How often do you ask yourself: where did my clothes come from and who made them? Wardrobe Crisis is a new podcast, hosted by fashion journalist Clare Press, which is shining a light on the dark side of fashion, and what we can all do about it.
Clare, with her 20 years’ experience interviewing some of the most famous people in fashion and writing for the likes of Vogue and Marie Claire, is taking on a new kind of trend; one that she hopes will last longer than a season or two.
Ethical and sustainable fashion.
“Throughout my career as a fashion journalist, I’ve interviewed designers and people in the industry about how clothes are made, and how trends happen,” explains Clare. “I’ve always been fascinated by how clothes are made. But it’s only been in the last four or so years that I’ve begun to frame that conversation through the lens of those words – ethical and sustainable – with regards to fashion.”
Clare began to delve deeper into the world of fashion and the industry’s impact beyond the shows when she was doing research for her book, also called Wardrobe Crisis, in which she explores the history and ethics of what we wear. The fashion industry is one of the most environmentally destructive industries in the world, while supply chains are rife with human rights abuses.
“We know we consume far more clothes than we have before, and we know that we don’t do that responsibly,” says Clare. “I think it’s time we had a different sort of conversation about how we consume clothes and fashion.”
Which is why Clare is using her insider knowledge and unique voice to get that conservation started. “I’m very driven to try to make change in an industry that I do love, so that’s become more my focus. I’m still a fashion journalist, and I think that’s why, dare I say, people listen to me, because I still have that authority in the industry.”
And it sounds like people are keen to hear what Clare has to say. The Wardrobe Crisis podcast, which launched at the start of June, was the top Australian iTunes podcast in its first week.
“I call myself a fashion activist these days. I only wear sustainable fashion, often by young designers,” explains Clare. “I try to use my powers for good.”
Sustainable and ethical fashion is very much a new and emerging dynamic. Since the deadly Rana Plaza manufacturing factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2013, which killed 1,134 workers, consumers have become far more aware that their clothes don’t just miraculously appear on a hanger. They have a story.
“Rana Plaza was the catalyst for me to start focusing on ethical fashion, and in fact, episode five of the Wardrobe Crisis podcast is about this. It’s an incredible interview with Kalpona Akter…It’s the best interview I’ve done in my career.”
— Clare Press (@MrsPress) July 5, 2017
It’s riveting listening as Kalpona Akter, a powerhouse of a woman, describes her life as a former child labourer in Bangladesh. She began work in a garment factory at the tender age of 12.
“She talks about her colleague being tortured and murdered, what it’s like to be a garment worker… and about what she saw at [the] Rana Plaza [factory collapse]. It’s a really important conversation.”
And it’s an important conversation for the rest of us fashion-wearers to be aware of. Eighty per cent of garment workers are women, most aged between 18 and 25. Many have children and aren’t paid nearly enough for their work, barely even able to make ends meet. The powerful episode with Kalpona not only tells her story, but it provides an insight into what it’s really like for the four million garment workers in Bangladesh suffering in poverty and exploitation for the consumption of the west.
“I think there’s a bit of a tipping point. I feel there’s a massive groundswell of interest in [ethical fashion], and that’s so great.”
The podcast, which is independently produced, includes interviews with people from all over the world talking on a range of topics, from fashion to plastic pollution to zero-waste design. So, if you like fashion, wear clothes or buy stuff, have a listen.
Photography (top) by Luisa Brimble