The Designer Laura Krarup Frandsen about her fight and approach for a change in the fashion industry. “This is not the end of fashion, but the destructive fashion system as we know it. It’s a new beginning in fashion, not driven by consumption, but by creativity.”
Suzanna Vock: Laura, you didn’t show a graduation collection, what was the reason?
Laura Krarup Frandsen: During my MA studies, I became more aware of the extent and urgency of the climate crisis we’re in, and a simultaneous first hand experience in why it is impossible to solve from within the fashion industry.
We’re in the midst of a climate crisis and ecological breakdown, facing not only the threats of the rising global temperature, higher sea levels, droughts and more frequent natural disasters, but also the serious struggle to meet our basic needs such as food and water in a near future. The planet is crumbling under our weight and the people already paying the highest price, are the ones who has done the least damage.
We are facing the biggest threat of human history, but our educational system is not following up with plans of emergency action, nor equipping us with necessary knowledge. We are being educated within – and for the same broken system that contributes to the crisis.
We are running out of time to solve the crisis and we have passed the change of slow adaption
I chose not to make a fashion collection, because I simply can no longer justify adding to the problem. We can not solve overconsumption with more consumer goods. I decided to spend my studies trying to influence the people around me and my course to positive changes, by creating awareness of the climate crisis, our destructive consumer habits and by implementing changes in our fashion studio. By collecting textile waste instead of sending it to landfill, I wanted to visualise how much waste we are accumulating, seeing the fashion studio as a microcosm of the industry, but also to question the wasteful collective consciousness that makes us accept this waste amount of waste material, in a time of resource scarcity. I showcased the collection of textile waste at my graduate show, to visualise the wasteful site of the industry that no-one wants to talk about.
We are running out of time to solve the crisis and we have passed the change of slow adaption. We need be frank and honest about the situation – even if the solution is to stop buying.
SV: Since the collapse of the factory building in 2013, a lot has happened in the beginning, but in recent times it has been heard again and again that major players have difficulty implementing their promises of sustainable production and fair working conditions, or in some cases have completely abandoned them. Why do you think it is so difficult to remedy the situation?
Laura: We are trying to solve the problem within the same tools that creates it.
The Rana Plaza disaster forced us all to face the horrific human cost behind the clothes that we are wearing, but left us with little understanding of the problem. The devastating scale and high number of deaths, caused an immediate outcry and demand for better and safer working conditions, but as we were all looking to the brands to solve the problems, we failed to address the real issue: our high demands for clothes and consumer goods comes with deathly cost.
Shortly after the newest “pulse of the fashion industry” report recently revealed that the sustainability progress in the fashion industry has slowed by a third in the past year
We are buying more clothes than ever before and using it much shorter, before discarding and replacing it. We see it as our right to buy clothes that we don’t need, but by exercising that “right”, we are violating real human rights and destroying the planet.
As long as we accept and maintain consumerism, we accept a system of exploitation that values profit over people and planet, and it will kill us.
Shortly after the newest “pulse of the fashion industry” report recently revealed that the sustainability progress in the fashion industry has slowed by a third in the past year, the government rejected to take action on the issue with bans and legislations, and instead encouraged the industry to voluntarily solve the problem. And so, we now have to ask ourselves, not as consumers, but as human beings: Is fashion to die for?
While it is absolutely crucial to keep focussing on workers rights, we need to face the fact that business as usual will lead to unthinkable disaster, affecting everyone. If we carry on with this system, we dismiss the fact that many of these workers are the same people that are already being affected the most by the climate crisis. It is the same people that are affected by deathly heatwaves, droughts and floods. It is the same people that are lacking access to clean water, dealing with heavy air pollution, struggling to grow food crops because their land is being exhausted by pesticide intensive cotton and polluted by oil used for polyester. Climate justice is social justice, and that is something we should all be fighting for!
SV: The fashion industry is the second worst in terms of causing environmental problems. In addition there are often poor working conditions in the producing countries. In your opinion, what must change and how can this be achieved?
Laura: Everything must change. We are in an emergency situation and we need emergency action.
The fashion industry currently accounts for about 10% of the global greenhouse gas emissions, and is expected to increase with 81% by 2030. According to the Ellen MacArthur foundation, if we carry on as usual, by 2050 the industry could be using more than a quarter of the carbon budget associated with 2°C global heating. We simply cannot afford to carry on, if we want an inhabitable planet for the children of today. We are now in midst of a sixth mass extinction. Our natural systems are dying and thereby the basis of all life. In the past 40 years, we have already destroyed a third of all arable land, and by 2050 we need to to grow 50% more food to meet the demands of a growing population. We need 1,7 planet earths to support our current lifestyles, but if everyone consumed like the average EU resident, we would need 2,8. We are consuming the planet and ourselves to death, and the worst thing we can do is to continue as usual. We, in the western world, can easily afford to give up some of our luxuries and that is what we need to do.
We need to change the system. We need to question how we can allow big corporations and brands to profit on exploitation. We need to ask how we can still justify, that clothing production is out-sourced and moved between production countries according to who allows the lowest pay. We need to ask how we can still accept that people are lacking clean water in the same countries that grow our water intensive cotton and chemically treat our textiles, so we can buy clothes that we don’t need. We need to teach and learn humanity and compassion and respect for all living. We must demand being humans before consumers.
It seems that the young people today understand more of the urgency for action than most of the older generations
SV: Young people are very committed to the environment at Fridays for Future at the moment. The movement has been growing rapidly in a short period of time. Even though the fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters world wide, fashion is not as much discussed as food or traffic in terms of sustainability. Why?
Laura: I am absolutely impressed with the youth and their engagement with – and understanding of the situation we’re in. They have known about the threats of climate change their entire lives, they know that their future is at stake and they are leading the way in demanding action.
But no-one can expect the youth to solve the climate crisis, and yet the responsibility is somehow left with them.
It seems that the young people today understand more of the urgency for action than most of the older generations, but at the same time, they have been brought up in a world of mass consumption, overexposed to an immoral advertising industry teaching them how to be good consumers as opposed to good human beings.
We are taught to trust the government and that our leaders are acting in our interests, so surely, when they calmly dismiss the crisis as something not to worry about, we want to believe that. We believe in consumer rights and that big corporations do their uttermost to act in responsible ways, so when a brand is marked “green”, “sustainable” and “eco friendly”, surely they must be? The truth is that “Sustainability” has become a buzzword, enabling us to carry on as usual, by replacing one product with another, without really changing our consumer habits. But nothing is sustainable when produced of planetary overdraft. We need to tell the truth. We must slam the breaks.
The massive youth movement shows exactly that young people genuinely care and they want to do the right thing, but that comes with education. As long as we keep pretending that there is nothing to worry about, we are not only lying to the young people, but stealing their future before their very eyes.
I think the young people are better than anyone to buy second hand clothes and to be creative with what they have, and this is exactly how fashion should evolve.
SV: You are also active in Extinction Rebellion which also fights against climate change. Now there is a campaign #BoycottFashion. What is this campaign about and how can I get involved?
Laura: Extinction Rebellion is asking for what is necessary – not just what is possible within the current system. We need to rethink the way we live and to be brave enough to accept that things must change, in order to prevent disaster.
We launched the xr.boycottfashion campaign with a die-in at my RCA fashion graduate show, because we wanted to tell to truth to – and at the forefront of fashion: that fashion is killing us.
The xr.boycottfashion is one year direct action to disrupt the fashion industry, demanding climate justice and to push towards the change that is needed, by asking people to sign up and join us in not buying any new clothes for a year.
This is not the end of fashion, but the destructive fashion system as we know it. It’s a new beginning of fashion – one that is not lead by consumption but by creativity. We have an abundance of clothes in existence already – now we need to put that to use. Reuse, rework and repair what we’ve already got and buy, swap and share what is already in existence. Nothing is easy on your own, but everything is possible when you are enough people doing it together. We want this to be a platform of encouragement, solidarity and inspiration to engage with our clothes in new ways and to end the system of overconsumption.
Follow @xr.boycottfashion on instagram, sign the pledge on xrfashionboycott.com and be part of our journey towards a new fashion system. Share your image, your reasons for boycott and pass on the message to your friends. Because fashion is not to die for!