Thursday, 16 February 2012

The Importance of Wearing Clothes - the Fru-Gal Challenge


The minute the ‘Red Carpet’ rolls out in an article then the expectation will be one of lavish dresses – their hems sweeping the scarlet surface as cameras pop and flash. Each ensemble is praised, belittled and analysed by the media, as galleries of who-wore-what-best spring up like clumps of snowdrops across the internet. The merry-go-round season of BAFTAs and Oscars allows for more than a little dressing up – with some indulging in the ruffles and labels, while others foam that such a thing might be allowed or even enjoyed!

However, what image does ‘Green Carpet’ evoke? Aside from colour blindness, it is the brilliant initiative of Livia Firth – (married to Colin Firth) an eco-extraordinaire. The premise of her ‘Green Carpet Challenge’ is deceptively simple and rather canny. Every time she emerges to attend this awards ceremony or that premiere, she is clad in something sustainable – whether it is a bespoke Paul Smith ethical tailored tuxedo or a creation whipped up by Orsola de Castro. Where better to promote this very green offshoot of the industry than somewhere surrounded by cameras, lenses and rapid shutter speeds - guaranteeing coverage? Livia’s statement is visual – promoting something she is passionate about in every picture that is published. She also blogs for Vogue about her experiences, and has embarked on a campaign to encourage design houses to dwell a little more on the impact of the clothes they produce. She is integrating ethical with the mainstream, which is perhaps the only way to initiate change – or at least to widen the audience. She is also Creative Director of the excellent website Eco-Age, where I recently completed the Fru-Gal challenge – spending five days wearing nothing but vintage, second hand and ethical clothes. It wasn’t a hard challenge for me, as that is my usual source of dressing anyway. The results can be seen in the pictures threaded throughout this post (for the sources of the clothes please see the wonderful website itself).


The clothes we wear can be a declaration of sorts. Even those who claim to be ‘above’ fashion (as though this is some kind of cloudy moral high plateau where only those in the baggiest of fleeces are allowed) still have to make some kind of a decision as to what to wear each morning – their choice to resolutely stand with their back to the industry being as much a statement as the latest Mulberry bag. Like it or not, we do not wander through life naked. Uniforms denote jobs, schools and clubs. Teenagers adopt mohair jumpers and messy hair to assert individuality. Evening gowns give us the chance to play at peacocks - but unlike birds, who are stuck with one type of plumage, we have countless, colourful opportunities.


Clothes can make us tribal; clothes can set us apart; clothes are part of the impression we give of ourselves to those around us. According to Carlyle in Sartor Resartus (as quoted in Lawrence Langner’s ‘The Importance of Wearing Clothes’) “Man’s earthly interests are hooked and buttoned together and held up by clothes.” This fascinating (although very dated) book charts the significance that clothes hold for all of us. Langner summed it up as follows: “clothes came to play an important role in the progress of civilization and all its cultural aspects; religion, government, sexual habits, social conduct and behavior, the performing and visual arts, and most other branches of human endeavour”. 


For Livia Firth, the branch of human endeavour is the sustainable fashion sector. Their presence can be felt at London Fashion Week in the Estethica exhibition, while Oxfam have organized the Good Fashion Show to further promote their admirable aims. I will be blogging for Oxfam from LFW, and have been writing for them for several months. You can read my pieces here. To steal a line from my last article for them - "alongside harnessing the multitude of resources of the past through charity shops, it is likewise important to buy from sustainable brands and producers so as to ensure a socially and environmentally sounder future."


32 comments:

Closet Fashionista said...

First - All your outfits are PERFECTION!
Second - Wow that is really amazing of her, such a good cause. I really do need to start paying more attention to ethical clothes and things like that, but its just so hard for me to find things I like in my budget that I don't usually pay attention. Though I did stop shopping at Forever 21 (and try not to shop at H&M) and some other fast fashion places
http://www.closet-fashionista.com/

Lydia said...

Well this is basically my life. I almost entirely shop second-hand, and although the primary reason for that is not environmental, it is an added bonus. Her Green Carpet is definitely commendable, and kudos to you for spreading the word!

Lydia said...

Oh, and also to Closet Fashionista-- thrift stores are very budget friendly, more so than F21 and H&M, and always second-hand. Plus the pieces are more unique and special.

The Lady Nerd said...

What a fun post! (I'll put my vote in of the third outfit, the blue dress with golden accents being my favourite). The first and last outfits are quite nice as well, very classic chic.

I wish I could shop vintage. Unfortunately there is a major problem going in my town (and I've been seeing it popping up elsewhere as well). Etsy vintage store owners are swooping into Goodwill and thrift stores and buying up all the good stock (and especially the small size like 0-2), then selling them for three times as much online. So all that's leftover at the local thrift stores are very large, raddy, unwanted threads.

I've been trying very hard to do more vintage and sustainable threads, especially seeing how cheaply fabrics and clothes are made these days. But my efforts seem to by thwarted at every turn. Gone are the chances for scoring a beautiful vintage dress for $5-10 here. Now, if you want that same vintage dress that was at Goodwill, be prepared to spend at least $80 for it instead. I won't lie, it makes me angry!

sacramento said...

I am so glad to know that what I do for pleasure is ethical.
I didn´t know any of the information you have just given me. I am most impress with it all.
Fabulous post, wonderful you.
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Meia said...

Hello,
I think I've never commented on you blog, so first of all: I love your blog! Being Dutch, my English is not that great, and I can only dream of being able to write as good as you do. Plus, I love your style.
I try to shop second hand as much as possible, but I am guilty of shopping at H&M quite a lot.
anyway, I wanted to ask you where you buy your tights. I know it's a bit weird question, but, well..
Love, Meia

Vix said...

Good for her! I've often admired her on Colin's arm and my admiration has now multiplied. I'll definitely check out those links.
Your outfits are all so wonderful, unique and cleverly put together. x

San said...

Fabulous article and outfits and pictures. And some very valid points. What has changed in recent years is that one can be fashionable and sustainable at the same time now and I'm very glad about it.

daisychain said...

I'm so drained tonight, but couldn't read and run...

you are just wonderful x

Rosa Fay said...

Oh my goodness, these are beautiful! The colours; green, red and grey, orange and blue -I would never have thought that they could go together so well. Wonderful pairings. Love this post!

Shophopper said...

Your posts really do have the magic ability to evoke a myriad of thoughts. Musings are crowding my head even while reading and fight amongst each other to be instantly expressed. Chaos!

Let me start by telling you I have read Lucy Siegle's book you so heartily recommended. Finished it about a month ago and it profusely changed the way I think about clothes and fashion. I have been thinking and talking about it non stop ever since, with bloggers, friends, family, colleagues. Some of my colleagues are now asking me to research this or that brand, and a few even plan to read the book. The sad thing is that we intuitively know there's something wrong with the clothes we buy. So how is it possible that most of the information Lucy provides is new to me? The irony being I am incessantly preaching the importance of informing oneself. I am thouroughly ashamed of myself for not thinking this all through in an earlier stage. Bearing in mind my own ignorance and observing the attitudes of those around me, I sometimes wonder whether we will explain ourselves to later generations with an uneasy 'Wir haben es nicht gewusst'.

I think Lydia is on to something smart - she has the power to turn sustainability into glamour, which will (sadly) prove to be a much more powerful incentive than ethics to most people. Maybe we should call that the Leonardo DiCaprio-effect? I hope (quite literally) a few A-listers will follow suit soon enough. I've been reading an immensily interesting (and creepy) article in the NYTimes tonight on ways scientific knowledge is used to entice us to shop: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/magazine/shopping-habits.html?_r=2&pagewanted=1 . I'm not suggesting sustainable fashion should employ these tactics, but they might just learn a thing or two on marketing. What are the cues that make us buy fast fashion, what are the rewards, and how might we shift those to sustainable fashion? No doubt something to think about.

On an entirely different subject, I very much enjoy the different characters in your outfits. (By the by, I find myself envying your surroundings once again. I'd love to explore the British countryside. July will be a great start, I hope, as my family and I are to vacation in the Lake District for a week.) While looking at the pictures, I caught myself thinking some horrid superficial comment-style thoughts, like 'I love the drama of the cape!'. I questioned that particular thought right after thinking it and took a better look at the picture, noticing there was nothing really dramatic about the cape at all. If anything, it's more of a modest garment, protective of nature and unpretending - albeit elegant - in style. Funny how we are (or at least I am) wired to think some pieces of clothing so odd that they are immediately categorized as 'dramatic', just because we are no longer used to seeing them on every street corner. And to make matters worse, I am conditioned (by reading too many blog comments, I fear) to analyze a look by a few adjectives, rendered meaningless by their abundance. Surely all of our combined sartorial efforts are worth more than generic observations? Your pictures especially - always so well-composed like little tableau vivants in their own right. If you weren't so distinctively British, I would almost be inclined to link you to a few scenes in Louis Couperus' Eline Vere. :)

Comment the size of a whale, I should probably end it here. It was a pleasure reading and responding!

Brooke said...

These photos and outfits are so chic!

http://southandstilettos.blogspot.com

Fashionistable said...

I hadn't known about Livia Firth so thank you for opening this up for me. You completed your challenge beautifully as always. Really looking forward to reading your stories from LFW. Xxxx

Izzy/Bella said...

This was really beautifully written. I especially appreciated it as I've just fled from consumer-driven Soho to eco-minded Brooklyn, and this exact subject has been on my mind. It's awful to see up close and personal how the ever-changing fashion trend drives hordes of shoppers and to imagine what this must be doing to the planet. So glad you're highlighting this issue in a fashion blog. And lovely fashions they were!
Much love,
Izzy
www.misadventuresofme.com

L'age moyen said...

in the last few years thrift shopping has become acceptable in a way that was previously within the sole purview of the young. It's very freeing. I love your pearls.

The Foolish Aesthete said...

All your thrift, vintage outfits are absolutely lovely! It goes to show that taste matters much more than a hefty pocketbook for endless, wasteful shopping. Your blog is such a lovely campaign advertisement for eco-dressing, without the frumpy connotations.

I've always cared about quality and uniqueness of each garment, whatever the label (no name brands included!), with the intention of using it for years, decades, ... onto the next generation. So anything that reeks of mass production in a Chinese sweat shop makes me uncomfortable. I've only recently discovered the delights of vintage, consignment and estate sale shopping, and also pieces from my mom and grandmother. These now occupy more and more of my closet. There really is no reason to purchase fast fashion at malls, unless it's a piece you want for a long time! xxx

Chantelle Browne said...

I love this post, your choice of outfit's are amazing. There is nothing better than recyclable fashion, so vintage and chic

Chantelle x

http://thank-god-theres-fashion.blogspot.com/

Judit Saorin said...

Hi Dear! I saw you in LFW Summerset House and I took pictures of you :http://museoffeathers.blogspot.com/
see u pretty girl :)
xx

SymbioticLife said...

Absolutely loving the last two outfits. Congrats on the writing jobs. You've got so much talent it's great to see it being put to such great use.

Zorian said...

Roz, I love the post.
When one finds a wonderful piece in a vintage shop or thrift shop, that piece has been loved and cared for for at least 20 years.
Someone has taken the time to protect that piece, for what ever reason.
That piece has been imbued with a magical quality, Love.

nybred said...

Just spotted you on New York Mag's The Cut blog and you looked so beautiful so I needed to look you up and I am so glad I did :)

I am also a blogger but I just started, I would love if you checked out my blog. Thanks so much!

xoxo
NY Bred
http://nybred.wordpress.com

Stephanie Hoff Clayton said...

Well-stated, Roz. Clothes and style and the impression one makes - all have significance. And when ignored, it does indeed allow justification to wear baggy fleeces, tracksuits, "comfort clothes", and as a result, leaves the worst first impressions.

You've inspired me to check into Langner’s "The Importance of Wearing Clothes".

Style Eyes said...

Some beautiful outfits, you definitely make sustainable style look effortless!

AvaPilar said...

Lovely photographs as usual. You are such a talented writer!
I just saw a release of Miss. Charlotte Taylor's A/W 2012 collection and recognized you modeling for her once more. It's a very dark collection, but very beautiful too.

Tela de Araña said...

Very beautiful picks. Now I have many things to read...Thanks!!!

100%soie said...

beautiful looks ! I just love everything you do !!! your blog makes me dream everytime and inspires me for mine ! thanks !

Not Just A Pretty Dress said...

I've been following Livia's green adventure ever since she opened the store in London and started the Green Carpet Challenge, which is the perfect format to raise people's interest on the fact that sustainable and chic can go hand-in-hand. As usual, I was enchanted by your musing of how and why we dress. Fashion gives me the chance to use my creative side. And it's so light, and fun...

WMBG said...

really great photos!

XXX,

wiebkembg.blogspot.com

Alan Hug said...

Great fotos!

daisymay aka Chantele said...

Great post! I think Livia Firth could be an inspiration to us all!

Jean at www.drossintogold.com said...

Lovely. I am especially enthralled with "green carpet"; I haven't heard that one although I try to live it.

I just finished a post entitled Red Carpet Ready featuring an upcycled (by me) skirt that I recently wore to a red carpet event. I try to wear something that I've upcycled from thrifted materials everyday.

Thanks for the beautiful images and thoughtful writing.

Love, Jean

Emily Teapot said...

i am so jealous of all your amazing clothes!

http://www.unicorn-taxidermy.blogspot.com/