Sustainability Starts with Reconnection
by Kate Caric
One of the worst things about lockdown is not having in-person interaction, which I thrive on, and my experience at the Pause Fashion Hub during Sustainable Fashion Week in London is one I hope to have again soon.
I’d been writing about sustainable fashion for several years but had grown uncomfortable with the things I was saying and didn’t feel I was making headwind or doing anything that I liked anymore. So I found a new direction, which was grad school, in a city with a thriving sustainable fashion scene, in case I made my way back because I was never going to give up a love of fashion. I chose to study conflict, rights, and justice mostly because I was interested in reparations, but I wanted to string all my interests together and tie them into one bow. Threading a very tiny needle, but unsure where to find the extra thread and string the needle.
When I first landed in London in September 2019, I’d planned out the trip so that I’d be there for the second part of fashion week. The events at Pause at the historical Freemason's Hall in Covent Garden were on my list. The KINDOM x Pause panel with Andreea Tanasescu of Give Credit, Patrick Duffy of Global Fashion Exchange, Claire Powers of KINDOM, and Evelinda Otong, a Yakan indigenous weaver, still stands out.
When I was writing about sustainable brands, it became clear that indigenous people would need to be listened to and allowed to lead the sustainability conversation. And the brands that always interested me the most were working with artisan communities and indigenous cultures. Preserving and innovating are two key components I’d look for in brand roundups.
But saying and writing “handmade by artisans preserving ancient techniques” is the most watered-down, soul-sucking sentence you can come up with to describe what people are doing (even though it’s one I’ve written 1,000 times or more). It doesn’t get at the love and the history and culture behind every piece. Hearing Evelinda discussing her community and the loss of knowledge and the young people in her village was getting that connection again.
In my head, it was like, “YES, this is why I loved this.” I went on to write several different essays based on the ideas I had coming out of the talk. I wrote a proposal on #givecredit, and my thesis was on traditional Palestinian embroidery and how women and traditions have been affected by the Israeli occupation, colonialism, the Nakba, and the intifada. Through our clothing and our craft, we can see how the world changes, and it brings that connection back to the people holding that history but in the hurricane of “artisan-made,” “handmade,” and “sustainably crafted,” it takes meeting someone like Evelinda to remember that.