How can we reimagine the traditional role of fashion designers in a world filled with fashion waste? And how can we rethink our primary role as consumers in a way that allows us to become contributors to collective wellbeing instead?
It’s no secret that we live in a world with far too much clothing. If we are to work towards a more sustainable fashion industry, we need to unpack the ways that fashion brands and designers can pivot away from the mainstream business model of take-make-waste and embrace alternative sustainable fashion business models that limit waste. And our mindset as consumers plays a pivotal role in this too.
In this episode, we hear from Mahdiyyah Muhammad who is a sustainable fashion designer (MAHDIYYAH / @mahdiyyahofficial), circular fashion strategist, and educator. We’re talking about the realities of designing, building a business, and engaging with fashion and style in our current fashion system where all we need is less — less resource extraction, less consumption, less clothing waste, less focus on passing trends, and less exclusivity.
But, as you will hear from Mahdiyyah, to make this happen, we need more community. Cultivating community is essential for sharing resources and ideas, and creating meaningful connections, as well as making the slow fashion movement more accessible and inclusive.
Listen to This Episode:
Highlights From This Conversation
Rethinking the traditional role of fashion designers
“We should approach the design process completely differently. This should also be integrated into school curriculum and learning. With the process being so focused on the need to create and satisfy the trending consumer desires, using clothing waste as a resource instead definitely helps in showing people how to design with the end in mind, instead.
We have more than enough clothing and fashion has a waste crisis. Designers have the responsibility to consider the ways we can create more intentionally with the end in mind.” – Mahdiyyah (00:02:37)
How language can make the slow fashion movement more inclusive
“What’s now called ‘sustainability’ and ‘upcycling’ are practices I learned in my household as a way of life. Making do with what we had was just something my mom did, much like many other elders historically have too. It’s nothing new.
Yet, when I teach my workshops, a lot of the elders who join don’t know the commercialized words like ‘sustainability’, ‘eco-friendly’, and ‘upcycling’. But then I start to explain to them that their original practices that were passed down for generations are what people are calling this now — then they get it.
Language has a way of uniting people, but it can also exclude and alienate whoever doesn’t know the language.” – Mahdiyyah (00:06:17)
Is it possible to scale slow fashion businesses without encouraging overconsumption?
“It’s definitely possible to run a slow fashion business, but the scaling part is where it gets tricky. This is because we don’t need more clothes or fashion brands.
To scale in the traditional sense would be harmful to the environment. As designers, I think it’s time for us to stop thinking about designing clothing as a scalable is like and instead time start to consider other ways we can be of service in this industry.” – Mahdiyyah (00:18:30)
Broadening our identities from “consumers” to “contributors”
“Moving away from being a consumer to being a contributor is about asking what: how can I be of service to something? I think that’s important. We’re socialized to take and take and take, especially from the planet. Now it is time to consider how we can be of service.
We need to challenge ourselves to reflect on how we can contribute to spaces without always having a transactional mindset, because transactional thinking is based capitalistic.” – Mahdiyyah (00:37:42)
How can we get in touch with our creativity
“I always tell people to get curious. Get curious about how things are made, and where things come from, and ask all the questions about why things are the way they are. Take classes and workshops and research those random facts that pop up in your head. I guarantee you, somewhere along that process, creativity will just hit you like a ton of bricks, because, whenever I’ve researched or learned about something, it always opens up my mind to all these other hallways and avenues on the way to the answer.” – Mahdiyyah (00:33:29)
Links From This Episode
- Online Platform: Conscious Fashion Collective
- Online Community: Conscious Fashion Collective Membership
- Organization: Fashion Takes Action
- Podcast Episode: EP17: More Creativity, Less Consumption: Tips from Slow Fashion Stylist Alyssa Beltempo
- Podcast Episode: EP83: What is Circular Fashion Design? With Carmen Gama
- Podcast Episode: Black Material Geographies: Colonialism’s Afterlife & Upcycling Fashion
- Database: Upcycle Web Directory
- Website: Threads of Habit
- Article: 7 Alternative Sustainable Fashion Business Models Changing the Status Quo
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