Looking back, looking forward

  • Gary Fawdrey

    Gary Fawdrey

    Assistant Programme Manager

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Guest post by 2020 Competition Judge John Pitsakis, co-founder of Greek sustainable fashion brand 3QUARTERS

The biggest news of 2020, and for many years to come, is by far the global Covid-19 pandemic. The situation escalated so rapidly, we have some of the biggest and most advanced countries in the world being caught unaware. Daily updates on infection rates and deaths are overwhelming, and we’re not even past the worst yet.

But among the chaos, there are two points that, I find, are the keys to understanding the problem and the world in general. Most importantly, this applies to our topic also. The Fashion Industry and the global challenges we are facing.

Perspective, or how quickly things change

I spend a lot of my time in London, where I lived for a decade. In the mid 2000’s I had a strange experience that I still remember vividly. It was the first few months of the then new flagship Primark shop in Oxford Street being open when I happened to pass by. There were people exiting with large suitcases full of new shopping, an incredible amount of clothes by any standard, and they were everywhere! I couldn’t understand what was happening so I asked one of the happy customers what all this was about. Apparently, she had flown in the same day from Europe without any luggage, she had purchased the two biggest suitcases she could find and had filled them up with new Primark clothes to take home the next day. I thought, this is enough clothes for a couple of years but she corrected me smilingly. I’m coming every three months, I hardly ever wear anything more than twice.

This might sound common to some people, even normal, but it didn’t even exist a few years ago. It seems I grew up in a different world, where we used to buy select clothes a few times a year, mostly on special occasions. This phenomenon is incomprehensible to me and I’m not that old. Honestly. Fast fashion is so recent yet nobody seems to remember that it wasn’t always so. Until only a few years ago, there were biannual collections and trends used to last a few seasons, now clothes are released, bought and discarded very quickly. . How did we get here?

Only a few weeks ago, nobody was expecting cities and whole countries to be shut down completely, working from home to be the norm and physical distancing to be instructed Now we are getting used to it and it’s going to be weeks or months before we go out without any restrictions. And even then, no matter how much we’ll need to catch up on outdoors life, things will be very different.

It’s easy to forget how recent most facets of contemporary life are. The transition is seamless but the acceleration is increasing. Sometimes it’s good to look back and appreciate that.

Data, or how things really are.

The data is there. Fast Fashion has an immense environmental impact, it’s one of the most polluting industries in the world. From raw materials to production, shipping, consuming and discarding, the cycle is so wasteful it’s difficult to grasp. So is the damage to humans and societies. Whole cities of sweatshops are producing garments that will end up in a landfill on the other side of the world in just a few months.Why don’t we see it?

What are we waiting for? Another 10-floor factory collapse in Bangladesh with a thousand victims? The rise and collapse of another global fast fashion corporation? The environmental damage to affect us personally? All the above are happening every day and they will accelerate rapidly. It doesn’t just happen to other people, it is here and it is global. It really isn’t so hard to understand.

In January 2020, the information on the Covid-19 spread was alarming. Yet most western countries were unprepared because it was something happening far far away. But the data is there, why don’t we see the reality of it?

The future, or how things will be

Things will eventually change, they always do, but we have a choice. This is a unique opportunity to reshape our future and our world. The most pressing issues we have ever faced, climate change and social inequality, need to be addressed. And the Fashion Industry is a key area where innovation can lead the way.

The 2020 European Social Innovation Competition is focusing on Reimagining Fashion. This is where the seeds for a better future will be planted. Where facts and reality are not ignored and where new ideas and perspective will be the foundations for a world where humans and the planet will be living in balance.

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The Reimagine Fashion Semi-Finalists will be announced on 4th May. Make sure you are subscribed to our newsletter to receive the announcement.