Maggie Zhou on what “greenwashing” is and how to draw attention to a brand
PEDESTRIAN.TV has partnered with Converse to empower you to make smarter (and more sustainable) fashion choices.
What comes to your mind when you hear the word “fashion”? Meryl Streep wire mesh Anne Hathaway about the cerulean color? Same. the Tyra banks the era of ANTM? Ditto too. 90s Kate moss? Obviously.
But have you heard of slow fashion? Slow fashion, as opposed to traditional fast fashion (think cheap, poorly made, probably falling apart in the wash), is a conscious movement that promotes conscious consumerism, ethical practices and climate justice in the world. fashion industry without giving up on thugs, do you know?
We hit a slow fashion advocate Maggie Zhou to discuss sustainability, greenwashing and partnership with Converse to open a virtual store on an Ocean Garbage Patch.
PEDESTRIAN.TV: Okay, tell us about slow fashion. What is it and why is it important?
Maggie Zhou: I see slow fashion as a direct opposition to fast fashion. Slow fashion is different for everyone – for me it’s both ethical and sustainable fashion. It is fashion that takes care of its garment workers by paying them a living wage and making sure they work in safe working conditions. Slow fashion is also for me a change of mentality. It’s about slowing down our fashion consumption, whether it’s fast fashion or whatever. Looks like you are wondering if you really need this bag or if you would like in fact wear this top 30 times.
I try to support brands that try to minimize their impact on the environment as much as possible. I am looking for alternatives to mass production, for example bespoke systems or small batch versions. Also, I prefer natural fibers to synthetic materials.
This is important because we all wear clothes (nudists, you have a free pass here). Every day people make conscious decisions about fashion whether they realize it or not. Fashion has always been political. By dressing your body in the clothes you choose, you are choosing to visually express yourself in a certain way and simultaneously your values are on display.
PTV: And what made you so passionate about fashion?
MZ: For a long time, I really didn’t care about the impacts of fast fashion. It sounds terrible but it is the truth. In my later teenage years, I got caught up in the fast changing trends and ended up regularly collaborating with many fast fashion brands on Instagram. After a while, the magic of receiving plastic coated polyester parts wore off.
I started to feel pretty disgusting promoting these brands and my gut told me it didn’t look right to me. For someone who prides themselves on having fashion as an extension of my personality, wearing clothes that didn’t match my morals seemed wrong to me. I decided to honor this feeling and change my actions. I now carry myself with confidence and pride knowing that I present myself holistically and authentically.
PTV: What are the main issues you see in the fashion industry right now?
MZ: A lot of us call ourselves feminists, but we don’t take care of the garment workers who make our clothes (80% including women). It pains me that our intersectional feminism does not extend to those beyond our borders. But honestly, my main issues are not with individual consumers. Hope to see more government regulations and policies regarding sustainability and the treatment of workers.
PTV: Do you have any practical advice for those of us who are trying to slow down our own wardrobes?
MZ: Like Orsola de Castro, the founder of Fashion Revolution, says, “the the most durable garment is the one already there your wardrobe ”. There are a lot of barriers to entry with sustainable fashion such as financial costs and lack of size inclusiveness. What we can all do is make the most of the clothes we already own. Break the stigma of re-wearing clothes, experimenting with different types of style and don’t fall victim to the vicious cycle of Instagram trends that will convince you that your new dress is unusable after a couple.
I also recommend putting at least 24 hours between yourself and a purchase to see if you really want it or if that short-lived serotonin boost can be obtained outside of an online shopping cart.
PTV: What are your favorite techniques or innovations in sustainable fashion?
MZ: It’s so cool to see so many innovative people and brands with sustainable techniques! I’m someone who doesn’t know how to sew or make clothes, so I’m constantly in awe of people’s creativity. I have already dyed a pair of Converse with Vegemite though!
Other techniques that have been tried and tested on Converse kicks are the dye based on berries that change color, paint made from glow-in-the-dark microbes and ink from air pollution.
PTV: Greenwashing is one thing right now. Do you have any advice for people navigating the online fashion world?
MZ: Greenwashing is when a brand uses marketing techniques to make them appear greener than they actually are, so if their “green” initiative (for example, recycling in their head office or having a small recycled plastic clothing line) doesn’t outweigh its overall environmental impact – it’s just a shitty band-aid cover-up.
It’s a tricky world and it’s easy to get carried away by the green turn of it all. Making your way through greenwashing takes time and patience. Be aware that you can contact brands directly through social media and email to try to get information from them. Look for specific, measurable goals, not just loose language promising they are environmentally friendly.
What if you don’t have the time? Follow slow fashion designers and local small businesses. Learn from experts like Good on You, Ethical Made Easy, and Well Made Clothes.
Want to know more about Converse x Maggie Zhou’s Ocean Garbage Patch virtual store? Or do you want to get a new pair of durable shoes? Discover Renew Labs.
Image: Instagram / @yemagz