange of social injustices including low working standards, long working hours, little pay, child labour, forced labour and unsafe working conditions. 2

At the forefront of this crisis sits the fashion industry. Each year alone this sector pumps out eighty billion garments and by the time these garments reach the U.K shoreline they have travelled through an incredibly complex 9

Sadly the story doesn’t end here and it is estimated that once a garment reaches our homes it will be washed and dried around twenty times before. In the worst case scenario, it ends up heaped on a landfill sight amongst a variety of other toxic waste products. Twenty washes may not sound like an awful lot to our zealous ears, but this process alone produces more carbon emitting crimes than the whole of a garment’s production and manufacturing cycle put together. The fashion industry’s mirage continues to be kept alive by a ‘business as usual’ attitude, which fuels these injustices by continuing to design and manufacture at unsustainable rates and under unjust circumstances.3

Transparency within the industry is also kept to a minimum, often keeping the biggest force, the consumer, relatively in the dark about the design and manufacturing process and the conditions that their garments are created in. Of course accountability must also be handed to consumers who continue to demand more, more and more at cheaper prices and at a faster pace.

of a bigger picture and in order to make this picture brighter we need to learn how to live, work, design and interact in sustainable ways. Asking the simple question what can be done both individually and together as designers, consumers, brands, or retailers to change the fashion industry from its current station to one which is better for both people and the planet, is the first step.

So in the wake of this fashion frenzy what is the answer?

The world is loaded with synergists of change; we just need to understand how to proactively unlock them.

The challenges and solutions that lie ahead are pluralistic and can be considered from a number of different vantage points. What we need to simply remember is that whilst we may be autonomous individuals we are part 10


My fashion Activism is... growing, processing, and utilizing my own natural colours in urban (London and New York) environments. Hollyhocks, rhubarb, marigold, indigo and more! Colour can be found and extracted from the simplest of objects (a rusty nail) to the most common of weeds (dandelion). I am preserving knowledge that shouldn’t be lost and passing it along to others. Liz Spencer



broken window In the 1980’s social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling published an article in ‘The Atlantic’ which examined the signalling triggers for urban disorder and vandalism. Within the article the two social scientists commented on something which they termed ‘the broken window theory’. The theory suggested that leaving something as simple as a window broken was enough to initiate the slow demise of a neighbourhood. A broken window was the symbol of negleWct and decay and in simple terms one broken window would lead to many.

seemed as if citizens of the neighbourhood would just give up or feel un-equipped to deal with the situation at hand. This left them vulnerable and also made room for other, more questionable, characters to swoop in, stealing, looting and perpetuating the situation into something far worse than what they started with. In order to stop the situation it seemed there was one simple answer. Fix the broken windows and once one citizen made a proactive effort the others soon followed and a chain reaction had occurred. With so much injustice present within the fashion industry is it not about time that we,

During a period of decay it was noted that not just buildings were affected, humans were too. Patterns of withdrawal were observed and it


the strongest force, the consumer, grabbed our brushes and swept up the mess that we have perpetuated over the years? Let’s bring back all those exquisite things that fashion stands for such as expression, creativity, uniqueness, skill, craft and most importantly good old fashioned fun and show others that we are willing and able to fix fashion’s broken windows. Let’s clean up!?

Photography: Nina Walsh Art Work: Alex Chinneck



My fashion activism is... re-using, re-cycling and re-inventing. Don’t care if you spot my repairs! The perfect colour for tights or a t-shirt that is the exact replica of your favourite childhood dress. There is nothing that thread and needle can’t help you keep forever. Dress like my teenage sister. Some of the pieces in my wardrobe must be around 20 years old. I got them from the world-renowned “pass it to the little sister” system. I still wear them all; the skirt is one of my favourites! Raphaëlle Bénard



the research Central to this project is the desire to “be the change you want to see in the world” (Mahatma Gandhi) . The Fashion Activist hopes to utilize methods of empirical, ethnographic and photographic research to actively explore and promote those synergists of change which already exist within the world of sustainable fashion and bring them into the lime light, disseminating their ideas to a wider audience.

an active engagement with sustainable fashion (fashion that is kind to both people and the planet).

The desire is to promote forms of ‘Fashion Activisms’ that are already being carried out by people who may already be, or who may want to be active fashion citizens.

The photographs and stories collected from the research project will go on to form a book as well as ‘The Fashion Activist’s Manifesto’ which will hopefully act as a framework and guide for anyone wanting to gain a deeper understanding of the multifaceted world of sustainable fashion, design and consumption. It is hoped that each participant’s thoughts,

Just like ‘the broken window theory’, the idea is, if we start to proactively ‘fix’ the fashion industry’s windows, one at a time, and show others what we are doing, then perhaps the chain can start to grow and we can rebuild the neighbourhood.

This will be done by collecting photographs and a description of each participant’s fashion activism which is anything that demonstrates 21

stories and ideas can be shared and will inspire others to go forward and be active fashion participants or Fashion Activists. A broader dossier, blog, website, twitter feed and instagram page will accompany this initial exploration and all of these elements will aim to underpin the journey that has been taken in order to reach a greater understanding of Fashion and the Environment. In the words of Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.�5



My fashion Activism is... using fashion as a communication tool to create positive change. I do this everyday by following my ‘12 Rules to Dress By’ and always having a sustainable story to share abut what I am wearing. It is the thing that has the most impact as a compliment on my style quickly turns into an opportunity to explain an issue in the global fashion industry. As well as sharing my 12 Rules To Dress By Poster and Wardrobe Shopping Checklist, I bring sustainable fashion into all of my projects such as with Think Act Vote which I launched with an eco t-shirt design competition and Think Act Vote Refashioned.” Amisha Ghadiali



notes from the fashion activist

It seems only fitting that I share with you my story in exchange for hopefully having the privilege to witness all of your wonderful forms of fashion activism. So, here goes…

This involved soaking in as much new knowledge, volunteering, protesting and of course sitting in front of the computer for the hundreds of hours needed to explore and research how to be part of the “wave of change” and the world of sustainable fashion.

Frustrated by a lack of regard for sustainability in the fashion and textile industry which I explored during my undergraduate degree, and inspired by the beautiful work being done by some amazingly talented people whom I met along the way, I started to have a serious think about the state of both the planet and the treatment of the people who live in it.

In September 2011 enrolled on the MA Fashion and the Environment and with a solitary suitcase I set off to London crashing on an extremely hospitable friend’s floor until I could find an affordable place of my own. Since this time I have been fortunate enough to have the space to explore the complex structures and polar opposites that exist within sustainable fashion and have exchanged ideas, collaborated and worked with an amazingly talented and passionate group of people.

After graduation I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to make a conscious decision and move away from the fast fashion industry I had been trained to operate in, instead seeking something new and refreshing. 27

What has struck me the most about my MA journey is the ability that we all have to change the future ahead of us by questioning, challenging and altering what we perceive to be unchangeable.

begin to abate current unsustainable methods of design, production, manufacture and consumption.

This is my fashion activism... What’s yours?

I strongly believe that it is through positive action that we rid the negative and so by asking you to participate and share your forms of fashion activism I hope that the cycle of change can continue to grow.

My work to date is heavily influenced and centres on common themes of activism, participation and engagement and it’s these core principles that underline the body of research that I am about to embark on.

Let’s look to the future with bright and ambitious eyes that know no walls or boundaries, but, instead seek to proactively change the path that lies ahead of us. I hope that you will join me on this journey and “be a part of the chain reaction” and for now all that’s left to say is….

The Fashion Activist hopes to bridge the gap between sustainable fashion and academia and act as a platform to share stories, ideas and information. I hope that the Fashion Activist can be used as one tool amongst many that exist and that together we can 28


My fashion Activism is... craftsmanship, from hand beading to embroidery and beyond. I use craftsmanship and craft theory to create and customize unique and beautiful pieces that will stand the test of time and last forever. Steph Steele



what to do

join in TWITTER: @FASHIONACTIVISM The Fashion Activist needs you. We are hoping to collect 101 forms of fashion activism to put together in a small book that will accompany the first full issue of ‘The Fashion Activist’.


Paying homage to the genius that is George Orwell the book will be called ‘101 Forms of Fashion Activism’. Although rather than facing your fears when you open the book we hope to inspire and engage audiences to be actively involved with their fashion garments and industry.


It’s a big number so we really need your help. If you are engaging with sustainable fashion in any way, shape or form from the very big things to the very small we would really love to hear about it!


Please send us a photographs and a small description of what your Fashion Activism is.


artists Nina Walsh


Milly McCulloch Graphic Designer


Liz Spencer

Amisha Ghadiali rulestodressby

RaphaĂŤlle BĂŠnard

Steph Steele

Fashion Activist

Fashion Activist

Fashion Activist


Fashion Activist


sources 1.

Fletcher, K., 2008. Sustainable fashion and textiles design journeys. Earthscan,, London ;Sterling, VA.


Siegle, L., 2011. To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? Fourth Estate.

3. University of Cambridge., Allwood, J., 2006. Well dressed: the present and future sustainability of clothing and textiles in the United Kingdom. University of Cambridge Institute of Manufacturing, Cambridge.


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The Fashion Activist  

The Fashion Activist is an on going research project, which aims to abate current unsustainable practice within the fashion industry by reco...