Podcast Ep. 66, TEATUM JONES ON POSITIVE FASHION, INCLUSIVITY & ACTIVISM
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EPISODE 66 FEATURES TEATUM JONES
“We truly believe in the power of fashion to present a pro-social message of inclusivity and positive identity." How’s that for a vision statement? These are the words of Catherine Teatum and Rob Jones, AKA London fashion duo Teatum Jones - a brand that “creates fashion from human stories”.
This year the British Fashion Council named them Positive Fashion Representatives. At London Fashion Week for Spring ‘19, they partnered with Youtube and Google in support of UN Women to present their collection: ‘Global Womanhood Part Two, 16 Days Of Activism.’
What role can fashion play in empowering women and girls? How can we modernise fashion and make it way more inclusive? How do we smash the idea that you have to look and be a certain way to qualify as beautiful, stylish, in fashion? How come fashion ignores disability - and keeps on getting away with it? Why do designers have a responsibility in this area, and how can they maximise their positive impact?
In this lively, thought-provoking Episode, we address these thorny issues and more, and have a laugh while we're at it. Positive fashion indeed!
WHAT WE TALK ABOUT…
“THE IDEA THAT YOU WOULD MAKE THINGS TO LAST HAS BEEN ABSENT FROM FASHION.” - CATHERINE TEATUM
IDEAS, INSPIRATION AND HUMAN STORIES
LEYMAH GBOWEE is the Nobel Prize-winning, Liberian activist who led the nonviolent Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace movement that helped bring an end to the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003.
Cat and Rob were watching a doco about Hillary Clinton in which Gbowee, briefly, appeared. “She stood out instantly,” Cat told AnOther. “She’s fierce; that’s what drew me to her… A big part of her appeal was that everything she did was very instinctual. It wasn’t planned. It was reactionary. Anger fuelled a lot of her motivation. Gbowee's social work programme was based on conflict resolution and we learnt that her main approach was sharing stories. That’s why I think we felt such a connection to her.”
“"Gbowee's most powerful message is about owning your story – she calls it 'shedding the weight'. It’s a very simple way to regain dignity. She told us about one of her most significant and famous actions: at the peace talks in Ghana, she was about to be arrested for staging a sit-in. She began to unwrap and undress. Many people questioned why she would do something which could be seen as sexual when the conflict had created huge problems with mass rape. It was amazing to hear her explain to us that it’s an old African tradition: if an older or married woman exposes herself to a man, then it’s seen as a curse. The men – war leaders, commanders and presidents – were so terrified that they reached an agreement within days.” Read the rest of the interview here.
INCLUSIVITY. Teatum Jones’ Spring 2018 collection, the Body | Part 2, was part of a 12-month examination of our relationship with the human body, and a creative homage to NATASHA BAKER . Baker is a British Paralympic dressage rider, who contracted the Transverse Myelitis virus when she was 14 months old. It left her with permanent nerve damage, loss of balance and sensation and severe weakness in her legs. She was 9 when her physio suggested she applied to the local Riding for the Disabled Association.
Baker has since won 11 gold medals.
Cat Rob say: “Inspired by Natasha’s piercing sense of clarity and calm in the face of challenge; we saw precision in colour-block pleated skirts, striped sequin embroideries, transparent flocked organza and the weightlessness of printed silk satins. Devore silks, named after Natasha’s former horse ‘Woody’ are woven in a pattern based on the formation of a galloping horse.”
DIVERSITY. Teatum Jones pushes for greater diversity in mainstream fashion weeks. Their shows have featured models with disabilities, plus-sized models and models from differing ethnic backgrounds. “Fashion is for everybody,” they say. Spring ‘18 show featured two models who are amputees: KELLY KNOX and JACK EYRES.
AMY MULLINS is the American model Clare mentions who famously opened Alexander McQueen’s London show in 1999. She is a double amputee and athlete. As Fashionista puts it: “As a model, she's shot with top photographers, including Steven Klein and Inez and Vinoodh; covered magazines like Dazed; and opened runway shows for the late Alexander McQueen, who counted her as a muse. As an athlete, Mullins has been awarded for her performances in track and field and was appointed a leader of the U.S. delegation at the 2012 Olympics. And as an actor, Mullins has been in more than 10 feature films, most recently appearing in cult-favorite Netflix show "Stranger Things." To call her ‘disabled’ when she's accomplished so much more than most ‘able-bodied’ people will in a lifetime calls into question what either of those terms actually means. “
“I don’t know why we fell into it, but there has been a very homogenised look, broadly in fashion: white, blonde, incredibly thin…All different facets of the fashion industry are accountable for this…It’s about shifting the centre.” - Catherine Teatum
ROUNDTABLE NOT RUNWAY. Yes, instead of an LFW runway show for Spring ‘19, the designers they held a roundtable discussion on FASHION’S RESPONSIBILITY AND ROLE IN THE PROTECTION, UNIFICATION, INCLUSION AND EQUALITY OF WOMEN. Watch it below:
MARAI LARASI is the founder of Imkaan . Read about her work here.
CARYN FRANKLIN is a British fashion journalist and professor of diversity (yes, that’s an actual thing) at Kingston University. In the ‘80s, she was an editor with i-D magazine, and presented The Clothes Show. Today, she’s just rad, basically. Yep, we’re fully paid up members of the Caryn Franklin appreciation society.
GREEN CARPET. Teatum Jones were finalists for the Franca Sozzani Green Carpet Challenge Emerging Designer of the Year Award. Read the Vogue story here. They created a dress made from Fil Coupe made in Italy from recycled polyester and Lenzing Modal (a low impact fabric derived from responsibly sourced wood), lined with recycled polyester and embellished with laser cut sequins made from recycled plastic water bottles and painted with natural pigment paints. The coat has been made from hand woven Baoule Kente Ikat fabric sourced via Piece & Co. as well as archive and past season reused fabrics, and lined with old printed strike-offs. Via EcoAge
JOHN SMEDLEY is a venerable British knitwear house known for its beautiful quality yarns. They say: n 1784 our factory started life producing simple muslin fabric and spinning cotton and in 1825 we moved on to producing more complex garments using one of the first ever fully fashioned knitting machines, creating the original “Long Johns”…In the 1950s and 60s we became the brand of choice for many famous faces, including Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and the Beatles amongst many others and by 1980 we had established ourselves as the go-to knitwear brand for British designers such as Dame Vivienne Westwood and Sir Paul Smith.” In 2013, they were granted the Royal Warrant of Appointment as a “Manufacturer of Fine Knitwear” by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. We say: they’re also big on sustainability with great care taken to ensure water is recycled where possible and chemicals are not released into the local Derbyshire water supply. They knit whole garments, eliminating cut and sew, which reduces waste, and also allows for efficient turnaround of re-orders. Oh and they get the Vivienne Westwood tick of approval - they’ve been making her jumpers for years.
PIECE & CO is a social enterprise helping to empower communities around the world. They describe their purpose as being “a catalyst for positive change and empowering women around the world through textiles and product.” Using organic cotton, silk and alpaca, they work with mostly women artisan communities in 16 countries, and are members of member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and Textile Exchange.
A NOTE ON OUR MUSIC: IT IS BY OUR FRIEND MONTAIGNE, WHO SANG A SPECIAL ACOUSTIC VERSION OF "BECAUSE I LOVE YOU" JUST FOR US. IT'S FROM HER ALBUM GLORIOUS HEIGHTS.
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