Ecofeminism + Fashion: Theme Exploration#

What is Ecofeminism#


Interview Profession Organization Location
Natali Euale Anthropologist / Anarchist Organization OPIRG Canada
Barbara Sanchez Urbano Designer / Environmental Activist Fabricademy Spain
Brenna Quinlan Permaculture / Environmental Activist Individual Artist Australia
Claudia Szerakowski Fashion Sustainability Consultant Eco Intelligent Growth Spain


Natali Euale: Violence on the Lands#

Anthropology: Indigenous + Environmental Rights and Sovereignty#

The way I got involved in environmental and indigenous rights policies was when I was 21 studying at Guelph University. I got very involved in the Guelph anti-pipeline movement – an indigenous solidarity work with grassroots movements – working as allies to other indigenous groups and BC based indigenous communities. I specialize, as an anthropologist, in indigenous rights and sovereignty. Once I engaged in support efforts for land defenders I began to understand what indigenous knowledge systems are impacted by environmental degradation.

Loss of Nature Based Knowledge Systems:#

Violence on the land eradicates nature based knowledge systems of observing natural habits or patterns and human lifestyles based on environmental cycles.

The extensive resource extraction through many forceful and drastic methods, such as fracking, to facilitate the acquisition of fossil fuel based materials, the rapid environmental degradation in indigenous and surrounding lands drastically alters the way they live. The land is unrecognizable thus the verbal passing down of land based history, burial sites and moral or archetypal stories of a clan are slowly lost. If a river or lake tied to a specific event of story is destroyed, there is no longer tangible access to this knowledge by the people. This in time will affect how humans and in particular indigenous communities pass on knowledge systems.

Autonomity and skill sharing has long been a threat to the capitalist establishment, as people who can thrive from the land without subscribing to our current economic system demonstrate that there are alternate ways of living, which for a social economic system based on greed is dangerous. Corporations then forcibly buy out indigenous communities from their land, this however is not real consent as the poor find themselves in an impossible position to fight for their land, and this is coercion.

Because the land and climate have changed so much, cherry picking or seal hunting is not accessible anymore; they have lost these cultural practices. They have lost techniques of making traditional clothes for their families made from seal skins because the skins are so thin, so they subscribe to the capitalist ways of textile and clothing consumption, perpetuating the oppression of garment workers in developing countries and the plundering of the ecosystem due to unethical textile industry practices. Animals for hunting are becoming more and more rare to find which means supporting the oppression of migrant workers, factory farming and the extraction of fuel which is necessary for food transportation to their supermarkets.

Violence Toward Women in Extraction Sites#

Violence on indigenous lands also perpetuates gender based violence toward indigenous women, binary spirited or transgendered peoples by male field workers. “Man camps” are settlements of seasonal workers in these lands, often in correlation to an underground sex trading of indigenous women, where abduction, rape and murder of these women takes place seldom to be investigated by government agencies.

Women are the ones who take care of the children; they often eat less if there isn’t enough food for the family. Most indigenous communities at some point used to be matriarchic, meaning women held the clan and the title to a specific land. The violence inflicted on indigenous women through rape and murder that is perpetuated by a patriarchal capitalist system is a frightening tactic for slowly abolishing indigenous status and therefore indigenous rights and territories, as becomes more difficult to prove an individual’s indigenous identity.

This is a form of ongoing colonization, up and coming generations of indigenous peoples cannot relate to what it means to be indigenous to a land and environment anymore because the links with those environments are lost. The sense responsibility, of needing to protect and nurture ecosystems is suppressed by a capitalist mentality which is imposed globally, this is a colonized mind.

Crafting and attaining access to natural materials takes time, there are a lot of contributing factors to making just one object such as a traditional drum from dear hide – the state of the land, the rivers, the age of the animal, the plants, the previous generations of this animal which evolved trough time to allow that being to give its life for a community which needs the use of all of its parts to sustain nature based way of life.

Nature: A Sentient Entity#

A lot of people who live off the land think of the land and its creatures as their relatives, nature should be respected as sentient, it has been evolving systems for much longer than humans. We need a new perspective which goes beyond our personal needs for survival and sees nature as an living system or entity of its own right. This perception shift can only come if we cherish the traditional knowledge of indigenous groups who have been observing other beings, their interactions with one another and the environment. We are restricting ourselves to an existence that is solely human based, it is necessary to revaluate the connections we can create with other beings.

Barbara Sanchez Urbano: Advocacy for Biodiversity#

Art + Design + Fashion: Environmental and Non-Human Animal Advocacy#

Women in Agriculture and Building Sustainable Futures#

As Dr. Vandana Shiva states, there is a large necessity in closing the gap or loop between those who grow and harvest crops and those who consume them, whether it is in food or clothing or any other basic need product, to properly combat climate issues. The average consumer does not take into account the seeds, soil, farmers and producers and a whole line of processes and systems put into place to get a service or product conveniently to them at a literally impossible price. This disconnect is at the root of the ecological crisis we are currently facing which is mass consumerism, caused by a relentless capitalist system and lack of production transparencies. Within a corporate agenda, environmentalism is viewed as a problem because it interferes with unrestricted capital growth, yet this is paradoxical as the very foundation of every economic activity is natural resources – rivers, land, forests and biodiversity. Monoculture (replacing natural forests with the planting and harvesting of a single crop) is destroying food systems, turning fertile soil into chemically over-treated soil, and creating foods which effects on the body are not fully understood yet. At a global level a billion people are going hungry, a million children die every year for lack of food, studies show that in the tribal areas which existed before industrialization there was no dramatic hunger but now there is.

Capitalist corporations have many ways to monopolize and thusly prevent multiplication of seed (genetic engineering, terminator seeds, patenting which makes it illegal for farmers to save their own seeds), all of which are factors contributing to farmer suicides which have become more commonplace in the last decade from stresses caused by high cost seeds, high cost chemicals, debt and indebtedness.

Globally, especially in developing countries, women play a predominant role in agricultural production and the managing of household economies. Consequently, women are among the most vulnerable to draughts, storms, floods, and other environmental harms. Ten percent of people across the world lack access to potable water. In many developing countries the burden of providing drinking water is placed on women (according to worldwide health organization) 3/4s of households without access to drinking water task women and girls with the responsibility of collecting it. This can mean walking miles and carrying heavy loads of water that often may still be contaminated. It is estimated that women and girls spend up to 6 hours per day collecting water – the equivalent to a full time job. This impacts girls’ ability to go to school and consequently their upward social mobility within society. As extreme weather events increase water scarcity, the lives and livelihoods of women and girls will suffer first.

Claudia Szerakowski: Fast Fashion’s Ecological Footprint#

Sustainability Consulting: Cradle to Cradle certification + Circular Systems for Fashion#

I’ve been fascinated with environmentalism and sustainability since I was 14, it never made sense to me how we do things and how calm society is about the destruction to the planet.

During my Master’s degree in Industrial Ecology, I learned about the problems of the fashion industry and decided to specialize in it. I have worked on my own and other startups in the Netherlands to help facilitate the transition to a circular fashion business model, one in which we not only redesign garments so that they last as long as possible, but one in which garments can be recycled at the end of life, thus designing out waste. Furthermore, it includes repairing products that are well-loved, and using alternative business models, such as renting and swapping, to reduce the demand.

Right now I work with Eco Intelligent Growth in Barcelona, which is a Cradle to Cradle certified assessor. Cradle to Cradle (C2C) is one of the most comprehensive certifications out there, since it covers material health, material reutilization, energy and water usage, and social fairness. We help big brands with the C2C design principles to create products that do good on an individual level, and to start to shift the whole system. It is a practical step that companies can take towards a circular fashion system, which tends to still be theoretical.

Consumerism: An Environmental Disconnect#

There is a large disconnect between consumerism and implications for the environment, but it is not the fault of the consumers. The industry hides a lot of information on where and how their products are produced, because they know that if the consumers find out, they won’t be happy. But the biggest disconnection is between consumers and themselves!

As a modern society, we are disconnected from our hearts, our bodies, our real desires because of societal, capitalist beliefs and values that are instilled in us. We are told that external products will fulfill our needs, and this is what drives the fast fashion engine. Once we focus on our true desires-connection, joy, love- and feel these from the inside out, we realize we don’t need all that materialist consumption to fulfill us.

Concious Design: A Necessary Paradigm Shift#

We do not realize how much energy, effort, skill, and resources go into one garment. When you really know, you will immediately feel that buying a t-shirt for $4 is not equal to its true value. But it is changing in some places, mostly Northern Europe. More and more people are joining Fashion Revolution and other organizations in asking “who made my clothes?” because they want to know!

One of the main paradigm shifts that is needed from my perspective is the shift from masculine (disconnected from the heart, money-focused) to feminine principles (love, compassion, softness). Once we as women start to embody and take back our power, to speak up, and to act for our desires- clothing that helps the environment and other women in foreign countries- change starts to happen.

As female consumers increase their spending power, they also get to decide where that money goes, and we want to make sure our money is being spent on brands that are making good quality items with love. And brands who do provide transparency are being rewarded! It is a proven fact that companies who bring sustainability into their core business do better than companies who don’t. Take Stella McCartney for example, who bought back all the shares from Kering and is now private and doing badass, pioneering things.

Female consumers are organizing and boycotting, designers are changing jobs to more sustainable companies, and garment workers are striking. From what I see, women are leading this counter-movement against fast fashion: almost all of the project leads within the fashion brands that work with C2C are women who read the C2C book a few years back and are now pushing for it within the companies they work for.