Cotton is one of the world’s dirtiest crops.

When you pick up a cotton T-shirt on the High Street, and only wear it a couple of times, do you ever stop to think about the impact which the water used for that garment has had on the local environnment? Probably not. Your average cotton T-Shirt has comsumed a staggering 2700 litres of water on its journey from the cotton field to the shop where you bought it.

“The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world, causing human misery, enormous cost of life and gigantic environmental devastation” Katharine Hamnett

The World Bank estimates that around 20% of industrial water pollution in the world comes from the treatment and dyeing of textiles. The textile industry is second only to agriculture as the biggest global polluter of clean water.

The water needed to grow cotton threatens precious water resources for local people. The Aral Sea was once the fourth largest lake in the world, home to millions of fish and surrounded by fishing communities. Now covers only 10% of its former surface area and holds less than 10% of the volume of water it held in the 1970s. Why? Demand for cotton.

NASA made the shock announcement that a large area of the Aral Sea had completely dried up. Beyond the loss of fresh water and their livelihoods, local communities are also suffering from carcinogenic dust from the lake bed being blown into their villages.  As we are talking about water, I won’t even start on the forced labour of thousands of people sent to work to pick cotton every harvest by the Uzbeki authorities.

Source: USGS/NASA

Source: USGS/NASA

According to Frances Corner in her book Why Fashion Matters, if we all extended the lifecycle of our cotton garments by 9 months, this could reduce the water footprint of our clothing by 30%. Surely 9 months isn’t too much to ask?

This week, Greenpeace released a new Detox Catwalk video. At the same time, they released new rankings to show which companies really are detoxing their supply chains and which ones are greenwashing or taking no responsibility for their toxic trail. See the rankings here

 

On Thursday, the Oceana Junior Ocean Council Fashions for the Future event took place at Phillips Auction House in Berkeley Square, London. Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Since 2001 Oceana has protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean, including innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. Find out more about Oceana here


Oceana finale

 

CEO of Oceana, Andrew Sharpless, said:

“If you care about biodiversity, save the oceans.
If you care about climate change, save the oceans.
If you care about jobs for coastal communities, save the oceans.
If you care about human health, save the oceans.
This is the single thing we can do to make a difference for the future”

#Secondhandfirst Week  was launched by the fashion reuse charity TRAID to celebrate the power of second-hand to change the world by keeping the resources we already have in use for longer. This year, it runs from 23 – 28 November.

Take TRAID’s #SECONDHANDFIRST Pledge and let them know what percentage of your wardrobe you will commit to sourcing second-hand, rather than buying new. Tweet your progress to @traid #secondhandfirst

Susie Lau of Style Bubble has taken TRAID’s Pledge in support of #Secondhandfirst Week, will you?

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canada goose This year I took part in Fashion Revolution’s #haulternative – a new way of refreshing your wardrobe without having to buy new. You can see many of my great secondhand finds in this video. If you would like to make your own #haulternative video to show off the great #secondhandfirst finds you have made, there is now a brilliant guide to the Haulternative available to download on the Fashion Revolution website: http://fashionrevolution.org/get-involved/


One of my best charity shop finds of recent months has to be this pair of gold Valentino trousers for just £10 in our local cancer research shop.

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TRAID charity shops, and many of its partners in London, across the UK and globally, are hosting a week of events and actions designed to connect you to the huge environmental and social benefits of second-hand and to encourage you to buy less new. Over-consumption is having a seriously negative environmental impact on the planet, while exploitative labour and unsafe working conditions are commonplace in our supply chains. This insatiable demand on rapidly diminishing resources, like land and water, simply cannot continue. Sourcing more of our clothes and other goods second-hand reduces consumption, our use of scarce resources, waste and carbon emissions. At the same time, we extend the life-cycle of wearable clothes and other material objects while sourcing things in more interesting and socially beneficial ways like swapping, lending and making.

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Events and ways to take part include:

  • Late night charity shopping will help you to rebalance your wardrobe way from buying new to second-hand
  • TRAIDTALKS with author and design activist Professor Kate Fletcher on how we use our clothes
  • Spoken word performances from poet and rapper Potent Whisper, Sabrina Mahfouz and other guests
  • Plastic Seconds Jewellery Workshop transforming unrecyclable plastics into art objects led by Maria Papadimitriou
  • Screen printing with reclaimed garments with Peckham’s Captured in the Rye
  • Discover the lost art of darning at repair workshops run by TRAID and Fabrications
  • Global film screenings of the documentary ‘Udita’ by documentary makers Rainbow Collective on Bangladeshi women workers in the garment industry
  • A ‘river of waste’ art installation at Hornsey Town Hall and much more.

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This year, #Secondhandfirst Week coincides with Black Friday, a day of price cuts by major retailers on items like TV’s, furniture and clothes designed to create a frenzy of consumption that has seen fights, crushes and huge queues over discounted goods. Black Friday is an uncritical celebration of materialism without regards for its impacts on people and planet. #Secondhandfirst Week provides a counterpoint to this orgy of consumption and aims to increase society’s appetite for second-hand as a viable alternative to buying new.

Maria Chenoweth Casey, TRAID’s Chief Executive and a passionate proponent of second-hand said, “#Secondhandfirst is more than a week, it’s a philosophy that celebrates and recognises the power of reusing clothes – and other resources – to improve our world, and, it’s a practical way of immediately adopting a more sustainable way of living.”

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The benefits of dramatically increasing our use of second-hand goods also includes a social and cultural dimension that has the potential to transform us from individual consumers into collective citizens connected to communities and people rather than material objects, and that loosens the grip of advertising and corporations on shaping our style and identity.

Fittingly, #Secondhandfirst Week ends on Sunday November 29th the day of the global People’s Climate March in London. This march aims to break last year’s record for the largest climate change mobilisation in history, and TRAID will be making a banner from second-hand textiles and invites everyone to march with them to stop climate change.

Image credits: Traid and Fashion Revolution

This week I made a video about How to Join the Fashion Revolution.

To demonstrate how to take a selfie showing your label, I wore my favourite T-Shirt with the slogan WE ARE THE SEA.

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And then I started wondering:

Who made the T-Shirt I was wearing in the video? Where was the cotton grown?  Where was it printed?

 

 

So, I decided to contact the brand, We are Islanders, and ask them #WhoMadeMyClothes?

This is the fantastic reply which I have just received from Erin at We Are Islanders:

“Hi Sienna, thanks for asking! Your We Are The Sea t-shirt is from Continental Clothing’s Earth Positive Apparel collection, meaning it is 100% organic with 90% reduced CO2.

The production of this t-shirt has been audited by the Fair Wear Foundation before being hand-printed by the We Are Islanders team in a Dublin print collective.”

 

We are Islanders 1

 

We Are Islanders also sent me some photos of them screenprinting T-Shirts like the one I wore, so now I really do know Who Made My T-shirt!

 

We Are Islanders 2

 

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From £10 Gold Valentino trousers found in a charity shop to my bargain vintage Gucci dress, I have always loved shopping second hand. There’s a thrill of discovering a unique garment buried under a mound of what seems to be junk. As the old saying goes, ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’.

 

A few years back in an ‘Everything for a pound pile’ in a charity shop in Brixton, I found a pair of very short, very red Sergio Tacchini Tennis shorts for a quid. I wore them all summer as part of my go-to festival outfit. I later found out that they were actually a very rare pair from the McEnroe era and people are selling them on ebay for up to £150.

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This gold Gucci dress was bought from the fantastic Clerkenwell Vintage Fair which takes place every month – the next one is on 23 November 2014.  It was originally purchased by the person from whom I bought it and she wore it on Blind Date 25 years ago.

Cilla Black complemented her on the dress and she was picked for the date, a day racing cars around the track.  I know that she was very attached to this dress and was happy that it had gone to a good home.

I sent her through some photographs of me wearing the dress, photographed by Paul Pickard, and she replied

Wow fantastic! So glad my stunning Gucci dress has  lived on to have a fabulous life  x

Credit: Paul Pickard

Credit: Paul Pickard

 

This week, the Centre for Sustainable Fashion had a Tweetchat on the theme of #beinghuman as part of an event called Wear Your Culture.  I tweeted:

#beinghuman is to love. How can we love our clothes if we dispose of them before growing attached, before they’re part of our history.

 

Part of what I love about my gold Gucci dress isn’t just its beauty, or the quality of the fabric (it is so heavy!) but the fact that I know it’s story, I’ve met the woman who wore it on Blind Date.  I fully intend to give that dress new stories to tell, from the first time I wore it at my Sixth Form prom, to the many more times I intend to wear it in years to come.

The Centre for Sustainable Fashion replied to my tweet saying:

Beautifully put. All those stories and memories, so precious to us in our fragility as humans on this wonderful planet.

What stories do your clothes have to tell?  Stories from before you owned them, stories about the makers, about a previous wearer, about your life?  What secrets do your clothes hold in their threads?

Next week, the fashion reuse charity TRAID launches #SECONDHANDFIRST Week, 17 – 23 November 2014, to encourage us to buy more of our clothes second-hand, rather than buying new.

TRAID will run events and initiatives in its 12 charity shops throughout the week celebrating all things second-hand including a repair workshop with master mender Tom Holland, in-store stylists to help customers make the most of their purchases, short film screenings about the garment industry, late night openings and special window displays.  Events include:

  • Tuesday 18 November, Book an appointment with Sustainable Fashion Stylist Marta Krolewicz, 10am – 2pm at TRAID Shepherd’s Bush
  • Wednesday 19 November, The Clothes Club Swap for Food Cycle and TRAID
  • Thursday 20 November, Late Night Shopping and Junky Styling Upcyling Workshop at TRAID Shepherd’s Bush, 154 Uxbridge Road,
  • Friday 21 November, Knitwear Repair Workshop with Tom Holland at TRAID Dalstons,
  • Friday 21 November, Book an appointment with Sustainable Fashion Stylist Marta Krolewicz, 10am – 2pm at TRAID Shepherd’s Bush

Check out the Traid website for updates: traid.org.uk/traid-events/

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There are lots of ways to get involved along with ideas and resources provided by TRAID including taking the #SECONDHANDFIRST Pledge to source more of your wardrobe second hand, to keep clothes and other resources in circulation for longer by lending, swapping, mending and donating, to visit your local charity shop, run a clothes swap and lots more. Maria Chenoweth-Casey, CEO of TRAID said:

“The power of second-hand to create a more sustainable society is enormous. The garment industry makes huge demands on scarce and diminishing resources, like water, land and oil while unwanted and still wearable clothes are sent to landfill. #SECONDHANDFIRST Week reminds people to use what we already have as a way to reduce waste, landfill, carbon emissions and consumption bringing major benefits to our increasingly fragile environment.”

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The charity is also appealing to all its supporters to donate their unwanted clothes to help TRAID reach its target of collecting an extra 7 tonnes of textiles for reuse during this special week. To book a free home collection from TRAID go to www.traid.org.uk/collections

If all of your wardrobe is new and you’ve never given preloved clothing a go, #secondhandfirst week is the time to make a start! Go out and find some clothing which has been loved before and which you can love again.