Amelia Twine: Who is she and what does she do?
I have a long history in sustainability but primarily I worked in food for years because I grew up on an organic farm, I worked for various NGOs and found my way into hospitality. For 7 years I ran a restaurant group which did large pop-up restaurant events. Throughout that time, I was pushing this agenda of sustainability and how to change the hospitality industry to make it more sustainable. I spent 3 years in the board of directors for sustainable restaurants and association but felt as though it was time for change.
I felt as though food, especially in Bristol where I am based, was a really hot topic and I did not think I was adding much value because there were so many voices concerning it. So, I re-evaluated my life and I asked myself, how well was I living sustainably? Whenever I did buy clothes, I would go to the classic high street brands and I would always wish that they did better in terms of being sustainable. I would often shop at H&M because they had their conscience range, but nothing sat right with me.
When it came down to Sustainable fashion, it was really hard because I struggled to find the pieces that I wanted that were sustainably produced. I found myself trolling sustainable brands online because sustainable brands were mainly online and not on the high street. It is not so bad but for someone like me who hates being on computers, I found it to be a real hassle to go through pages upon pages just to find a pair of trousers or a top that I might like. From there, I decided to shift the direction of my career and open a sustainable fashion retail platform online, a project I was working on for three years.
What did the Sustainable Fashion Platform offer?
The platform created a space where people would come and find the best bits of sustainable ranges and brands and style them together. You could sift out a lot of the organic cotton t-shirts (which, there are a lot of them) and try and find statement pieces. It was all in one place and also style focused. Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the website had to close down because sales took a huge hit, and it was a good moment to take it into dormancy and focus on a new project, Sustainable Fashion Week.
Sustainable Fashion Week felt to me like the right move in my career because whilst I was running my previous platform, it was really clear to me how inaccessible it was to so many people. Equally, I felt uncomfortable that I was trying to push sales when the majority of people could not afford it. Also, concerning the narrative of sustainability, it was the same people talking about the same thing and they were primarily white women of the middle class with a higher income. So, this was the journey that led me to my current path. The issue is, Sustainable Fashion Week has been delayed many times because of the current pandemic but it will happen in September this year no matter what happens.
What is the purpose of Sustainable Fashion Week?
The intention behind it is to bring together and curate a programme that obviously informs and raises awareness. The main aim, however, is much more about the community engaging with itself about the issue. I do not think it is a realistic approach to have one voice speaking and demanding that people be sustainable. I want to inspire behavioural change through looking at what people are already doing, what skills people already have and finding ways for people to share those skills and information, so we can find alternatives to buying Fast Fashion.
Do you think Covid-19 works to push a sustainable lifestyle?
I have been hearing people say that they believe it does. I hear that it has given us a chance to really reflect on what is important. However, simultaneously, I am seeing so much about the increase of unemployment, food, and clothing poverty, I think sustainability and poverty is a complex relationship. The more people go into those challenging circumstances, the more those circumstances get more and more challenging, the less they may or may not think of sustainability as a priority. If you are trying to get by, sustainability is not as important day to day.
I have seen a lot of it in the food industry; I know eating organically is one of the ways to save us from climate change but if you cannot afford that extra price tag then sustainability becomes inaccessible. We will just have to see. We just need sustainability to be an accessible lifestyle choice for everyone.
Is the future sustainable?
I think we have a long way to go for a sustainable future because consumer demand is shifting, and brands are responding by shifting too, but it is so incremental. If we think of trying to reduce our carbon emissions by 2030, we need to take drastic actions now. Big brands are shifting and making grand statements, but I am cynical about how far they will go with the time scales they have been given. The issue is whilst there are lots of talk about it, the big brands are not discussing it enough.
The big issue here is our consumption and when it comes to responsibility, the brands are responsible; they should be leading us out of the problem because they are the ones that have been benefitting to the tune of millions of pounds for years. I do not think they will because they are looking after their shareholders before looking after the environment. Consumer habit has to shift drastically to help push brands to change their production and supply. We should also push the government to legislate big brands so they are forced to dramatically change how they produce clothing, and it should be enforced as well.
What would you do personally to bring about change?
It is ambitious but I would like to create a movement which people find engaging, accepting, and relevant which inspires them to change their fashion habits.
On the topic of movements, what inspired the relationship with Extinct Rebellion?
It was an extension of always working in sustainability, I am scared of the impacts of climate change and I have been since I was a child. There was a growing dread within me that time was going by and nothing seems to be happening quickly enough, when they popped up, I found it inspiring because they said, “enough is enough!” and took action to force people to listen. I tried to attend as many of the protest I could to increase the numbers of people protesting.
One day they asked me to be a spokesperson which I agreed to, but I hated the way I came across, so I stopped. I thought that I was portraying the kind of person that annoys me in sustainability which is that smug white middle-class well-off person. That image is a barrier to other people feeling as part of the movement.
In October 2019, I was at the London protest and that was when Boris Johnson called extinct rebellion, the uncooperative crusties which I clearly was not, so I was offended. I am someone who is worried about the future for my children. Also, there was this real wave of awareness about the singular type of person involved and the lack of diversity. It was well intentioned but if all people from all backgrounds and communities are not joining in then it is never going to work. So, I left Extinct Rebellion. Sustainable Fashion Week also came off the back of that.