Podcast Ep. 68, LIVIA FIRTH, ECO AGE & THE GREEN CARPET
SERIES 3 IS HERE! HURRAH! THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO CONTRIBUTED TO OUR CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN. IT’S DOWN TO YOU THAT WE CAN CONTINUE MAKING THE SHOW AND WE ARE SO GRATEFUL.
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EPISODE 68 FEATURES LIVIA FIRTH
Livia Firth is the Creative Director of sustainability consultancy Eco-Age, and the founder of the Green Carpet Challenge and Green Carpet Fashion Awards. She is a UN Leader of Change, a founding member of Annie Lennox’s women’s advocacy group The Circle, and was a co-producer on Andrew Morgan’s ethical fashion documentary, The True Cost. Livia is also a warm and wonderful advocate for ethical and sustainable fashion, and an absolute treat to interview. We are so grateful to Livia for kicking off this, our brand sparkling new series 3 of the Wardrobe Crisis podcast.
In this lively, inviting conversation, recorded in London, Clare and Livia discuss what it means to be a fashion activist, and why the world needs more of us (yes, including you!). We cover the big stuff - garment worker dignity, living wages, social justice - and the glitzy stuff - influencers, social media and the power of fashion to change stories.
Livia shares about her childhood growing up in Italy in a pre-fast fashion world, being “a ballbreaker” and starting a business with her brother. She reveals how her eco fashion quest began, when her husband Colin Firth was up for a Best Actor Oscar for his role in the Tom Ford movie A Single Man - dressing “eco” gave her a role to play. And she explains how that first challenge grew and flowered into something truly extraordinary that has seen Eco Age become one of the biggest players in sustainable fashion. Want to change fashion for the better? This Episode is full of inspiration.
WHAT WE TALK ABOUT…
ECO AGE is a sustainability consultancy that combines technical expertise on supply chains with PR, comms and event activations. There are offices in London and Milan and clients include: Gucci, Chopard and the Woolmark Company.
NOAM CHOMSKY is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, political activist, and social critic. Best known in popular discourse for his radical criticism of US foreign policy, he has written countless best-selling books on this and related political topics. It is as a philosopher and linguist, though, that he is likely to be best remembered intellectually, leading some to claim him as the foremost intellectual of our time—on a par with, say, Aristotle or Descartes, via Psychology Today. His name is a voice of liberal (small l) reason in a mad Trumpian word; a name synonymous with right-on-ness. Have you seen the movie Captain Fantastic about the family living off grid? You must; it’s so great. Anyway, they celebrate Noam Chomsky Day (his birthday) as a family holiday. The fact that Livia calls him for advice is pretty much bananas.
The ECO AGE BRANDMARK is a benchmark designed to show which brands are committed to ethical and environmentally-aware policies. They say: “The Brandmark will be awarded to companies in recognition of sustainable excellence in a specific area of their business, according to our stringent Principles for Sustainable Excellence, allowing us to guide on how best to buy well; to push the agenda of sustainability globally and, critically, to support brands which have made ethical business their mission.”
“Today they call us consumers, but I hate that word. I think we are citizens and we shouldn’t be defined purely by shopping or buying.” - Livia Firth
CAMERA MODA is the national chamber of Italian fashion.
The GREEN CARPET AWARDS take place on the last day of Milan fashion week in September. Listen to the Series 2 Episode with Sara Maino to find out more, here. Last year, Livia wore sky-blue vintage Laura Biagiotti. Here are the cobblers of Salvatore Ferragamo accepting their Art of Craftsmanship Award 2018.
GREENWASHING is the practice of making an unsubstantiated or misleading claim about the environmental benefits of a product, service, technology or company practice. The idea is to make a company appear more environmentally friendly than it really is.
GREEN CARPET. You can read the story of the Green Carpet Challenge in Rise & Resist. Livia’s outfits that season included an upcycled gown by our friend Orsola de Castro, and an eco-dyed gown by US designer JEFF GARNER’S Prophetik label.
THE KING’S SPEECH is an utterly brilliant 2010 film by Tom Hopper. Livia’s husband Colin Firth plays the future King George VI , who is battling a speech impediment. Colin won a Best Actor Oscar for this performance.
THE PRESS TOUR is an Instagram account run by Emma Watson’s team that tracked her sustainable outfit choices during the press tour for Beauty & the Beast.
The MET GALA 2016 was a veritable Green Carpet bonanza! Emma Watson, Lupita Nyong'o and Margot Robbie all wore sustainable looks from Calvin Klein Collection. Robbie’s white strapless situation was made from recycled materials and organic silk woven in Italy. Lupita’s was, er, green. As for Emma Watson - her outfit went down in history, appearing in pride of place at last year’s Fashioned From Nature exhibition at the V&A. Read all about it here. Gisele and Emily Blunt also went eco.
“Imagine if Kim Kardashian or Selena Gomez started talking about environmental and social justice! I could close Eco Age.” - Livia Firth
Growing up in Italy before fast fashion - “We couldn’t just walk into Primark and buy a new outfit for the weekend.”
The documentary Livia mentions that went to Sundance is In Prison, My Whole Life. about Black Panther activist Mumia Abu-Jamal. Livia was one of the producers on Andrew Morgan’s film about fast fashion: THE TRUE COST.
IN 2008, as part of her role as an Oxfam ambassador, Livia went to Bangladesh with journalist Lucy Siegle. The focus of the trip was women dealing with domestic violence, but the outcome for Livia was an education on the unfair treatment of female garment workers. “We asked the organiser if she could smuggle us into a garment factory,” she explains, adding that she was shocked by the “slave-labour” conditions she found there. “When I got home I thought I can’t pretend I didn’t meet them, and I didn’t see it.”
MADE IN ITALY and the New York Times story. During the Spring ‘19 collections in Milan in September, the NYT published an explosive story called Inside Italy’s Shadow Economy. In it, writers Elizabeth Paton and Milena Lazazzera exposed cases of seamstresses in Puglia being paid one euro for each metre of fabric they completed for luxury brands: “The unregulated work she completes in her apartment is outsourced to her from a local factory that also manufactures outerwear for some of the best-known names in the luxury business, including Louis Vuitton and Fendi. The most she has ever earned, she said, was €24 for an entire coat.” Read it in full here.
In 20017, Eco Age and the Circle launched a report into wages in the global fashion industry. “At the moment retailers and brands actively promote the fact that they pay minimum wage. But what we demonstrate in this report is that this is no answer. In none of the countries surveyed does the minimum wage come anywhere close to the living wage on any scale. Compliance with the UN Guiding Principles, by reference to the fundamental right to a living wage and principles of international labour law established nearly a century ago can put an end to the race to the bottom, stopping states from selling their people’s labour at less than the price of a decent life” - Jessica Simor, QC. Read more here. A LIVING WAGE is not the same thing as minimum wage. Further reading and listening, check out Episode 23, What She Makes.
The WASTE TO WEALTH SUMMIT took place in London in November at the Veolia recycling plant. Read about it here.
The COMMONWEALTH FASHION EXCHANGE launched at Buckingham Palace during London fashion week in February 2018, teaming designers from 52 Commonwealth countries with skilled fashion artisans across the Commonwealth. The designers included two who’ve featured on this podcast - listen to Karen Walker’s interview here, and Kit Willow here. The event was created directed by Hamish Bowles, European editor-at-large for American Vogue.
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. WE'LL HAVE A NEW EPISODE FOR YOU EVERY WEEK. CAN YOU HELP US SPREAD THE WORD? WE'D LOVE YOU TO TELL YOUR FRIENDS & LEAVE A REVIEW IN iTUNES.
Until next time,
COMMONWEALTH FASHION EXCHANGE
LIVIA’S GREEN CARPET LOOKS…
dreamt up the #30wear hashtag - this is how she puts it. It’s from an op ed she wrote for a British newspaper: