“The fashion industry has been talking for years about the need for change,” he said Independent. “There were conferences, panels, people talking and talking, and nothing happened. Now, with a pandemic, that shouldn’t change, that is had been To replace.
“Until now climate change and sustainability, poverty and migration have each been put in a box. The pandemic has shown us that everything is connected. That’s one big problem.
“We were finally able to see it through a different lens and we were in a special moment to act. The pandemic has highlighted that sustainability is the only way forward. “
He had beaten this drum long before it had become fashionable. In 2007 he founded Eco-Age, a consultant who works with brands to enhance their green credentials, with his brother Nicola Giuggioli.
Ms. Firth, who grew up in Rome, spoke at Zoom’s call from her home in Italy, where she had squatted for several months. The country has been one of the hardest hit by coronaviruses and witnessing its spread convinced him to close Milan and London corporate offices in a row.
“We are worried that everyone will come to work with public transportation because it is not safe. Now we all work remotely and spend millions of hours on Zoom, “he said.
Ms. Firth went to Italy after the British government gave her a little confidence that they had recognized the urgency of the crisis. “We think we prefer to be in a country that takes it very seriously,” he said.
In recent years, Ms. Firth has emerged as a champion of ongoing fashion and vocal criticism over the failure of the clothing industry to protect vulnerable workers in developing countries and their impact on climate and biodiversity.
On a 2008 trip to Bangladesh as Oxfam’s ambassador, he witnessed garment factory workers, mostly women and girls, working in hazardous conditions, who harassed for crazy wages to make clothing intended for the highway. (He later returned after the catastrophic collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Dhaka that killed more than 1,100 people and injured 2,500, the deadliest garment industry accident in history.)
“I never realized there was a strong connection between fashion and human rights,” he said.
Today, brands stumble to praise their principled attitude but it is not always fashionable to be vocal on inseparable issues of social and environmental justice.
The opportunity presented itself after her husband, actor Colin Firth, starred in the film, A Single Man, in 2009. She was a hot favorite that award season and the full schedule of the red carpet event was lined up.
For Ms. Firth, it was a moment of Damascene. “Everyone is watching the red carpet,” he said. “I think, if you want fashion to talk about human rights, I can give you fashion.”
Before each camera phalanx, he appeared in clothes from environmentally conscious designers, calling it the “Green Carpet Challenge”.
At the Golden Globes, she wore a reconfigured Christiana Couture wedding gown and for Oscar, her appearance was completely rubbish: The black dress from Orsola de Castro, designed from a memo designated for rubbish heaps by luxury brands.
“Every time I come out of another strange dress, made of milk fiber or rubbish, Tom Ford [the designer and director of A Single Man] will look at me and shake his head, “he said. “But he played a role in how I could do it.”
Besides Quirkiness (she was wearing a recycled plastic bottle gown), the experience proved a valuable lesson in what can be achieved by utilizing the request of the empty red carpet, “Who are you wearing?”
“[The red carpet] is the largest communication platform available. People are obsessed. So not using it is stupid, “he said.
Take a quick look at the press folds of the red carpet appearance and you will find the names of ethical designers and descriptions of sustainable practices. Ms. Firth then made use of the “Green Carpet Challenge” into the Vogue column (she was made the sustainability editor of Vogue Arabia in January) and convinced designers to allow the auction of clothing for Oxfam.
Over the past three years, he has produced the Green Carpet Fashion Awards. In 2019, the event was held at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan and was attended by Anna Wintour, Sophia Loren, Valentino, Stella McCartney along with many models and actors.
He said: “I come from years of frustration about campaigns for human rights and people who don’t listen. Then I wear clothes and people listen. I found a vehicle. Fashion is a very large and powerful tool for discussing problems. “
He added: “I never cared about fashion, never even read fashion magazines until I started this.
“When I went to Bangladesh and talked with the women for the first time, I realized it was a feminist problem. Then you saw the devastating impact on the environment and the loss of biodiversity and it was still in fashion. Then cotton plants, children of slavery and forced labor. Every problem is related to fashion. “
He freely admitted that marrying an A-list star like Colin Firth gave him a big platform to exploit.
“I couldn’t do it without Colin’s support. That wouldn’t have happened without him taking me around the world, “he said. (The couple separated last year).
Ms. Firth was frank that she only overcame the lack of industry knowledge with the help of a strong group of female supporters.
“I met Franca Sozzani (the late editor of Vogue Italia) and she said,” I will take you to Paris Couture and give you a little education. “Anna Wintour opened so many doors for me. Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore and Cate Blanchett all worked hard.”
Fashion is now being taken into account. This industry is responsible for nearly 20 percent of global wastewater and around ten percent of world carbon emissions, i.e. UN reported. There is well documented example of a brand that sends “dead stock” in smoke.
This is also a major driver of the loss of biodiversity, the theme World Environment Day 2020. Tree clearing for agricultural land, to make room for plants and animals that produce clothing fibers, contributes to the alarming rate of deforestation.
Excessive monocrop and animal grazing causes soil erosion, depletion of nutrients and a variety of vegetation that support developing ecosystems. Intensive use of pesticides and antimicrobials used to protect plant and animal poisons.
Cotton, which is used to some extent in three-quarters of clothing produced, contributing 2.4% of agricultural land but using 16% of global insecticide, one study was found. International Union for Nature Conservation 2016 (IUCN) the report urges the apparel sector to deal with its impact on biodiversity loss.
The crisis of the fashion industry has become very clear after the coronavirus pandemic.
Zoonotic diseases, which leap over species barriers from animals to humans such as Covid-19, occur at a faster pace when humans push deeper into diverse ecosystems for resources, bringing us into closer contact with wildlife than ever before.
At this point of change, Ms. Firth believes that fashion brands are finally awakened with an urgency to adapt.
“Some [brands] has been slower than the others, “he said, pointing to Dry Group (home of Gucci, Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen) as positive examples of luxury brands doing” great work “to overhaul the supply chain.
“Even some who have never done so far, like Diesel for example, are very committed.”
“It doesn’t matter who is first or last,” he added. “As more and more brands realize that they have to do it. If you want to be sustainable as a business and stay profitable in 10 years, you have taken care of your supply chain, people and raw materials.”
In 2019, 56 signatories, representing 250 brands, joined Pacta Fashion, a coalition of brands and supply chain partners, to tackle global warming, restore biodiversity and protect the oceans. They will report their progress this September.
They face a vertiginous ascent: Update 2019 from The pulse of the Fashion Industry found that although improvements had been made, this effort had slowed down since 2018 and “the fashion industry was far from sustainable”.
Firth has handled several issues in his documentary series, Fashionscapes, revealing bad truths but also some unexpected good things in the supply chain.
In December, he visited the Botswana diamond mine. The partnership between the state government and De Beers suppliers provides about 20% of GDP and has transformed Botswana into the fourth richest country in Africa. The company has also invested in conservation areas. Making films, he said, brought home the role brands must play in protecting biodiversity.
But diamonds are not forever: The film also explores the future of Botswana without its mines, estimated run out within 20-30 years.
“I have traveled to many supply chain countries – Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia, Zambia and Kenya. Amazon for leather supply chains and Australia for wool,” he said.
“In some countries, you meet people who are hopelessly enslaved in the supply chain and see the devastating environmental impact.”
His contention about the diamond industry is “blood diamonds,” he said. “But in Botswana, everyone said,” For us, this is not just a hole in the ground, it is our pride and our country. We have the diamonds. “They are very proud of what they do.”
Botswana feels like a “blueprint” for change, Firth said. “You have businesses now that are stronger than the government and depend on them to actually behave in a responsible manner.
“Instead of planting the number of ‘x’ trees, maybe we should protect the whole area.”
He did not have a blow to the “fast fashion” industry and the proliferation of cheap and disposable clothing that flooded our wardrobe.
“Fast mode is a big foul problem, like fast food, and everything on that scale. It is very difficult to get in touch because people feel so out of it. Looks like this is a gift that we can consume cheaply, “said Ms Firth.
As consumers, we have to change our attitude to an abandoned culture. “I’m 50 and when I grow up, fast mode doesn’t exist. We have a high road but prices are still quite expensive. We save money to buy.
“Today, we are brainwashed into thinking that it is democratic to consume at that price and we consume a lot. Now there is luxury fashion at prices that go beyond fashion and then fast fashion, which also makes no sense. They are two extremes.
“In the middle, there are many independent and small designers. I really feel this is a time where consumers will start to see them as alternatives.
He added: “We need to train ourselves to consume in different ways. Because when we see the devastating impact, whether it is on the workforce in Bangladesh, or on biodiversity and conservation, hopefully that means before we buy the next item, we will really think twice. “
The Independent calls for an end to the sale and trade of high-risk wildlife with our campaign, Stop Wildlife Trade
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