I started the #NoNewClothes challenge as a way to combat my overconsumption and highlight the devastating consequences that the fashion industry has had on our planet and the people making our clothes.
Over the last five months, I’ve talked extensively about the inherent problems within the fashion industry, and during this time, we have also seen oil spills and wildfires on top of a global pandemic. This is all pretty heavy stuff, I will admit.
That is why today I would like to focus on the solutions. We know what kind of a world we don’t want to live in, we are living that reality every day. It is important then, that we come together to collectively reimagine our future. If we cannot envision a better world, for our planet and for the people that inhabit it, how can we hope to evolve to that place?
I’ve spent a lot of time dreaming about that potential future reality. This weekend as I labored in my garden to transform my dry dirt into rich healthy soil — I was reminded again of the power of soil and the important role it will play in the future of our planet.
What does soil have to do fashion you might ask? What if I told you that there was a world in which fashion was not a polluting villain in this story? What if the textile industry could actually be a hero when it comes to climate change? What if our fashion choices could help rather than harm the earth?
That is the promise of regenerative agriculture.. A simple definition of regenerative agriculture that I love is farming in a way that leaves the earth better than when you found it.
If we made a large-scale collective effort to move away from polyester, nylon, and other synthetic fabrics which are derived from fossil fuels and moved to regeneratively farmed cotton, hemp, wool, and some lesser known textile crops like henequen, mycelium leather, and even pineapple, then we could actually reverse climate change instead of contribute to it!
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Regenerative agriculture (which essentially means low tilling of the soil, no chemicals, and planting a variety of crops to support one another rather than a single mono m-crop) can not only heal and replenish the soil, but it can also draw down carbon from the atmosphere thereby mitigating rising temperatures and climate change.
Imagine a world where we sourced our clothing fibers from local growers whose farms were actively restoring health to our soil, whose crops were drawing down the excess carbon in our atmosphere and converting it into food for the soil. Whose fibers we would then process using natural dyes, turn into clothes using local well paid artisans. Whose garments we would treasure, learn to mend and repair and pass down to future generations.
At the end of its life cycle, we could lovingly return the garment back to the earth as food for the soil by putting it in our compost pile. That is how our ancestors lived and clothed themselves for millennia. Why can’t we do the same?
Why continue on a path towards destruction? Why keep poisoning our rivers and oceans with toxic dyes, chemicals, and micro plastics? Why keep drilling for oil to make our clothes if there is another option available to us?
I truly believe that this dream is possible. It just requires a massive collective reframe and some help in imagining a new possible future. If we (the consumer) demand better from the fashion industry (designers, brands, magazines), then they must eventually listen. Especially if we collectively boycott their conventionally made clothing as I am doing this year. Imagine the power we would have if we all did that together?
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Already, I am seeing so many brands jump on the bandwagon of “sustainability.” While this is a step in the right direction, it is, frankly, not enough. Sustainable implies maintaining the status quo. Do we really want to maintain or sustain the current situation we are in? Horrific wildfires ravaging the world, unprecedented natural disasters due to climate change? We need to do better than just “sustain” and be carbon neutral. We need to actively regenerate our earth and reduce excess carbon in the atmosphere.
We must insist that the fashion industry stop what they are doing immediately, and switch to textiles grown via regenerative agriculture. And it’s not just me that is saying this.
Here is a wonderful Vogue article for those that want to go deeper, and I have included a list of resources for further reading at the end of this diary.
I have a vision of a world that grows its crops for food and fashion in a regeneratively farmed way. In this vision, there are no more horrific wildfires. The soil is replenished and healthy, it can retain moisture, and the earth is no longer parched and dry. In this vision, the planet is no longer warming because we are reducing carbon in the atmosphere, not adding to it. All the leather tanneries in the world are shut down and the cows are liberated to take their rightful place in the ecosystem, grazing in rotation, fertilizing our earth instead of poisoning it. We make all of our “leather” instead from fungi, which is fully biodegradable and healing for both us and the planet. This is a world where cancers and diseases are becoming rarer and rarer because our clothes are no longer poisoning our bodies and environments. In this world Fashion is revered as a creative force that changes the course of our planet.
I have outlined the way forward for fashion if we are going to turn things around. What’s needed now is for the people to take this dream and run with it. Will you lend your creativity to this vision? When it is needed now more than ever?
Bolt Threads Mycellium (Fungi) Leather
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