Reflecting on Women On The Edge Of Time — her futuristic feminist novel set in New York, first published in ’76 — author Marge Piercy mused: “The point of a novel about the future is not to predict it. The point of creating futures is to get people to imagine what they want and don’t want to happen down the road — and maybe do something about it.” Of imaging what might be a better future, she explains how “Utopia is born of the hunger for something better, but it relies on hope as the engine for imagining such a future.”
As we now grapple with a reality that once seemed possible only in a dystopian fantasy, we’re immersed IRL in a fate literary geniuses have long cautioned. But, as in any good apocalyptic thriller, there is still hope — that in pressing (a well overdue) pause on life as we knew it, we might for once have a semi-decent chance of dismantling outdated systems and fast-tracking our transformation into a new kind of wild world order.
COLLINA STRADA x CHARLIE ENGMAN ‘Radical Transparency’ tops (worn as a top and skirt), COLLINA STRADA gloves, sunglasses and shoes, BONDS ‘Organics’ Triangle top and Hi Bikini pants in ‘Moss Green’, SANTANGELO earrings
Fashion’s place in the human world’s infinite dysfunction needs no recap — but what of its future? Looking at the potential long-term upshots of recent events, iconic futurist Lidewij Edelkoort predicted that this “quarantine of consumption” could be “an amazing grace for the planet.”
And while we sure hope she’s somewhat right on this one, it’s also our guess that people won’t stop shopping. So, it’s going to take some serious change in what we choose to spend our cash on, and how both big and small brands choose to make clothes.
Enter, Fashion Revolution: a global not-for-profit that champions change for the better across the systems of fashion — aka helping us make good-for-the-planet buying decisions — since 2013. Last week marked Fashion Revolution Week — and the anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory disaster in Bangladesh — and in some ways, the timing couldn’t have been better, especially when it comes to highlighting the ethical issues affecting fashion’s supply chains.
Hopeful that these recent events will fast-track the required behavioural shifts when it comes to spending, consuming and even thinking about fashion, the group continues to push us to ask our favourite brands #WhoMadeMyClothes — an even more important question now, as garment workers have been amongst the industry’s worst-hit by COVID-19 and its financial fallout. They also advocate for asking #WhatsInMyClothes, hoping to drive a broader conversation about the ingredients — such as the plastics, chemicals and polluting microfibres — that are often not disclosed on the care labels from some of the world’s biggest brands.
For us to become more mindful consumers, they recommend that we look for certified sustainable fabrics such as Fair Trade or GOTS Certified Cotton, FSC certified Viscose and the global recycled standard on materials that claim to use recycled fabrics. But for us, as consumers, to start shopping smarter, we need access to the right kind of clothes. So, how are some of our fav brands helping?
On the small but creatively very impactful end of the scale is Collina Strada — one of New York’s most exciting young labels, with colourful collections that transcend age and gender. Started a little over 10 years ago by Hillary Taymour, her vision, collections, and NYFW presentations increasingly lead the way in inspiring us to be better humans whilst still keeping things fun. As a designer, her “main concern,” she says, “is staying true to her craft, while also becoming a fully sustainable and radically transparent brand in the near future.”
Aligning sustainability and commercial creativity, however, is a whole different challenge that’s not always easy or possible — it’s unrealistic to be perfect, or in this case, 100% sustainable — but it’s essential to just be doing the best you can. “We are in a crucial state of change right now,” she explains, “and the more we [do, the more we] can impact others to take action.”
As a niche brand, she’s aware that her smaller quantities allow her to produce the range locally and, for example, more easily make use of deadstock material that might be tricky to reproduce on a larger scale — in the end, making it much easier to clearly trace what materials we’re wearing and how they were actually turned into our clothes.
At the other end of the scale is Aussie brand, Bonds, who have been innovating in the world of Australian-designed undies for over a hundred years. Global production and distribution can make managing transparency and sustainability a little more complicated, but Bonds and its group owner, Hanes, have always been ahead of the game. They continue to work on new ways to make products that are better for both people and the environment — part of their ongoing effort to continually embrace best-practice sustainability initiatives on a global scale.
In looking at where the materials for our fave undies and trackies come from: a partnership with Cotton Australia has helped with ethical sourcing of their HomeGrown cotton, and they’ve also released a number of ranges made out of recycled and upcycled materials — including their ReLoved collection made from cotton offcuts, their swimwear range made from PET recycled bottles, and their new Earth Day hoodie, made from reclaimed fibers and totally undyed. Recently, Bonds also launched their Organics collection, made exclusively of Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified cotton, which guarantees environmental and ethical values are prioritised throughout the entire creation process — from the sourcing of raw material to the where, when and how they end up owned by us. And to keep these well-sourced materials as pure as can be, they have their own Restricted Substances list, banning more than 770 harmful substances from all manufacturing processes.
As for the people who make them? Human rights, diversity, and safety are all non-negotiable. Their supply chain has been audited for decades now, with a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to child labour, assault, and bribery. And for us shoppers, this all means transparency and traceability — and easy answers to #WhoMade and #WhatsInMyClothes.
With the veil over global supply chains now undeniably lifted, transparency in the sourcing, production, and marketing processes can no longer just be nice to have. Mindful consumption, where our shopping habits are less harmful to both people and the planet, needs, more than ever, to become the new norm. Because real sustainability means materials that are not only produced organically, but both the environment and humans are treated ethically in the process — all the way from the farms to your drawers. And if we want any kind of future, let alone a hopeful one to look forward to, this is the only way for fashion to go.