Your name on me!


Once again I’m raising funds for Team for Kids by running the TCS New York City Marathon on November 1 and I request your support. On the day of the race, I will honor all donors by writing your name on my body. What I would like to happen is that even with a fine marker I run out of body to write on. The cause is fantastic, making a huge difference in the health and well-being of kids in NYC and beyond. Donations of any size are very much appreciated and multiple donations will result in multiple names. If you wish to donate anonymously, you can; message me and I’ll make sure I acknowledge you on the day. Please share, and please donate HERE. THANK YOU!!!

H&M Global Change Award


The H&M Global Change Award has received a mixed response this week, for example in The Guardian and Ecouterre; my initial thoughts are included in the latter. Posting the Ecouterre article on Facebook resulted in some lively debate and I continue to reflect further.

Why this Award is an interesting initiative from H&M is that my understanding of a true circular economy is one of a closed system of a finite size. We are perhaps decades away from a steady-state (or post-growth) economy, and the transition into one – if we in fact deem that a shared goal – is gradual and incremental. H&M engaging in a conversation about a circular economy could be an early step in that transition.

What I see desperately missing from these conversations is a long term view, not from H&M specifically, but rather, from all of us as a global society. We need clear, tangible and actionable goals for the next decade, the next five decades and the next century. (And the next ten thousand years with nuclear waste.) We need an agreed goal for the global population size; any conversation about economics and sustainability is inherently tied to that. In light of the relatively short elected terms of policy makers, we need to empower those stakeholders who are capable of long term views and sustained action towards long term goals.

We also need conversations about appropriate size for companies over time. This should not be determined and imposed externally; the responsibility and the leadership for that are with each company. The pursuit of quantitative growth, seemingly at any human cost, must be tackled. As Schumacher noted in Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered over four decades ago, we (still) spend our capital as if it were income. Which is why it’s positive that a company like H&M is engaging in conversation about a circular economy. Simultaneously we should deepen the conversation on qualitative growth: how do we increase our capacity to continually elevate our shared quality of life, decoupled from ever-increasing pace and volume of consumption?

Increasingly I actively choose optimism and hope, over the cynicism and dismissive skepticism that I generate like one of Pavlov’s dogs when I read of H&M’s efforts around sustainability. There is a monumental amount of work for us to do and my cynicism will not get that work done. Therefore, I choose to be hopeful. I’m hopeful that the Award will springboard sharp minds into visionary work on new solutions. I’m hopeful that through those solutions, the human networks in fashion will be restored and cherished. I’m hopeful that one day H&M will proudly look back at its leadership in solving the problems it has contributed towards creating.

Photo by Janelle Abbott, from that time when we were the self-declared winners of an H&M white t-shirt competition.

Quick Q&A

Alison is a senior at a high school in New York, and she got in touch with me with a few questions for a research project for her Environmental Science class. Whenever I encounter high school students asking questions about fashion and sustainability I smile with optimism; I trust the next generation will take on the formidable challenges ahead. We, the generation before, still have work to do, make no mistake about that. Here are her questions and my brief responses.

When and how did you first become aware of the deplorable standard of ethics and sustainability that occurs in some sectors of the fashion industry?

In 1996, in my first year of study at the University of Technology Sydney for a bachelor’s degree in fashion and textile design. I had a textile design teacher, Julia Raath, who would talk about the impacts of some of the chemicals used in textile dyeing and printing.

What, in your opinion, is the biggest challenge, or the largest area for improvement, that the fashion industry faces if a change is to be made towards more sustainable production of clothes?

Consumption and growth. It’s not a challenge for fashion alone but rather for society as a whole. We need an economic system and a society that does not rely on an ever-increasing volume of consumption of goods. Unchecked economic growth would eventually result in planetary and societal collapse. This is not news – among others the book ‘The Limits to Growth‘ was published in 1972 – but it’s a conversation that many parts of society find too confronting to have, and yet it is a conversation and a task we must tackle.

What resources and technologies are available to the fashion and textile industries that will help them transition to more sustainable production methods with a limited environmental impact?

Too many to mention; different solutions are needed for different problems and contexts. For example, zero waste fashion design and whole-garment knitting are two strategies to eliminate fabric waste from garment manufacturing. Lots of work is being done to eliminate toxic chemicals from textile manufacture, for example by Clean by Design by the NRDC. The New Economics Foundation is one of many organizations looking for new economic models. Sustainable Cotton Project and organic cotton are two approaches to eliminating toxic pesticides from cotton farming. The list is almost endless. I would argue that just about every solution we need is already in existence.

Are there any unsustainable practices in the fashion industry that continue to persist due to a lack of viable alternatives?

Consumption, or the industry’s (and our society’s) reliance on it. The lack of alternatives, in my view, is primarily to do with a fear of the unknown and a lack of leadership in this area, particularly from policy makers and business leaders.

What, as consumers, are the most important decisions we can make to ensure that we are contributing to a more sustainable fashion industry?

Focus less on the clothes you want or need or think you should buy because they are ‘sustainable’, and more on who you want to be in this life and in this world. What kind of a difference do you want to make in this world? Human being is virtually unlimited in possibility. Fashion can be a vital aspect of self expression and the source of immense joy (it should be!) but that doesn’t need to mean owning a ton of stuff. Find the joy in cherishing clothes, in customizing them, in repairing them, in sharing them. Build a deep connection with the natural world and know your place in it, as an integral part of it. Grow your own herbs, compost your food scrap (I do through Grow NYC). Have an amazing life, guided by George Bernard Shaw if needed.

I do recommend reading the stories at the Local Wisdom link above, under the tab ‘Use Practices’. I also recommend books by Kate Fletcher and John Ehrenfeld.

(The orchid above was thrown out by a colleague because she thought it was dead. It nearly was. I’ve nursed it back to life and will give it back to her once it has started blooming again, probably within two weeks.)

Fashion Revolution Day 24.4.2015

Fashion_Revolution_Day_2015 Fashion_Revolution_Day_Instructions

April 24 will mark the second anniversary of Rana Plaza. Fashion Revolution Day invites you to take the following action:

1. Take a selfie that shows your garment label. Turning your clothes inside out makes more of a statement, as demonstrated by me last year:


2. Follow that brand on social media.

3. Upload your photo on social media with the following message: I want to thank the people who made my clothes, @brand, #whomademyclothes?

Levi’s and Calvin Klein, I’m still waiting. Who made my clothes?

My thanks to Orsola de Castro for leading the way.


Call for Papers: Creative Pattern Cutting 2016

I look forward to seeing you in Huddersfield in February 2016!


MLS Pajamas by Timo Rissanen, 2011. Photograph by Mariano Garcia of iloveshoot

The second international conference is designed to promote contemporary research into the art of creative pattern cutting and its significance to the fashion industry. The conference provides a platform for pattern cutters, fashion designers, students, and educators to explore the impact and direction for creative pattern cutting.

The conference aims to:

  • Encourage discussion of new methods and techniques in creative pattern cutting, inspiring technical and design innovation.
  • Develop ways in which the fashion industry promotes pattern cutting as a career, emphasizing its creative integrity and magnetism.
  • Enhance ways in which tacit knowledge and the making process are considered as legitimate forms of research enquiry.
  • Promote equity for the roles of the creative pattern cutter and the fashion designer in terms of esteem and remuneration.
  • Balance debates about the knowledge and practical experience of traditional processes in the context of technological and digital development.

We are looking for abstracts, which expand the themes above and further explore the impact and direction for creative pattern cutting.

Selected papers will be published in a special edition in The International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education, Volume 6, Issue 2, published in July 2016. Guest editors: Dr. Kevin Almond and Dr Jess Power

Important dates:

  • Call sent out: 9 February 2015
  • Abstract (150 words): 1 May 2015 (Abstract and authors name, affiliation and institution should be submitted to
  • Notification for acceptance: 1 July 2015
  • Full paper (4000 – 5000 words) submission: 15 September 2015 (or before)
  • Reviewer’s feedback: 1 January 2016 (or before)
  • Early bird registration: 16 February – 31 October 2015
  • Registration closes: 12 February 2016
  • Symposium: 24 and 25 February 2016.

Hosting University: University of Huddersfield, UK

Organisers: Dr Kevin Almond, Stephen Wigley, Dr Jess Power



Download the call as a PDF.

Sponsored by fashion and apparel solutions specialist Lectra.

Please support Team for Kids


In 2012 I took on my health like it was a matter of life and death – it’s no exaggeration that it was. Among other things, I’d had a 21-year-old on/off relationship with cigarettes. On May 12 of that year some sort of brain fart told me that this was it, and I told my husband so as well. The exact words were, ‘I don’t think I’ll smoke again.’ I’d just smoked the last cigarette in my packet and I wasn’t going to ever buy any more, and I haven’t smoked since that day. Unlike my squillion previous attempts to quit, this was devoid of melodrama and grandiose Facebook announcements. I simply permanently altered one behaviour in my life, and more importantly, transformed a seemingly fixed view on my life and who I thought myself to be.

A week after my last cigarette I went for a run. After 15 minutes my lungs were on fire and I came back home. I didn’t, however, give up. That summer in Finland, while working on 15%, I ran three or four days a week, gradually building up my fitness and stamina. By December 2012 I felt confident enough to sign up for the 2013 Helsinki City Marathon, which I ran with Julian Roberts (or more accurately, we started together, Julian finished, and eventually I did, too). I’ve now ran three marathons, two of them this year.

For my final marathon of 2013, the TCS NYC Marathon on November 2, I am raising funds for Team for Kids. I am asking for your support in this. I promise to match every donation until I have met my fundraising goal of $2,620. There is only $1,175 to go! We will do this. Thank you for your support. YOU CAN DONATE BY CLICKING HERE.