This week is Fashion Revolution Week, the perfect opportunity to talk about an incredible event featured in the latest edition of Junkies, the Oversew Fashion Awards. We are delighted to share this article and some of the stunning outfits with the online world this week to highlight the importance of ethical fashion. Enjoy!
The fashion industry is one of the biggest contributors to world pollution today, with billions of ‘old’ clothes thrown away each year. In a world filled with this dangerous fast fashion, it’s so encouraging to see people starting to slow the pandemonium down.
So many love to keep up with the constantly changing fashion trends, trends that are determined by a small number of major organisations. For a long time, we believed that our consumer habits had no consequences; however, in recent years many confronting stories have uncovered the horrifying truth. It is now quite evident that there has been a huge exploitation of labour markets in many countries around the world, and that landfills are overflowing with waste. The fast fashion industry is damaging our beautiful planet and harming millions of lives. So, what exactly can we do about it?
Robyn and Mick Campbell are a New Zealand couple who are taking steps to answer this question. Since 2011, they have been involved with running the Oversew Fashion Awards in New Zealand, where the focus is on making good quality fashion out of recycled materials and clothing. Through the awards, they share how vital it is for us to be aware of the damaging effects of fast fashion and what we can do about it. The Oversew Fashion Awards demonstrate that high-end fashion can be made from upcycled materials and that if we all take small steps in this direction, we can make a great change.
The initial idea for an upcycled fashion show began roughly eight years ago, when a group of crafty women from the small-town of Carterton in New Zealand met at their local café for a weekly catch up. There they laughed, drank tea, practiced their knitting and got creative together. One day they decided it would be a fun idea to hold a small fashion show with ‘revamped clothing’.
Several years later, a small group of friends including Robyn and Mick decided to establish an Upcycled Fashion Awards in Carterton’s newly built Events Centre. They saw this as an opportunity to put their passion for the environment to work. The Oversew Fashion Awards have been run by Robyn and Mick with friends Vicki and Ross Waller since 2014.
“We have always been into recycling and doing our bit to look after the environment”, says Robyn. “We recycle everything we possibly can and try to keep our rubbish down to less than one small bag a week. Getting into Oversew has made us see how cool [upcycled fashion] can be and how it’s possible to create unique fashion items”.
When they aren’t working their ‘normal’ jobs during the week, Robyn and Mick work hard with their partners and friends, Vicki and Ross, to plan, prepare, and run every show. For the first show in August 2012, all 350 tickets completely sold out and they knew they were onto something great. The awards night has sold out every year since, and since 2015, a matinee show has been added on the Sunday afternoon.
“People came to the show and kept saying ‘Oh my gosh’, as if they had been expecting some sort of little community hall production”, Robyn says. “But if we were going to do it, we were going to do it properly”.
From that moment, Oversew has been a professional show with exceedingly high standards, and it continues to grow. The awards attract attention from all over the world, with entries coming from Australia, France, America and the United Kingdom. To make sure the fashion is always of the highest quality, the talented team has strict selection criteria for all the garments, which must be made from a minimum of 80% recycled clothing and materials.
For Robyn and Mick, it’s all about getting to the core of what ‘sustainable fashion’ really means. They raise awareness of the thousands of clothing items that are thrown into landfills every few minutes, the hugely unethical ways in which so many clothes are produced, and the ideology behind fashion ‘trends’.
“A lot of sustainable fashion is about creating new materials”, says Mick. “But what about what we already have? It is about the stuff that gets chucked away. It’s all very well coming up with new concepts and ideas, but that is not answering the real problems at all”.
For Robyn and Mick, making the move towards truly sustainable fashion is as simple as using what we already have to create quality clothing that will last a lifetime.
“It’s like going back to grandma’s ways, which is so cool”, says Mick. “We are reusing quality clothing that will stand the test of time, which is basically what our great grandparents and parents had to do. Back then, clothes were altered and then chopped down for kids to wear”.
Why follow what is popular at one time and wear the same clothing as thousands of others? What happened to being uniquely yourself? Upcycled clothing has a distinctive style that can be made to suit individual personalities, rather than following ‘trends’.
“We went shopping in recycle boutiques recently and then later walked into David Jones. We noticed that there were racks of identical items”, says Mick. “Upcycled clothing gives you a unique look and that is what we love about it. You can buy something you love and know that you are not going to bump into someone wearing the same thing”.
Upcycled clothing is more than just a fashion statement for Robyn and Mick, however, it is a movement. They have a passion for the environment and for living an ethical lifestyle.
“As a child, mum used to make all my clothes for me”, recalls Robyn. “She was always bottling preserves, growing her own food, and composting. Even back then she had her own shopping bags. I remember when supermarkets used to use paper bags and even then, we would dismantle them and make them into something new. So I guess our love of quality and upcycling has stemmed from our childhoods. The more we learn, the more we practise what we preach as much as we possibly can”.
We already have excess materials, so why not use them? Fashion should be about quality, upcycled and tailor made items that have caused no harm. By making the choice to slow down, we can stop the unethical and unsustainable fashion cycle altogether. Robyn and Mick are confident that everyone can learn to shop upcycled; all it takes is a little bit of exploring.
So before you jump on the tram and go to a department store, do a little bit of research and find out where recycle boutiques can be found. As Mick and Robyn note, “to put it simply, I guess our biggest advice to fast fashion shoppers is – don’t do it!”