Move over, Milan. The UK’s Sustainable Fashion Week starts on 16 September in Bristol. Frank talks to its founder Amelia Twine about reconnecting with the clothes in our closet.
Amelia, tell us about Sustainable Fashion Week.
Sustainable Fashion Week is a celebration of all the different ways we can make positive changes in our fashion habits.
The consumer is not responsible for the state of the fashion industry, or for resolving its impact on people in the environment, but we have enormous power to collectively demand a sustainable future. We can do this by reconnecting with how our clothing is made. Taking small steps can have big impacts.
Sustainable Fashion Week is the natural counterpart to the fashion weeks we’ve come to know. Our focus is not on next season’s trends, but on the many different entry points to sustainability, so we can include everyone in the actions we’re advocating.
Our programme is split into three parts and looks to resource and upskill people in the community on different budgets. We have the SFW Hub and Catwalk in Bristol and over 80 community events across the UK and beyond.
What inspired you to set it up?
I worked in food sustainability for a long time and moved into fashion in 2018 to launch an online sustainable womenswear retail platform, GIVE WEAR LOVE.
I could see how far behind the fashion industry was, in addressing its impact and the harm it does. I saw how much brands were dragging their heels in taking real action that led to meaningful change.
But in running the retail store I also realised that we need to move beyond the idea that we can simply change the production story of new clothing to one that is less harmful.
We need to dramatically reduce how much fashion is being produced, consumed and wasted. I wanted to look at sustainability through a broader lens.
What are SFW’s aims? What do you most want people to take from it?
Our four themes are regenerate, re-wear, repurpose and reconnect. Between them, these encapsulate all the different ways we can engage with clothing more sustainably.
We want people to feel inspired and resourced. We want to help build people’s confidence so they feel able to take up a needle and give repairing a go.
We want people to feel excited at the prospect of not buying new, of trying to replace that adrenaline rush with one that doesn’t have a complicated back story.
We want to support the growing movements for better fashion and also help people practically, by offering skills and services that can measurably change how they shop and wear clothing.
One of your core concepts is #Reconnect. Can you tell us more about that aspect?
This theme is the most important. We need to dramatically change how we view and connect to fashion.
Often, we see people feeling completely divorced from the growing, processing and making of fibres and garments. Historically it would’ve been something so central to our social interactions and relationships.
Today we simply pick something off the rack and take it home without thinking for a moment about where it comes from.
All clothing comes from the land, whether it’s natural or synthetic, and we want people to start reconnecting to that idea and connecting to the people whose hands the garment has passed through as it was created.
Bristol happens to be our hometown so it’s part coincidence. It’s also the best place for sustainable fashion as it’s such a hub of creative, climate-focused activity. Having said that, we don’t want what we’re doing to be Bristol-centric.
Sustainability in fashion is relevant to every single person who gets dressed in the morning. We are keen to keep spreading our programme of activities across the UK as much as possible. Everyone is welcome to participate, wherever they’re based.
Tell us about some of the inspiring women who will be speaking at the SFW Hub event.
There are so many. Tamara Cincik of Fashion Roundtable works to advocate for the UK fashion industry to Parliament, seeking to amend policy to make UK fashion better.
Tansy Hoskins is an amazing author who takes a real stand against the capitalist underpinnings of the fashion industry, which arguably leads to so much exploitation in the system.
And we are so pleased to have Safia Minney participate this year too. As the founder of People Tree and Fashion Declares, she is an inspirational figure in the fight for cleaner and fairer fashion.
For people who can’t get to Bristol, how can they get involved?
Have a look at our website and see what’s on near you. There are community events in lots of the major UK cities this year and anyone is welcome to host an event to connect with their networks, peers or communities.
You link sustainable fashion and wellbeing. One of your speakers, Dr Jenny Goodman, talks about how fast fashion is toxic to our health. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
We’ll be finding out a lot more about this from Jenny’s talk but there is rising interest and awareness of how the toxic chemical inputs in the growing of certain fibres, and processing of others, can impact consumers’ health while they’re wearing the item. Only recently, there was a news article about a Shein coat for a toddler that had unsafe levels of lead in it.
How would you describe yourself? Tell us more about your journey to becoming a sustainable fashion advocate.
I think I stand somewhere between being an activist and an entrepreneur and those two things don’t necessarily sit well together! I love running small businesses and have done for years but I hate having to sell or focus on making money over delivering a really valuable offering.
GIVE WEAR LOVE was a great opportunity to explore and move into fashion but I was dreadful at pushing people to buy and I found it so stressful. I’m much more comfortable now running a community interest company that is entirely non-profit.
Sustainable Fashion Week UK runs from 16-23 September 2022.
For more information head over to the Website.
Follow Sustainable Fashion Week UK on Instagram.