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Interview: Orsola de Castro, Founder and Creative Director, Fashion Revolution

Interview: Orsola de Castro, Founder and Creative Director, Fashion Revolution

Approximately 75 million people work to make our clothes. 80% of them are women between the ages of 18 and 35. Viki Taylor spoke to Orsola de Castro, Founder and Creative Director of Fashion Revolution, the world’s biggest fashion activism movement. Fashion Revolution is intent on giving garment workers a voice and making the fashion industry accountable. It’s a spearhead in an industry that is so inefficient that it is currently cheaper to over produce than it is to produce less.

“If I knew that, I wouldn’t be talking to you. I’d be in their offices working on the strategy” laughs Orsola when I ask what big fashion brands should be doing to avoid waste. She swiftly points out that the first thing we need to do is redefine the word waste. ‘Surplus and waste are two very different things’ she says, and those big brands that have hit the headlines in the past year for burning unwanted clothing have shown us ‘how little value they place on the product that we are asked to pay a lot of money for. That’s the controversy, if things have no value to the brands that produce them, why should they have such an expensive price tag. It’s not even just luxury that incinerates, it’s a very common practice.’

Fashion Revolution is the brainchild of Orsola and Carry Somers, who met as fashion designers. Orsola was founder of Esthetica, the British Fashion Council’s sustainable fashion area at London Fashion week, which ran between 2006-2014. The original idea for Fashion Revolution came just after the Rana Plaza disaster, the 2013 collapse of a complex of clothes factories in Bangladesh, which killed 1,138 people and left many with life-changing injuries. It shocked the world and Orsola and Carry started working on the concept of Fashion Revolution soon after.

Orsola says everyone is invited to be part of Fashion Revolution, ‘we don’t believe there is one sector of society that has a bigger power to change things’. Currently, everyone from academics to factory farmers are part of it. She adds, ‘although we can see through the hashtag #imadeyourclothes that the garment workers are becoming more visible and that always has been one of our main remits.’

We talk about working towards a circular fashion industry. Although there is huge investment when it comes to circularity, Orsola insists that right now, innovation is key - and she’s not just talking technologically. ‘[We need to] look at skills we are maybe forgetting in terms of the transformation of clothing. We need to upscale upcycling! Remember that what you buy is in the fashion supply chain and therefore, make anything you buy have a positive impact. Look at what you’ve got already and buy less. Borrow, swap and share. Look at the last fanzine for loads of tips!’.

Fashion Revolution has a busy end to 2018, collaborating with GreenPeace around Black Friday and a few projects lined up that remain hush-hush until later in the year. With an amassed following across social media of more than a quarter of a million, Orsola and Carry have proved that an idea can become a movement, which can become change. In her own words, ‘we all have the capacity to change things, if we act together’.

Visit the Fashion Revolution website to find out more, read the fanzine and make a donation.

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