Proposing a new idea and convincing others of its validity is no easy task. Even more so when you’re dealing with complex issues such as supply chain transparency, or trying to shift the ‘take, make and waste’ model of the fashion industry to one of circularity. To learn more about campaigning for change, the True Fashion Collective gathered more than 100 fashion enthusiasts at Fashion for Good last week to ask industry experts: “How can I campaign for change?”
The political is personal
Circular textiles specialist Jade Wilting started with the personal. She emphasized that finding ways to connect to the sustainable fashion cause on a personal level is key to maintaining momentum.
“Watch documentaries; read blogs; light the fire within,” she advised.
The first follower transforms the lone nut
Beyond this, Wilting noted that being a follower is a powerful, undervalued form of leadership. To demonstrate this, she pointed to this video which features a (seemingly) ‘wild lunatic’ dancing on a hill alone, which demonstrates that it’s the first follower who paves the way for others to join. This video is an amazing example that demonstrates how a crowd is organically amassed.
The power of the crowd
Many campaigns focus on raising awareness but miss motivating their audience in the right way. This is the belief of Ron van de Akker, from online campaigning platform CollAction. Van de Akker posed that while your actions may feel like just a drop in the ocean, if you knew 100, 1000 or even one million people were willing to take a stand, you’d be more likely to join, too.
Testing this theory, he invited the audience to sign on to the platform’s #SlowFashionSummer campaign. The pitch? “If 2,500 people commit to not buying any new clothes in the summer of 2018 (21 June to 21 September), we’ll all do it!” Sign on here.
The role of influencers
Anne-Ro Klevant Groen, Communications Manager for Fashion for Good, referenced her experience working on corporate communications and said, “We need to create the same hype and buzz around social change as we apply to campaigns in the commercial sector.”
She talked about the value of working with major influencers such as Gigi Hadid during her time at Tommy Hilfiger, which prompted moderator Holly Syrett to ask if getting more ‘cool kids’ in the game was key for spreading the message further, to which Klevant Groen responded, “Absolutely! Celebrities and well-known personalities have a major role to play. However, if you only have 100 followers and a strong message, you’re an influencer, too.”
Messaging: Doom & gloom or positive inspiration?
The Fashion for Good building is designed to activate imagination through its first-floor exhibition. As you get deeper into the building and engage further with its resources, you’re prompted to learn more about the atrocities facing the industry. But the message was clear: Use positive messaging to start the conversation. As Wilting reminded attendees: “Obama never said ‘everything is going to shit’; his campaign slogan was ‘change we can believe in!’”
“Yes, but are we at risk of simply allowing people to put their head back in the sand?” Syrett asked, pointing out the importance of striking a balance with messaging to inspire both engagement and action.
The Fashion Revolution
In 2013, when more than 1,100 garment workers lost their lives during a devastating factory collapse in Bangladesh, many called it a ‘wake-up call’ for the industry. To mark the anniversary each year, the Fashion Revolution campaign calls on brands to answer the question, “#whomademyclothes?” And each year, the tactics and tools used to amplify this message expand.
The Fashion Revolution website states explicitly that “rather than making people feel guilty, we help them recognise that they have the power to do something to make a positive change.” In 2015, the campaign launched a video, The 2€ T-Shirt — A Social Experiment,” which has received over 6.5 million views and won a Cannes Lions award.
In 2016, Fashion Revolution launched the Transparency Index, publicly ranking the biggest brands on the information they disclose about social and environmental issues. In 2017, the Transparency Index grew to rank 100 brands; and hundreds of celebrities and influencers including Emma Watson, pro surfer Kelly Slater, and editor-in-chief of Marie Claire Italia, Antonella Antonelli, joined the cause.
This year, Fashion Revolution has released another powerful video, along with a Manifesto, launched yesterday at its annual Fashion Question Time event in London, which lays out a vision with 10 action points for a cleaner, safer fashion industry and calls for “radical, revolutionary change.”
This Fashion Revolution Week, there are more than 1000 events worldwide, from creative workshops to film screenings, catwalks and panel discussions. What’s more, the Transparency Index has extended to 150 brands and retailers, and organizers have created a “how-to guide,” filled with easy ways for anyone, anywhere to do their part to drive the Revolution further.