5 Activists On Positivity & Progress In Fashion

Without any IRL events taking place due to coronavirus, Fashion Revolution Week may feel a little different from usual, but 2020 might just be its most important year yet. The global movement, made up of designers, academics, policymakers and writers, operates year-round but each April takes a week to commemorate the 2013 Rana Plaza disaster when a Dhaka garment factory collapsed, killing 1,134 workers.
Despite being unable to run physical events and workshops, Fashion Revolution Week is more needed than ever: the COVID-19 crisis has thrown into sharp focus the fashion industry's instability and inequality, with many garment workers being sent home without pay and left with abandoned wholesale collections from high street stores that have had to shut during lockdown.
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While it's key we engage with the ethics of the fashion industry in order to encourage positive change, not everyone may have the emotional bandwidth to take on more bad news right now. With an NHS at breaking point, many people's jobs and livelihoods at risk and a general sense of uncertainty sweeping the world, small pieces of good news can make all the difference.
And there really is good news when you look for it: sustainable shoe maker Allbirds recently became the first brand to label each of its products with its carbon footprint, promoting greater awareness of the journey a product makes before it hits consumers' wardrobes. Meanwhile, vintage re-sell platform Vestiaire Collection has launched a Wardrobe Reality Check challenge, a guide to making your wardrobe more eco-friendly to celebrate Earth Month's 50th anniversary. Fashion Revolution's 2020 Transparency Index also revealed the progress being made by high street brands on disclosing their social and environmental practices. H&M came in top at 73%, with adidas and Reebok hitting 69% and Patagonia and Marks & Spencer delivering on 60%.
We mustn't drop the ball on holding the brands we shop to account but highlighting progress in fashion is equally important. To celebrate Fashion Revolution Week, which runs until 26th April, we asked five of our favourite fashion activists to tell us which brands they're supporting during lockdown, what's making them feel hopeful in fashion right now, and who we should be following to make our Instagram feed a more positive place.
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Bronwyn Seier, content manager at Fashion Revolution

Photo courtesy of Fashion Revolution. Design by Anna Jay.
Which sustainable brands are you supporting right now?
I'm not in a wardrobe update phase at the minute. Like so many people, I'm sure, the desire for new outfits has faded away along with the possibility of leaving the house. I am not one to look cute for the sake of grocery shopping. That said, working on Fashion Revolution's showcasing initiative, Fashion Open Studio, leaves no shortness of inspiration when it comes to designers making beautiful clothes with responsibility at the forefront. It's also the first year we've taken the initiative international, with designers from 13 different countries on the programme. My current favourites are Sona Asemani and BODICE
How are you staying green during lockdown?
I'm trying to be waste-minimal in the kitchen, as much as possible. My flat only has a tiny mini fridge, so stockpiling groceries is off the table. Instead, I'm aiming to use everything we can squeeze in there as efficiently as possible. It's led to some weird recipe combinations but overall less waste. In my wardrobe, I'm hoping time in lockdown gets me mending a few pairs of socks and fixing a couple of other items. Right now, though, my energy is focused on prepping for Fashion Revolution Week, so taking part in our #LovedClothesLast initiative will have to wait for me until after the big week. 
What is making you feel positive about fashion right now? 
It feels like brands big and small, armed with the reality that now isn't the time to reinvent our style, have switched their comms and marketing to teach people how to better care for their clothes from home. As we move forward, I hope this kind of content continues and the big brands use their resources to help customers make their products last a lifetime. 
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Who should we follow on IG to make our feed more feelgood?
As always, I'm keeping up with Entry Level Activist (we run a joint definitions series, and her accessible activism is inspiring) and her slightly grittier feed, Post-Growth. I've also been enjoying Lil Earth Girl and being cheered up by Donté Colley
What message do you want to send for Fashion Revolution this year?
Though this Fashion Revolution Week will be different than any one previous, it's clear now more than ever that we need to call for a radical shift in the way we produce and consume clothing. The coronavirus pandemic has left millions of people who make our clothes in crisis. It's also exposed the flawed system in which business-as-usual leaves the most vulnerable people in the supply chain even worse off during times of crisis. 
At Fashion Revolution, we're keeping our community updated with the impact of COVID-19 on supply chain workers, and we're urging people to send our email template to brands demanding that the biggest fashion corporations pay for their orders and take responsibility for their supply chains amid this pandemic. 
Though this Fashion Revolution Week may not have all of the physical events, swaps and workshops we usually see, we are hoping that more people than ever before will take to social media to demand an industry that values people and planet over profit and growth. To that end, we've created a digital activism guide to help people take part from their screens. 
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From widened social inequality to the climate emergency, fashion faces huge challenges ahead but as always we believe that our power is in our persistence and that if we love fashion, we should use our voices to demand a more responsible industry. 

Jemma Finch, cofounder of Stories Behind Things

Photo courtesy of Stories Behind Things. Design by Anna Jay.
Which sustainable brands are you supporting right now?
I am supporting brands that inspire me and which prioritise sustainability. It feels really good to be able to support brands through this time of crisis. It’s more important than ever to highlight the notion of voting with your money – the businesses you buy from directly favour the kind of future you want to build! So when possible, buy from businesses that are prioritising the areas you're passionate about. For me this is climate change, responsible production and brands that have a story behind them (pun intended!). Recently these have included TogetherBand, Underprotection and Ocean Bottle
How are you staying green during lockdown?
Aside from working on Stories Behind Things, I’ve been trying to utilise this stillness and reflection to restructure my goals and intentions for the year. Taking care of one’s mental health during a time like this is more important than ever. Of course it goes without saying that some days, like many others, I wake up with a bubbling sense of anxiety for the crisis we are moving through. My advice for days like this would be to slow down, stay away from screens and be kind to yourself. 
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Many companies have had to make huge pivots during this period and Stories Behind Things has been going through the same. We’ve had project and event postponing or cancellations across the next few months, so I’m using this time to plan for when normality stabilises again. 
What is making you feel positive about fashion right now? 
The sense of community and more meaningful connection that has emerged online! It’s SO powerful. I can see there's been a rise in honest conversation, genuine support and possibly a...kinder digital landscape? 
Who should we follow on IG to make our feed more feelgood?
I’ve been loving Good News Movement for lighthearted stories, Fashion Revolution for fashion activism inspiration and The Guardian for uplifting independent news stories from around the world. 
What message do you want to send for Fashion Revolution this year?
It’s been such an honour to have been involved and follow the growth of the movement closely year on year, both personally and through Stories Behind Things partnerships. Fashion Revolution cofounders Orsola and Tamsin remain huge inspirations for me! The message I would send is to get involved in a way that’s comfortable for you – know that your voice makes a difference and there are so many ways you can add to this momentum of positive change. From attending events and volunteering to online support like sending a tweet to a brand asking where your clothes are made. The list is endless! Head to Fashion Revolution to read more about the many ways to get involved. 
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Sophie Slater, cofounder of Birdsong

Photo courtesy of Birdsong. Design by Anna Jay.
Which sustainable brands are you supporting right now?
I've been wearing my Riley Studio sweatpants nonstop through quarantine, but mostly I’ve been working on raising emergency funds for our makers, as we've stopped all production and postage to keep everyone safe. We've launched a Patreon and are keeping the shop open but banking all orders to get through it. 
How are you staying green during lockdown?
We're getting really into meal planning at my boyfriend's – putting spring onions back into water to grow, being mega into leftovers and making sure there's no food waste. I'm also trying to keep buying anything to a minimum; luckily I brought all my shampoo bars and non-plastic cosmetics when I moved temporarily. I'm also not showering every day (lol) to save water. I am really missing my Oddbox waste fruit and veg subscription as I left London last month. I was already pretty green before but being even more so now without travelling! 
What is making you feel positive about fashion right now? 
The way that the bad practices of the fast fashion industry have been exposed since the pandemic is stressful and horrible but it does feel positive that it's getting such mainstream footage. This article that my pal Aja Barber shared was pretty depressing but the takeaway was that support for slow fashion is growing, which is cool. 
Who should we follow on IG to make our feed more feelgood?
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I love Wednesday Holmes for cute and colourful illustrations about self-care, queerness and more. Charlie Craggs never fails to make me giggle, The Nu Wardrobe is great for sustainability stats and tips, and British Goop has me and my friends in stitches at the minute, too.
What message do you want to send for Fashion Revolution this year?
Living wages for all! Bring down the current fast fashion system! Aim for circularity!

Lydia Bolton, designer

Photo courtesy of Lydia Bolton. Design by Anna Jay.
Which sustainable brands are you supporting right now?
HVISK’s vegan leather bags are super cute and E.L.V Denim has an amazing ethos and practice. Rose and Thorne is a great plastic-free razor brand. It’s often disposable items like razors that we overlook the wasteful impact of. The Recycled Candle Company collects the remnants of wax from candles and saves them from ending up in landfill by reusing them to make new ones with amazing scents. 
How are you staying green during lockdown?
I'm going through all my unwanted fabric and clothing and making little creative projects from them. I have a lot of deadstock trims that I want to be reused so have created a series called SEWcial Distancing where I share DIY projects to do at home. They are all about upcycling your current items or hand-making things from cast-offs while being creative and sustainable at home. I’m always assessing my habits and trying to reduce how much plastic I use. Currently I'm learning about how I can make my beauty regime more plastic-free. I have bars for my deodorant, shampoo, conditioner and hand soap but am looking into balms and moisturisers which are plastic-free. 
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What is making you feel positive about fashion right now? 
I think all the positive sustainable fashion communities. Amy Powney's #FashionOurFuture is really great and the pledges help you to interact with the activism, practically applying it to your own life and wardrobe. News that the LVMH prize for Young Fashion Designers has been split between the eight finalists is also really positive. 
Who should we follow on IG to make our feed more feelgood?
Nicole Chui – her messy embroidery is really creative and has powerful messages behind her work. Jodie Ruffle is an embroidery designer whose work and feed is really inspiring. 
Stories Behind Things celebrates the journey behind products, sustainability and meaningful consumption. The Bear Scouts, set up by Dio Kurazawa, shouts out sustainable designers who are working in different ways and creating alternative approaches to design in fashion that are less harmful to the planet. 
What message do you want to send for Fashion Revolution this year?
Conscious consumption! With the rise in online sales last month for fast fashion brands, I feel it's sad and clear that when we purchase things, we’re still only thinking of ourselves. The wider impact of the purchase is still not considered by so many people, such as the resources required for the material, the labour to produce the item, the workers who pack and distribute the item and the long-term life of the garment. The first step is being aware and conscious of how you consume and who it affects. From there we can start to make small changes to our purchasing decisions which will lead to wider changes in how we consume.
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Ngoni Chikwenengere, founder of We Are Kin

Photo courtesy of We Are Kin. Design by Anna Jay.
Which sustainable brands are you supporting right now? 
DAME and Callaly for tampons, and while I’m at my parents’ in Northampton, the local farm shop does deliveries. While I am not shopping at the moment I have been making a list of brands striking the right notes during the crisis that I’ll be buying from in the future. I have also purchased a few gift cards from sustainable brands to use once this is over.
How are you staying green during lockdown? 
I am repurposing fabric and toiles to make face masks. Using every single ingredient and reducing food waste even further. I have done two food shops in the month I've been home, which as a plant-based eater who likes fresh veg and fruit can be a little hard but I've turned everything into other things: fruit has gone into banana bread (predictably), smoothies and juices, veg that was about to turn went into soups, curries and chilli and I’ve frozen herbs in oil for future recipes. Everything I buy has to multitask. I have also only driven twice, which feels like an accomplishment outside of London.
What is making you feel positive about fashion right now? 
The many studios making scrubs for the NHS via Scrub Hub and the designers making masks for their communities and care homes – I've even made a few for my family and neighbours.
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It's also been nice to see big and small brands share concise and impactful news. I believe in using your platform well, however big or small.
Who should we follow on IG to make our feed more feelgood? 
Dr Frankie Jackson-Spence, Alexis Adjei for food and family, Emma Slade Edmondson for colour and fashion, photographer Cubicle, and Abisola Omole who creates beautiful content but also shares links to stories, books, news and free workshops you might otherwise miss. She is my plug, as it were, and I am always learning through her. And of course me for a bit of everything!
What message do you want to send for Fashion Revolution this year? 
As we are going through – and eventually as we come out of – this seismic event, let us all be wiser still with our purchasing and with how we live. It is more important now than ever to be conscious about how our decisions affect others and the planet. Be aware of what brands did and said during this time of crisis.

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