The dirt under fashion is well known so what is stopping us from taking responsibility and doing something about it?
The fashion industry has always had a notorious reputation for being 'dirty', however with the industry's growing focus on sustainable practices poses the question - why is it that we are still so far away from this industry being embedded into a world of sustainable beauty?
The 19th century saw the rise of the industrial revolution, sewing machines were relatively new and child labour was still legal. Most clothes were made to order domestically, and only a slice of the population owned enough garments to fill a small closet.
Today we are knee deep in a fast fashion culture, with new ranges hitting the stores on a weekly basis. With brands exploiting cheap labour in developing countries and the buying power of brands whiplashing manufacturers to produce higher volumes at a faster pace at next to nothing.
With clothes at much more affordable prices, consumers were encouraged to buy more and more. Consumerism has embedded the belief that the more you buy the happier your will become, the promotion of materialistic values went viral.
It did not take long for popular high street brands to dominate the market!
Recently I had the opportunity to meet designer and founder of Choolips, Annegret Affolderbach. She is a visionary designer with a 10-year track record of creating sustainable and fairly traded textiles, womenswear and of late immersive experiences embedded with subtle messages of positive change. With her brand Choolips now in its 10th year, her passion for planet and people has seen her blossom into an influential social entrepreneur.
''Working in fashion for the past 10yrs building a mindful business, that considers planet and people, witnessing ongoing inhumane and environmentally destructive practises behind the industry that creates our stylish luxuries, provoked a deep desire in me to design the ultimate luxury; a contribution to the architecture of our identities reaching far beyond style, an impactful experience and beautiful memory to keep." says Annegret Affolderbach.
I very much resonated with Annegret, she reminded me of where my journey of responsibility began. It brought me back to the question I asked over 10 years ago, what is the true cost of fashion? What impact is it having on our world? With 80 billion pieces of clothing being sold every year, something has to give! There appears to be a distinct lack of people fully grasping the magnitude of change needed to transform our planet and with it this industry.
The fashion industry is the most labour intensive industry today, land being treated like a factory floor and factory workers slaves to the shareholder. Pesticides sprayed across acres of cotton crops are well known to cause cancer, deformation and depression, with short term gains and high costs, farmers are unable to afford to protect their ever resistant asset causing suicides to skyrocket, with 250,000 suicides in India alone. Thousands of children born with a disability and their parents hopelessly waiting for them to die, you have no choice but to stop and question if that £2 cotton t-shirt was worth it!
I recently watched 'The True Cost' documentary, pricking the consciousness of the throwaway culture and forcing you to think deeper about the true impact this industry is having on humanity.
It left me wondering if we have time to wake the fearful who are stuck in a system of consumption that is fundamentally flawed?
"Accumulating observations of continuous destruction of our environments and our fellow humans to serve our style consumption, lead me to think that as humans we require what appears a disruptive event in order to forge the changes we wish to see to provide a joyous future on planet Earth. Sustainable Fashion cannot forge these changes itself when the destructive wheels in motion are so powerful. We need an impactful tool that fully connects us to our hearts and our purpose, an event that awakens us to be fully present to become proactive and responsible; an event that taps our hearts and empowers us to become a participant in building OUR positive futures. To serve this purpose, I designed 'at the heart of luxury', an immersive experience." - Annegret Affolderbach
And I couldn't agree more. Having recently had my own first-hand experience of Choolips' immersive experience 'Stripes + Flags'// a masterclass', I felt like I had definitely embarked upon a personal journey 'at the heart of luxury' awakening my creativity. It served as a profound reminder of what I stand for as a human.
As Brené Brown so beautifully says: "Creativity is the way things travel from the head to the heart".
The masterclass experience left me feeling so empowered with much more focus, drive and excitement to reach my vision and purpose of serving the world in my own unique way. It was fascinating to watch Annegret in motion, I could almost describe her as the mirror reflecting my soul back at me.
Annegrets venture 'at the heart of luxury' is an immersive experience, a day where participants are given the opportunity to spark fresh ideas and optimism. She facilitates you to unfold a journey of personal discovery, ignite fires and that is where the magic lies. You are left with the ultimate luxury, an unforgettable memory. She inspires new ways of thinking, visionary thought and stimulates personal growth. This intimate day is designed to cultivate emotional intelligence and consciousness.
Annegret manages to create a world of creative fun that challenges our perspective thoughts. The space feels safe, warm and loving to express yourself exactly how you are.
So, do we have time to wake the fearful who are stuck? If we put creativity at the heart of our intentions then we just might have a fighting chance. What would happen if you signed up for the next 'at the heart of luxury' experience? Sign up and find out, I guarantee you will not be disappointed!
11th May 2016 . Dak'Art Biennale, Dakar, Senegal
18-20th June 2016 . Denim Boulevard, Milan Men's Fashion Week
For bookings and further future, dates visit www.choolips.com
'The subject was an eye-opener, something so simple as a single line next to another, and all that history in between created by humans, both simplistic and complex in nature, the thought process is intriguing in itself. Highly recommend to a thinker, a poet, an artist.' - Sadia Rafique, Art Director & Street Photographer
'The masterclass felt like stepping outside of time & space and allowed me to just be, create and cross-pollinate with fellow creatives. Food for thought. Soul food. Still digesting, nurturing and growing a few weeks later. A stripe will never be just a stripe to me! Two parallel lines inevitably meet up in infinity.' Sigrid Stessels, Structural Engineer/Architect at Buro Happold