For over a hundred years, March the 8th has marked the celebration of International Women’s Day (IWD), the globe over. Each year, more and more voices join with the movement meant to celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness in women’s equality, lobby for accelerated gender parity, and fundraise for female-focused charities.
Unfortunately, the overarching aim of IWD has yet to achieve full gender equality for all women. A gender pay gap persists around the world and women are still under-represented in many industries, including mainstream fashion.
The glass half full position of Upcycled Aviary is that despite inequality in many sectors, women are currently dominating the realm of sustainable fashion - there are more female designers and ethical shop owners currently working towards a stable slow fashion movement, than men. Not only in the area of design - women are actually at the forefront of new technology and innovation that is pushing sustainability and ethical practices into the light as the way forward.
To mark IWD 2022, we are celebrating our favourite Sustainable Fashion Trailblazers. These ethical change makers are breaking the conventions of the fashion industry, causing the industry to slow down and think about consumption and putting the planet and people first.
Dame Ellen MacArthur
High atop the unending list of Women we admire and which the business model for Upcycled Aviary has been designed around, is the innovator of the Circular Economy, herself, Dame Ellen MacArthur.
Setting out in November of 2004, Ellen became the fastest solo sailor to sail around the world. Landing back home in February of 2005, she had traveled 44,012 kms in 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes and 33 seconds, beating out the standing world record by more than a day. A feat that still remains incredible to this day.
Ellen learned a lot on her journey, carrying everything she needed with her - her insights into the way the world works were heightened. As a place of interlocking circles and finite resources - she realized the power extends to which the decisions we make today directly affect tomorrow. Four years later, she created the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in order to educate, support and accelerate the change to a circular economy.
Her time on the water had made it clear that the solutions to our biggest problems don’t just lie in the way we make energy, but also in the way we use materials. Everything we use is in limited supply, from the precious cottons we use in our clothing to the precious metals found in smartphones and laptops.
Ellen decided that the current linear system on which the global economy is driven, is fundamentally flawed. After numerous conversations and collaborations with business leaders, engineers and environmental experts, she concluded that building a system that could work in the long term is within our reach. But we would need to transform our extractive, throwaway economic model to one that was based on the principles of a circular economy:
“an economy designed to keep materials in use, eliminate waste and regenerate natural systems.” - Dame Ellen MacArthur
Slow Factory is an organization that offers a bevy of carefully sourced resources to educate on transparency, greenwashing, scientific innovation and initiatives that benefit the people and planet. At the helm of this wonderful resource is Céline Semaan.
A Lebanese-Canadian, advocate, designer and writer, Céline has created a non-profit that focuses on human rights, environmental justice, and sends a clear, well researched message to the fashion industry that it is time to slow down.
Having been born in Lebanon during the war, she bore witness to the painful ethical and environmental challenges which are truly at the heart of her deep-rooted ambition and drive for a more sustainable industry.
“catalyzing systemic change and climate positive solutions for regenerative social and environmental justice” - Slow Factory
Carry Somers & Orsula de Castro
On April 24, 2013, Rana PLaza building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which housed five garment factories, collapsed, killing 1,132 people and injuring more than 2,500 more. After the disaster, many people in the fashion industry began to wonder how it would be possible to ensure such a tragedy never happened again. Ultimately, in most cases, it was a lot of talk, with very few moving towards ethical changes. Carry Somers was different.
Carry felt that the Rana Plaza event was a call to arms for the fashion industry, and so she created Fashion Revolution Day. The movement brings together fashion activists with the hopes of collectively redesigning a fashion industry that puts people and planet first.
Joining Carry in her movement, Orsula de Castro, upcyclist, designer and author, co-founder of London Fashion Week and of upcycled brand From This dynamic duo are the brains behind Fashion Revolution. The movement that has made millions of consumers being to ask #whomademyclothes raising support and awareness for the need of an ethical supply chain.
“A global fashion industry that conserves and restores the environment and values people over growth and profit.” - Fashion Revolution
“Nothing is lost, nothing is created, and everything is transformed.” - Antoine Lavoisser
In 2010, it became evident to Stacy that resource extraction and waste were created at significant rates as a natural byproduct of the textile/fashion industry (Fast Fashion) and a powerful way of delivering newness to the consumer. Unfortunately, as we know, the ramifications of such resource extraction is catastrophic and cannot be sustained.
Evrnu’s aim is to transform the textile/fashion industry by utilizing already existing textile waste, breaking it down into molecules and recreating pristine new fibers that can be used in clothing, over and over again.
When a simple cotton t-shirt takes 700 gallons of water to create, Stacy knows things have to change, and her Nucycl Technology is bringing together designers around the world who are working to effectively and collectively push change.
“To fix a business model can feel like boiling the ocean. We can’t start here – we must end here.” - Stacy Flynn
Women around the globe are effecting change and shining the light on the gross failings of the fashion industry. From the cost of returned goods, to greenwashing, to advancing ethical and sustainable technology. Today, on International Women’s Day, we celebrate those activists, thought-leaders, educators, authors, designers who continue to fly the flag and face the challenges of creating a more sustainable, diverse and ethical future.
Written by Heather Adele for Upcycled Aviary