This is Zandra’s second season showing her clothing collection in London. A designer better known for her bags and accessories so far in London, Zandra’s clothing designs have always been big with Americans.
“I wanted to bring movement and character to my clothes,” says Zandra of her latest London stage. Her presentation has 16 models swaying and walking around on an island installed in the middle of a well-refreshed, well DJ’d, well-lit hall at The ICA. What I love about Zandra’s presentation is that it reminds me of the theatre of Alexander McQueen’s ‘Savage Beauty’ but in place of mannequins Zandra presents us with real women.
There is something very real and wonderful about the event. Zandra’s collection, the care with which she has directed every detail of the production, the guests that span her decades working in fashion, the new ethical and eco brigade who know and love our work together at People Tree and the amazing collections she’s designed with us in organic cotton.
Zandra, 75, is such a hard worker, travelling with me around India and Bangladesh, her energy levels are incredible and we share the same love of textiles and craft skills.
What I love about her collection tonight is that I can see her bold prints and graphics echoing some of the gorgeous textiles that we admired together in Bangladesh. There are at least 3 dresses I would love to own.
Safia interviews Anna Borgeryd, Swedish business woman and author of ‘Integrity’, a revolutionary new eco-novel, at her book launch event in ‘Tibits’, London. Published this month by New Internationalist.
Safia: You are well known in Sweden as an entrepreneur and environmental researcher. Why was it so important to you to express your ideas in a novel aimed at a wide, popular readership?
Anna: I had this calling, this huge need to write the novel, body and spirit and an interest in ecology pushed me to write ‘Integrity’ – some of it is based on personal experience too. The novel was a way to make environmental issues more accessible to people.
Safia: Throughout the novel, you more or less alternate between Vera’s and Peter’s perspective, giving them around the same space. Why were you so keen to do that, given that the starting standpoint for both you and the reader is likely to be much closer to Vera’s?
Anna: They say for a good love story you have to give both people equal space and share their perspectives, thoughts and characters with the reader, otherwise one person becomes simply an object.
Safia: Did you find it difficult to put yourself in Peter’s shoes at the beginning, given his inveterate and unthinking womanizing?
Anna: I wanted the reader to get to know Peter better, at first he is difficult to like as you say, then you see him growing and that the problem her faces come from his difficult upbringing. He is a womanizer at the beginning and then he grows up and shows real strength, strength that Vera lacks, so they complement each other.
Safia: How much of you is there in Vera?
Anna: I guess there’s a lot of Vera in me – she is a strong woman, a feminist and has real integrity.
Safia: Throughout the novel, you return to Vera’s experience with the Kogi indigenous people of the Colombian rainforest. Why is that so important to the message of the book and how does it relate to our predicament in the early 21st century?
Anna: The Kogi indigenous people fascinate me. I found videos of The Kogi Shaman called Mamas. We really need to find solutions and new economic systems that properly value the natural resource base of our earth and protect our environment. This is the message the Kogi people are sending to us – they can see signs of devastation even in their pristine hilltops in Colombia. They are calling to us to wake up and act responsibly.
Safia: You also have a background in film, I sense this in the dramatic opening of the book. The story that would translate well to a TV miniseries or a movie – have you had any interest from film-makers either in Sweden or abroad?
Anna: Yes, I think it will be very soon made into a film or mini-series – I’ll be hearing about it very soon. I’m passionate about films and excited about this next project.
Safia: Tell me how do you address sustainability in your own business Polarbröd? You are fifth generation bread makers – how incredible!
Anna: We have built our own wind turbines and meet much of our energy demands with renewable energy – we are also using more organic ingredients. We are one of the largest bread businesses in Sweden, so we need to lead by example and get the debate going about sustainable ways of producing food.
“A compelling novel – compassionate and empowering.” Vandana Shiva
By Billie Hall
It’s been a long fight and it’s far from over, but the work done by pioneers in ethical business and fashion has undeniably changed the future for the next generation of fashion designers and fashion business owners.
At a recent event in Borås, Sweden, Safia Minney was invited to discuss sustainability and ethics in the textile and fashion industries. Fair Trade and environmental representatives and advocates gathered with students to share and highlight the actions being taken to create the sustainable future the world so urgently needs.
Hosted at the incredible Borås Textile Fashion University – an old textiles factory reimagined to provide the designers of tomorrow with the space to create and innovate – the keenest attendees were the students themselves. The museum at the university also shows technology from the 1960s for spinning, knitting and weaving fabrics.
Undergraduates and Master’s students from as far away as Pakistan and Iran shared their ideas and input on how to improve supply chains, promote ethical working practices and encourage the use of organic materials. Students wanted to know about the barriers Safia faced in starting up with People Tree, where these difficulties the same as those faced today? How have things progressed? What can be done to ensure those in the fashion industry buy sustainable and organic fabrics and promote ethical fashion? And what of the differences in the design details themselves in Fair Trade and sustainable fashion compared to conventional fashion?
What emerged is that there can be no single answer to ‘how do we create a sustainable fashion industry?’ The reality will take input from every level, from the designers, through to the commercial buyers and, ultimately, will be driven by consumer demand. Designers and consumers want sustainable fashion and we need a more nurturing environment and effective legislation in place to maintain it.
But with this next generation of fashion students, finally, the truth is clear and the agenda is set. The future of fashion is a sustainable one, there can be no question about that if the industry is to survive. And the dedication, creativity and spark shown by those in attending the event is what companies new and established will need to harness.
Young people are the next generation of fashion and they’re bringing the change from within the industry and with their own brands and ethical drive. Now we the industry, governments and consumers join in with this collaborative change.