How many clothes do you already have? British Council inspires you to transform yourself into an eco-friendly designer by working with “Homegrown”

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It is an undeniable fact that global warming and climate change can be one of the most damaging and insidious forms of crisis to human society today. But, believe it or not, simply open the closet, and then you can take part in the effort to reduce global warming!

Who would have thought that various items in your closet can be the cause of global warming? Before a piece of clothing is ever created, purchased, and used, all aspects of it went through multiple processes – from the soil to the skin, from cotton fields to fabric weavers, and from cultivators to wearers. The growing cloth manufacturing industry always comes at a cost of severe impact on people and nature, along with the increasing global temperature.

But we, as consumers, are disconnected and detached from knowing how items we are wearing could contribute to the climate crisis, which is probably much bigger than our wardrobes. To raise awareness of constructive change in consumer fashion behaviors, the British Council in collaboration with Fashion Revolution Thailand invites everyone to find an answer to the question: Can we build a better society just by changing our fashion behaviors and switching towards more eco-friendly purchasing patterns?

“As we are approaching 2021, the United Kingdom and Italy will be co-hosting the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, also known as COP26. To be held in late 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland, the conference actively responds to the year of creating positive environmental change and underscores the UK’s leadership in the environmental protection,” said Dr Patcharawee Tunprawat, Head of Arts and Creative Industries, British Council Thailand.

“To make this more powerful, the British Council has therefore collaborated with Fashion Revolution Thailand, a global movement calling for a better society and greater environmental awareness in the fashion industry. Both organizations work collectively to reach out to the new generation and propel revolutionary thinking, from a linear economy driven by production, consumption, and disposal to a circular economy. This is expected to raise the bar for the fashion industry with a journey towards sustainable growth.”

The exhibition, dubbed “Homegrown,” will feature a group of local artists who are now working closely with the British Council on ‘Crafting Futures.’ These include Wanita Tai Lue Weaving Group in addition to Bhukram, Mann Craft, FolkCharm, KH Editions, and Fai Ja Ya Jai, whose products are manufactured by following the concept of circular economy. The “Circular design lab: closing the loops” workshop will also be part of this event.

Fashion Revolution Thailand’s country coordinator Kamonnart Ongwandee said, “Fashion Revolution Thailand has been working with the ‘Crafting Futures’ artists as well as people in the design industry and other interested individuals to create the exhibition called Homegrown, which has a simple concept associated with things around us. It starts from taking a closer look through our wardrobes.”

She explained, “The exhibition tells stories to help visitors gain a better understanding of the origin of the clothes we are wearing in everyday life. It also attempts to make people aware of the whole production process before completing a piece of clothing, which has a huge impact on the environment, including the soil, the water, and the air.”

“Additionally, the exhibition highlights the impact of fast fashion and the future perspective in which production and consumption patterns will shift from a linear economy, which is mostly defined by the ‘produce–use–dispose’ model with an emphasis on quantity and speed, to a circular economy where small local communities can be self-reliant and reconnect with nature. By pursuing this farm-to-closet approach, we can help to reduce the impact our clothing has on the globe.”

Data shows that the fast fashion industry disposes of about 92 million tons of textiles annually. If we continue to manufacture and consume in this way for 10 years, the global temperature will rise more than 1.5 degrees Celsius and have hugely damaging effects on human, plant and animal life across the planet.

Other exhibition highlights include the “Circular design lab: closing the loops” workshop by Kamonnart Ongwandee. The workshop has been developed during her participation in the Circular Futures Lab project, which was organized by the British Council in London in 2018. The workshop idea came from renowned innovation consulting firm IDEO, which worked in conjunction with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a non-profit organization that grows a global movement for a circular economy.

At the workshop, participants will take over the role of a designer by engaging in group activities. They will be encouraged to choose basic raw materials available around, think in a new way, and learn the needs of consumers in purchasing their clothes in different factors, including aesthetic and functional benefits. Through brainstorming, the designers will then incorporate needs into final designs that truly meet the needs of consumers. This is called Circular Design Methodology which has three core principles:

1)       Design the entire production process with minimum waste and emissions that may bring adverse effects on the environment

2)       Use materials that are in harmony with nature as much as possible or alternatives that can be reused as raw materials after first use

3)       Use locally available materials wherever possible to promote biodiversity and local cultures

The way of thinking the participants learned from this workshop can be used to design or improve products and services. It also increases their competitiveness and very responsive to new global demands after COVID-19. It is the circumstance that sustainability is not just an option but a survival strategy.

“At the heart of the circular economy within the fashion industry is the ambition to deliver value that ensures natural resources are used most effectively and constructively from choosing raw materials to a product’s end-of-life stage,” said Kamonnart.

As we are approaching the New Year, Kamonnart asks everyone to make a 2021 commitment by starting to change their fashion behaviors. She said the next year should be a more environmentally friendly year. To take part in making the fashion industry even better both in terms of social and environmental aspects, the following five simple checklists can be useful when it comes to purchasing new apparels:

  1. Think twice before purchasing. Is it a ‘need’ or ‘want’? Of course, the best way to reduce global warming caused by fast fashion is not to add new unnecessary items to your wardrobe. Compulsive buying unintentionally leads to waste someday. If you find it is irresistible to grab new clothes, let’s be calm and think twice to make sure it is really necessary and worth your money.
  2. Set your limit on how many clothes you can buy in one season. For those who can’t avoid buying new clothes, this could help limit your excessive desire. Make a promise to yourself: How many pieces of new clothes can I buy for a season? Answer the question and try to keep it.
  3. Consider buying secondhand clothes or opt for the rising clothes-sharing trend! In addition to embracing a circular economy in the fashion industry, driving creative consumption (e.g. buying secondhand clothes, participating in a clothes-sharing platform, or trying an awesome mix-and-match of used items) can be a joyful fashion experience while reducing your impact on the environment.
  4. Function comes before fashion. Fast fashion is the sector that contributes most to global warming and climate change. Its quick response leads to speedy production, transportation, and distribution in mass, which substantially affects human life and the environment. Therefore, buying decisions with a focus on function before fashion and pricing can help extend the product lifecycle and reduce the impact fast fashion has on our planet.
  5. Supporting local brands means strengthening local communities. Apart from bringing money back to the local economy and truly improve income distribution, supporting local brands helps small businesses. This has less impact on the environment than purchasing items manufactured by major brands. Besides, purchasing locally made apparel helps preserve biodiversity and cultures, and this can be an effective tool for restoring the stability and strength of local communities and society as a whole.