Lois Hazel recently had a chat to the wonderful Sigrid McCarthy on the importance of building consumer awareness surrounding the ethics of the fashion industry. Sigrid lay out all the important aspects associated with overhauling the industry in regards to production and consumption. Sigrid also touched on the important considerations she makes when building her timeless wardrobe (Note pad and pens ready!) .
Read the full scoop bellow
Tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Sigrid McCarthy and depending on which day you ask me, I am the determined optimist or the overwhelmed pessimist. The fashion industry continues to inspire and daunt me in equal measures! I currently hold two roles within the industry - both of which advocate for a healthier, more responsible system.
My day job is at Ethical Clothing Australia, an accreditation body safeguarding local garment workers. As the Media and Communications Coordinator I promote the value of supply chain transparency and the importance of ethical business practices. My moonlight project is Intent Journal, a publication exploring the need for a more considered and deliberate relationship with what we wear. I launched this platform as a way of debunking the ethical fashion stigma. I wanted to offer people a more in-depth analysis of fashion - the psychology of consumption and the ways in which we can address our social and environmental impact. Since then I have connected with a remarkable community of people.
Outside of fashion, I am a budding gardener currently building a large scale veggie patch and greenhouse with my partner. It has been great getting away from the computer and amongst the dirt. I have no idea what I’m doing but I’m slowly learning! While my work focuses on the sustainability of fashion, my general interest lies in the bigger picture: how to be kinder to the planet. I find the romantic idea of being self sufficient and living off the grid to be super appealing, especially in the current context.
What is your favourite item in your wardrobe?
While I’ve made a conscious effort to ensure all items in my wardrobe are familiar and add some sort of value to my life, there are a few that hold a special place. I’d say my R.M.Williams boots are my current favourite, as they are built so damn well. Putting them on each time is a beautiful reminder of what quality feels like - they truly are the highest quality wearable product I’ve ever bought. (Note, this is an unsponsored plug!). I love knowing that their makers are just over in Adelaide and that they’re continuing such a beautiful craft. I’m a sucker for process and supporting local.
I also love my new Akubra hat for obvious reasons (I have peaches and cream skin that burns at even the slightest sighting of sun), and it plays out my chic country life fantasy. I can’t wait to visit my partner’s dad - who is a farmer - so I can tip my brim on arrival. Ha.
What got you into fashion, and what do you love most about the industry
It sounds terribly cliche, but my engagement in this industry started via a blog. Like most blogs, it began as a personal scrapbook of sorts for my own enjoyment, but then became a place for me to share my thoughts on the fashion industry. Back then I knew very little about the systemic issues, but wanted to explore my frustrations and concerns. Why were fashion journalists mostly focused on describing how a garment looked when the accompanying photograph did that visually? The role of fashion media was something that really interested me - I was interested in understanding its responsibility to question and influence how the industry was evolving.
In its own little way, this blog helped me gain a clearer understanding of not just the industry but also my own career path. It led to a job opportunity as a curator at a local gallery where I produced an exhibition called The Ethics of Style - showcasing both fashion illustration and garments. At the time I was also studying International Studies and, as part of my final year research project, I decided to look into the issues inherent to the Australian garment industry. Ethical Clothing Australia was an integral part of this research and they offered me an internship after I graduated. The rest is pretty much history.
What is the one thing you hope to see eliminated from the fashion industry, or a massive issue that requires attention?
There are many, but if I was to narrow it down to one I’d say the need for systemic change. The issues are too significant for tokenistic engagement - we need to seriously rethink the way we engage with fashion altogether. Consumers need to ditch the passive word consumption and become active citizens who own their buying power. Businesses need to focus on the benefits of embracing innovation and lower impact practices. Governments need to regulate and support the industry to ensure long term change. Regardless of our interest in fashion, we are all humans coexisting in a world that’s in trouble. We have a collective responsibility to address our impact, and I’d like to see mindless behaviour replaced with critical thinking.
Another one I’d like to add here, simply because it’s the elephant in the room and needs to be addressed, is that the fast fashion business model will never be sustainable. Greenpeace encapsulated this sentiment perfectly in the following quote: "Industry leaders rarely talk about the real solution: reducing the overall volume of production. All their talk about sustainable investing and innovative new materials and technologies comes under the assumption that the industry continues to grow. But unlimited growth is impossible on a planet with finite resources." I hope more people start looking at the bigger picture.
When shopping what are some of the questions you ask yourself before you purchase
I have adopted a ‘personal uniform’ as a way of addressing my daily impact. This means I bring items into my life in a deliberate way, and consider cohesive outfits as opposed to buying pieces based on their immediate appeal. I ask myself the following questions:
- Do I actually need it?
- Will it either a) serve a purpose or b) bring value to my life?
- Will it complement other garments and fit into my ‘curated wardrobe’?
- What resources were used in its construction? Is the brand transparent about this?
- Will I continue to wear it for years to come?
- If a brand uses the words ‘sustainable’ or ‘ethical’ in their marketing, I always ask them politely to explain what these words mean to their business and how they are reflected in their supply chain.
What is your favourite piece from Float
The Black Classic Slip, which is made by the beautiful Jimmy at LCN Fashion. I work with LCN as part of their Ethical Clothing Australia accreditation; they’re so passionate about they do. And of course, a black slip would complement my wardrobe perfectly :)
Well, there you have it! straight from the expert on all things slow and thoughtful fashion! Over at Lois Hazel, people like Sigrid continue to be a constant source of inspiration, pushing for change and asking the important questions. Questions that we all need to be made aware of when seeking to transform both industry practice, and consumer mentality! Massive ups to you Sigrid, and thanks for sharing your wisdom with us!
* All opinions expressed are Sigrid's personal opinions and do not reflect those of any company she is affiliated with