IT’S 8:30AM on a Thursday and, for the first time (in what seems like a lifetime), the sun is shining. Thankfully, Clare Press has joined me for breakfast (just another day in the office, am I right?) which includes two coffees – mandatory – and peanut butter on toast.
Despite the glorious day outside trying to steal my attention, I cannot help but notice Press’s coat – which is an opulent red in a classic knee-length cut. Suffice to say, I was a fan long before my delicious coffee even made it to my lips (and that says a lot.)
Her style was on point. It’s no wonder she is Marie Clare Australia’s fashion editor-at-large. Upon receiving our child-like, yet utterly delicious breakfast Press’s eyes begin to widen and in between sips of coffee she begins to unravel the story behind her latest novel Wardrobe Crisis: How We Went From Sunday Best to Fast Fashion, which explores the history and ethics behind what we wear.
“What I wanted to do with my book, was to write something that was also funny and entertaining as well as informative,” Press tells me, adding that her inspirations for the book included fashion ethics writer Lisa Heinze and Chanel’s Fall 2014 ready-to-wear collection (which for our non-fashionistas, occurred in a Chanel pop-up supermarket).
“I remember seeing the Chanel show online and thought WOW – it really is the way in which we view clothes – we view them in a disposable setting nowadays,” she said.
The truth of it all rattles me and although Press touches on her designer roots and having once owned a fashion label herself, it is clear that it’s her seventeen-year-long career in the fashion industry which has opened her eyes to the importance of supporting and understanding ethical trading in the fashion world.
The importance of which, made devastatingly clear when, in 2013, the Rana Plaza collapsed, killing more than 1000 people. Deemed the deadliest garment factory accident in history it left the ‘fast fashion’ sector in the ethical spotlight after it was revealed structural failure was the cause of the collapse.
Since the world learnt of this sad news, the terms sustainable and ethical seemed to make a comeback into the vocabularies of fashion’s elite and the general public alike.Press said she felt a responsibility to know the good, the bad and the ugly about the industry she adored.
“I guess I wanted to write about it because I didn’t know about it, and I’ve been working in fashion throughout my entire career,” Press explained.
“And, if I am writing about the business and designers every day and I don’t know about this – then there is a problem here.”
Press has used her long-standing writing know-how for good, portraying the seriousness of fashion ethics in a light which is both understanding and pleasantly educational.
“Ultimately, I wanted people to relate to the book and really understand the perils behind fast fashion in a way that isn’t scary or confronting,” she said.
“Educating the minority on ethical fashion isn’t just about providing scary statistics, it is more so related to providing people with information to source and talk about sustainable fashion on their own.”So what now for consumers in Australia? Well, amidst chatting over our mutual once-upon-a-time teenage wardrobes consisting of $5 bin goodies and other non-sustainable fashion faux pas, Press tells me that the key to building a sustainable wardrobe doesn’t involve throwing away all of your previous unethical purchases.
“Throwing away old clothes, isn’t really sustainable either, so consumers should take it upon themselves to recycle or shop ethically or second-hand when looking for garments in the future,” she said.
As for the fashion industry, Press is confident that we are heading toward the light at the end of our dark tunnel, with an array of modern-day designers and retailers such as Zac Posen, Kit Willow and David Jones adopting and speaking out about the importance of ethical practices to best sustain our industry.
“The more people who know about and understand the importance of ethical fashion, the better,” Press said.
Stylehunters, this is one book that is not only a must-have but a must-read.
You can grab yourself a copy here.