This time last year, I dreamed of Tamay coming to the UK for us to feel a little closer and to create a sense of equality. Equality that she too could travel, that it didn’t matter that she couldn’t read or write, that she too could stand up and tell people all the about the great project that we run together. Also I wanted to show her that the people who like what we do, like it because they like her and are interested in her life, her textiles and her stories.
What really happened, was Tamay was stopped by the home office, she was not given a visa at first despite pages of letters and evidence. Tamay and I were not equal in the eyes of bureaucracy. Although I already knew it as I see Tamay’s discomfort, particularly about reading and writing, to experience it point blank like that, it outraged me. It gave me more purpose than ever.
It’s Fashion Revolution Week and it’s the week that we all stand up for the rights of fellow global citizens, acknowledge where our clothes come from, ask questions about where our clothes come from and generally chat about clothes.
We are all in this together and really we all just need clothes.
Nice ones would be nice, ones that tie us to the place we come from or help us to belong to a certain group. Doesn’t a sari have just this function too?
But can we stop the hierarchy of cloth?
Can we step back and look at those fashion magazines, what do they really say? Essentially they are loaded with power, power based on a long past of troubles (colonial rubbish, gender and culture nonsense), concepts that are so engrained that they are going to take a lot of undoing.
There is certainly way too much - I am better than you and I deserve more than you.
Can we strip our relationship with clothes back to something a little simpler?
Why do I get dressed in the morning?
What is the weather doing today?
Which group do I want to belong to, which tribe am I hanging out with?
Can I do that sustainably?
Can I keep this light and fun and make I give myself the love I deserve?
The junk food approach to fashion, gorging our egos to be someone we would like to be, fast, has negative impacts on us, just like food… and does beyond harm for the makers of these clothes. Rana Plaza cannot happen again.
So yes, it is a confusing journey to discover who we are and where we come from, especially the younger we are. The world has changed fast, all the things that used to be certain are uncertain and the internet has opened up every option possible, bringing with it all that is positive and all that is negative. It quite often feels hard to be human, no wonder it is hard to know how to get dressed in the morning. The thing is, fast fashion labels know this and are feeding off us, trying to fix our need to feel great, or just normal.
We need to resist the lure of these big brands. We really don’t need cheap, badly made, exploitative clothing. It won’t help us find our way.
We do all need a guilty pleasure, drinking a horrible sugary drink full of in-comprehendible ingredients on a hot day feels great. There is a difference between food and clothing, food doesn’t keep for decades like a dress does and we do need to eat. Being really hungry is not ok. But clothes… the need is not a matter of life or death (rarely! ), the need is purely cultural and is usually just about being accepted, by whoever we want to please. It’s really pretty superficial stuff, and certainly it doesn’t warrant the negative impacts that clothing has on everyone and the planet we share.
We are so fortunate that there is an absolute abundance of stuff here in the UK, and all over the world, pretty much. Our houses are bursting with things we don’t really need, the charity shops are full, second hand belongings are everywhere when you start looking. All the identity satisfying fashion you need is available for free if you look for it. Plus, we have all the resources to access it too. I suggest that you first make a Pinterest board, or gather images to find your clan, it’s nice to fit in with some sort of crowd, do it, work out your style. Then find your clothes and try to do it sustainably, it’s easier once you know what you need and it will make you feel good.
Resit : Don’t let the fast fashion giants tell you who to be, it will only last 5 weeks max and you will be hungry again.
I think it is mostly acceptable to say that we in the West are confused by years of over indulgence, sadly so much of this is founded on our exploiting of countries like Bangladesh for sooooo long to satisfy our need to feel humanly great, to feel a sense of plenty. The problem is, now we are drunk on choice, drunk on flavours, drunk on money (despite the fact there is still never enough), the party has turned bad and now it’s time to clear things up and do things better. Well done @fashrev and so many other people and organisations that have started the job.
Can we start to recognise that our needs are not more important than someone else’s, wherever and however they live. It’s about real equality, not just fashion. And perhaps its time we take some responsibility…
My advice (for you as well as myself) for this years Fashion Revolution:
1. Go to yoga (or something that makes you feel good) before you go shopping!
2. Make a Pinterest board to work out your style, that is going to make you feel great, before you go shopping.
3. Stop judging people around you for what they wear - this is a horrible old habit that makes us all feel bad!
4. Be confident to be yourself and to wear what you need to wear - be proud.
5. Don’t feel guilty - it doesn’t help anyone.
6. Enjoy making yourself feel beautiful so you can be happy and make other people happy too.
My fave podcast this year, in case you were wondering, was: Melanin & Sustainable Style + Ethical Fashion as a Privileged White Girl Thing save it to listen to on the bus!