Sustainable Fashion in 7 Questions with Olivia Pinnock

Sustainable Fashion in 7 Questions with Olivia Pinnock

May 15, 2018

  1. Tell us a little about yourself and what you do?

I’m a fashion journalist and lecturer and two years ago I founded The Fashion Debates, a series of talks around ethical issues affecting the fashion industry. Our past topics have included the environmental impact of fashion, vegan fashion, race discrimination in the industry, and the prevalence of unpaid work and internships.  

Fashion Debates

  1. Everyone has an unexpected luxury - or a different way of defining luxury. What does luxury mean to you? What do you consider to be a luxury that others might not?

I think the definition of luxury is changing all the time as what we place value on changes and I’m excited to see the shift that is happening in sustainability going from ‘dowdy’ to ‘desirable’. For me, objects that have a meaningful story behind them are the things that get my heart racing. Whether that’s a very personal story like a dress I own that was my grandma’s from the 60s, or if that’s the story of a group of women refugees making something beautiful out of their pain. The items themselves could be easily replicated, but the story adds something beyond aesthetics.   

  1. What is the most environmentally or socially positive project you have ever worked on?

I’m much happier spreading the word about other people’s environmentally and socially positive projects! I’m very jealous of creative people. That’s why I work in fashion, because I think the people who work in it are just incredible. If you want to do something with a positive impact, you have to look at what skills you have and what your role can feasibly be. I’m a communicator so I write about the amazing sustainable fashion brands I love, I give them a platform to speak about it through The Fashion Debates, and I encourage my students to engage with sustainability. For me, it’s not so much ‘projects’ but a continuous thread through all of my work.

  1. Do you think the future of apparel is sustainable? Why? Why not?

Absolutely. Quite simply because it has to be or there is no future at all. There’s still a really long way to go but when you think about the rise in consumer awareness of the issue, the conversation being addressed in major fashion brands and in governments around the world, the depletion of resources, the growth of sustainably run brands, the media hype around the urgency to save our planet, the investment in technology that could make the industry more sustainable, how could the future not be sustainable?

  1. Do you have a piece of clothing or an accessory that you have had forever - a completely indispensable classic?

I adore vintage clothing so actually quite a large percentage of my wardrobe is older than me! However, one particular item of clothing that springs to mind is a pair of high street jeans that I bought from a second-hand clothing store when I was 14. They have this crazy turquoise beading pattern and cut-out shapes up the entire length of the leg. Many would argue that isn’t exactly what you’d call a ‘classic’ but I have worn them at every age and, actually, they’ve never been particularly ‘fashionable’, but they always get compliments every time I wear them.   

My Jeans

  1. Tell us about the last thing you bought which would be considered socially or environmentally sustainable. Why did you choose it?

Probably the last socially sustainable thing I bought would be fairtrade tea!  Clipper is my favourite brand, it’s great quality and fits with my personal values as well as personal tastes (earl grey!).   

  1. If you could make one change in your own industry, to make it better, what would that be?

Oh boy, big question! I think I would like to see a shift in focus on brands existing just to make money, to considering what else brands can do. I think  that would resolve an awful lot of issues. Of course, they still need to make money, that’s essential to survival, but I’d like to see brands measured by investors in how many people they give good quality jobs to, what their designs contribute to culture and the global conversation, what innovations they’ve spearheaded, what causes they use their influence to champion, and what they do to better their industry and move it forward. I can’t think of  anything more boring than the aim after turning over £10m being to turn over £50m!

Olivia Pinnock

*Photo of Olivia by JC Candanedo, Photo of Fashion Debates by Jordan Wharf Young.