Sustainable Fashion Warrior Clare Press Talks Making Activism Personal And Creating Real Change

By Ben Tyers
24th Jun 2019

Clare Press is a force to be reckoned with.

Clare is the presenter of popular fashion podcast Wardrobe Crisis, Sustainability Editor-at-Large for Vogue Australia, global ambassador for Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Make Fashion Circular initiative, sits on the Sustainability Advisory Board for Copenhagen Fashion Week, has written three books and is well into her fourth. And that's not even all of it.

We recently caught up with Clare to talk about all things sustainability in the fashion space.

Why do you believe everyday activism is important and can you provide tips on how to get started?

Unleashing your inner activist is about taking your power back. Instead of feeling powerless, like you’re not considered and don’t have a say, you suddenly realise that what you do matters. Your actions count. The decisions you make, combined with those of your peers, have an impact.

I would counsel against trying to be an activist on your own—you need to find your community. Start by drilling down on what issues really matter to you. What’s personal? Is it plastic pollution for example, because you live at the beach and you see plastic trash washing up there every day? Maybe it’s going vegan. Or it’s a social issue affecting your community. Perhaps your kids are asking you about the School Strike for Climate movement. Or it could be something that seems quite trivial like fashion (it’s not trivial by the way!), because you love clothes but you know you buy too many and you’re concerned about fashion waste. Pick your passion point then join a movement.

For fashion, I love Fashion Revolution. For plastic, there are so many ways into this, but Plastic Free July is coming up. Or check out my friend Tim Silverwood’s Take 3 for the Sea campaign.

Then take it offline IRL—attend a clothing swap or beach clean-up. Or organise one yourself. It all snowballs from there.

How do you stay positive when you’re constantly wading through depressing news?

Good question! Faced with the news around climate change, the likelihood of the Adani mine going ahead and the ill health of the Great Barrier Reef and our oceans, anyone would feel worried. But activism is the antidote. Doing something about it changes your perspective—you go from being passive and disengaged to being active in suggesting alternatives. Taking action with others is best of all. It’s that magic word community. Once you realise other people feel that same way you do, you can be part of a movement for change.

Personally, the work I do exposes me to loads of alternative, inspiring narratives, in the fashion space and beyond. I meet and talk with changemakers every day, and I’ve become one myself. When you start to focus on the amazing things people are doing on behalf of the environment, it’s energising.

How did the position at Vogue come about? Why does Vogue need a Sustainability Editor?

The Vogue audience is interested in the themes shaping contemporary culture, whatever they may be. Today they include diversity, tech and innovation, and sustainability. Of course, the whole magazine is not going to be looking at fashion through those lenses, but I think it’s a modern idea to have me there to keep my focus trained on sustainability.

I’ve been a fashion journalist for 20 years and sustainability is my passion. I made the decision to focus on it after the Rana Plaza factory disaster, and, apparently, I was the only journalist in Australia to do that. I’ve since become an expert. I’ve written two books about it and am working on a third. I also present a sustainable fashion podcast called Wardrobe Crisis.

Why do you think your podcast, Wardrobe Crisis, has been so popular?

People are hungry for information about sustainability and environmental issues, but they don’t want to feel stressed out by it; they want to know what to do to make change. My podcast addresses that, and it’s educational. I share what I know but I’m also learning—along with the listener—by making the show.

Listeners tell me they like its combination of access and friendliness. I do all my interviews face to face so there’s none of that distance you get from Skype. Plus I have some incredible big-names guests, like Rosario Dawson, who as well as being a movie star is one half of the sustainable fashion brand Studio 189.

What’s a trend that you’re seeing borne out of sustainability?

Transparency, and I don’t mean PVC boots. (PVC is one of the most toxic materials used for fashion). Thanks to the push for transparency, there’s now loads more publically available information about fashion’s impacts on people and planet, and what brands are doing to address these.

Then there are all the fun trends around how we consume: clothes swaps, thrifting, fashion rental, the rapid growth of the second-hand fashion market, shopping detoxes - these are all responses to the growing awareness of clothing and textiles waste. Did you know that three out of every five T-shirts bought today will end up in the bin within a year?

What is a simple change people can make to make their wardrobe more sustainable?

Start with being mindful about fashion. Unsustainable fashion comes from being thoughtless about our consumption and disconnected from its impacts, and from the people who make our clothes. Read my Wardrobe Crisis book, subscribe to the podcast, get educated about the issues.

In terms of practical tips, some easy ones are: shop local like you would with food, support home-grown indie brands that centre in on sustainable materials and practices. Up your fibre game—look for recycled or organic fibres. Slow down, reconnect, respect the clothes you do buy. And most of all, stop throwing fashion away! It’s not disposable.

For more tips on how you can actually make a difference to the environment, check out our Sustainability section.

Image credit: Georgia Blackie

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