Greenhouse Pioneer: Jocelyn Whipple, sustainable fashion and textiles specialist

Today is Fashion Revolution Day – a day about turning fashion into a force for good.Our Greenhouse Pioneer, Jocelyn Whipple, is one of the leading figures behind the movement and she tells us what makes today so important

Jocelyn WhippleToday is Fashion Revolution Day – a day about turning fashion into a force for good. It marks the year’s anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh and aims to get people thinking about the story behind what they’re wearing.

Our Greenhouse Pioneer, Jocelyn Whipple, is one of the leading figures behind the movement. She tells us what makes today so important – and has many wise words on whay we all need to think more carefully before we get dressed.

Tell us, in 20 words or fewer, about your work – what’s your mission?

I work in the fashion and textile industry, through a holistic lense, as part of the global sustainability movement.

What motivates you?

The carelessness, waste and greed that pervades within most parts of the fashion supply chain coupled with the incredible solutions and options that are being innovated to balance and replace these ‘old models’.

What is your greatest achievement to date?

This is a hard question! I think I will say that one of them has to be the Green Carpet Challenge moment when Livia Firth wore the first ever certified Fairmined Fairtrade Ecological Gold jewellery on the Oscars red carpet in 2011, when Colin Firth was awarded Best actor for his role in The King’s Speech. I worked to connect and co-ordinate Livia, the GCC team, the designer Anna Loucah and CRED, who developed the Faitrade Fairmined certification.

It was a world first and such a momentous achievement for us and for the industry as a whole.

What are the challenges you face?

There are all kinds of challenges in this industry some are huge and some are tiny! I guess the big ones are the juggernaut systems that have been created around fashion production and consumption that leave waste, environmental and social destruction ‘en mass’ in their wake.

On a more individual level I face the challenge of navigating and communicating with various sectors of the industry. Firstly, to understand situations and to help vision and develop solutions for change. Often that means advising designers, retailers or individuals against the ‘easy’ options and at first it can be uncomfortable but the flip side, finding innovation and new ways of working is always so rewarding.

What are you working on that’s getting you fired up and excited?

I’ve actually spent the last year based in the mountains of southern Spain, I’ve been taking time to re-focus and reconnect which has been wonderfully inspiring!

Fashion Revolution logoI’ve got a few exciting new ventures on the cards – and one that I am very excited about. I’m part of the core team behind Fashion Revolution Day which is a really important new movement launching with a day of action today – to mark the first anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Dhaka last year that killed over 1,200 people.

Our position is that as consumers, we no longer know who makes our clothes. We don’t know the true cost of the things we buy. The garment industry supply chain is fractured and producers have become faceless. This is costing lives.

FRD is about demanding greater transparency. We will ask people to question who made their clothes, to imagine the thread from the garment, to the machinists who sewed it, all the way down to the farmer who grew the cotton.

We hope that this will initiate a process of discovery, raising awareness of the fact that buying is only the last click in a long journey involving hundreds of people: the invisible workforce behind the clothes we wear. Please join the us!

Where do you want to take your work next?

I’m going to continue with consulting and collaborations on various projects but I’m also really excited about getting my hands back to work in a more practical way.

I’ve just purchased two beautiful old industrial machines which are from an old M&S factory in Barnsley. I’m getting them from Margaret, who was a floor manager at the factory and who brought them here to Spain. I hope to be setting them up in a local crafts centre called Pepe Bravos that supports and provides refuge for people in rehabilitation and used to be a sewing factory, employing 100 women only 10 years ago!

What can we, as individuals, do to make a difference?

Fashion Revolution posterBuy better less often. Pay close attention to anything you are buying including clothing, try to imagine or actually find out the journey it’s been on to get to where it is and try to imagine it into the future – where will it be in 10 years?

Ask yourself if those stories match up with your ideals and the way you’d like to be in the world, including the material things you bring into your life. There’s a really cool website called Follow The Things that I find helpful.

If you were Prime Minister for a day, what would be the first thing you’d do?

Oh gosh, probably have a major panic attack! After that I’d get all the MPs I could to help assess and adjust the legislation around garment imports by big retailers so that they became more responsible for the volume of waste being generated, for their responsibility around transparency as well as their responsibility to pay taxes back into the UK economy.

I’d also have a good look at the import duty on clothing and how that pot of money could be utilised to support sustainable innovation in design education for example.

What’s the coolest project or product you’ve come across, and inspired you?

Right now I’m fascinated with the up-cycling innovators like Orsola de Castro, Rebecca Earley, Christopher Raeburn and Goodone who are tackling the industry head on and creating new pathways for us all.

Can you recommend a life- or game-changing book for our readers?

To Die For by Lucy Siegle

What do you listen to when you’re cooking dinner?

All sorts! But this year I have to say I’ve been listening to more flamenco than usual, it comes with the territory in Andalucia and matches my passion for food and the fantastic fresh ingredients here!

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Probably this from my dear friend Chris Connors founder of Modern Conscious: He assured me ‘Life is not a narrow path you have to stick to or find, it’s a big open dance floor, so make the most of it!’ – it’s so true!

Can you leave us with who’d be your Eco Hero?

Who made your clothes?At the risk of sounding really corny I have to say my boyfriend Gordon! He’s the master of low impact living in a very matter-of-fact, unpretentious way. He’s genuinely content with very little ‘stuff’ and yet is constantly creating abundance for all of us around him and is always full of gratitude.

Find out more about Fashion Revolution Day and join the discussion on twitter using the hashtag #insideout.

[Photography: Keiron O’Connor]