Tell us about yourself – familial/personal story, education, and prior work.
My name is Sam. I have had a metal hip since age 22 (I’m now 34). I went to Cardiff University to play sport but had to stop at age 18 due to the injury which eventually resulted in the hip replacement. Since then I have worked in music and events, magazine editing and web developing. In the last few years I’ve been developing the ideas of Ethical Revolution.
How did you get interested in ethical and sustainable fashion?
I’ve always been ethically minded without really going in to any detail with regards to research of goods beyond what was already out there. My mum was the main source of inspiration in being ethically minded as she has always been one to use natural produce and to show concern over production methods. A few years ago I started to become more seriously concerned about how products I used were made and how people and the environment were treated in the process. I took out a subscription to Ethical Consumer magazine which was really the kick starter of my journey to where I am today.
What is the importance of ethical and sustainable fashion designers and companies?
The fashion industry is massive. While I’ve come across a great number of companies (small and slightly bigger) really trying to push sustainability in fashion, there is still a hell of a lot of work to be done to make it even begin to look like a sustainable industry. Therefore, the importance of sustainable fashion designers and companies is paramount.
Who is a personal hero or heroine within the ethical and sustainable fashion world for you?
I would say Vivienne Westwood says a lot of good things about sustainability and climate change. Whether or not that comes across within the fashion world I’m not best placed to say. I hope she’s making a mark.
What is Ethical Revolution?
Ethical Revolution is a hub for online deals and offers (vouchers, competitions, discounts etc.) on goods that are more ethical than their mainstream counterparts. The idea came about when I became more actively ethical in my own consumerism a few years ago. I realised that shopping ethically was not easy financially. You’d have to spend a fair bit more on top of your average spend in order to buy the ethical alternatives. For that reason, I wanted a central hub where I could find all of these products at cheaper prices. It didn’t exist, so I created it.
What are some of its feature products?
Any product that is a more ethical alternative to a mainstream exploitative product becomes a feature product on my site when it has an online offer associated with it that makes it cheaper. Features of the website include voucher codes, multibuy offers, general discounts, freebies, competitions and an ethical directory. There are also resource pages with links to some inspirational films and articles. Subscribers to my newsletter receive a breakdown of some of the best offers once every fortnight via email.
What is your customer base – the demographics?
At the moment the site is UK based and the demographics are anybody who shops online. People who already shop ethically find my site of use because it helps to bring their shopping costs down. I also aim to push ethical shopping more in to the mainstream. By bringing the prices down to the same level as every day products I am hoping to remove the main barrier there.
There have been large tragedies such as the Rana Plaza collapse, which was the largest garment factory accident in history with over 1,000 dead and more than 2,500 injured. Others were the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire (1911) and the Pakistan Garment Factory Fires (2012). What are the importance of human rights and worker rights in this new movement, and to the garment industry?
Workers’ rights are massively important. When researching how ethical a product is I use Ethical Magazine as my first port of call. They classify ‘ethicality’ in to 5 key areas with 4-5 subsets in each. One area is the human impact and subsets include workers’ rights, human rights and supply chain management. If a company or product exploits or neglects its worker then it will not receive a high ethical rating.
Tragedies like the ones you have mentioned have enabled a spotlight to be shone on the garment industry and more pressure has been placed on it to get things right. But it’s a crying shame that it takes such tragedies for this to happen, and still a lot more needs to be done.
Women and children are the majority of the exploited and violated work forces. What is the importance of the status of women’s and children’s rights in the ethical and sustainable fashion world too?
It’s crazy that we still have to ask questions like this regarding to women as ‘other’ to men, but we do. Women simply don’t get equal treatment, respect or pay in the work place and until equality is achieved their rights must continue to be fought for. In terms of children, no child should have to work. Sadly, that’s not the world we currently live in.
Children are the most vulnerable population. Women tend to have less status than men in societies including the right to decent working conditions, decent pay, to vote, and so on. What is the relationship between the need to implement women’s rights and children’s rights?
All human rights need to be implemented correctly. Whether that be to stop child labour or give women equal rights, it is fundamentally important that fashion companies heed to basic human rights. If they don’t they have a lot to answer for.
Child labour and slavery are problems, major ones. These include children throughout the world. Tens of millions of children in the case of child labour and a few million for child slavery. How can individuals get the word out about these other rights violations?
There are many ways it can be done. Awareness is one thing, but the sense of detachment is another. For example, many consumers in the Western world are aware that when they buy clothes that from cheap high street fashion stores they are likely to have been made so cheap due to exploitation along the way. The trouble is, many people are so far detached from the people that are exploited that they are able to put it to the back of their mind. I suppose one way to keep it in the forefront of people’s minds could be for the fashion lines who DO treat their workers fairly to really make a song and dance about it in a way that shows up those who don’t.
How can individuals, designers, fashion industries, and consumers begin to work to implement those rights so that these vulnerable populations in many countries of the world have better quality of life?
To lead by example. And then make others aware that they are doing just that. As Gandhi said, ‘be the change you want to see in the world’ – so individuals can make sure they are only purchasing from labels who respect their workforce, designers and companies can work to good practices and make a point of it to the buying public. The more who do that, the more will follow. In the UK, if consumers are struggling to know how to find out which brands are most ethical, I would urge them to check out Ethical Consumer magazine and their website where they can find all of the necessary information.
What topics most interest you?
Social and environmental justice. I also enjoy sports (soccer, cricket and snooker being my favorites), music, cooking and nature.
Did you have a mentor in this work?
Not a mentor as such but without the inspiration of Ethical Consumer magazine on top of the values instilled by my parents I wouldn’t be on this journey.
Have you mentored others?
Not in this field yet, as a fledgling myself.
What are the importance of mentors in the fashion world for professional, and personal, development?
I suppose it depends on the mentor. Ones who pass on ethical values are massively important.
From personal observations, more women than men involve themselves in the fashion industry by a vast margin of difference at all levels. Why?
That probably stems from how we’re brought up: Crudly, boys with action men, girls with barbie dolls. It’s all a nurture thing. When I was at school the girls all did cooking and textiles while the boys did woodwork and tech. Why that’s the case I don’t know.
What personal fulfillment comes from this work for you?
My dad once told me it’s always best to be part of the solution than part of the problem. So I’m hoping that by being part of the solution in terms of progressive consumerism I can feel some sense of fulfilment.
What other work are you involved in at this point in time?
I have been a web developer for over 10 years so I still do a bit of that, but I’m aiming to make Ethical Revolution my full time job.
Any recommended authors or fashionistas (or fashionistos)?
I’m going to say Russell Brand! He’s a bit of a style icon as well as an author and his heart is definitely in the right place in terms of social justice.
Any recommended means of contacting Ethical Revolution?
Sure, if you’re on Twitter then send me a tweet (@ethicalution). Otherwise send me an email (without spelling my email out in full it’s my name (sam) at ethicalrevolution.co.uk
Any feelings or thoughts in conclusion based on the conversation today?
I’m really glad to have had this conversation – the more links we can create between those of us who are trying to make these positive changes, the stronger we will be in reaching our goals. We’re just at the start … let’s do something amazing.
Thank you for your time, Sam.