New World Order: A fashion girl's musings on Covid
STOCK TAKE TIME
We are living in unprecedented times. The Covid-19 pandemic is affecting us all. Some more directly and far more tragically than others. Amidst all the uncertainty and upheaval we are experiencing in the wake of this virus, we are being forced to really look at ourselves. And it’s not pretty. For so long we have been operating under assumptions of the way the world is. Ideas such as “You can’t stop progress” and “Let the market decide” have gone largely unchallenged since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. There is an assumption that because things are a certain way, that is the way that they must continue to be. But, is it possible that there is an alternative to living life as a human being on this earth today? If we take a wide lens view, we see that we have endured, survived and thrived through other crises before. We know the sun will rise in the morning and we know that in time, this pandemic will settle. That is not to say that things should go back to ‘normal’, because much of what is ‘normal’ now no longer serves us. As Li Edelkoort, of Trend Union, stated in a recent interview “This virus is a gift. The virus is a representation of our collective conscious… hopefully when this is over, we will be able to reset society and make a new world and create new systems that will be less polluting and energy consuming and better for people. Greed is the enemy. It’s almost as if the Covid virus is fighting the greed virus”. We are writing history, here and now. Time has come for a new chapter.
OUT WITH THE OLD. IN WITH THE NEW.
Where dressmaking was once a craft, these days the clothes we wear are largely a commodity. Many brands base their business model on producing large quantities of products at the cost of the planet. One of the impacts of the virus is that the global production machine has paused, and we can see the impact of these production practices ordinarily have on our environment. With a halt to the factories, the pollution over the cities is clearing. In Northern Italy, reductions of up to 30% of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) have been recorded. A simple google image search will bring up some very compelling before and after satellite images showing CO2 reductions in Wuhan, Northern Italy and other big industrial cities. We know this is good for the planet. The question is, will we go back to “normal” once the lock downs are lifted?
On the flip side, the factories have stopped and hundreds of thousands of garments worker’s livelihoods are now at risk. This is specially the case in developing countries where there is no safety net for the masses of people who suddenly have no income to support themselves and their families. So many people are reliant on the machinations of large scale manufacturing. We operate under a system that is largely reliant on globalization to produce not just fashion, but everyday items such as toys, electronics, white goods, sporting equipment, food, toilet paper! This extreme globalization is not a sustainable model for the long term. Just like we need biodiversity in the natural environment for all species to survive and thrive, we need bio-diversity in our economic environment for all communities to survive and thrive.
There has been a faction of the industry that has been slowly chipping away at making positive, conscientious changes to the way we produce and consume fashion. Actually, there is no shortage of amazing ethical and sustainable brands fighting the good fight. Brands, who each have their own focus on issues they are passionate about, whether it be fair working conditions, clean oceans and waterways, soil quality, keeping garments out of landfill or using emerging technology to create new sustainable textiles.These brands play an important role, but more needs to be done. We all know that a tee shirt that costs $10, has had some cutting of corners along the production line and you shouldn’t buy it. But the fact is that a $70 tee shirt, no matter how ethical is just not a realistic option for most people. Forget fashion for a minute, how do we go about dressing people everyday without destroying the planet?
So, where to from here? I’m not an economist, environmental expert, not an academic. But I am in the fashion space and like many others out there, I can see shortcomings on the horizon unless we make changes. You could say, the shortcomings are here. We need to support local businesses and in turn local businesses need to support local industries. The rate of production and consumption must slow down. We need to place greater value on objects of convenience and move away from “throw away” culture. It is up to individual consumers to make educated choices and raise their voice with their spending power. But, all the good choices made at an individual level will be inconsequential unless we have good leadership from industry and government. They are the ones who can make systemic changes that truly have potential for long lasting change.
CREATING THE FUTURE
In her book The Artist’s Way, Author Julia Cameron writes that if we are made in the image of our Creator (whatever that may be to you), then we are all Creators. This is the time to innovate, to create not only new products, but new ideas and new ways of living. There is no richer field for creativity than within the confines of boundaries and that is perfect, because we are in a bind. We see it happening already all over our feeds on social media. People are dancing, skating, drawing, making, singing, playing and all with what is readily at hand. We need creativity for our mental health to help us get through this time psychologically unscathed. But we also need creativity to tap into a higher consciousness, it re-connects us with what it means to be a human in this world. This current crisis has made it crystal clear how truly connected we all are. People, businesses, industries, the economy, the entire natural world: none of these things exist in a vacuum. For every cause, there is an effect. For us to continue to exist on this earth, we need to work towards a balance between capitalism and people, the economy and the environment, politics and taking custodianship of this planet. If extreme globalization and unrelenting capitalism are our Goliath. Maybe this virus is in fact our David. This event will go down in history. Let’s write a story we will be proud to tell future generations about.
Note: It’s taken me weeks to write this journal entry. I have gone through different stages of challenging, understanding and accepting what is going on. It’s been a difficult time to focus and articulate ideas. I have taken great consolation and education from reading and listening to podcast interviews. So, for this journal entry it seems appropriate to reference the writers and thinkers who have helped to clarify my perspectives. I urge you to check them out.
Everything by Stephen West: https://philosophizethis.org/category/episode/