Who made my clothes?
You may have seen this question popping up on the internet more often in the past few weeks. It is the main question of the Fashion Revolution campaign in the run-up to the second ‘anniversary’ of the Rana Plaza collapse on April 24, 2013 in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
The discussion on fair fashion and making the textile industry more sustainable often zooms in on the supply chain: how and where are garments produced? Issues that are part of the supply chain are well documented: labour issues such as freedom of association or working hours, health and safety, building safety or environmental issues such as use of toxins and high water consumption.
But is there a way to restructure the design process within the fashion company itself to contribute to a more sustainable business model?
This is what the book Paradigm shift in Fashion, written by Hasmik Matevosyan, proposes. By creating a smarter design process a brand can tailor its collections much more to what its customers want. This means clothing will be sold more, will be worn more and that the amount of unused clothing that ends up in landfills will be reduced. That, in turn, will reduce the carbon, water and waste footprints of clothing and the work that so many people do in factories worldwide will not have gone to waste.
All of those elements are essential to a fair and sustainable value chain in fashion.
I asked Hasmik about her vision and why she is so passionate about creating change in this industry.
Why do you do what you do?
“My vision and mission is to achieve good fashion: fashion that is environmentally friendly and ethically produced, that is profitable for the fashion brands and yet attractive and affordable for the consumers. I guess the root of everything is the way I got in touch with the creation of clothes when I was a little girl. My mom taught me how to knit by giving me her best wool and explaining patiently how and what. My aunt later taught me how to sew and embroider. I have been in touch with people who actually make clothes, and I have seen how important clothes are for the confidence of people. So I love the core of fashion, which is the way clothes make us feel and behave, but I don’t agree with the downside of the fashion industry where people and the environment are being harmed.”
What was your motivation for writing your book ‘Paradigm Shift in Fashion’?
“During my research started in 2009 I had collected a lot of information and connected many links. I had to get it out of my head, share it with like-minded people and receive feedback and questions in order to move further. It worked, because on my book launch I received more than 60 questions that are all leading to smaller research projects that I share through my blogs.
I also wanted to write a book about fashion and sustainability that does NOT focus on what is wrong in the industry, but rather suggests solutions for different challenges. I wanted to write a book which doesn’t only share my vision, but which is also practical so that the readers can start taking steps after reading it.”
What is the first step a fashion business should take if it wants to make its business model more sustainable?
“The very first step for fashion brands and retailers is to switch their communication with their consumers from a monologue to a dialogue and really listen. It is very important to receive feedback to prevent design mistakes in the future and understand the reason behind successes to repeat them again. Today we have 30% overproduction of clothes, which can be prevented when designing based on needs and desires of the people who are going to wear the clothes instead of assumptions. It would in its turn save money, energy, resources and labour in the production of this 30% overproduction.”
Want to hear more about Hasmik’s views on the fashion industry? Watch her TEDx-talk at TEDx-Maastricht below.
Thank you, Hasmik, for sharing your ideas via my blog!