Time to eat humble pie

How much do we actually know about the world?

When we talk about the state of the world, the term ‘development’ comes up a lot; sustainability development, development economics, developing countries and developed countries. According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, development means ‘growth’; the process in which someone or something grows or changes and becomes more advanced.

The term ‘developed countries’ implies we have nothing more to advance on and forgets the fact that the economic and human well being of many countries categorised as ‘developed’ has regressed considerably in the last five years. Portugal and Ireland have a significantly lower life expectancy than traditionally considered ‘developing countries’ such as Vietnam and Uruguay for example (gapminder).

Hans Rosling, professor of International Health at Karolinska Institute and co-founder of the Gapminder Foundation illustrated in his 2003 TED TalkThe Best Stats You’ve Ever Seen, that using terms such as ‘developing’ and ‘developed’ to define countries has been obsolete since the late 90s.

‘Most countries and most people now live in the middle of the new socioeconomic continuum, in middle-income countries like Brazil, Mexico, China, Turkey and Indonesia. Half of the world’s economy — and most of the economic growth — now lies in these middle income countries, outside the old West, Western Europe and North America.’ (Hans Rosling, 2013)

Rosling’s research shows that we know statistically less about the world than Chimpanzees – our perceptions are less accurate than chance – which implies that “the problem is not ignorance but preconceived ideas”. The world keeps changing, yet our education and media systems have perpetuated the idea of ‘we’ and ‘them’.

Last week Florencia Quesada Avendano delivered a lecture on the inequality, urban segregation, violence and insecurity that threatens daily life in Latin America’s  ‘mega cities’. It was hard to hear about the adversities people face in a continent I know relatively little about without thinking what can ‘we’ do to help ‘them’. But are we really the right people for the job? The graph below illustrates how countries that have received less development aid tend to have higher economic growth than those who received more.


While the concept of helping fellow economies may be well intended, it is essential that we critically evaluate our motives and perceived outcomes. The idea that the ‘west’ can sweep in and save countries without close cooperation with local actors, is outmoded, condescending and as the evidence suggests, most likely impossible.

Be humble, always.

Business as UNusual

In this month alone, the world has experienced hurricanes that have ravaged the Caribbean coast, earthquakes flattening entire towns in Mexico and floods causing devastation in Florida, Texas, India, Bangladesh and Nepal (to name a few). According to NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration), since 1980, the US has experienced five and a half “weather and climate disasters” per year, each costing $1 billion or more.

Climate change is not a new phenomenon, yet rather than being a catalyst for action humanity has systematically ignored the signs. Paul Polman (CEO of Unilever) recently stated “we are more focused on the next quarter than the next generation”. The actions of President Donald Trump and his recent withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord illustrate this worldview and a mentality more interested in short-term gains than in the wellbeing of the planet.

Climate change had been described as a problem that is both too near our consumption driven lifestyles and too far from our everyday experience for us to take seriously. Leading activist, George Marshall describes climate change as “a perfect and undetectable crime everyone contributes to but for which no one has a motive”. When confronted with the awful reality of rising sea levels, desertification and mass migration we tend to look away rather than take action.

Yet climate change also offers a massive opportunity for innovation and positive advancements. Environmental instability calls for an overhaul of ‘business as usual’. We have to dramatically rethink our consumption-driven business models and carbon hungry industries. This gives us the occasion to change our priorities and advance policies that better serve people and the planet. Access to renewable energy promises independence for developing nations, a fresh perspective on service design and a shift towards a sharing economy that promotes community and social engagement. While carbon tax offers a way of holding big business accountable for resource usage. Equality, sustainability and social responsibility are not just essential for lowering emissions; they are also good for business.

However, as Naomi Klein writes in her book This Changes Everything ‘before any of these changes can happen- before we can believe that climate change can change us –we first have to stop looking away.’ The uncomfortable reality of climate change is upon us and now is the time to take action.






UN Global Compact Leaders Summit 2017

Bringing together an international community of business leaders, academics and Government to accelerate action towards the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement.

“We are ready…to make Global Goals local business”– Lise Kingo, CEO United Nations Global Compact.


Marking three years since the launch of the SDGS, the summit focused on empowering leaders to embed the Global Goals into the spirit and everyday practice of their businesses. Lise Kingo called for deeper integration of all the goals and reminded the audience of the importance of the ‘5 P’s’ “people, planet, partnerships, prosperity and peace” in meeting the 2030 targets.

We met the ten SDG Pioneers for 2017, nominated for their bold action for the Global Goals and as part of the ‘Break Through’ Section my colleague Ricardo Garay presented our resolution on sustainable fashion on behalf of the Youth Fashion Summit, Copenhagen (read our full resolution here). Finally, the SDG Reporting Handbook was launched in partnership with the Global Reporting Initiative which offers participants a new set of guidelines designed to unify and simplify business reporting on the SDGS.

“The timing is right, right now” Lise Kingo, CEO UNGC.

After a day filled with optimistic examples of innovation towards the 2030 Goals, Lise Kingo’s closing speech centred on the theme of collective action. She urged business leaders to promote and live the Global Goals starting by finding ways to transform every employee into an SDG ambassador. She stressed the importance of seizing the present moment to mobilise businesses, to pool ideas and actions and to create momentum for a future we all want.

“Leaps of innovation require a bravery that borders on absurdity” Lise Kingo quoting Astro Teller.

Where is design heading?

Exploring how ‘design challenges the present and shapes things to come’ at Helsinki Design Museum

For the first assignment on the Aalto Design Masters programme we were tasked with visiting Helsinki Design Museum’s exhibition Enter and Encounter and finding a project which best embodies where the field of design should head in the future.

The exhibition presented a broad catalogue of ideas and projects from Hello Ruby, a picture book that teaches children to code to Cellpod, a biotechnology appliance which enables consumers to grow nutritious plant cells at home. Even desert in the form of Suomen Jäätelö, a locally sourced, pine flavoured ice-cream designed by Artek was represented.

Choosing just one to represent the future of design proved to be a challenge but I finally a settled for Open Care, a system for addressing the problem of nuclear waste.


The exhibit, designed by Erich Berger and Mari Kato, proposes an imaginary future whereby each of us becomes a custodian of nuclear waste. The carefully designed instruments make up a “distributed nuclear waste storage” system for use in the home. The electroscope, gold leaf, electrostatic rod, fur and bronze disk along with the instruction booklet are designed to check levels of radioactivity. Until the levels become safe, the owner and their descendants must continue to care for it.

As the world becomes increasingly dependent on nuclear energy it is essential that we ask the question – is this energy source worth the waste it leaves behind? Uranium has a half-life of 4.5 billion years – an almost intangible amount of time.

By creating a waste storage system so beautiful it would look out of place anywhere other than the mantle piece, Berger and Kato literally brings home the urgent problem of nuclear waste and renders the huge time scale of radioactive decay into more meaningful units of lifetimes. The marriage of aesthetics and science, ‘collective care’ and personal responsibility perfectly illustrate the future role of design.

Ecological, sociocultural and economic instability forces the designer to consider new perspectives. In my opinion, as with Open Care, the future of design is user-oriented, responsible, informative, collaborative and explicit.

By The Fire

A nature-immersed enquiry into fashion sustainability

Last month I escaped to Dartmoor’s national park for a fashion conference with a difference. Aptly titled By The Fire and led by Kate Fletcher and Liz Parker, experts in the field of sustainable fashion, the event centred on fashion’s relationship to nature. Armed with a tent, walking boots and a plethora of rain gear, I gathered with fashion educators, sustainability experts and designers hailing from as far as Helsinki and Barcelona at Newton Abbot train station where we began our journey into the wilderness.

After setting up camp, we were encouraged to release our connection to the outside world by giving up our phones and began reconnecting with our natural environment. We studied the ancient beech wood as if we were explorers, visiting a foreign land for the first time and made scent cocktails amongst fruit bushes and tall grasses. We took a journey back through time, learning about the changes the site had undergone from 4.6 billion years ago to the present day.

We discussed what the land can teach us about operating within nature’s limits and how we can apply this to fashion systems. We observed the fabric of our clothes through a magnifying glass and compared the complex structures to those we saw in the veins of a leaf or in the creases of our skin. We explored the role of clothing as a medium between our bodies and the natural world and divided the garments we brought into categories that best expressed their relationship to the environment. Adaptable, protective, compostable, problematic.

The event culminated with an evening of festivity. We donned crowns woven from fern and rosebay willowherb, feasted on poached pears and shared stories around the fire. We made a toast to the moon and howled at the stars. Our final morning was spent reflecting on the question; ‘how can I serve the community of the land?’.

The experience helped me contextualise fashion within the natural landscape and shifted my perspective from an aesthetic view of clothing to a more sensory one. The space encouraged us to not only open our senses but also our minds and hearts to the possibilities within nature, something I wish to take with me into the busyness of everyday life.

Follow the links for more information about By The Fire and Change in Nature, who hosted the event.

Photography: Tara Mooney

Exploring the beech wood
sniffing things
Scent cocktails
gathered things
Gathered things
Listen to the river with ‘backward ears’
Sensing nature

Welcome to the Remakery Frome

After ten weeks of hard work, perseverance and a lot of love, Remakery Frome is now up and running!

What it is

The Remakery is a shared workshop equipped with tools to enable making, fixing and up-cycling in Frome. People can use it for their hobbies, projects or to incubate a making business. Our vision is bring people together to inspire each other, repair more and enjoy making.

How it works

Members can drop in anytime between 3-8pm Monday to Friday, and in the morning whenever there is no workshop or class running. The cost is £15 a year plus £3 each time you drop in (concessions available).


Remakery Repair Festival

We celebrated the launch with a week long festival of repair and up-cycling. Events included table making with Stu from the Chisel and Grain, textiles up-cycling with Louis Montero and Stina Falle and finally PC TLC with Allen McClaren.

The finale of the week was our official launch party where we presented the Remakery to the community at its current stage (there is still a lot of work to do!).

Scan 2e

We put on an exhibition of upcycling featuring the work of local designers and craftspeople including a dress by Haley Trezise of Raggedy and jewellery by Christina. Local artist Sarah Godsill captured the proceedings through beautiful sketches (see more of her event illustration here) with photography by Finley John and myself. ScaneScreen Shot 2017-06-11 at 12.34.33 pm

Edgy Veggie laid on a delicious vegetarian feast with lentil burgers, roast potatoes and mixed veg and we had the pleasure of hosting young musicians Evey hunter and Kane Pollastrone to play for us.

We hosted an open workshop in the Remakery where we invited members of the community to help us with the final touches to the space while Sophie from Yssabeauchet ran a crochet workshop.

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In the afternoon we ran a World Cafe around the subject of our relationship to ‘stuff’. Participants sat together in an informal Cafe setting to discuss the value of the stuff we own individually and as a collective. The conversation looked forward to how our perspective might change in the future. It was a great opportunity for reflection and exchanging insights about the value of sharing, repair and education. At the end of the session we came together to summarise our opinions and make some resolutions for the future.

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All in all the day was a great success. It was incredibly rewarding to see the community respond so positively to our work and to see people engaging about the subject of a repair economy in Frome.

Interested to find out more? visit our website or emailwelshmill@edventurefrome.org for a free trail session.

Commitment to Change; Youth Fashion Summit 2017, day 3

On the final day of YFS we presented the final draft of our UN fashion resolution at Copenhagen Fashion Summit

Copenhagen Fashion Summit serves as a platform for all areas of the industry to meet and discuss the ever pressing issue of sustainability in fashion. The event was led by inspirational speakers from leading NGOs such as Green Peace and experts on circularity such as William McDonough, author of Cradle to Cradle and Ellen MacArthur, founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The theme of this year was Commitment to Change with a focus on creating ‘common understanding and industry-wide commitment on the most critical issues facing our industry and planet’.

Our resolution addressed each of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 and covered areas including education, well being and civic empowerment as well as circularity, transparency and pollution. Following our presentation (which you can read in full below) Lise Kingo, Executive Director of the United Nations Global Impact invited us to present our resolution at the UN Global Compact Leader Summit in New York during the UN General Assembly. Kingo emphasised the need for a future where “sustainable business is mainstream business” and reminded us of our responsibility as future fashion leaders “to write the playbook for the next steps the industry needs to take today, to create the world for tomorrow”.

It was an honour to present our resolution on stage alongside thought leaders like Lise Kingo, Eileen Fisher and Livia Firth and I hope our resolution will help others in the industry wake-up to the urgent for change. From the all the speakers, the message I took from the summit was the time for action is now.

Read our full resolution below;

1. Expects the fashion industry to begin immediately working with non-profit initiatives and government groups to reduce inequality, alleviate poverty and ensure food security, with progress made by 2030, including through:

(a) helping to reduce inequality by reinvesting 0,7% of annual sales to support local manufacturing communities;

b) providing all workers with access to free health insurance, day care facilities, a meal a day and professional training;

c) suggesting governments and industry leaders enforce sustainable agricultural practices to help ensure food security by increasing the share of organic polyculture farming by 50%;

2. Urges all stakeholders in the fashion industry to establish global and local partnerships to make the world a more equitable, just and peaceful place, by:

(a) requesting all stakeholders to collaborate on breaking existing barriers between people, companies and member states to enable a flow of sustainable progress;

(b) welcoming the UN to develop a full sustainability report by 2020 that provides a holistic evaluation of the fashion industry, measuring performance not only in relation to monetary value;

(c) encouraging the UN to facilitate the implementation of a third-party organ by 2025 to monitor the status of collaboration between stakeholders related to the fashion industry;

(d) insisting that fashion stakeholders fully commit to a standardized performance system, by 2025;

3. Compels relevant stakeholders to strengthen the human bond, from maker to wearer, through education and changing the mindsets of producers and consumers by:

(a) requiring fashion companies to provide on company websites, labels, social media, and in reports transparent information per garment of each step in the whole supply chain by 2030;

(b) demanding manufacturers to empower workers by prioritizing educational activities regarding labor rights, personal financial growth, leadership, and worker representation in 10% collective ownerships;

(c) encouraging the UN to facilitate an interactive platform in at least five languages, bringing people together to take action against inequality by participating in online courses and webinars, involving industry leaders, government, organizations and companies;

4. Requests stakeholders to protect and restore our natural capital by:

(a) implementing ecological systems and recycling technologies throughout the value chain by substituting conventional cotton, reducing landfills, and eliminating textile waste in the fashion sector by 2030;

(b) encouraging fashion companies and manufacturers to immediately commit to water stewardship programs and to disclose personal targets for the same, to protect life below water from microplastic contamination, aiming to eliminate all virgin plastic by 2030;

(c) insisting that brands and governments support manufacturers and producers in eliminating the use of hazardous chemicals and materials, complying with the Greenpeace Detox Campaign to reduce pesticide use by 50% by 2022, achieving total elimination by 2030;

5. Calls on the entire fashion industry and the involved member states to lead the global preservation of and access to freshwater for all by 2025 through intensified research and investment in innovative technologies by:

(a) reducing water pollution and the release of harmful chemicals by 50% in 2025 and by 100% in 2030;

(b) introducing closed-loop water recycling legislation on a government level;

(c) implementing shared value community water management in collaboration with governments, NGOs, industries, and local communities, as well as stressing the urgency and awareness of these issues through education provided by member states and the fashion industry;

6. Obliges stakeholders to meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement, ensuring that, by 2030, 100% of the total energy used in the fashion supply chain will be renewable energy by:

(a) inviting all member states to ensure renewable energy practices by encouraging public and private partnerships throughout the fashion supply chain, reaching a binding commitment agreed upon by 2018;

(b) requesting that all organizations’ energy consumption statistics be published for public access;

(c) requiring the entire fashion supply chain to set in place the necessary infrastructure and encourage innovation to reduce energy consumption and increase energy efficiency; In commitment to our future,

7. Appeals to all stakeholders to invest in recycling technology and infrastructure with the aim to transition to circular mindsets and systems in fashion production by:

(a) encouraging all member states to adopt already existing technologies to collect and process commercial and industrial textile waste By 2022;

(b) investing in a platform to share information, facilities, and resources to provide guidelines and tools to enable a holistic circular system for all stakeholders in the fashion industry by educating them about circular strategies and solutions by 2020.

CFS17-PD-Livia Firth Jessica SimorCFS17-SPEAK Youth fashion Summit 2CFS17-SPEAK-William McDonough