How To Build A Wardrobe That Puts People And The Planet First
In the mad digital maelstrom that is the 2020s, it’s easy to feel that our lives and decisions are largely mediated by external factors. Arcane algorithms that decide what the news looks like. Data-driven advertising that caters to our every hypothetical want, often before we’ve had the chance to think about whether we really want anything at all.
When it comes to fashion, the feeling is similar: we know there is a large and inscrutable system that enables and encourages us – sometimes unnecessarily – to upgrade our wardrobes with shiny new items every season, or every month or even every week. And we may not really like that system, but more often than not, we just… sort of put up with it. When these external factors are so vast, so omnipresent, so deeply embedded in our culture, the question is: what can you do?
Of course, the truth is you can do something. A lot, actually. As consumers of fashion, we’re often taught to feel powerless. But it’s worth remembering that, as a shopper, it’s your decisions that really matter. When you make conscious choices about what you buy, you can be more certain of the impact your actions will have upon the world, but you can also be certain that you will be sending a clear message to the fashion hive mind. That message being: “Ahem, this is what I want!”
As you come to terms with the changes to the world, it’s likely that you want something very different. In The State Of Fashion 2021, a report by McKinsey and the Business of Fashion, the authors note that the pandemic has both “accelerated a pre-existing critique of consumerism” and “increased the importance of sustainability in purchasing decisions”. The report also suggests, in a more general sense, the prevalence of a “less is more” approach to fashion – the necessity, both in terms of profit and in terms of the environment, for brands to make fewer, better products.
It is why we at MR PORTER are delighted to present Small World, a new collection in which we champion artisans from around the globe, from Nigeria to Mexico, that are making small-batch products in more responsible, more sustainable and more transparent ways – and putting local communities and generations of craft at the heart of what they do.
The designers and brands in Small World approach their products very differently. Some, like the NYC-based fashion brand Double Eleven, focus on repurposing and recycling military textiles that would otherwise go to waste. Others, such as Istanbul’s Bornn, which specialises in traditional Turkish enamelware, reimagine time-honoured skills to create positive social impacts in their local areas.
Names such as Santa Fe’s Peyote Bird, London’s Emma Willis and Japan’s Auralee, will already be familiar to frequent shoppers on MR PORTER. Others, such as the innovative project SPACE AVAILABLE, which creates furniture and accessories from woven recycled plastic waste in Bali, are brand new to us.
Each of the brands included in the Small World capsule has been rigorously assessed according to MR PORTER’s Craftsmanship Code, a new set of precepts that we have developed in collaboration with sustainability experts Create Sustain.
Our Craftsmanship Code is about reimagining the idea of craft as a force for positive change in how fashion is produced and consumed. “Traditional values of craft, such as heritage, artisanship and provenance often equate to a slower more considered approach to product creation,” says Create Sustain creative director Mr Alex McIntosh. “But the Craftsmanship Code also requires that human, animal and environmental welfare are central to a brand’s ethos and their production process.”
The Small World brands not only align with The Craftsmanship Code, they go above and beyond, and therefore represent the best of the best in this field – whether in using more considered materials, like US hemp champions Jungmaven, preserving crucial local skills like Mr Yuki Matsuda’s Mexican-made clothing line Chamula, or creating products with the intention that they last, like London’s only remaining denim studio, Blackhorse Lane Ateliers. Because each brand is committed to working with their own local challenges and opportunities, each one has a very different story – the beauty of them all is there is no easy way to sum them up.
Small World and our new edit of Craftsmanship Code-approved products are two of a number initiatives that we’re launching in 2021 to mark MR PORTER’s 10th anniversary. More importantly, they set a course for how we want to do business in the decades to come.
“It’s about responsibility,” says Mr Sam Kershaw, MR PORTER’s Buying Director. “We have a very powerful platform and a big, qualified audience. And we should use that platform to convey the messages that we think are important. With Small World, we’re giving artisans from around the world a voice that they wouldn’t normally have, and we’re able to help people make informed decisions about why things are made the way they are.”
To put it in even simpler terms, the launch of the Small World collection and the introduction of our Craftsmanship Code mark a permanent change in the way that we’re thinking about the things we buy, sell and recommend. And, crucially, they still offer a wide variety of options for anyone looking to make more conscious purchases when it comes to their clothes, shoes, accessories, homeware and grooming products.
“Every time you buy something, or don’t buy something, you should think of it as voting with your wallet,” says McIntosh. “As a customer, you have a right to ask questions and to get a satisfactory answer to those questions. It doesn’t just have to be about size, fit and price – it can also be about how things are made, where they are made and who they are made by. It’s tempting to fall into the trap of believing that individuals have no power to change corporations but that is a bit like saying your vote has no power to change government. It’s evidently not true.”
It’s a small world, after all – and the superb products in this collection should make us feel grateful for that — but we all have a big part to play.