Sustainable fashion or unattainable luxury? How Emma Watson has influenced our actions in the realm of ethical fashion
Sustainable and ethical fashion is an odd topic in the mainstream media. Either niche, luxuriously breaking the bank, or a snooze-fest. Coveteur have stated that it’s more likely to “prompt stifled yawns than inspire you to whip out your credit card”. Also, when it comes to celebrities, influencers and activists, it has been unusual to find awareness in the origins of their fashion choices, until recent years.
The Guardian have compiled a list of “10 household names [who] have shown their support for a more sustainable fashion industry”, placing Emma Watson at number 7. Watson has had a long and inspirational history with the fashion industry and its controversial issues with sustainability. Her interests “started in school”, according to Coveteur, and have led to her schooling us on how to be sustainable and ethical witches, wizards and magical people.
Watson has said in an interview with Coveteur, while reflecting on the start of her fashion journey, that while she was attending Saïd Business School [at Oxford University] she interviewed Dr. Alex Nicholls [Professor of Social Entrepreneurship] for one of her school projects. “He introduced me to Safia Minney, who works for People Tree in the UK. I ended up taking a big trip with her out to Bangladesh in 2010” Watson relates.
Watson’s Timeline,“one dress at a time”
As we focus on Emma Watson’s life, it is clear she has made her metaphorical stamp on the planet: from her magical acting, to feminist activism, to becoming an official ambassador to the UN. However, she also has a decade of fashion-related activism that, we think, deserves more attention.
Here are some of the highlights:
- In 2009 Emma released a clothing collection in collaboration with the high end ethical fashion label People Tree. This started her journey both literally and metaphorically.
- In 2010, Watson travelled to Bangladesh to visit the slum homes of garment factory workers. Emma also visited Fair Trade producer Swallows to see how People Tree clothing is made (as stated in a People Tree video). She further states that she met a factory worker her age but with a very different quality of life. This inspired her to carry on her activism.
- In 2014, the tragic Rana Plaza incident reignited Watson’s passion, according to a video interview with CNN Style.
- The 2016 Met Ball had Watson partake in the green carpet challenge. This meant she had to only wear sustainable pieces down the red carpet.
- 2017 was the year of the press tour of ‘Beauty and the Beast’. Watson challenged herself to try to do the whole of my… outfits for the tour as ethically as she possibly could (she stated in her interview with Ellen DeGeneres on The Ellen Show, series 14 episode 116). Watson had also set up an Instagram page (@the_press_tour). This page showcased the many ethical and sustainable outfits Watson sported throughout the tour.
- In 2018 Watson became a guest editor in Vogue Australia’s March issue.
- So far, in 2019, Watson has been working with Good on You. They’ll be rating the clothes she wears on the red carpet and beyond, so she can be have confidence that her outfits meet the highest standards of ethical practice and sustainability.
The Ripple effect
As ethical fashion becomes “officially mainstream” (according to Good On You’s Co-Founder Sandra Capponi) we can see a ripple effect grow over time. Good on You’s brand assessments, for example, have had a positive effect…
“Several of the brands [Good on You wanted to assess] commented that they found great value in our encouragement to be more transparent and our advice about how to do it. One label made the decision to publish more about their practices as a result and improve its transparency — which is a great outcome for everybody.”Sandra Capponi – Good On You co-founder, 2018
Watson has practised this impeccable transparency when it comes to what she wears and how it was made. Her Coveteur closet tour included detailed descriptions of her clothes. She notes how she “wanted to move away from calling anything ‘green,’ ‘eco,’ or ‘sustainable’… Because those words are very non-descriptive in most ways! It’s very difficult to know what they actually mean.” They also note how Watson has “been a vocal proponent of conscious dressing for years, she knows part of the power of her platform lies in not just telling, but showing.”
Also, this transparency is also clear on her Instagram as she describes, through her lengthy captions, how the garment she sports in her pictures were produced.
So, Watson has had a largely inspirational decade of fashion activism, using her power to persuade, influence, and transform. But how exactly can we transform ourselves? On her Instagram page, the grandeur and luxury of her garments can make her life seem worlds away. Watson’s fans may not be able to spend £2,000 on a Gabriel Hearst outfit or request that Dior make a gown from organic silk (or an “eco-age fabric” as one of the designers called it).
However, Watson does bring attention to the fact that a sustainable wardrobe can be difficult:
“I think young people like me are becoming increasingly aware of the humanitarian issues surrounding fast fashion. We want to make good choices, but there aren’t many options out there.”Emma Watson in The Times UK 2011 (according to a Trusted Clothes article)
Also, the price of these luxury garments may seem too steep. But, Watson has stated that she is “really surprised at the research [she’s] done, that there are actually items that are affordable.”
The ‘reuse’ mindset
Watson has also noted the importance of reusing clothes. She stresses that an ethical wardrobe “can be a lot simpler than people think. People forget about vintage and secondhand clothes a lot”. Watson also stated that consumers should ask themselves “would [I] wear [an item of clothing] thirty times?” before purchasing it. This would allow us to put a stop to throwing clothing away, damaging the planet in the process.
Furthermore, Watson has shown her involvement with reusable fashion in her video interview with CNN Style. While reviewing her Met Ball outfit, she states that she “tried to create a dress which had lots of different elements which [she] would be able to reuse”.
Good on You has also noted, in their article about her collaboration with Vogue, that “Emma’s cover shoot with renowned photographer Peter Lindbergh sees her dressed in labels Good on You has rated as being more ethical, along with carefully selected vintage pieces — highlighting the importance of re-purposing high-quality items.”
Velvet Mirage also note that, according to Emma Watson, the future of fashion should be about innovation. We couldn’t agree more!
So, we’ve established that Emma Watson is a conscious activist Queen who is “changing the world one dress at a time”. But what can we learn from this decade of activism? Among the beautiful gowns and inspirational messages, here is what we think we can learn from Watson’s words and actions:
As a consumer, is it difficult to create an ethical wardrobe. But, the dedication to the cause is what truly matters. We have the power to change the industry as consumers, if we become aware of what we buy and consciously move towards a more sustainable future. We know we will.
Glass Clothing centres around the idea of transparency, so we admire Watson’s journey; constant transparency and messages that influence more consumers and fans to make similar choices. We provide information on our tailors in Pakistan, so that you can be sure of the origins of your clothes.