Podcast 84, KATHARINE HAMNETT, REBEL FASHION FORCE
EPISODE 84 FEATURES KATHARINE HAMNETT
At the end of the loadsa-money ‘80s, the Buddhist concept of right livelihood was hardly the thing inspiring most fashion designers. But that’s when our guest this week, at the height of her fame and fashion success while her Katharine Hamnett brand was stocked in 700 stores in 40 countries, decided to question the whole system.
“Everybody goes into fashion wanting to be famous or the best designer in the world. You can be successful by being a bad person; the challenge is to be successful while being a decent human being.” - KATHARINE HAMNETT
You’re going to hear all about Katharine’s passion to change fashion, and to fight for the environment, her glitzy early years as a designer, and what motivates her to be change agent today. You get to hear her tell the story of how she ambushed Margaret Thatcher in 1984 with her anti-nuclear missiles T-shirt. That story is gold.
We also talk about her work with organic cotton, saving the bees, and rather relishing being, as she puts it, the wicked witch who wasn’t invited to the ball.
This Episode goes live on World Environment Day 2019, as Katharine Hamnett launches her latest slogan tee…
The Global Green New Deal Now T-shirt can be purchased at katharinehamnett.com and all proceeds go to support Greenpeace and their work on climate justice.
Katharine Hamnett tees are produced by Rapanui, printed using environmentally certified printing inks on GOTS certified organic cotton. She says: 'We use the voice that fashion has given the brand to educate, inform and inspire to make the world a better place. Our activist T-shirts are designed to be seminal. They make people think, hopefully act, and do the right thing. A selection of our activist T-shirts are created pro-bono for charities and grassroots campaigns that we support.”
WHAT WE TALK ABOUT…
HER APPEARANCE AT COPENHAGEN FASHION SUMMIT. “I’ve been to so many conferences and nothing changes its just a load of hot air. The worst one was Davos, with something like 1500 private jets. Our carbon footprint for what we achieve is crap,” she says. “We could do it as a webinar.” Katharine was in conversation with Tim Blanks, and says she decided to attend because she thought they could do with some straight-talking. She likens the sustainable fashion movement to the peace movement, and says we’re in danger of floundering, and need to take more serious action. Watch the video here. You can watch Clare’s panel here.
THE GREEN NEW DEAL The original New Deal was Teddy Roosevelt’s program to lift America out of the great depression in the 1930s. In 2009, United Nations Environment Programme proposed a Global Green New Deal to fight world poverty while reducing carbon dependency. More recently, in America, the idea of a Green New Deal has been pushed by 29-year-old Democrat Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, AOC. This one seeks to tie climate action to other progressive goals such as universal health care and a jobs guarantee in the US.
The film Clare mentions is Knocking Down the House.
RIGHT LIVELIHOOD is one of the branches of the eightfold path in Buddhism. It embodies the principle that each person should follow an honest occupation, that fully respects other people and the natural world. It means being responsible for the consequences of our actions and taking only a fair share of the Earth's resources.
“WE’VE GOT TO REINVENT THE FASHION INDUSTRY FROM SCRATCH - THE PRODUCTION OF RAW MATERIALS IS DESTROYING THE PLANET.” - KATHARINE HAMNETT
PESTICIDE ACTION NETWORK UK is an international coalition of around 600 NGOs, citizens' groups, and individuals in about 60 countries, which opposes pesticide use, and advocates what it presents as more ecologically sound alternatives.
Cotton represents 12% of world agriculture but less than 1% is organic, says Katharine. ARE FARMERS PAYING THE PRICE? Were there really 250,000 farmer suicides? this Guardian article from 2014, counts 270,000 farmers suicides in India since 1995, and concludes: “Most cotton farmers are barely able to cover their output costs, let alone make any profit to support their families. India – which competes with the likes of the US, where cotton is heavily subsidised – is grappling with the rising costs of genetically modified seeds, fertilizers and pesticides, as well as the impact of unpredictable weather patterns. GM seeds account for 95% of cotton farming in India.”
And, “India is experiencing its biggest wave of suicides among cotton farmers. Some observers have linked the deaths to the introduction of costly genetically modified seeds, fertilizers and insecticides. Many farmers turn to loan-sharks to pay for these items, however unfavourable weather conditions, or even a mere dip in the global price of cotton, can spell disaster for growers.”
In 2015, the Indian Express reported suicide numbers were falling. This Medium story offers an alternate perspective as to their motives, but no one’s disputing these deaths occurred. You can read the full story of Hamnett’s cotton journey, Monsanto in India and Vandana Shiva’s work on the cotton in India issue and in Clare’s book Wardrobe Crisis.
METHANE EMISSIONS The main sources of emissions from irrigated cotton farming are synthetic nitrogen fertilisers and green manure. Green manure is any legume crop planted between cotton crops without harvest to improve the soil and reduce the amount of fertiliser needed for the subsequent cotton crop. Via cleanenergyregulator.gov.au
REACH stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals and was introduced by the EU in 2006.
ARISTOTLE The good life to Aristotle is a virtuous life. Only through living virtuously can we achieve Eudaimonia, which roughly translates to happiness as the excellent life, or human flourishing. WHAM, of course, wanted us to CHOOSE LIFE, and Katharine Hamnett made the T-shirt…
“THERE’S AN EXCESS OF SUPPLY FOR THE EXISTING [fashion] MARKET. EVEN IF IT’S DIRT CHEAP. THERE ARE JUST MORE CLOTHES THAN PEOPLE WANT TO BUY…FASHION IS GOING TO STOP MAKING ITSELF WITH SO MANY PEOPLE GOING TO THE WALL.” - KATHARINE HAMNETT on OVERPRODUCTION
Read about Arcadia’s trouble here.
The Guardian story Clare mentions is here
Meet ARTHUR, Katharine’s Yorkie-poo. He enjoyed participating in this interview.
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 WEDNESDAY. CAN YOU HELP US SPREAD THE WORD? WE'D LOVE YOU TO TELL YOUR FRIENDS & LEAVE A REVIEW IN iTUNES.
Until next time,