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Where were you born?
Tell us a bit about your career and how you got to where you are. What is your favourite part of your job?
I am the founder of 1 Million Women (an organisation that empowers women and girls to fight the climate crisis) but before that, I founded a cosmetics company that ran for 24 years. That really is it. I was never really engaged in climate change or any kind of activism – I used to think that climate change was someone else’s problem. But a little over a decade ago I had an epiphany and I changed. I realised that we are all powerful as individuals and was inspired to start 1MW. Our goal is to empower women across the world to live climate action through everything they do and every choice they make in their daily lives and through their voice and vote. Women are changemakers and that lifestyle change is critical in this climate emergency. We are now 960,000 women from every corner of the planet.
1 Million Women is centred around the power of women to reduce their personal carbon footprint and that of their household. Do you see a correlation between carbon output and the purchasing decisions women make for their wardrobe?
Absolutely. The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries contributing to climate change and we have so much power through our purchasing decisions. Everything we buy or don’t buy shapes the world. Women as consumers are powerful. It’s estimated that women now control $29.6 trillion of the world’s wealth. By 2028, women will be responsible for about two-thirds of consumer spending worldwide so we have enormous influence. We can scrutinize products and drive consumer trends. We can use our consumer power to demand more from brands not doing the right thing. We can buy less, share more. We can mend and repair before throwing out. We can look after our clothes better. We can shop in our own wardrobe more often.
What does the concept of ethical fashion mean to you?
For me, ethical fashion is two-fold and means so many things:
From a consumer’s perspective – buy less, buy quality and don’t buy based on trends. Avoid fast fashion, make it last, share and swap within your friend’s wardrobes and the list goes on… As consumers we have a lot of power to change this story by demanding greater transparency in labelling, researching and investing in ethical clothing that include fair working conditions, sustainable production, environmental impacts and animal welfare.
From a suppliers perspective – stop the unsustainable fashion cycles that no one can possibly keep up with. Some brands have 52 seasons every year. Others have 100’s of micro-fashion cycles a month and it’s estimated that more than half of the fast fashion items produced are disposed of within less than a year. This is heartbreaking. It is heartbreaking for the garment workers that get paid below the minimum wage. The poorest in the world are exploited to make clothes for those who cannot only afford it but can discard it without care because why care for something that was only $10.
The fashion industry is one of the most polluting on the planet and it needs everyone. It needs industry right across the supply change to do things better and with less impact on the planet and it needs consumers to buy less, buy quality and support brands that are doing the right thing.
What role will smaller independent brands play in shaping the future of ethical fashion?
They are going to playing a significant role in shifting the story and I am hoping in this world post COVID-19 there is a new way where we support local independent brands who are doing all they can to build a sustainable business much more. However, we need to be wary of all the greenwashing that is going on. Brands can’t think they are doing the right thing if they have one line that is ‘eco-friendly’ if the rest of the lines aren’t or if their internal practices aren’t. But also buying from a local brand also means the carbon miles are a lot less. If a garment was made halfway around the world the carbon miles it took to end up on your wardrobe have contributed to climate change far more than if it was made locally. This also goes for online shopping. Buying something online from overseas brings with it a huge whack of CO2.
As consumers we have so much power because every time we purchase something we are casting our vote for what kind of world we want. Every dollar we spend and what we purchase send a clear signal for this.
I think Vivienne Westwood nails it when she says ‘ Buy less, choose well, make it last’.
What areas do you think fashion brands should be focusing on to create more socially and environmentally responsible business?
Well one of the many areas is what to with unsold stock – we need to hold brands accountable for how they manage unsold stocks. I was so shocked a couple of years ago when we were told Burberry burned all their old stock. We campaigned against this with a campaign called #stopfashionburning. Burberry has burnt €28.6 million pounds worth of clothes, accessories and perfumes the year before. It was just astonishing to us and we let them know with an open letter to their CEO that said amongst other things:
“We are in a climate emergency and waste emergency, and the fashion industry is found to be one of the most polluting industries in the world. Burning your excess products because you don’t want them sold cheaply in the marketplace is exacerbating climate change and wasting the Earth’s diminishing resources. Not only is it destructive and immoral, it is irresponsible and disrespectful to your customers, the people who make your products and the people who produce the materials that you need. In a world bursting with imagination on how to solve the climate crisis and deal with waste, just imagine what else you could do with a little creative thinking. There are better ways of dealing with this issue that will save you money, make you money and won’t cost the planet.”
What are your favourite sustainable fashion brands?
Mighty Good Basics for a start! I love what your brand stands for and the honesty you bring to it. I actually cannot tell you my favourite sustainable fashion brand. I know as the founder of 1MW I should give you a better answer than this, but the truth is I am not a shopper. I avoid it. I have been like this all my life. My mother would take me shopping when I was a teenager and there would always be tears in the end because I never wanted to buy anything. All I ever wanted to wear was a sarong and a tank top. I guess I have my own style which is a bit like my personality. Throw anything together. Nothing ever matches and it’s not brand related. There is not much structure to any of it. Through 1MW I have met some amazing people doing all they can to be sustainable. Bianca Spender is a stand out for me.
Who is your style icon?
My best girlfriend Anna Magnus. What she does with clothes is incredible and I can’t wait for our girls weekend every year because I usually end up with one of her spectacular garments. My mum was pretty fabulous as well. She had a style of her own that never dated.
What is your favourite item in your wardrobe and why? Tell us the story.
It is my many wraps. They are, have always been, and will be forever more my favourite pieces of clothing. My wraps make me feel special and loved and generous at heart. I love the unorganised and free- spirited way a wrap falls across my shoulders, or around my body. Even when I feel tired or low my whole personality comes to life if I throw a wrap around my shoulders. Haha that might sound a little shallow and I can’t explain it but I just feel me when I am wearing a wrap with whatever else I have on (and its usually my favourite pair of jeans).
What’s your favourite Mighty Good Basics style and why?
Well it’s not the pair I’m wearing although they are pretty damn good too (boy leg). It would have to be the Grannies! However, they were sold out in my size because they are so popular (watch this space for re-stocking of all sizes and exciting new colours)…