This one goes out in english, mostly because Patrick and Brooke have (since picking me up as an ambassador for the GFX event in Lisbon) been reading TRASHÉDIA in what they call Google portuguese, and that is quite scary!…
It’s the Fast Talks at ModaLisboa Boundless and we’re sitting on the beautiful chairs at Sala Luís the Freitas Branco at CCB, in front of this ever growing crowd that edition after edition comes to listen and question us with the most amazing questions, and Patrick tells me he’s nervous, ‘cause he hasn’t prepared a presentation with slides, like Mario or Lara, for instance. He asks me what should he do, and I say just chill.
And I mean it.
But there’s a livestream on the RedBull website and an audience composed by Eduarda Abbondanza, Rita Rolex, Graziela Sousa, Xana Nunes, Maria Teresa Lucas, Filipe Carriço, Namalimba Coelho, Pureza Fleming, Cristina Duarte and many other familiar faces staring at us.
It hasn’t started yet; the staff is trying to fit some more people in the room, that seemed so big while it was still empty.
We wait, under the eyes of an eager crowd.
Another very prominent Lady comes in and sits on our front row. They wave ate eachother enthusiastically.
OMG – I LOVE HER! She’s awesome! – he whispers.
How do you two know each other? – I ask.
Oh, it’s the most amazing story!… – And I didn’t have to ask him to tell me about it – I was playing Judy Garland at Rufus’ [Wainright] show last year here at Gulbenkian, and then we’re at this dinner party after the show at someone’s place, and I’m talking to her and she’s awesome and she tells me she’s a minister of something and I was in shock and then I tell her about my project and she introduces me to Eduarda and… BAM – THIS. You know?
It’s not that I know, it’s in front of me.
But I do.
And we have to start, and by the way, the prominent she is none other than Assunção Cristas.
Hosting and moderating the Fast Talks is one of the dearest things I do thoughout the year, twice, thanks to dearest and most amazing Rita Rolex and the ever energetic strength of Nature Eduarda Abbondanza. And I wish I had one conference a month, because in Portugal people are really engaged into thinking about fashion, and that’s precisely why I came back to live and work and operate here: the engagement with theory in both the areas I tend to think about, Theatre and Fashion. They go together like the horse and carriage, as Frank Sinatra would sing.
This edition, we’re talking about Sustainability, and the speakers’ panel is out of this world: Mário Jorge Silva from Tintex, Lara Vidreiro from Chic by Choice, Marko Matysik from Condé Nast, Brooke Blashill from Ogilvy and GFX, Brigitte Stepputtis from Vivenne Westwood, Patrick Duffy from GFX and Carry Somers from Fashion Revolution.
Researching for the talks, I came across some very interesting pieces of information on how we deal with sustainability on our lives and routines, and mostly on how we handle the situation, regarding what we want to see, what we want to deal with, what we feel like changing. It’s not easy to simply learn we’re mostly doing it so we can feel good about ourselves. It’s not fair to see our effort become another check on our do good to feel good list.
Mário starts pitching about how Tintex is one of the pioneering textile factories in the world, how their innovative methods are making Tintex market leaders and how they are known for their tencel, their cork coatings (upcycling leftovers) and mostly their non chemical dyes. Pioneers, awards winners, change makers. True ones. And Mario looks just like a regular guy.
Then comes Lara Vidreiro, whom I’ve come across so many times on those events gathering young female entrepreneurs. Lara Vidreiro and Filipa Neto founded Chic by Choice while they were still in University. They applied to a startup contest and came in second. Next thing they know is they never applied to any job interview or sent a resumé. Later at dinner we would share common experiences on how we just do a lot of stuff in order to be something we can’t name…! She tells me it’s her best asset. I agree. Chic by Choice comes listed as sustainable because what they practise avoids tons of waste and wasted money on garments you’ll wear once, because even though we’re not the Queen of England, we don’t want to wear the same gown twice. Fast consumerism, capitalism and all the related isms caused us to fall from that illness as plain Janes. So by having a great selection of designer gowns and party dresses at very affordable prices and a great size range, Chic by Choice is leader in Europe, answering the needs of thousands of women who, by so many reasons, prefer to rent a dress for a special occasion. I’d do so if I had occasions more often. But I own a couple of black dresses!… Chic by Choice is a millennial company that really captures the essence and works on the grounds of how millennials position themselves in their lives: no strings attatched, like the N’SYNC album. Apart from the tight budgets, millennials don’t want to hoard stuff, they want to move all the time, as much as they can; they want to travel and experience the world and what the world has to offer. Therefore, millennials do want to rent a dress, save some money, save space on their wardrobes and extend their moneys’ ability to last longer, ‘till that trip to Bali or that year off our consuming jobs. Lara is a rockstar, and what she does is awesome.
Then comes Marko, and Marko is old school. What Marko does is very old school and he does it for the old school publishing group that shaped most of the market we know today. He sees collections before everybody else, knows about the makeup look, the muse, influences, whatever inteferred on the process of biulding a collection and putting up its show and writes about it, sends it to all Condé Nast contributors and basically he’s been responsable for everything we know about fashion shows for the last 25 years. But Marko, just like Brooke sitting next to him, knows Fashion wouldn’t be the best ground to preach sustainability. Fashion as we know it today is more grounded on constant renovation than in sustainability. Mostly since the big bucks took over and created big fashion groups and crazy fashion cycles, wearing out designers’ creativity in ever shrinking long careers. Marko states that on one hand, he is part of the problem, but on the other, he is just contributing for a more sustainable world. Individually. Sideways, he works as a consultant for many emerging brands and designers who skip the whole high fashion frenzy and create their own cycles, collections and brands. He is there when they need knowledge and expertise from someone who has been on the business for so long.
And Brooke, from world giant Ogilvy, working brands like Nike and H&M? What the hell is she doing here? Well, she is here because, in her own words, being part of the fast fashion fast cycle problem we now have in hands, she has, for the past ten years, been working on counselling and advising big brands to engage in more sustainable and fair routines, cycles and production lines. She encourages them to be more transparent. I know it may seem like nothing, some years ago I’d be a total punk thinking and saying she was already bought and corrupted by the system, because she was in the corporation, but today, I can tell you she’s doing it in a place where nobody seems to care, and that’s why she’s actually being utmost punk, if you think she’s using a corporative ground to break rules in order to impose new strategies and ethics. She does say, though, it takes a loooooooong time and effort. On the free grounds of spare time, Brooke is a part of Global Fashion Exchange.
Then there’s even more old school Brigitte, head of couture at Vivenne Westwood, and a legend herself. Brigitte has a presentation that somehow might seem boring of more formal, but hey, minutes before her pitch, she told me talking in public is a drag for her, and that it used to make her suffer a lot, that she got better at it and that now she kind of manages it easily. Still, it is a very big responsability, because she’s addressing us all on behalf of Vivienne Westwood, that one designer known for her controversial takovers of the establishment in which she found herself in in the beginning of the nineties. Brigitte will lead us through a beautiful set of slides where we can see and hear how Vivienne and her clique are really commited to make a change on the way Fashion is or isn’t sustainable. And yes, I am one of those who praises Vivienne but also thinks she has somehow lost a few screws along the way. Over dinner, Brigitte will tell me to make the punkest stuff I can with Teatro Praga and to protest, always. Little does she know!…
I say Patrick is skipping the talk and singing a song, but he doesn’t sing. He just tells us all about the Global Fashion Exchange, which is, simply, a mobile invisible platform that travels the world and promotes swap markets where you go and change your old unwanted stuff, for other unwanted stuff that becomes conceptually new on your hands. GFX is both a happening and a movement, focused on educating the new generations to empower, egmite and make change. Because change will only happen if you teach and pass your knowledge on. Again, like Brooke, Patrick is persistent and is willing to make a big change, even if it takes decades.
And then there’s Carry Somers: I was taking a long, relaxing, sunday bath, when I had this idea of creating Fashion Revolution. She’s ballsy, and it takes balls to state this in that context we were last thursday. It was 2013 and the Bangladesh factory landslip happened. Thousands were killed and no brand came forward. All of a sudden, nobody was producing in sweatshops. She was appalled and took action, starting Fashion Revolution. Advocating transparency and anual reports on productions, Fashion Revolution encourages brands to become more transparent, to show their production conditions and cycles, to reveal their numbers and to identify factories. She encourages consumers to come forward and be honest about the origin of their garments. And she is the punkest on the panel, the most fearless, backing herself up with slides of quotes by great theorists. Dead. All dead.
Conclusion is we’re doing it, taking baby steps individually, trying to feel good about ourselves and trying to be better beings in the consumerist society we’re trapped in. Us, trying to be better at it, are guerrilla people, activists. It’s not easy, specially knowing Fashion, as an industry, is so fragmented and depends on such a long, great and multiple assembly line, it is harder. There are more than just one sectors to change. Conclusion is that for a more sustainable Fashion world, we need to engage into very radical, very punk actions, so we can actually make a change. Conclusion is to start raising children’s consciences towards ethical ways of consuming and operating in the world is the key.
Yesterday, Sunday, I went to ModaLisboa, after a whole weekend of hard thinking on this subject, skipping all the shows. Pregnancy is really prominent by now and swelling doesn’t come as an option, it just happens and makes it all unbearable. Yesterday I attended ModaLisboa as an ambassador for GFX, to hang out with Patrick, Graziela, Brooke and all the lovely ambassadors picked in Portugal. It was thrilling to see that swapping really became a thing yesterday, and that Catarina Vaz Pinto was excited about this as much as we all were, because we can’t stand this stupid fast cycle anymore. I was excited to see strangers picking up my contibutions, happily, and how excited I was picking up someone elses’. More than swapping, for me it was about Love. Because swapping or giving away, or changing, was about Love. Carrying a bag full of new stuff involving no money was an amazing thing to have done on a windy sunday afternoon. Feeling the great mood of the crowd enjoying a bunch of old and new, used and pristine, was awesome. Mostly because I shop so rarely that when I do bring things home is because I do love them. Body is changing right now, getting ready for baby to be born, and I am just avoiding clothes as much as I can, because buying pregnant, for me, is absurd. But it was impossible not to fall in love with this beautiful embroidered white top and sassy pinup shorts for the post baby bump. If I ever fit into them, I’ll post about it.
And I’d love to thank you, Patrick, for bringing it to us, for making it happen here, inside a FashionWeek. I’d like to thank you for everything you taught me in just a few hours’ talk divided over the Instagram chat and the corners of CCB. Thanks fo the heels on Friday and thanks for showing me how great things happen when we do what we Love. How Judy Garland brought us together and how in this story so many unexpected players appear and intervene to start shaping a better world.