Podcast Ep. 67, TAMARA CINCIK, FASHION & POLITICS - BREXIT & THE ENVIRONMENTAL AUDIT COMMITTEE
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EPISODE 67 FEATURES TAMARA CINCIK
In June 2018, the Environmental Audit Committee of the UK’s House of Commons announced it would be looking into fast fashion, inquiring into the carbon, resource use and water footprint of clothing throughout its lifecycle, and looking at how clothes can be recycled, and waste and pollution reduced.
The committee’s chair is the labour MP for Wakefield, Mary Creagh, said: “Fashion shouldn’t cost the Earth. But the way we design, make and discard clothes has a huge environmental impact. Producing clothes requires toxic chemicals and produces climate-changing emissions. [And] every time we put on a wash, thousands of plastic fibres wash down the drain and into the oceans. [What’s more] we don’t know where or how to recycle end-of-life clothing.” The inquiry, she said, would look at “how the fashion industry can remodel itself to be both thriving and sustainable.”
Over the next few months, loads of industry insiders made submissions to the committee. People like Livia Firth - who is coming up in Series 3 - made submissions. People like designers Christopher Raeburn (listen to his podcast here), Dilys Williams (her Episode is here) from the Centre For Sustainable Fashion, the team from Fashion Revolution, and Tamara Cincik, founder of FASHION ROUNDTABLE which acts as secretariat to the Fashion & Textiles All-Party Parliamentary Group.
Tamara is a former fashion stylist turned Westminster insider. When she first arrived in Westminster, she had to train herself not to say, “Hello darling,” when she picked up the phone. You’re going to hear how she was gobsmacked during all the Brexit brouhaha to note that she was usually the only person from the fashion industry present at meetings. Fashion, she says, has been asleep at the wheel - there are always loads of representatives from other industries buzzing around Parliament, but where is fashion?
It’s not like the fashion industry doesn’t have clout - in the UK, it contributes £28.1 billion to national GDP, (up from £21 billion in 2009). Issues like Brexit and modern slavery legislation have serious impacts on the industry. So this episode is about the intersection of fashion and politics. Why fashion (brands, producers, consumers, educators) should to step up, and engage, how they can do that. And why, in the UK at least, MPs are very interested in what fashion is doing when it comes to supply chains and the environment.
“The whole industry is based on us buying more than we need.” - Mary Creagh
WHAT WE TALK ABOUT…
FRONT ROW VS. FRONT BENCH. Tamara likens the front bench in parliament to the front row at fashion week - both are built on status and hierarchy. In the fashion world, being relegated to rows B, C or (the horror!) D - let’s not even sully ourselves with mention of General Admission [*shivers] - means being considered less important. Which is crazy. We’re all important. But the fact remains, the fashion industry is about power just like the political arena is. Ah, human nature. Annoying eh? But that’s what’s so refreshing about Fashion ROUNDtable. See what I did there? There ain’t no head of a circle, peeps.
The 1922 COMMITTEE is a UK parliamentary group of Conservative backbench MPs. “Its main function is to keep the leadership of the party informed of the mood of Conservative backbenchers. The group meets every week when Parliament is in session and gives backbench Tory MPs the chance to air their concerns, report on constituency work and coordinate legislative agendas,” via The Week. The group has the ability to determine a Tory leader’s fate before the electorate has a chance, via the New Statesman.
HILARY BENN is the Labour MP for Leeds Central. He chairs the Exiting the European Union Select Committee. This is what he feels about Brexit: “I was, and still am, a passionate remainer, not because Europe is perfect but because cooperation with Europe is essential. I think the decision the country has made is a profound mistake which will have far reaching consequences for Britain’s influence in the world and for our economic future. But as a democrat, I accepted the result. “ Via HilaryBennMP.com
The MESS THAT IS BREXIT At the timing of writing no one knows what the hell is happening. Fact. “The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March - right before the Easter holidays. We still don't know how Britain will leave the EU - with a deal, or without,” reports BBC. We might see a general election. As of December, “Theresa May has bought herself more time to win round MPs skeptical about her Brexit deal by delaying a key vote in the House of Commons — but all outcomes are still on the table. May conceded in her statement to the House of Commons Monday that the deal would, as it stands, be rejected by a "significant margin." Opposition parties are against the deal; over a hundred Conservative MPs — both Leavers and Remainers — also oppose it; the Democratic Unionist Party that props up Theresa May's government is against. In favour: the rest of the Conservatives' 315 MPs and, possibly, a low number of Labour MPs fiercely committed to delivering Brexit for Leave voters in their constituencies. Not enough to win. Could the country demand another referendum and vote to Remain? Unlikely. But if that did happen, The European Court of Justice has ruled that he U.K.'s declaration under Article 50 to leave the EU can be withdrawn unilaterally, without the permission of other EU countries - only there would no going back.
What does this mean for fashion? Fashion Roundtable reckons 96% of the industry opposes Brexit. They says: “The lack of clarity regarding future market access means that we could be looking at more barriers to trade with the EU, our largest trading partner, including customs control, introduction of tariffs, [the] necessity to have a local agent on the ground on the Continent and loss of freedom of movement. At the same time the UK will not have the opportunity to advance its trade deals with other third countries because without clear trading relations with the EU, negotiating trade agreements will become very difficult.” Read the press release in full here.
According to Oxford Economics 2018 figures, the British fashion industry accounts for 890,000 jobs in the UK.
Made in Britain would would be smashed by a No Deal Brexit, says Paul Algar of the UK Fabric and Textiles Association: “If we are manufacturing products here, and there is no deal, then we are looking at tariffs to get merchandise into Europe of 15%-20%, depending on the product, and that will have a knock-on effect. The EU is our largest export market by far.”
Business of Fashion’s Imran Amed had this to say in September about the debacle, and what it may mean for the British fashion industry: “Sadly, growing anti-immigration sentiment threatens the very core of what makes London a global fashion capital. London is not a fashion capital because we have the biggest businesses. It is not a fashion capital because we have the best manufacturing. London is a fashion capital because we have the best talent from all over the world — from the EU and beyond. This is a point Ms May doesn't seem to grasp …The only reasons companies like Net-a-Porter, Farfetch — and, yes, even The Business of Fashion — were founded in London and continue to grow is because Britain was an open and progressive country that welcomed talent from abroad. ” Read the rest here.
Brexit could even mean the end of London Fashion Week, reports Drapers. Say it isn’t so!
The ENVIRONMENTAL AUDIT COMMITTEE (EAC) is a select committee of the House of Commons. It is currently investigating “the social and environmental impact of disposable ‘fast fashion’ and the wider clothing industry.” Submissions have been received by Fashion Roundtable, Eco-Age, Oxfam, Common Objective, WRAP, Centre for Sustainable Fashion, Sustainable Apparel Coalition, GOTS, the Centre for Sustainable Fashion. and others. Oral submissions have been made by representatives from brands including Boohoo, Primark, Marks and Spencer, Burberry, ASOS, Paul Smith and others. Watch the November 21 session here.
Cue a rash of stories in the media. Like this one in the Daily Mail about microfibres. And this one: if current clothes consumption continues "...they will account for more than a quarter of our total impact on climate change by 2050", Mary Creagh told BBC News.
JOHN MCNALLY is a Scottish National Party MP who sits on the EAC.
STACEY DOOLEY is a famous person off the telly. She came to prominence via a 2000s reality show that plunged a bunch of unsuspecting British teenagers into the life of garment workers in India. After that she went on to make docos about all sorts of social justice-y & political things, from people smuggling to domestic violence. In 2018, she made one for the BBC called Fashion’s Dirty Secrets. Soon after she won Strictly Come Dancing TV dance competition.
LOLA YOUNG is the British Baroness behind proposed amendments to the UK’s Modern Slavery Act. Listen to her podcast here.
The CENTRE FOR SUSTAINABLE FASHION is a Research Centre of the University of the Arts London based at London College of Fashion. It ‘s focused on using fashion to drive change, build a sustainable future and improve the way we live. Listen to the podcast with founder Dilys Williams here.
SWISHING is a slightly obscure British term for clothes-swapping. But the idea is EXTREMELY MODERN, innit? And necessary. According to getswishing.com, the average UK household owns £4,000 worth of clothing, 30% of which has not been worn in the past year. Estimates put the value of this unused clothing at around £30 billion. Check out Global Fashion Exchange for tips and tricks to hold a swap of your own, and to find out about their awesome global events. We’re VERY EXCITED about GFX coming to Melbourne Fashion Week in March 2019…
CAROLINE LUCAS is a Green MP and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Groups on Climate Change and Limits to Growth. She also sits on the Environmental Audit Committee.
KATHARINE HAMNETT, AKA Katharine the Great, is the actual queen. Just saying. Buy her organic cotton fairly made T-shirt here.
ASOS has stepped up its sustainability focus. Last year they updated their Animal Welfare Policy, and brought brands together to discuss eco and worker issues at an event called an event called The Future of Fashion: Transformation through Collaboration. They’ve signed the UN Global Compact and the 2020 Circular Fashion System Commitment. Read more here.
SOPHIE ELLIS-BEXTOR really did kill it on the dance floor.
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.
THANK YOU FOR JOINING THE WARDROBE CRISIS CONVERSATION. THIS IS THE LAST EPISODES FOR SERIES 2. YOU HAVE UNTIL THE FIRST WEEK IN FEBRUARY TO CATCH UP ON MISSED EPS. HURRAH. SEE YOU ON THE FLIP SIDE.