Fashion

“To me, sustainable fashion means celebrating the clothes that we already own in a bid to show love and respect to the people who made them”

Welcome to The Sustainable Shopper. Each week, Stylist will talk to the people focused on creating a more conscious shopping space for all. This time, fair fashion campaigner and broadcaster Venetia La Manna explains to fashion editor Harriet Davey about co-founding @rememberwhomadethem, supporting the #PayUp movement and empowering women workers in the fashion industry.  

If you’ve been keeping up with our new Sustainable Shopper series, you will have already read, and hopefully learnt a lot from the amazing people we have interviewed so far. Each week, Stylist talks to founders of sustainable brands, podcasters and individuals who are standing out, and standing up, for sustainability in the world of fashion. 

This time, the spotlight is on Venetia La Manna. Broadcaster, fair fashion campaigner and co-founder of @rememberwhomadethem; a digital campaign, six part podcast series and fundraiser to inspire a new solidarity economy in fashion. 

Venetia isn’t afraid to voice her opinion on important matters surrounding the fashion industry – especially exploitation of garment workers – and this has led to an Instagram following of over 126,000. Here, Stylist takes the opportunity to delve deep into the issues the broadcaster feels strongly about. Including why Venetia started the hashtag #OOOTD (Old Outfit Of The Day), thoughts on the #PayUp movement and how she intends to influence others to think about the human and environmental cost of their clothes.

Venetia La Manna
Venetia La Manna

Venetia: I am a recovering hypocrite when it comes to fashion, I used to buy a lot of fast fashion and I even worked with these brands when I used to be a TV presenter. I was first conscious of sustainability within the industry when I was called out for wearing ASOS on my YouTube channel. I went away and did some research and couldn’t believe what I had learnt. Slowly, I started changing my habits and then I began to share my learnings and unlearnings on social media. 

I receive a mixed reaction from what I share on my platforms. This is expected when you’re shining a light on greenwashing and injustice. As citizens, we want to believe that we’re putting our hard earned cash into ‘good’ products and we can feel totally disempowered when we hear that the brands we’ve been supporting are harming our planet and people. Overall, the reaction has been positive as I seem to have nudged a few people into thinking about the human and environmental cost of their clothes. Of course, there’s been negativity but that’s the internet. My focus now is getting people to think less about their personal impact and more about our collective impact – always with system change in mind, as this will warrant the biggest impact.

So called ‘sustainable fashion’ has become one of the most confusing terms of 2020. Treading the murky waters of the industry can feel so confusing. Especially when the movement has been hijacked by billion dollar brands who only care about profit, will amp up the greenwashing as much as possible, and convince us to buy into their ‘conscious’ line. We cannot have sustainability without ethics. When a brand can’t disclose their supply chain, they can’t claim to be sustainable.

To me, sustainable fashion means celebrating the clothes that we already own in a bid to show love and respect to the people who made them. I started a hashtag a few years ago on Instagram called #OOOTD which stands for ‘Old Outfit Of The Day’ and it’s a little middle finger up to the constant newness encouraged by the original #OOTD ‘Outfit Of The Day’ hashtag.

This is so important to me because fashion is one of the most exploitative and oppressive industries – 80% of garment workers are women of colour, most of whom are based in the Global South. I want to see an industry where garment workers not only have all their demands met, but have equity in the brands and businesses. After all, without garment workers, we don’t have clothes. 

I co-founded @rememberwhomadethem as I felt completely powerless when I learnt about the impact that the pandemic was having on garment workers. Many brands are still not committing to #PayUp for work that was completed prior to Covid-19. So I joined forces with other concerned feminists with networks in philanthropy, climate activism, the arts and sustainable fashion to collaborate with workers groups and campaigns to spotlight their situations and demands and raise greater awareness and action. We did this by creating free resources, namely a six part podcast series. We also have a Patreon where all donations go direct to workers and their unions. We feel that there is still a long way to go when it comes to centring garment workers, so that’s our main aim with this campaign. 

I really don’t buy all that much anymore, when it comes to fashion. When I do shop it’s usually vintage, either from my local vintage stores (when they’re open) or secondhand from Vestiaire Collective. And then for items such as underwear and activewear, I try to support ethical and inclusive brands. I love using rental sites for specific occasions and events.

I never want anyone to feel guilty about their personal shopping habits as a lot of being to shop in a more ‘ethical’ way relates to having privilege – whether that’s financial privilege, access privilege, time privilege or size privilege. I would suggest that if you are going to buy, make sure you only invest in what you love and see them as pieces that you can cherish forever. 

I’ve been lucky to partner with some amazing brands and organisations over the past few years, but honestly I just feel incredibly privileged to have been able to share conversations with garment workers and their unions on our RWMT podcast and Instagram.

Over the next five years I would like to see garment workers’ rights and dignity at the front and centre of the industry, ideally I’d like them to have equity in the brands. There should also be proper government legislation that ensures ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’ are the base level standard. Brands should also become truly inclusive – offering size 22 and above – so everyone can feel welcome. Ideally I would love all of the big brands to reduce their production by about 90%. A gal can dream, right?

I’m sure if you’re reading this article, you’re aware of the individual action you can take to do your bit (plant based diets, travelling less and boycotting fast fashion spring to mind). Of course there’s value in all of those things and if we can, we should keep doing them, but we can’t forget that it’s the top 100 companies that are contributing 71% of greenhouse gases. With that in mind, I’d like to see more people become active citizens and become more politically engaged. Actions like writing to our local MPs, supporting grassroots organisations and movements, voting, protesting, holding billionaire brands accountable. Individual action is awesome, but only when it’s married with collective action for system change.

Venetia’s sustainable shopping picks

  • The Row vest

    The Row vest at Vestiaire Collective
    The Row vest at Vestiaire Collective

    Another person’s ‘junk’ can be your new found treasure. Buying secondhand is a great way to switch up usual shopping habits and Vestiaire Collective is a go-to. Invest in luxury fabrics like cashmere and it’ll go the distance for years to come.  

    Shop The Row cashmere jumper at Vestiaire Collective, £348.60

Hero image: Holly Falconer/Hara at Sancho’s

Images: courtesy of  brands

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