Event Report – Is Fashion Wearing Out The World?

Lucy Siegle Talk and Book Signing, review by Terri Lucas.

Lucy Siegle, Observer columnist and author of To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing out the World? visited the Whitworth last night to talk about the ethics of fashion and how the roles we play as designers through to consumers can affect the world and the lives of other people.

Clothes have become so disposable, they are literally litter.

Lucy Siegle

She talked about how closely fashion and nature are linked but how distant the consumer is from this, how we are unaware of what actually happens in order for us to buy those bargain jeans or that high street top that help us keep up with the latest fashions. She declared that as a result of fast fashion ‘clothes have become so disposable they are literally litter’, saying that young consumers don’t remember a time before fast fashion, when people would buy clothes to last. Instead consumers buy clothes that are so cheap and of such bad quality they often don’t last the first wash and charity shops can only sell them to other countries, thus exporting the problem.

But there is a solution. Siegle argues that sustainable style, a movement rather than a trend, is the answer. She suggests we slow down the pace of consumption, have more than one viewing of an item of clothing before buying it and that we question where it’s come from, how it’s made. In answer to an audience member’s question about how to get out of the cycle of buying cheap clothes, she suggests that everyone interested in sustainable style should try making one piece of clothing, in order to see what really goes into it. She promises this will change how we look at and consume clothes in the future.

According to Siegle the problem is our attitude: it has become normal to buy ‘a chunk of cow worth seven or eight hundred quid’ (i.e. a bag) and team it up with an entire outfit that costs no more than your lunchtime cappuccino and sandwich. She has teamed up with Livia Firth to promote the Green Carpet Challenge, getting sustainable fashion onto the red carpet. As celebrities influence fashion so much, she hopes this will stop people thinking sustainable fashion is ‘tofu hats and stuff like that’ and encourage everyone to think differently about their consumption.

The talk was concise, light and colloquial. Siegle engaged the audience to the point that there simply wasn’t enough time for everyone to ask their questions. Conversations in response to the talk continued as people walked back to the foyer and queued to have their books signed.

But Siegle doesn’t believe we should all wear dull clothes for the sake of being ethical. She admits ‘I don’t want to sound like I’m unfashionable’ and asserts that the ‘aesthetic has to match the ethic’.

Visitor Services Assistant, Terri

Visitor Services Assistant, Terri

Terri Lucas is one of our friendly Visitor Services Assistants at the Whitworth- we asked her to go along to the Lucy Seigle talk and book signing at the gallery and prepare this report from the event, the first of a series of reviews from the Whitworth events programme to accompany COTTON: Global Threads.

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About Liza Lemsatef Cunningham

Art, photography, design, tea, dancing. Not necessarily in that order. http://www.ellelens.com @ellelens

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