True Fashion Talks: How to Campaign For Change

words Lucy von Sturmer

Proposing a new idea and convincing others of its validity is no easy task. Even more so when you’re dealing with complex issues like supply chain transparency, or trying to shift the ‘take, make and waste’ model of the fashion industry to one of circularity.


THE POLITICAL IS PERSONAL Circular Textiles Specialist Jade Wilting started with the personal. She emphasized that finding ways to connect to the sustainable fashion cause on a personal level is key to maintaining momentum. “Watch documentaries; read blogs; light the fire within.”

THE FIRST FOLLOWER TRANSFORMS THE LONE NUT Beyond this, Jade noted that being a follower is a powerful, undervalued form of leadership too. To demonstrate this, she pointed to this video which features a (seemingly) ‘wild lunatic’ dancing on a hill alone. The key message? It’s the first follower that paves the way for others to join. Within three minutes, a crowd is soon amassed.

if you have 100 followers and a strong message, you’re an influencer too.

THE POWER OF THE CROWD Many campaigns focus on raising awareness, but they miss motivating their audience in the right way. This is the belief of Ron van de Akker, from online campaigning platform CollAction. Ron poses that while you may feel demotivated ~ as if your actions are just a drop in the ocean ~ perhaps you would feel differently if you knew 100, 1000, or even one million people were willing to take a stand.

Testing this theory, Ron invited the audience to sign on to the platform’s #SlowFashionSummer campaign. The pitch? “If 2,500 people commit to not buying any new clothes in the summer of 2018 (21 June to 21 September) we will all do it!” You can sign on here.

THE ROLE OF INFLUENCERS Anne-Ro, Communications Manager for Fashion for Good, referenced her experience working on large corporate campaigns. She talked about the value of working with major influencers such as Gigi Hadid during her time at Tommy Hilfiger. “We need to create the same hype and buzz around social change as we apply to campaigns in the commercial sector.” Holly Syrett: “So do we need more ‘cool kids’ in the game to spread the message further?” “Absolutely!”

MESSAGING: DOOM AND GLOOM OR POSITIVE INSPIRATION? The Fashion for Good building is designed to activate imagination through its first floor exhibition. As you get deeper into the building, you’re prompted to learn more about the many atrocities facing the industry. The message was clear: use positive messaging to start the conversation. Jade underlined this point: “Obama never said ‘everything is going to shit’, his campaign slogan was ‘change we can believe in!”

When the issues are urgent and the reality damaging and dangerous, striking the balance between inspiration and action is not easy. This was noted by Holly who said: “Are we at risk of simply allowing people to put their head back in the sand?”

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THE FASHION REVOLUTION In 2013, more than 1,100 garment workers lost their lives during a factory collapse in Bangladesh. This event has been referred to by many as a ‘wake up call’ for the industry. As a response, Fashion Revolution was born and each year the campaign calls on brands to answer the question #whomademyclothes? And each year, the tactics and tools used to amplify this message expand. In terms of approach, Fashion Revolution explicitly states that “rather than making people feel guilty, we help them recognise that they have the power to do something to make a positive change.” In 2015, the campaign released the video The 2 Euro T-Shirt — A Social Experiment which received over 6.5 million views and won a Cannes Lions award.

THE POWER OF COLLECTIVE VOICE In 2016, the Transparency Index was launched, publicly ranking the biggest brands on the information they disclose about social and environmental issues. In 2017, over 2000 brands and producer groups responded, answering #imadeyourclothes. In addition, hundreds of celebrities and influencers including Emma Watson, pro-surfer Kelly Slater, and editor-in-chief of Marie Claire Italia Antonella Antonelli joined the cause. Today, Fashion Revolution Week is back and there are more than 1000 events worldwide from creative workshops to film screenings, catwalks and panel discussions.

This year, the Transparency Index has extended to 150 brands and retailers, and organizers have also created an incredible ‘how to guide’ to inspire anyone, anywhere to build on this message further. This ‘how to’ kit includes everything from ‘how to write a letter to a brand’, ‘how to write a postcard to a policymaker’ and how to organize an event. From stunts to films to flash-mobs, Fashion Revolution Week is the perfect opportunity to catalyse the energy channeled during last week’s True Fashion Talks and put it into action.


Elisabeth Simons