ROSIE IN INDIA
We’re starting a new feature on our blog “What is your ethical fashion story?“. As we set out to build an engaged and active community around ethical fashion, we want to be a platform for all types of splendid people in the industry to come together and show off the great, cool, wonderful, hip, amazing, innovative and creative things that they’re doing. So by way of introduction, here’s their moments or an accumulation of moments, be it something they read, something they experienced, something they learned, or all of the above that acted as a catalyst and made them roll up their sleeves and get involved in the ethical fashion industry. If you’re interested in being featured, contact us at hello at project just dot com.
We start out with Rosie, a fashion student (focused on ethical fashion mind you :)) and former intern at Pants to Poverty, who wrote her dissertation on ethical fashion, even winning a top prize! We’ll leave the rest to Rosie!
My ethical fashion story started as an accumulation of moments. You could say the catalyst was my final year dissertation, so that’s where I’ll start. It’s the first chapter of what I am determined to make an incredible and inspiring ethical fashion story.
Staring at a Word document titled ‘Rosie’s dissertation’ I knew I wanted to write about ethical, or sustainable, fashion. I use the term sustainability to encompass all elements of environmental, commercial and social responsibility. To this day I can’t put my finger on where that direction came from and at the time I did not know it would shape my future, but when I learned about the poverty, pollution and fatalities caused by the industry I wanted to work in, it became my personal catalyst for enabling change.
With the rising use of ‘green’ terms: ethical, organic, recycled and sustainable and the uncertainty around them I wanted to find out whether this would be a trend, a marketing technique or a revolution. Or was the term sustainable fashion itself a contradiction?
Sustainability within fashion may have started as a trend in marketing with little truth behind many claims, but globalisation has opened channels of international communication that have allowed us to question the effects of fast fashion. This led me to believe that, in order to evolve the industry, we must revolutionise it by working together to transform attitudes and approaches to design and consumption at every level of the supply chain. As a fashion student this insight helped direct my final project and drove me to look into how I propose we achieve change.
Embarking on my final project involved the creation of a new brand, KNOWMORE. Say ‘know more about your clothes, in order to say no more to unethical fashion’. The brand and product aimed to tackle key issues within the industry by educating and informing consumers, whilst also using incentives to change their behaviour and encourage the fashion industry to adopt positive change.
The KNOWMORE concept and campaign animation was picked up and shared worldwide by the global movement, Fashion Revolution, and the online retailer Bibico, receiving extensive publicity. Having my concept embraced by the industry I am eager to be a part of was exciting and promising, it encouraged me to further develop my ideas. (My animation can be viewed here.)
In June I presented my project to judges at the 2014 London Graduate Fashion Week and I achieved 3rd place in the Ethical Award category out of more than 80 graduate applicants from across the UK.
Whilst thanking the judges of the Ethical Fashion Awards I met Romain Renoux, Head of Marketing, at leading ethical underwear brand Pants to Poverty, along with other influential industry figures such as Tamsin Lejuene (Founder of the Ethical Fashion Forum). The award allowed me to gain access to the industry I’d become absorbed in and two weeks later I was skipping away from an interview with Romain and Ben Ramsden, Founder of Pants to Poverty and sister charity Pi Foundation, with a six month social media and marketing internship with the company.
As part of my internship I had the incredible opportunity to travel to India to work with the people that make our products. I spent long days in the fields picking organic cotton with our farmers, sipped chai and learnt about organic farming and village life. Learning the process of cleaning our cotton first hand from workers. Visiting the vertically integrated factory was insightful and it was amazing to see how production can and should be executed. I will never forget finishing at the factory and catching the bus back to the labour house with the girls, being able to spend the night and genuinely get to know the people that make our products. We sang, danced and laughed, cultural and language barriers bridged by a common sense of community. It was a truly eye opening experience. The time, and energy that go into making the products we sell is humbling and one that will change your attitude to fashion forever.
Having the opportunity to meet inspiring people and work alongside like-minded, driven individuals with a passion for change is truly inspiring. Everything I learn and everyone I meet drives me towards my goal to make sustainable fashion the norm. That’s just the first chapter in my ethical story, but I hope it’s the beginning of a long career in this exciting and developing industry.