Month: November 2016

WHY THE STAKES FOR SUSTAINABILITY IN FASHION JUST GOT HIGHER

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Anyone working on environmental issues has been watching the results of the Presidential election closely.

Trump is a known climate change denier who’s not only promised to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, arguably our greatest hope at mitigating the effects of global warming, but has also called climate change a hoax, threatened to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency, and committed to pushing for oil pipelines and other controversial energy infrastructure.

Who then, if not government, should we be looking to to protect environmental interests? And what does this mean for sustainable fashion?

The past few weeks have seen an interesting range of responses from brands and business leaders within the sector who, consciously or not, have got caught up in politics.

There was the PR crisis of New Balance following a single quote of endorsement by its VP of public affairs who said “with President-elect Trump, we believe things are going to move in the right direction” with regards to the TPP.

Last week, Patagonia announced it will donate 100% of its global sales from Black Friday to environmental causes in the face of Trump’s belief that “climate change is a myth”, and Designer Sophie Theallet, who’s previously dressed Michelle Obama, publicly refused to style the next first lady. She said:

“Despite the fact that it’s not wise to get involved in politics…the rhetoric of racism, sexism, and xenophobia unleashed by [Trump] are incompatible with the shared values we live by.”

Sitting on the fence is no longer an option when it comes to environmental issues.

As Scott Nadler in his post Corporate Sustainability Under Trump explains, “we now know government isn’t going to ride in and save us on climate change.”

“Government isn’t going to set the standards or raise the bar. And for those of us in business, that means it’s on us.”

It’s an interesting time for the sector as pressure for businesses to take ever-increasing environmental responsibility mounts.

This is not only coming from NGOs, but also consumers whose growing awareness is being seeded by documentaries such as True Cost, and grassroots movements such as Fashion Revolution.

While there have been a range of new initiatives to support more environmental-friendly fashion production in recent years, the election of Trump seems to hint at a shift to undermine this effort.

If we’re to see this trend continue, businesses, more than ever, will need to go beyond minimum — legal — regulations and instead, take the lead.

And it will be brave individuals within business and brands, as we’ve seen demonstrated by Sophie Theallet and Patagonia, who will continue to move this agenda forward.

Image: Tim Walker for Vogue

WHAT DOES SUSTAINABLE FASHION MEAN ANYWAY? DUTCH TV PRESENTER MILOUSKA MEULENS SHARES HER JOURNEY

Since becoming a mother, pursuing an ethical and sustainable life has been a high priority for Dutch TV and radio presenter Milouska Meulens (43).  Below, Milouska reflects on her sustainability journey and offers sound, practice advice for others. Lucy von Sturmer reports. 

An Awakening

Like many young women, sustainability wasn’t always the driving force behind Milouska’s purchasing decisions.

“When I went shopping in my early 20s, I only wanted to look good, and when I ordered something to eat, I didn’t think too much about where the ingredients came from.”

However all of this changed when she became pregnant.

“It’s a cliche, but I suddenly had this instinct to do whatever I could to protect the planet. I had this immediate feeling that I didn’t want to put any more pollution into the world.”

Small Steps – Buy Less & Start Swapping!

One of the simple ways Milouska and her partner Joris Marseille, (also a news presenter, and yes – they did meet on the job), have worked to become more sustainable is through simply consuming less and eating vegetarian.

“I feel fortunate because within my circle of friends, we share and exchange baby clothes and other things. It’s a nice experience, and because the children are all of various ages, we almost completely avoid having to buy new things. ”

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Sustainability – What does it mean?

For Milouska, sustainability isn’t just about individual actions such as using less plastic or reducing her carbon dioxide consumption. It’s bigger than that.

“Sustainability is about reaching out and connecting with one another, and also with nature. It’s about having an awareness that when we destroy the environment, we destroy ourselves.”

Ditching the High Street

If it were up to her, she might just wear her favourite sweater each day while presenting in her current role on “Early Birds”, a Dutch TV show dedicated to exploring themes around animal welfare and the environment in The Netherlands.

However, her stylist Chananja de Kok, has different ideas. Last year, when Milouska expressed her interest in only wearing sustainable clothing, the two of them embarked on a journey to find attractive, yet sustainable clothing brands.

“I knew exactly which fast fashion stores I wanted to avoid, and the “no” list was long, but we soon realised our “yes” list was empty.”

After some initial research, they found a few brands which promised safer materials and working conditions for those who made them, but Milouska couldn’t identify with the look. “It was too “outdoorsy.”

“I didn’t always want to look like I was on the verge of climbing a mountain, so it was a relief when my stylist found sustainable fashion stores like Charlie + Mary.

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Milouska wears her Hoodlamb parka in this cosy family picture. It’s made of hemp and has a sustainable fake fur lining!

Sustainable Fashion – An Urgent Issue

Today, fast fashion is widely recognised as the second most polluting industry in the world, and almost every month horrific events unfold such as the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in 2013 and the death of over 1000 workers, or child refugees being discovered on the supply chain.

Pursuing sustainability in fashion has never been more urgent, and Milouska believes we can no longer afford to keep our head in the sand.

“My generation was really able to say “we didn’t know” – because we didn’t. But we do now! Today, I refuse to wear things that I know were made by others in oppressive or dangerous situations. And I struggle to understand how we can ignore this.

Milouska believes that fashion is not only about how good something makes you look, but how good something makes you feel.

“And this is not only about your appearance, but who you are in the world too.”

 
Further Reading:

BEHIND THE SEAMS: CREATIVE HANDICRAFTS EMPOWERS WOMEN IN SLUM COMMUNITIES IN MUMBAI

Mumbai, known as the financial centre of India, but also a city of immense poverty. Roughly half of the metropolitan area’s 22 million people live in informal settlements, or slums

Although India is developing fast, the increased wealth doesn’t reach the poorest of the poor. One of the causes is social discrimation, still rooted in the country’s culture. 

One of People Tree‘s production partners, Creative Handicrafts, is a social enterprise founded in the slums of Mumbai with the aim to build sustainable communities where respect for people is held high and there is no differentiation based on caste, gender or religion.  

We visited the Creative Handicrafts Head quarters, which moved to a nice office building in Mumbai 5 years ago and a few of the production facilities still located in the slums.

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Mr. Johny Joseph joined Creative Handicrafts in 1999 and explained us a bit more about the history of Creative Handicrafts first. 

Creative Handicrafts was founded by Sister Isabel Martin, who during her work in Mumbai felt the suffering of the women, uneducated and unemployed. She felt the best way to help people overcome poverty was to provide them with the opportunity to work. In 1984, she started Creative Handicrafts, training poor women to make toys, bags and home textiles.

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Today, Creative Handicrafts provides training to the women to produce garments and fabric handicrafts and to market their goods to earn a living.

Creative Handicrafts currently employs over 300 women. Before the ladies start in the so-called Cut, Make and Trim departments they get a 6 months training  to learn all the tailoring skills.

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A lot of women want to work with Creative Handicrafts but there are two criteria, which might sound a bit odd, but unfortunately this is the situation for a lot of women living in Indian slums. These criteria are that the women: 1. Have a difficult life situation and 2. Have no skills. 

This difficult life situation often hasn’t only to do with being poor and living in the slums but also with the fact that they have an abusive husband or a husband with an alcohol problem. It’s important for these women to be able to take care of themselves and their families, without being dependant on their husbands.

 

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Women who do not make the grade as tailors aren’t sent back on the streets but they are trained in cooking to join The Lunch Box Catering Project. This project is supplying lunches to hundreds of office workers around Mumbai.  The Lunch Box Catering Project is located in the Creative Handicrafts Head Quarters, which houses a professional kitchen.  

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The Creative Handicrafts HQ is very modern and they work with the newest textile techniques.

‘Fair Trade or not, it’s trade!’ Mr. Johny Joseph explains. ‘We can not compromise on quality, nor on style or delivery.’

‘When I started here in 1999 it was a question of make or break and we had to change the kind of products we were making to be able to guarantee the demand from our international customers and our long term growth.’

People Tree started to work with Creative Handicrafts in 2011 and together they have developed a new organic cotton collection.

To guarantee the quality all of the product development, pattern and sample making is done at the Creative Handicrafts HQ by highly skilled tailors and garment techs. From here the pattern parts and technical drawings are divided over the cooperations in the slums.

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When we were there they were working on the latest People Tree collection, made of the sustainable fabric Tencel®. 

This fabric is new for Creative Handicrafts and People Tree is currently running a crowdfund campaign to start a production line of this new innovative fabric at Creative Handicrafts.

Working with Tencel® is a chance to up skill the workers and provide them with a greater range of fabrics they can offer to their clients, providing more business opportunities and, eventually, more job opportunities within the community.

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The cooperatives where the actual production takes place are located in the slums.

‘It’s a terrible logistic nightmare of course but it’s so valuable to be there’.  ‘We want to reach the women where they are and it’s important for the women to be able to stay close to their families.’ Mr. Johny Joseph explains:

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Many of the hundreds of women who work for Creative Handicrafts are the main bread winners for their families.

Creative Handicrafts runs a crèche, providing day care for the toddlers of working mothers living in the slums.

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Being in the slums and facing poverty straight in the eye we had a very open discussion with Mr. Johny Joseph about whether the women are really able to work their way out of poverty. Even if they receive a fair wage…..

His honest answer was no; ‘It’s still not enough, even though it is Fair Trade. You have to realise that the background the women come from is not so great and they still receive low wages. You have to imagine that most of the time they live in a room of two by two meters in a not so nice environment, not suitable for studying for example. Working for a fair wage gives them an opportunity to be able to besides feeding their families rent a small house (still in the slums but safe and ‘private’) for their family. Their children can go to school, these are English schools and good schools – my children go to the same schools. Basically earning a fair wage enables them to give their children a better chance for a future out of poverty.’

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Further reads and information about Creative Handicrafts and People Tree:

 

 

TAILOR TALK: THE TECH 4-20 BY HOODLAMB

Many years ago Amsterdam based label Hoodlamb set out to make the first truly stylish sustainable winter jacket using hemp. Like with all journeys, the path quickly became the destination, and the label’s quest to create beautiful outerwear that is both good for the planet and great to wear continues to the present.

One of the rewards of this mission has been the Tech 4-20 – the first truly technical hemp jacket in the world. With its sustainable innovation and tailored appeal it has helped define what eco fashion looks like.

This year the ambitious Hoodlamb team set themselves the challenge to make the Tech 4-20 even stronger and durable. The solution seemed clear – more hemp! So voila, hemp component upped in the shell fabric to 77%; adding to the strength of the woven fabric, as well as the eco factor, since there is nothing more sustainable in the world than natural, hand-farmed hemp.

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There are countless other features that make the Tech 4-20 kind of perfect. We’ve listed some of our favorites below:

Hemp Tailored
Careful tailoring, meticulous attention to details. Great fit. Everything you never expected from a hemp jacket. Dreams do come true.

10mm Satifur Lining
This innovative lining made with hemp and and recycled PET has amazing insulating properties and helps reduce the aggregate amount of plastic waste in the environment.

Hempulose Weather Treatment
Hoodlamb treats the outer shell of the Tech 4-20 with a hemp cellulose compound taken from the inner stalk of the hemp plant. This creates a natural resistance to water and provides a sustainable alternative to the chemical processes normally used in weatherproofing.

Rolling Paper Dispenser
Not to be missed – one of the features that put HoodLamb on the map in their more rebellious days. Quiet, unprepossessing, it’s still there…..

Secret Pockets
Everybody has secrets and Hoodlamb surely provided enough pockets for those!

Sunglass pocket
Neatly sewn into the shell, with a microfiber lining to help you keep your glasses safe and clean.

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