Empower & Breathe: The Yoga of Fashion
Empower & Breathe is my off the mat project to build the connection between our yoga practice and the impact we have on the world around us.
On 24 April 2013, 1,134 people were killed and over 2,500 were injured when the Rana Plaza complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh. These people died making clothes for popular Western brands in a building that was unsafe. This tragedy gave rise tothe Fashion Revolution when group of designers, campaigners and industry that came together to create a global campaign to change the way that the fashion world operates, asking the simple question, Who Made My Clothes? With the intention to create an industry that values people, the environment, creativity and profit in equal measure.
As yogis, one of our principles is Ahimsa, to cause no injury, to do no harm. And so what we wear to practice and teach yoga in matters. The clothes we wear are our chosen skin. They represent how we feel about ourselves, our message to the world, and they each come with their own story of how they were made, where they were made, what they were made from and who they were made by. The chain of people involved in something like a simple yoga vest in big, it includes cotton farmers, ginners, spinners, weavers, dyers, sewers and other hidden factory workers, as well as the designers, brands and shops that we may know. Many ofthe people who actually make our clothes are hidden, working in a system that doesn’t value them, that doesn’t treat them with compassion and respect. The process of making a simple yoga vest can be violent to all the people in the supply chain, from low wages, to long hours, to no rights, and can be violent to the planet too, using for example heavy and polluting pesticides and chemicals.
The fashion industry provides an incredible opportunity to change lives and our relationship with the planet all over the world. There are estimated to be around 80 billion garments made worldwide every year.
The facts in the fashion world are alarming. Did you know that it takes 2720 litres of water to make a T-shirt? That’s how much we normally drink over a three year period. In the UK, there is estimated to be £30 billion worth of unworn clothing in our wardrobes and £30 billion worth which ends up in landfills every year, despite the fact that 95% of it could be recycled or upcycled.
There are things to consider right across the lifecycle of a piece of clothing or an accessory; the conditions the raw material was farmed or created, the processes and chemicals that may have been used to harness the materials, the design process and its consideration of waste and sustainability, the way in which the piece in manufactured, the amount of countries it has travelled to during production, the durability of a piece, how it is cared for when you take it home, and what happens to it after you have finished with it.
There are very simple ways that we can make a positive difference through the relationship we have with what we wear. We can empower ourselves and those who have made our clothes. It’s just about paying attention to all our actions and being in alignment with our true selves.
I have come to believe that real style comes from the heart, and expressing that love you have for the world. When you live your yoga like this, you just want to make choices that shine the brightest light around you.
Here are my “rules” to dress by for a brighter world.
1. Ask yourself if you really need something new, or if you can wear something in a different way to make it feel fresh. If you are buying it, think about what you have that you can wear it with so you don’t need any new accessories.
2. Try and set a limit for how many things you buy a year. Make it the right number for you. Think of how many things you usually buy every month or year and then take off at least a quarter. Or even half it – you don’t need as much as you think.
3. Research ethical designers (Ethical, Eco, Sustainable, Green are generally interchangeable words). There are so many designers with exciting collections that are using intelligent design and pushing the production boundaries.
4. Support small local designers and brands – In a world that is increasingly global, it’s hard for local artists to compete with the high street. But the things that they create are special, original and come with a low carbon footprint.
5. Buy something organic, or made from a new fabric such as from Soy Bean, Nettle or Milk. They are not as harmful to the earth and the farmers as more common fabrics such as non organic cotton which involves heavy pesticide use. It’s nice to practice in fabrics that are natural, breathable and chemical free.
6. Have a wardrobe clear-out and give your unloved pieces to your local charity shop or hold a swishing party. Research the best clothing banks to donate to as some recycle every bit of clothing even if it is damaged, and some throw away things they can’t sell.
7. When buying something new, ask the shop/designer what is not on the label such as what it is made from, where it was made and who by. This way you learn about the story of your clothes and if the designer or brand hasn’t thought about it, you are helping change the industry by reminding them to do so.
8. Get out your sewing machine and customise something old (maybe two or three things) into something new. Sewing machines are not as hard to use as you think they are. If you don’t think you can do it yourself, find a sewing class, or you could ask your gran!
9. When buying something new, think of how long you will like it for and how long it will last. Is it a keeper or something you will wear once? Try and buy something that you can get a lot of wear out, even if it is special, you might as well wear it whilst you can.
10. Buy something that is fair-trade. The Fairtrade certification guarantees that producers have been paid a fair price for thematerial. For example you can get fairtrade cotton and fairtrade gold. Note that if they have written fair-trade as two words that they don’t have
the official certification (although they might be implementing fair trade practises). Certifications are an expensive process, if thebrand doesn’t have it, ask them what they are doing that makes them fair-trade.
11. Rent or borrow something instead of buying something new. It’s a great feeling when you wear something belonging to a family member or a friend, and it makes them happy to see you enjoying it too (that is if you asked permission!) If they don’t have your taste then you could try a designer rental service.
12. Taking part in the Fashion Revolution, take a picture of your favourite clothing (either worn inside out or at least with the label showing), post it in social media, tag the brand and add the #whomademyclothes?
13. Have fun with it. Sustainable style is all about discovering the stories behind the fashion and changing lives not to mention helping our planet. So explore, experiment and enjoy yourself.