It was fantastic to see such an important question ‘Can Fashion Change the World?’ being asked as one of the talks for this years Vogue Festival 2013. Amidst the glitz and glamour and talk of fashion, it was completely appropriate that some of the wider issues affecting the industry should be addressed at such an event.
Livia Firth was the first to speak. Known for raising awareness of sustainable fashion through her glamorous Green Carpet Challenge, Livia is also a director of Eco Age. Livia talked about the impact of fashion but also about her Green Carpet Challenge and recent handbag collaboration with Gucci. Just a few of the key points made by Livia included
“Not only can fashion change the world, but it absolutely must”
“the impact of fashion is not only environmental, but social: ‘we carry the story of the people who make our clothes around”
“I want us to acknowledge and honour the women who make our clothes”
“I believe deep down, we all want to do the right thing”
“Buy carefully and get more mileage out of each piece of fashion”
Katherine Hamnett then spoke telling us of how saddened she was by the tragedies in the garment industry in Bangladesh and she had adapted her talk because of what she described as a ‘dark week for the fashion industry’.
Katherine went on to explain how she believed the brands were responsible, describing her experiences of fashion industry buyers beating prices down as low as they possibly could and actually taking great pleasure in it and treating it as a sport. She asked ” Who are the fashion victims?” stating that “this has to be a turning point for the fashion industry, yes the price may be low, but when the price is paid in human lives they could hardly be more expensive.”
Katherine described what she thought could be the solution as verifiable EU laws covering goods imported into the EU covering issues like building, labour, banned chemicals and the SA8000 standard. She stated that by insisting on these standards would remove the competition posed by cheaply produced imports.
Tom Craig is a photographer who has worked on humanitarian issues for many years and has also worked as a fashion photographer for Vogue. He talked about how photography provides an window on the world. Also how fashion has given so many people a voice and how it can act as a forum where so many other issues can be discussed.
Tom’s answer to the question of whether fashion can change the world, centred around fashion as a phenomena. He said that “fashion is composed of elemental parts, the people that are within it, Look at this panel, a remarkable group of people that are brought together by fashion. He concluded ” I think it has the power, but we need to be broad minded about it” ”Can fashion change the world? Well, we can give it a good go!”
Last but by no means least was Dame Vivienne Westwood stating how she wasn’t going to talk about fashion. Despite her talk being about her Climate Revolution, it is likely that everyone in the room could easily see how what she was talking about could relate to fashion as well as so many other things in life.
Vivienne urged the audience to read her blog Active Resistance explaining that she though “it would give a view of the world that you won’t get very easily”. She blamed climate change on the rotten financial system stating “what is good for the planet is good for the economy”. She talked passionately about many issues relating to climate change and about different standards for them and us and leaving the audience with plenty to think about. Here are just a few quotes:
“It’s not just fashion that can change the world, it’s people”
“If people only bought beautiful things, that’s not consumption, that’s climate revolution”
“people haven’t got a clue about what goes on in this world – we need to be more engaged”
Unfortunately the talk over ran leaving no time for questions and answers, this was such a big question to try and answer in such a small space of time.