The Perils of Fast Fashion in Interiors

Interior fashion cycles are getting faster with the gap between the catwalk and interiors stores getting shorter all the time.  Associating interiors brands with celebrity and high fashion can be good if this lifts the perceived value of an item, which is then treasured for its aesthetic and its quality.  The manufacture of heirloom pieces is great for building long-term robust and sustainable value chains.  When true craftsmanship is rewarded and quality materials are sought after then the people that grow fibre, sew garments and weave carpets and fabrics all can share the rewards.

It all falls apart however if we follow the fast fashion business model. If textile mills and retail outlets focus on fast turn-around of low quality items from non-sustainable value chains we end up creating waste, using more energy than is required and supporting the throw-away society.

It is better to create beautiful textiles from sustainable materials and to build them well so they last a long time, rather than to manufacture oil based products with the promise to recycle them one day.

The fast fashion culture encourages corners to be cut and lives to be endangered, think Rana Plaza.   This is not just an apparel issue.  There are carpet schemes that guarantee no child labour, but do not take care of the children that are banished from the rug mills.  Those children sometimes move to more dangerous factories.  No we don’t want six year olds making our carpets, we want them in schools paid for by the sale of carpets.

There are rug retailers that push so hard on price that the weavers are forced to use extremely low quality materials and pay very poor wages.  Eliminating unnecessary waste and reproduction is the best thing we can do for the planet and for the people that live here.  Buying something cheap with the aim of throwing it away is the worst legacy we can leave behind.

Children removed from rug factories are often just moved on to other industries.

Children removed from rug factories are often just moved on to other industries.

Measuring Goodness

We (Industry & Brands) have a habit of measuring goodness by highlighting the bad things we stopped doing.  We think we are sustainable as we are polluting less, wasting less energy, using fairer labour.   We are planning to do less bad and have a net zero effect on the planet.

This “less bad” attitude is just not good enough.   The true measure of sustainability has to be about what positive impact our value chains have on the people our products touch in their creation and their use and their re-use.

We use only renewable energy is a step, but if it meant putting C02 into the atmosphere for the 1000 tonne concrete base of a wind turbine then it is really just less bad than burning fossil fuel.  Planning to need less energy is better than finding slightly cleaner energy.   It can take 30 years for a wind turbine to become carbon neutral!

What kind of earth do we want our grandchildren to inherit? I vote for a clean one with 9 billion happy people.

We get to Utopia by imagining the ideal planet and by building smarter value chains.   We measure sustainability by what we do to reach Utopia, not by measuring the stupid activity we reduced.

We remember the athlete that wins the race, not the guy that went from last position to somewhere in the middle.   We can celebrate success when the rivers are clean and the people are fed, we should not celebrate that we still have landfill, just not as many as we might have done..

earth from apollo 8

Finite Earth from apollo 8

Fashion Revolution

I don’t normally talk about Fashion, I am an interiors bloke.  But this is important.

April 14 2014 will be Fashion Revolution Day.

On the 24th of April this year 1,113 people were killed and over 2,500 people injured when the Rana Plaza factory complex collapsed in Dhaka.

All of us are going to change this situation,  It is time to get involved in a positive way.

On the 14th of April we will celebrate fashion as a positive influence.    It will simply ask “Who made your clothes”

Wear a garment in-side out , take a picture and post it, everywhere.  Use the hashtag #inside-out.

In the mean-time find your favourite garment and write to the manufacturer, ask the question “who made my clothes” and post the answer or lack of on your social media spaces

Only pressure from us citizens of earth can change the world.  What are we aiting for?

Go to http://www.fashionrevolution.org/

Of course It’s not just about fashion.  To be truly sustainable we have to aim higher than zero (waste).  We have to plan to  make a positive impact on the people who make our products and the people who use them.  There are plenty of low-cost furnishing retailers who also need to improve their game with regards to ethical trading.   Why not ask your furniture store who made your kit set coffee table?  Who grew the wool in your rug?

p.s.  No image on this post – try a google image search for “Rana Plaza”  It will shock you.

CSR, Facial Hair and Wool

A very strong trend right now is CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and for a very small organisation of only 16 people, Wools of New Zealand does a lot in this area.   We put it all under the Wool for a Better World banner.

We do this stuff because it’s the right thing to do and because it gives our team of passionate people an element of pride to work for a socially minded company.

What I’m noticing is that everyone now has a CSR statement.  On the surface this is good, but I worry, jut slightly, that we are entering the next phase of green washing, or CSR-washing, as we may need to call it.

Are companies making a care statement because it is part of what they do, part of the culture of the organisation?  Or is the marketing department making a claim that has no real substance?

Green-washing became a marketing sin, and it looks like fake CSR claims might be next.

I’m really glad that quite a few of our partner companies are heavily into supporting their local communities and wider social and environmental issues.  A good cause often takes the focus away from business as usual and gets people working together, trusting each other and building partnerships that are good for business.

One of my friendly contacts reminded me about Movember so I decided to sacrifice my upper lip to help the campaign.  Now that I’m trotting about the UK sporting a fuzzy caterpillar on my face I’m getting a few sideways glances, but mostly I’m getting a pat on the back and smile from people who realise that its not an attempt to look like a Hawaiian private detective from the 80’s, its all for a good cause and a bit of fun.

Steven Parsons Movember

My hard to see Fuzzy Caterpillar

It is worth checking out Movember,  not only is it a fun way to raise awareness of men’s health issues, it a very well run digital marketing campaign and a brilliant example of the power of the internet to make things happen.

You can see my fuzzy caterpillar at my MoSpace here or click on my silly grin.