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107. Start a Sustainable Fashion Revolution

Published on
June 14, 2022
Show notes

In Episode 107, Quinn & Brian discuss: How to buy clothing that lasts while not polluting the oceans or exploiting low-income workers.

Our guest is Orsola de Castro, a fashion icon and the founder of Fashion Revolution, a collection of designers, producers, and consumers looking to heighten awareness of sustainability in the fashion industry -- from supporting the people who make our garments, to eliminating the microplastics destroying our oceans, bloodstreams, and hormones.

The organization’s hashtag, #WhoMadeMyClothes, has been shared millions of times, and its response, #IMadeYourClothes, has provided invaluable visibility to supply chain workers worldwide.

In this inspiring conversation, we talk about the people who make our clothes, what happens once we have them, and where they go when we’re done with them.

Orsola also shares why she focuses on changing the world starting with the clothes that we wear, and the actionable questions you can ask your representatives to support this cause.

Have feedback or questions? Tweet us, or send a message to questions@importantnotimportant.com

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Important, Not Important is produced by Crate Media

Transcript

Quinn:

Welcome to Important, Not Important. My name is Quinn Emmett.

Brian:

And my name is Brian Colbert Kennedy. This is science for people who give a shit.

Quinn:

That's right. We give you the tools you need to fight for a better future for yourself, for your family, for everyone folks. In this podcast, we give you the context straight from the smartest people on earth, just such incredible guests and then we build to the action steps you can take to support them.

Brian:

That's right. And our guests have been scientists-

Quinn:

Fashionistas.

Brian:

Doctors, nurses, fashionistas, journalists, authors, educators, politicians, farmers-

Quinn:

All those things.

Brian:

Astronauts. It just doesn't stop. We had a reverend once.

Quinn:

We had a reverend. That's right. This is your friendly reminder. You can send questions, thoughts, feedback, really anything to us on Twitter @importantnotimp. Or you can email us at questions@importantnotimportant.com. Folks, you can also join tens of thousands of other smart people. If you feel like you're behind on the science news, you won't just be able to keep up with it pretty quickly. Guess what? You can subscribe at importantnotimportant.com. You can read it in 10 minutes or less or Brian will read it to you in 10 minutes or less right in the podcast feed. Super easy.

Brian:

I so will.

Quinn:

Yep. Tell them what we're talking about Brian.

Brian:

This week's episode is a fashion revolution.

Quinn:

That's right.

Brian:

We're going to learn how to buy clothes that last, that don't ruin the oceans or your hormones.

Quinn:

Great.

Brian:

And don't exploit low income workers. It's a win-win.

Quinn:

It's a win-win-win-win.

Brian:

Win-win-win.

Quinn:

This was super awesome. Our guest, man, I loved her so much, Orsola de Castro, she is a fashion icon. She's been around forever. She started Fashion Revolution, just a supremely awesome organization that's working globally but also in 92 countries around the world to work on all of those things we just mentioned. You can join up with them. And their big week is coming up. We're going to talk all about it right here. Everyone can take part. Everyone should take part because everybody wears clothes. Should we get into it, Brian?

Brian:

It was such a great conversation. Let's just go.

Quinn:

Let's go. Our guest today is Orsola de Castro. And together we're going to ask, where do your clothes go when you wash them? I know that seems crazy. But we'll get to it. Orsola, welcome.

Orsola de Castro:

Thank you.

Quinn:

Absolutely.

Brian:

Thank you so much for being here.

Orsola de Castro:

Thank you for having me.

Brian:

We can get started just by could you let everybody listening know who you are and brief what you do?

Orsola de Castro:

Okay. My name is Orsola de Castro and I'm the co-founder and global creative director of an organization called Fashion Revolution, which is at this point in time the biggest or one of the biggest fashion activism movement in the world. We have a presence in over 90 countries worldwide.

Orsola de Castro:

We were born, founded by myself and Carrie Somers as a result of the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013. And so this will be our eighth year of campaigning. And every year, we do this fashion revolution week, which is really galvanizing support and raising awareness as well as remembering the Rana Plaza disaster which was the worst industrial disaster in the fashion industry and killed 1,138 people.

Orsola de Castro:

We're probably better known for our hashtag, #WhoMadeMyClothes, which has been used millions of times. And by sister hashtag the response, #IMadeYourClothes, which provided so much visibility to supply chain workers and garment workers worldwide. Before Fashion Revolution, I started as... I had a brand, an upcycling brands. Small niche but quite popular. That was in the end of the '90s. I was also the co-founder and co-curator of Estethica, the British Fashion Council sustainable fashion area at London Fashion Week in between 2006 and 2014.

Orsola de Castro:

I am a mentor. I lecturer at universities and work with young emerging brands. I'm now an author. I just published my first book, which is called Loved Clothes Last and was published by Penguin life.

Quinn:

Congratulations.

Brian:

Amazing.

Quinn:

Very exciting. Well it sounds like you've been slacking off and haven't done too much.

Brian:

Right.

Orsola de Castro:

I also forgot to say that I am the mother of four and grandmother of two.

Quinn:

Oh, wonderful. That's fantastic. Now can I send you my children as well? Is that an option?

Orsola de Castro:

No. I'm nearly done. My youngest is 18.

Brian:

Pretty good.

Quinn:

[crosstalk 00:04:56] Oh my gosh. Because I'm two and a half days into spring break and ready to just put them in a FedEx box and send them right away. They're wonderful, but oh my lord.

Brian:

They are wonderful.

Quinn:

Awesome.

Brian:

Thank you. Thank you for that. That was, wow, quite an intro. Reminder to everyone here that our goal is to provide some context for our topic today, our very important topic today and our questions today and then we'll get into some action-oriented questions and action steps that everybody can ask and take to help support you and learn more about what's going on. Okay?

Quinn:

Awesome. Let's do this thing. Orsola, we do like to start with one important question to set the tone for this fiasco. Instead of going through your entire life story, we do like to ask, why are you vital to the survival of the species?

Orsola de Castro:

Well, every person is vital to the survival of the species. The extinction of anything from an ecosystem will make it weaker in many ways. What I'm doing is that my work is to try and explain this to as many people as possible. That we live in a profoundly unequal society and this is having effects on our environment.

Orsola de Castro:

I chose to use clothes as the medium by which I can practice my skills and share my opinions because also, I believe that clothes are affecting 100% of the population, the huge impact that this industry has on people and nature. I do well with clothes. I was a designer, I understand them. I know the industry, I'm in the industry, I'm an insider, as well as an outsider. I chose to use this to help make things better for Earth.

Quinn:

I think that's so wonderful. I get so excited about this conversation, because we have... We don't just cover climate, or clean water or COVID, or whatever it might be. There's all these big systemic issues that are out there. And some of them are very tough. Some of them could be wonderful. Curing pediatric cancer or whatever it might be.

Quinn:

But we get this question a lot. Sometimes there's some desperation behind it or someone feeling very lost, which is, "What can I do?" The best response I've come up with to start my side of the conversation is, what can you do? What can you bring to the table? What do you do for your job? Who do you feel like you are? What skills do you have? What interested you in seventh grade science or whatever it might be?

Quinn:

Because these problems are so complicated and so immediate, we need everyone and we need all of those skills, and we need someone like yourself, who has been such a part of this industry for so long, is the perfect person to also turn around and take it on and be so transparent about it. So I'm really excited to get into that today. So thank you for sharing that.

Orsola de Castro:

I am in total agreement with you. Because when people say to me, "What do I do? How can I make change?" And I make this point very strongly in my book, it is from yourself, the only place where you can start. It has to follow your instinct and it has to follow your interests.

Orsola de Castro:

This is not about juicing or a really quick diet. This is about making really effective common sense, to a certain extent, changes to your life. And there are so many ways that you can interact. Obviously, I choose to explain how we can interact starting with clothes but it has to match to your gut feeling.

Quinn:

Absolutely. I love that thank you for sharing that. I'm really excited to get into it here. Because as you said, everybody wears clothing in some way. I just want to add a little context for today's question before we really get into it. Today we're going to talk about, of course, the people who are making our clothes and also what happens once we have those clothes and as they're made and where they go and all of that.

Quinn:

So to touch on the latter and we've started to have more conversations about the plastic side of things with some folks who are working on the science side, but just to reiterate for everyone, we produced an, Orsola, please also correct me if I'm wrong, since you are clearly the expert on all of this now, but this is what I've managed to wrangle, we produced about 9 billion tons of plastic from 1950 to 2015. And 50% of that was produced in the last 18 years alone.

Quinn:

99% of plastic, whether it's Tupperware or Legos or things in your clothes, whatever it might be or car pieces, they're made from oil and gas. We've all been locked at home in some variation. We've seen the Instagram ads, we all love our new comfortable sweat pants, but every part of the plastic supply chain from the extraction of raw materials, the production, the distribution, the washing, the disposal, human health and not to mention marine and land ecosystems is threatened.

Quinn:

Half of all textiles created include plastic. Polyester is double the volume of cotton at this point. Less than 1% of clothing was recycled into new clothing, as of I think 2017. Again, kind of where these things intersect, the scientific side and the people side because you can't extract one from the other. So many especially here in America. So many of the extraction and production facilities are on indigenous land, here and across the world. The air pollution from those refineries most directly affects communities of color.

Quinn:

There's the statistic in the US that 60% of Black Americans live within 30 miles of some form of fossil fuel facility. And the production facilities are in these communities too. We've got Cancer Alley in the United States, which is notoriously toxic. Cancer's through the roof. And this is all before we get to the offsets of the microplastics. Where you see and again, correct me if I'm wrong here, but a fleece jacket sends about two grams of microfibers into the water every time it's washed and then half of those make it in to the rivers and seas.

Quinn:

We have found these things in the deserts and mountain tops, in wells and drinking water pipes. This isn't the old six packs choking turtles and dolphins. These are particles in our water and our blood streams are interfering with our hormones. But everyone has to wear clothes, everyone wears clothes. They are in the most comfortable things we wear, the most fashionable things we wear. They're marketed everywhere. Anything that stretches is made from elastic, which is made from virgin oil.

Quinn:

Anyways, all that is before we even come to terms with who's making our clothes. This is sort of the ground I would like to cover today. I am so excited to have you, someone who understands this so well come to it. We'll get to the answer to where do your clothes go when you wash them here soon, folks. But I want to talk first about your Who Made My Clothes campaign, Orsola.

Quinn:

We're always talking about these big fundamental problems, right? Climate change, public health, whatever they may be. But I'm so hyper focused on whenever we're trying to break these things down, getting down to the fundamental pieces, they call them first principle sometimes. And for me, all of these keep coming back to it because this is what people are being deprived of is clean air, clean and affordable water, healthy and affordable food and reliable and affordable shelter.

Quinn:

If people are not getting those, those are the most fundamental issues of your problem. And so we have to start there. And so you have to ask, why are those not being guaranteed? And so when we're talking about who makes our clothes, I would love if you could talk a little bit about what you've discovered along the way and why you started with the workers as opposed to the waste and the outputs in the plastics.

Orsola de Castro:

Well, we started with the workers because of directly from Rana Plaza. What Rana Plaza showed us was that this industry was beyond opaque. It was impenetrable. When Rana Plaza collapsed, together with the story of how harrowing it was the workers not putting... They could see the cracks, they were not allowed to leave. They were first evacuated then brought back in. It was a disaster. But the reality was that there were CEOs and CFOs all over the world ringing each other up saying, "Were we producing that?" It was activists on the ground that were actually finding evidence as to which brands were producing in the Rana Plaza complex.

Orsola de Castro:

This lengthened the process of research, of refunds, of the... It really created a huge stumbling block. It evidenced that this industry very deliberately designed itself to exploit and designed itself to do so secretly in deliberately opaque supply chains. So Fashion Revolution to start with, we've always been about transparency. We published our annual fashion transparency index in which we look at the public disclosure, because this is what transparency is, public disclosure available and comparable. Major 250 brands in the world. The plight of the workers is at the end of the day, we've seen it again. We're in the middle of the pandemic and another mega crisis and we're seeing online magnates making billions and government workers and supply chain workers still being owed billions of dollars in unpaid wages.

Orsola de Castro:

It's easy to see although it's been so difficult to see. But for us, it's been the journey to show this supply chain and to encourage brands to show the supply chain and then hopefully one day, it will be mandatory. The industry will be regulated and all sorts of things that I know we will be talking about such as transparency and understanding what's in our clothes as well as who makes them and in what conditions. These are things that are no longer potentials.

Orsola de Castro:

Brands have an obligation to disclose this information because we as citizens and as their customers have absolutely every right to know. We do so with food, we do so with pharmaceutical, beauty, not with fashion. Yet we share many supply chain [inaudible 00:15:58].

Orsola de Castro:

This has also made so that much knowledge has been lost in analyzing our clothes, understanding, asking ourselves questions. It was normal to want to know where something came from in the past because that often determined its quality. It's this removing of our industries in order to exploit other countries and other people that has really unraveled a very rich societal industry.

Quinn:

Could you give us a couple examples of some of the countries that are most affected by the consumption from the west over the past few years that you have most specifically tried to shine a light on?

Orsola de Castro:

Well, it kind of really did move from China, went on to Bangladesh and then it started including Cambodia and Vietnam, Myanmar now. So it's a race to the bottom. Sri Lanka as well. It's a race to the cheaper price, to the least regulated factories.

Orsola de Castro:

Obviously, there is now a push for transparency and to be honest with you, some of the most incredible innovation we are actually finding right there where we have exploited the most, because obviously they see it every day. It's part of the... There's some amazing things happening precisely in those countries where we also see the biggest change.

Quinn:

It seems like Brian, I think back to Orsola, we had a really wonderful conversation. Again, we are two White men who have to wear clothing. I wouldn't say we're the most fashionable folks. I just wear T-shirts every day, much to my wife's chagrin. But we're trying to humble ourselves and be transparent about what we don't understand about the things that are affecting the world. And we had this wonderful conversation with the CEO of a cosmetics company, Beauty Counter. I'm not sure if you're familiar with them.

Brian:

Oh yeah. Greg.

Quinn:

Greg Renfrew, she's fantastic. She is leading a sort of a similar charge for cosmetics. And one of the things she revealed to us, which is just unreal, is that in the United States, cosmetics hadn't been regulated in any way since 1938. Just understanding in any way, both what's in it and where we are harvesting the minerals that goes into these things and who is doing that harvesting and distribution and such.

Brian:

It's going on your face, these products.

Quinn:

These things that are going on your body that you're using.

Orsola de Castro:

The skin is the second most absorbing organ in our body. Some of the chemicals that are present in our clothes not only will continue to release well, after the first few washes, but in many incidents, they're actually banned. Many chemicals banned in the EU are not banned in the producing countries where potentially the fabric is first made. And so this lack of transparency, this lack of information, which is what I'm saying we are being denied a really big opportunity to speak with our clothes as much as we've had an opportunity to a certain extent to put that pressure when it came to food.

Orsola de Castro:

I look forward to the day that we will say, "Can you believe it? The fashion industry wasn't regulated until her..." My hope is next year. My hope is within 10 years from now. But the fashion industry is not regulated. It pollutes, it exploits, it's a kind of massive, massive industry that hides behind this, "Fashion is frivolous. It's clothing after all." It hides behind this. And in fact, it's has massive impact.

Quinn:

Yeah.

Brian:

I think there was a UN report this week that said plastic will be 20% of the world's oil consumption by 2050. Honestly, that seems too low with everything that we know. Microplastics are everywhere. But more importantly, and what I want to know more about from you is that they're built into what we're wearing, right? You just mentioned that. So how has fashion revolution kept up with the pace of science around microplastics? How are you guys pushing brands and designers to do the same?

Orsola de Castro:

We don't work with brands. So the pushing that we do is your regular campaigning, the way that Fashion Revolution does. So, the way that we do it is that we provide the information. We are a giant network and obviously, we are also the strength. Our country coordinators worldwide, who are often you know, seeing the industry from their own country. We have a very global overview.

Orsola de Castro:

Obviously, we have been talking about microplastics now since 2017. We started our entry into the concept of waste and the environment, to reach the environment by waste and by micro plastic. And actually, our expert, Carrie Somers, the other founder is very much an expert on microplastics. She went on the expedition, which was a woman-led tour, not tour, but sailing across the globe to actually collect. She did a brilliant diary of that. It's @CarrieSomers in her Instagram, really interesting. It was last year. She's very, very involved. Obviously, it's something that we talk about a lot within the context, because we speak about sustainable materials, we also speak about cotton.

Orsola de Castro:

What we also try and explain is that the care of our clothes is important and again, it relates to a responsibility from brands to let us know what's in our clothes, which launched this hashtag, #WhatsInOurClothes, precisely to talk about these issues from chemicals to microplastics. Because again, without that vital information, we keep creating damage.

Orsola de Castro:

In the case of polyester for instance, there are things that we can do from tomorrow morning. It is to understand polyester sheds, try to understand which polyester sheds more. Like an acrylic polyester loose-knitted jumper, that will shed even as you walk. So those are unfortunately, a mistake they should never have been made. Even if you buy them secondhand or you could use them decoratively, but you are co-habitating with that negative material. I'm sure there are plenty of others in our homes. But with...

Orsola de Castro:

You wouldn't buy a pair of polyester underpants because you have to wash them every day. You would buy a polyester coat. Maybe the lining of the polyester is that you can sponge clean or clean by the piece and not putting the whole thing through a cycle. These are vital pieces of information that we need from brands to inter-react with the clothes that we've got in order to minimize our impact. We can talk about the fashion supply chain and it always sounds like some faraway land where clothes are being made. We are in it.

Orsola de Castro:

The minute we buy something, we enter that supply chain and are responsible for everything we buy. And it's a about three faces; used, end of use and end of life. And at fashion revolution, we've really talked and that's also then been the main subject of my book. We talk about longevity as vital, keeping. In a throwaway society, what do you do? You keep and you mend that you repair and you swap and you share. These are things that as communities, we can embrace immediately and stop the cycle. Speak loud and clear, we want to keep. And that in itself is a slowing down of completely hysterical system.

Quinn:

Yeah. That's fair. Sharks aren't generally a threat to people until you step into the water but once you step into the water, you have to understand that you're in their ballgame now. I loved how you said that you are, to paraphrase, co-habitating with polyester or whatever it might be. I feel like that whether you're searching for mold in your home, or the lead pipes we've got in America that so many kids are drinking from or the air pollution that's coming in your door or the urban heat, whatever it might be, you're co-habitating with these things.

Quinn:

It's in your schools and it's on your clothing and like you said, whether it's cosmetics or it's clothing, your skin is so absorbent and we're just scratching the surface of what it can do to us to the point. Like the reports on a microplastic is affecting hormones. You wouldn't think it would go that far from this jumper you buy, but here we are.

Orsola de Castro:

We use them incredibly for all of our kind of sportswear. So we're sweating inside them as well. So we've got like level of absorptions of this stuff, which doesn't bear thinking. There are alternatives now. It's like this is one of the things that one is trying to tackle and see again, going back to things that were potentially lost. Merino wool is amazing for anything sportswear. It absorbs, but doesn't let out your odor. It doesn't need to be washed often. It can be washed in on spot clean.

Orsola de Castro:

So it's also informing themselves on what else we can do. But definitely polyester, which also has the greatest gift in the sense because it can be continuously recycled, obviously not if it's blended with cotton [inaudible 00:26:03] and not if it's got a zip and a button and a whatever. But has a wool fiber. But nevertheless, Virgin polyester should be 100% banned and recycled polyester should nevertheless be used for clothing that does not require a kind of regular washing maintenance.

Quinn:

I would love you to spend a little time to talk about like you said, your book seems to be mostly be focused on consumers and keeping the things that we have. Can you talk a little bit about that from the consumer side?

Orsola de Castro:

So the book is a why-to rather than a how-to. It masquerades as a how-to because it's called Loved Clothes Last: How the Joy of Rewearing and Repairing Your Clothes Can Be a Revolutionary Act. And of course, there's loads of I'm a designer, I've been in this space for years and years and years, I've been experimenting, I'm a creative soul, I love my clothes. I do all sorts... Look, see I'm wearing my favorite jumper actually, coincidentally, which I let break, because I prefer it broken than I do mended in the case of this particular one.

Orsola de Castro:

But the truth is that for me in the book, unless you understand why we need to think of longevity, we won't make the changes that we need to make. And so the book contextualizes the fashion industry, as a lot of history, a lot of what we were and what we are. There's no moment really in which the fashion industry was glorious. There were little pockets of dignity. But we're talking from industrialization, cotton would grow in the American South by enslaved people.

Orsola de Castro:

Woven in sweatshops in Victorian London and then distributed around the globe, cherry on the cake by East India Company. Tell me that that's an industry that was truly ethical and sustainable back [inaudible 00:28:00]. It wasn't. The book tells you why we need to change. From the consumers point of view, it tries to give back enthusiasm that makes it infectious so that others are going to want to follow you. Because ultimately, although I really underline that brands have an obligation to change, we have an opportunity to do so by our clothes.

Orsola de Castro:

And for those who haven't thought about doing it, it's actually really rewarding.

Quinn:

I get so excited when you said, I want to put this on a T shirt, "It's a why-to book masquerading as a how-to book." Brian, I feel like that's we're 107 or whatever episodes in. That's like the entire ethos of this thing. We've realized is again, people come in and they say, "What can I do?" We've got this weekly newsletter and it is the big science news you missed this week, which could be actually something new or an update on one of these larger macro things that's happening.

Quinn:

We try to give you a little blip that you can understand it from very reputable journalistic source. And then we give you some analysis, sort of generalist analysis of why these things are happening and how. And then we give you these action steps about what you can do. And then the podcast is a really specific, deep dive into one of those things. If you're like, "Oh. That's interesting. That microplastics thing, I'd like to know more about that from the newsletter." And so we'll do that or climate or whatever. I've really come to think about it as this.

Quinn:

It's so much more compelling and easier and effective for people to take action if they understand the why of why they need to do it. You can't just say, "Press this button and donate to this place." You have to help them especially if it's something they're disconnected from, but almost even more so if it's something that's on their body or they're giving their children or their kids are breathing at school, for them to understand why they're fighting for this thing and why they need to take time out of their day or money out of their pocketbook to contribute to this thing or why they should hold on to this jumper that's got a hole in it, because it's not just the right thing to do. This is how it's affecting you and your families and your neighborhoods. And also millions of people around the globe that we just casually ignore, especially White Americans all the time.

Quinn:

We build our entire system on that. Like you said, there was no glory days of these, any of these industries. I really love that you've framed it that way. That's really so awesome.

Orsola de Castro:

I feel that when it comes to the reality that we're all in, we tend to take information the same way that we take fast fashion. It's there quickly, absorbed, gone. And really what is important is actually to take the time. So in the book, I also talk about taking a different time when you're looking for clothes. We take quite a long time when we buy for clothes, we check the size and with the color, is it the perfect yellow and compared with another brand, is it cheaper, longer skinny, but low waist, high rise?

Orsola de Castro:

We need to start creating a different criteria when you buy. So you buy for your size, but also you buy to fit your principles. You also want to know if it's the right shape, but is the person who makes it being paid a living wage? What is this perfect yellow we're talking about? Is it a little ochre and a little sunshine? No, it just has to make sure that it does contain azo dyes because that's infinitely more important to know at the end of the day.

Orsola de Castro:

That is a very important element. People who will want to learn how to mend. The internet is alive with the sound of knitting and crocheting and these communities have been born and reborn and it's losing its kind of female identification and becoming really a phenomena. But what is also important to understand is that sustainability is not about what we buy.

Orsola de Castro:

We also need to advocate because for as many people like me that can afford to have my jumper mended by somebody, or that can do the job better, but there are really millions who don't. And when we demonize fast fashion and we say, "So badly made, it doesn't even warrant keeping." That's the most dangerous narrative that we've battled our own selves the past 20 years. First of all, because well, what about the people who make it? We're saying, "Ors, I feel for you, but your work [inaudible 00:32:33] really appalling." And what about the people who can only afford to buy cheap clothing?

Orsola de Castro:

Are we telling them [inaudible 00:32:40]. And we're doing exactly the same that we were doing 50 years ago with clothes that were mended, we've just swapped stigmas. And so for us, it's really important that people think of fast fashion as simply made and therefore simple to repair. And one of the things I've been saying relentlessly, so apologies, if anybody has heard me before, you're going to hear this again. That the onus is on brands. You're a fast fashion brand, you're a supermarket, you want to make clothes that don't pay people, don't pay nature, until you change that system, you have to make repairs available, affordable repairs in your store.

Orsola de Castro:

Slowing down would ultimately improve the life of the garment workers because garment workers are paid by the piece, not by the hour. So if we are all collectively demanding better as opposed to more, this will have a positive impact in the working conditions of the people who make those clothes, who will have more time to make, who will learn skills as they are making. Who potentially after 30 years in a factory would open their own business in their own community, repairing other people or making children's clothing. But we're not giving any of those opportunities to the workers in the fashion supply chain. And we're not giving any of these opportunities to live sustainably, to the people in our own communities who can't afford.

Orsola de Castro:

If you can't bring food to the table, going plastic-free shopping is really not going to be your priority. It's up to the supermarkets to make that plastic-free product available for you. So these are things that we need to consider. You said at the very beginning of this podcast that these things are difficult. I would say that they're complex, not difficult. It's very easy to understand. This industry has been exploiting people and nature for 300 years. Our own system no longer works. These things are easy. Yes, for 20 years, we've been staged with denials and denialists. But now it's coming out, there's so much information out there. There are so many brilliant people willing to tell you a different story.

Orsola de Castro:

From the ones that you've already heard of the millions that you haven't. This is also in terms of fashion on our high streets, availability difference, inclusivity.

Quinn:

That is awesome.

Orsola de Castro:

Sorry, I went on a rant.

Quinn:

Oh no. I'm just taking it all in. I just feel like I just... It's like the matrix I wanted plugged in the back of my head. Thank you. I love the idea. It's complex. It's not difficult.

Brian:

Yeah, that's very well said. I would imagine Orsola that despite all of your efforts and your whole movement, this whole movement, your history in the industry, that you're getting some pushback? Could you tell us what the biggest obstacles are that you run into and maybe how it's different from brands to consumers?

Orsola de Castro:

I don't think we have necessarily encountered push backs ourselves as an organization. We've seen a lot of change. We know it's not enough. We keep saying it. We decided to take a different stand when we were formed. We're not doom and gloom. We are after all, the majority of our special ed professionals or people who have decided to work in this industry, but in our own terms. We do come from a point of love, understanding and appreciation above all. The Fashion Revolution theory of change, the top of the top is for us, an industry that conserves and restores the environment and values people over profit and growth.

Orsola de Castro:

But we also say, we call ourselves a pro-fashion campaign. One of our initiatives, which is Fashion Open Studio is all about showcasing the amazing innovation talent of young designers from literally all over the world. Tiny, tiny, really, incredibly innovative people. And so we kind of... In a way, we challenge the mainstream and we champion the radicals. We've been well loved as an organization and we've chosen not to speak sensationalistically, but to value accuracy more.

Orsola de Castro:

The pushback that we see are in the fact that the industry is not changing enough, that it's not becoming easier to access the right amount of information. That there is still an incredible amount of green washing going on and so organizations such as us, but there are plenty of other brilliant organizations that are pushing for educating, citizens on all sorts of aspects of how this industry has exploited from an organization in the US called the Slow Factory, and the way that they're providing free online education talking about cultural appropriation and racism and colonialism.

Orsola de Castro:

Anna Barber, another brilliant speaker. And then another great organization we make, the Pay Up campaign. I feel that the pushback is that despite so much information out there, so many organizations, mainstream fashion industry is so gigantic that it takes a big time for them to actually really concretely change, which is why it's really important to change proportions and really value the small, not something that you can upscale, but things that you can replicate instead.

Quinn:

I love that. I do think... Again, with any systemic issue, you can't turn the page overnight. There's going to be any number of factors involved. So I appreciate that these folks, they're not just making these things in-house and spitting them out. It's very complicated. It doesn't mean they shouldn't have to do the right thing. But I do want to talk about sort of both the carrots and the sticks to make that happen.

Quinn:

In the US, I think it was last year or the year before or the first time it was introduced the Break Free From Plastic Act, I believe, and it may have been modified by now. It would ban some single use plastics. I think would pause permits for new facilities and actually require corporations to pay for recycling programs. I think there's some environmental justice stuff in there as well, including a ban on shipping our waste to many of those countries and for some domestic hearings for what they call fenceline communities like Cancer Alley.

Quinn:

Do you have any examples of countries that are actually leading the way on things like this or incentives or regulations that have worked to move this progress a little bit faster on the brand side?

Orsola de Castro:

I would be the wrong person to talk about this. You'd need either Carrie or Sarah from the policy team. I do have information but I haven't prepared it. [crosstalk 00:39:58].

Quinn:

No, no, no. You don't have to go through bills-

Orsola de Castro:

Half bits and half pieces.

Quinn:

Totally. It totally makes sense. Let me ask you this, do you feel that there has been progress made, that places are actually starting to embrace these things? And that you see governments, whether local or national starting to go after them?

Orsola de Castro:

Little. The reality is that... Well, obviously plastic is really not... Plastic in the sense that plastic is for us linked with polyester. And so it's not the overall of what we do. Different incentives in different countries in order to ameliorate the fashion supply chain coming from the governments. There are small pockets of initiatives. Certainly in the EU, we're beginning to see more and more interest in applying legislation, due diligence legislations. There's a due diligence legislation... In France, there's a new law in the EU, that was just been... It's been voted. Again, I'm sorry, I wasn't prepared. So I know-

Quinn:

[crosstalk 00:41:06] Oh god. No worries.

Orsola de Castro:

It's the due diligence human rights something. You can google it.

Quinn:

Perfect.

Orsola de Castro:

We're beginning to see the necessity to operate differently, but I think it's very, very early days in terms of systemic change.

Quinn:

That's super helpful for us to know, is for people to really grasp and understand like, oh, there's a lot of work to still be done here. It's not like governments are going, "Oh, we've got to fix this."

Orsola de Castro:

No, it's not. The entire system is perfectly cool. It relies on self, audits are self declared. It's rampantly untransparent. It's really a system that needs to kind of start from a pretty good start. We do know that the CEOs of tomorrow, the kids that I teach in schools for instance, in the top fashion schools or the ones that are coming in. We know the people that inhabit brands really do genuinely want to change. But ultimately, the system needs to change altogether before the fashion industry can really make these gigantic changes.

Quinn:

It makes sense. That's a perfect segue into our action steps. Brian, if you want to tackle that.

Brian:

Yeah, I definitely want to make sure we get to this before we have to let you go. Like always, let's get into our action steps here, what all of our listeners can do to help support you. Let start with their voice. We always like to mention what can everybody do with their voice and their dollar. What are big actionable questions that we can be asking, any of our listeners can be asking of their representatives to help support you and your mission?

Orsola de Castro:

First of all, find out your local Fashion Revolution team in the sense that in the USA, for instance, we have several regional teams, but wherever you are, in the world, listening to this newsletter, there's 92 people, 92 teams around the world and they specialized in letting you know how you can act locally. I wouldn't have the first clue as to how to activate somebody on the other side of the planet from what is important for that community at this point in time, in terms of the fashion industry. I can talk generically about the topics. This Fashion Revolution Week for instance is for rights, relationship and revolution. And it's about human rights and the rights of nature.

Orsola de Castro:

Such then every one of our teams will be able to connect back with small actions that you can take, how to approach your local communities. There's loads of getting involved [inaudible 00:43:55] that tell you exactly that, how to take part as a person, as a brand, as a school, as a group. So that would be my first port of call.

Orsola de Castro:

My second would be, again, starting from your gut feeling because some of us are interested in supply chain workers and others, it's about animal welfare. But do find your campaign. Do find where you want your voice to count. We've been talking a lot about human rights and the rights of workers. So then I will send you back to the Pay Up campaign, which is really focusing on ensuring that profits are better shared. They just launched another hashtag, #ShareYourProfits, if that's your your sphere. Or go with the #WhoMadeMyClothes and see where that takes you. Or the #WhatsInMyClothes, but follow where you know that you want to be heard.

Quinn:

I love that. And of course, the local teams these are such... Obviously, it's a global systemic issue, but the local places you can have impact makes such a difference as opposed to, like you said, you dictating it from afar. You can provide the guidelines and the passion behind it-

Orsola de Castro:

Exactly. Fashion Revolution USA partners and speaks with all of the organizations that I mentioned from Slow Factory to PayOut to... And we'll give you loads of information and loads of points of contacts, getting really quite big general.

Quinn:

That's fantastic. And just to clarify, when is the week this year, so we're headed of it here?

Orsola de Castro:

From the 19th until the 25th of April.

Quinn:

Perfect. This is perfectly timed.

Orsola de Castro:

If you're awake at 1:00 PM, that's 1:00 PM CET, UK time, that's our kickoff event, which is called Fashion Question Time. It's in partnership with the VNA Museum and you will learn a lot. We have the most incredible speakers.

Quinn:

Awesome, we will definitely get involved.

Brian:

Cool. That's incredible. Okay. Let's talk about where we can spend our money. Obviously, everybody needs clothes, yes. Fewer, better made clothes, but clothes. Where can everybody go to track brands and find good places to buy from if they do need new stuff?

Orsola de Castro:

Well, I would always advocate trying to buy secondhand fast or borrow from friends. But obviously, this is not possible for instance, when you have young children, not necessarily but there are more and more online places where at the touch of again, a search engine, you will find reputable resellers or sellers that either sell secondhand that you can really mix and match. It's huge. The second hand market is growing 10 times faster than fast fashion.

Orsola de Castro:

These brands are coming out fast and furiously and they want you to know that they're there. They're really easy to find. And online obviously has made this type of distribution and this type of shopping really possible. There is also something really brilliant about if you can afford it, to support the young and emerging designers that are coming out right now. The relationship between a designer and their customer can be profoundly intimate. It doesn't necessarily have to be incredibly expensive, because you start to get to know them, they will tell you every time that they've got a sample sale, they will keep the things that are the cheaper for you and your opinion will matter to them.

Orsola de Castro:

You will wear their clothes and you will say, "You know what? I felt a bit uncomfortable over there." That will reflect in the way that that designer designs. It's a really fundamental relationship. We've got opportunities to do it now. Because there are so many... Again, there are some pretty reputable places where you can go and look for them. I would suggest if you're very, very into fashion, if you follow for instance, Sara Maino who is from Italia Vogue, she does a wonderful talent scouting called Vogue Talents. There's loads of amazing fashion there.

Orsola de Castro:

Our own one, Fashion Open Studio will put you in touch again with very small designers from all over the world. But again, on Google, on social, it should be easy to find platforms online that sell ethical designers. And it's going to be easy to know, because if the information is understandable, if you believe them and you can double check, if there's a link on those designers that tells you who made their clothes and what's contained in them, that's a pretty good starting point.

Quinn:

Awesome.

Brian:

Yeah, I love that answer of just like if you want to know like, just go look. Like you said, it's not hard. If you're going to buy something, just go check it out first.

Orsola de Castro:

But if you can't, and if you have to buy cheap, because that's all that you can afford. Buy with exactly the same mentality as if you were buying a designer piece. So love it, choose it, wear it by imagining it, that it could look different on someone else or that if you actually pick the skirt up, it would change shape.

Orsola de Castro:

Buy with the frame that you're going to keep it because if you buy with a framework that you're going to keep it and you're going to do all sorts of really interesting thing like looking inside the clothes to see if it's going to fall apart. It has a string. Pull it. If it unravels, don't buy it, go to the next one. It won't. Buy that one. We have to love what we buy and keep what we buy, cheap or expensive.

Brian:

I love that so much.

Quinn:

I love that. Two last things and then you're out of here. They'll be quick. One, I realized I don't know if you've seen the trailer for it, but there's a new Disney movie coming out about Cruella De Ville. And it's about her origin story. And it's all '60s and '70s fashion. I will send you the link to the trailer, I think you'd love it and also, my wife wrote the movie.

Orsola de Castro:

Oh my god. Even more. Send it to me straightaway.

Quinn:

Yeah, I will send it to you.

Orsola de Castro:

I can't wait for virtual clothing. So when all of the clothes that Cruella de Ville is actually wearing now eventually will be available for me to buy and wear the-

Quinn:

Yes. I can't give any secrets away about what it's about or what's included. But I think you'll really, really dig it based on what we've talked about. Last thing, quick question for you, we ask everybody, what's a book you've read this year, Orsola, that's opened your mind to a topic maybe you hadn't considered before? Or maybe it's changed your thinking in some way.

Orsola de Castro:

Okay, this is really, really difficult because I read an awful lot.

Quinn:

I love it.

Orsola de Castro:

I go through books. So do you mean within my work? Within my work-

Quinn:

Whatever you would like.

Orsola de Castro:

Okay, well then no. If I can just pick one from this year, it would be [inaudible 00:51:05].

Quinn:

Okay, awesome. Perfect. We will dig that one up. We've got a little we've got a list of books shop where everybody can go check out our guest recommendations.

Orsola de Castro:

Also, I kind of quite liked writing my book and-

Quinn:

And your book... [crosstalk 00:51:16] No, your book is absolutely going in there. There it is, beautiful. Awesome. Yeah.

Brian:

Amazing.

Quinn:

Orsola, where can our listeners follow you online?

Orsola de Castro:

So I am @Orsoladecastro which is my full name on Instagram and Twitter. That's about it. But again, wherever you are, the Fashion Revolution is @fashrev. But then each country has also their own handles and I really don't remember all of them.

Quinn:

Don't worry, we'll put it on the show notes. We got it.

Orsola de Castro:

Generally short like USA, Italy, Indonesia, India at the bottom of some [inaudible 00:51:54].

Quinn:

We've got it. Brian, that's what he does. He'll track all of it down.

Brian:

I'm on it.

Quinn:

Orsola, thank you so much for your time, for everything you're doing. This has been so enlightening. I'm excited about the whole thing. Thank you for your time. I'm so excited you're off to get your shot. This is wonderful news. What a good day. You're going to do great.

Orsola de Castro:

Thank you so much for inviting me and for being patient with my time.

Quinn:

Of course. We will talk to you so soon. Okay. Take care.

Brian:

It's wonderful.

Orsola de Castro:

Great to meet you both and thank you for your work. You're doing amazing too.

Quinn:

You're the greatest. Thanks to our incredible guest today and thanks to all of you for tuning in. We hope this episode has made your commute or awesome workout or dish washing or fucking dog walking late at night that much more pleasant. As a reminder, please subscribe to our free email newsletter at Importantnotimportant.com. It is all the news most vital to our survival as a species.

Brian:

And you can follow us all over the internet. You can find us on Twitter @importantnotimp.

Quinn:

Just so weird.

Brian:

Also, on Facebook and Instagram @importantnotimportant. Pinterest and Tumblr, the same thing. So check us out. Follow us, share us, like us. You know the deal. And please subscribe to our show wherever you listen to things like this and if you're really fucking awesome, rate us on Apple podcast. Keep the lights on thanks.

Quinn:

Please.

Brian:

And you can find the show notes from today right in your little podcast player and at our website, importantnotimportant.com.

Quinn:

Thanks to the very awesome Tim Blane for our jamming music. To all of you for listening. And finally, most importantly, to our moms for making us have a great day.

Brian:

Thanks guys.

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