Beyond Vivienne Westwood: Fashion brands that are changing the world

by Celine Semaan Vernon

Join us at AIGA NY on Tuesday, October 20th!

A lively discussion about bridging design and fashion to create social and environmental change. Moderated by Ahmed Shihab-Eldin and featuring these two trailblazers:

Miki Agrawal, co-founder and CEO of THINX, a high-tech underwear solution for women with periods. She and her partners also teamed up with AFRIpads in Uganda to fund a pack of washable cloth pads for every pair of THINX underwear sold to get millions of girls back in school. Forbes wrote an article that went viral in May of 2015.

Celine Semaan Vernon, is founder and CEO of Slow Factory, a mission-driven design boutique mixing open data and activism with high-end fashion design. Each collection is developed in partnership with an internationally-recognized NGO working in the environmental or human rights sectors and is aimed to inspire us to slow down and look at the big picture – we are after all, just floating in space. She is also co-founder of Le Design Team.

Our moderator Ahmed Shihab-Eldin is an Emmy-nominated journalist, social-media addict & news producer, founding member of HuffPost Live, and one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 “young disruptors, innovators and media entrepreneurs impatient to change the world.”

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Ahmed Shihab-Eldin has been sent to Palestine as VICE correspondent. To replace him, we have his colleague Sami Emory, Sami Emory writes for The Creators Project, VICE’s arts and culture section, with a focus on female artists, and is currently completing a thesis at NYU on the work of Iraqi Bloggers during the Iraq War.

Filed under: aiga ny event fashion activism panel

Green is the new denim (take two)

by Celine Semaan Vernon

This post is referring to "Green is the new Denim" written by Vanessa Friedman.

The magic combo Pharrell + Adidas + Parley = Green Power

Adidas announced that it had signed a five-year “seven figure” contract to team up with an organization called Parley for the Oceans, which was created to publicize and tackle the problem of ocean plastic. Credit via Parley for the Oceans

The Information Age and open data has made the reality behind fast fashion and mass productions and encouraged mass consumption impossible to deny or ignore (especially after the Rana Plaza factory collapsed). We have reached a new level of awareness and of internet connected consciousness. Large companies now invest in green strategies and review their ethics as everything is now in the transparent culture of the web.

From reality shows exposing fashion bloggers to what goes on behind the scenes of their favorite disposable fashion items to this startup selling $2 T-shirts to expose the reality behind cheap garments, the message is clear: someone has to unfortunately pay the price and the system we have in place currently protects the most privileged in a given situation. The garment workers pay the expensive price of cheap labor.

A few weeks ago, Sarah Maslin Nir wrote a poignant essay about the Price of Nails exposing the not so glamorous Nail industry in New York city with heartbreaking interviews describing the real situation workers are living under. This article went viral at the time when most of us were very much looking forward a nice Mani-Pedi before sandal season. This information brought light to the mass and awareness about the price of luxury. There is no such thing as cheap luxury. But we have been conditioned to bargain and pay the lowest price possible to get high quality products — this always goes with a bigger cost: human conditions or the environment.

This is why we exist. This very reason. There is a way (hardest road, I agree) to chose to manufacture goods that are both fair-trade and eco-friendly at the same time without compromising detail, design, quality or craftsmanship. The cost is higher but the bigger cost and overall risk on the Planet is way lower. Because things take time to be made and have an inevitable impact on the environment. This is our very mission. To grow our product offerings sustainably, with the least impact on our planet with always the most respect for our workers.

Filed under: fashion fashion activism green slow fashion sustainable

Slow Factory + WWF: Beyond the Image

by Celine Semaan Vernon

Our latest collection comes in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), in support of their vital conservation efforts including Oceans, Fresh Water and Forestry projects and featuring archival NASA imagery of the earth printed onto 100% fine silk twill. Rather than observing these projects from afar, we wanted to support them in a unique and stylish way, using fashion as a medium to inspire change, both behaviorally and ecologically. In order to have the greatest impact we can while supporting initiatives that drive us, we’re focusing on three major efforts that, though incredibly important, can be rather intimidating in their scale. While we all have some understanding of issues like degrading natural resources and global climate change, it can be tough to truly connect and figure out how to drive change in small but impactful ways. Why not with a utilitarian statement, wrapping yourself in sustainably sourced silk, printed with the places of the earth that contribute to our well being? We asked, we created.

Luckily we’re in good company, and the industry is making strides in support of conscious fashion without compromising style. As a result, more people demand to know where their things come from and people like us decide to give them good answers. Trends are meaningless and sustainability is meaningful, so we work hard to manufacture sustainably, understanding where our collections are made and how they affect the stunning, precious earth that they portrayed. The devil’s in the details, and we’ve broken them down to shed a little light on what inspires our work, and the realities that drive us to create a beautiful yet impactful product.

The Global Ocean Program: Oceans sustain life. They cover 71% of our planet’s surface, make up 95% of all the space available to life, produce 70% of our oxygen, absorb heat and re-distribute it around the world, and dominate the world's weather systems. From the freezing Polar Regions to the warm waters of the tropics they are home to incredible iconic marine species such as sharks, turtles, whales and more. Oceans are also critical for people, as a source of food, culture, and history. They support 1 billion people who rely on fish as an important part of their diet and more than 520 million livelihoods who rely on fishing and fishing related activities for income and food.

WWF’s oceans work focuses on healthy and resilient marine ecosystems that support abundant biodiversity, sustainable livelihoods, and thriving economies.

The Global Freshwater Program: This can sometimes seem abstract, but the reality is that nearly half the world’s population will be living under severe water scarcity by 2030 if no new policies are introduced. This makes sense considering just 3% of water on the planet is freshwater, and only 1% is readily available for human use. With just under 1 billion people still without access to clean and safe drinking water, there’s a lot we can do.

The Forest Conservation Program: The focus of WWF’s work for half a century, conserving forests is the single largest and relatively cheapest thing we can do to limit the impact of climate change—one of the greatest threats to humankind ever known. The Ecological Footprint, which tracks humanity’s competing demands on resources, currently exceeds, meaning our lifestyles are unsustainable. If we maintain current resource use, we will need the equivalent of two planets by 2030.

To interpret and highlight these programs, we’ve depicted NASA images curated by Slow Factory founder, Celine Semaan, of regions of the earth unique in their offerings of both endangered wildlife and natural land formations. Ten percent of the proceeds of your purchase will go towards World Wildlife Fund’s vital global conservation efforts that require major attention. There’s nothing more stylish than teaming together to make great change.

 

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Written by Emilie Hawtin for Slow Factory™

*10% of the retail purchase price of this limited edition scarf will be donated to WWF’s global conservation efforts between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2016. Slow Factory is proud to make a minimum contribution of $15,000 to WWF through this effort.

© 1986 Panda symbol WWF-World Wide Fund For Nature (also known as World Wildlife Fund).

® “WWF” is a WWF Registered Trademark.

 

© 1986 WWF-Fonds mondial pour la nature (aussi connu sous le nom de World Wildlife Fund), symbole du panda.

® « WWF » est une marque déposée du WWF.

Filed under: cipriana quann fashion activism made in italy silk tk wonder urban bush babes world wildlife fund wwf

Can Fashion & Activism Change the World?

by Celine Semaan Vernon

We believe that Fashion + Activism can facilitate change

It may be a little difficult to imagine that a fashion company was born out of NASA Satellite & Telescope images. It is even maybe even harder to imagine that this same company has a social message. That can raise awareness about Global Climate Change or empowering women in refugee camps. And yet, it is happening and it is making a significant change! What is coming next at Slow Factory is moving forward with our series of partnerships with Humanitarian & Environmental Organisations where we can weave in our work (no pun intended) a solid network and an innovating way to contribute and facilitate change in the world.

Filed under: ANERA dignity fund fashion activism

Demanding Dignity

by Celine Semaan Vernon

 

"It was cool - we basically brought all these people from the "front lines" of the uprisings together and put their stories in a book and tried to connect their stories and have a time capsule of this moment when there was hope, despite struggle etc. and the one thing uniting everyone was a demand for dignity. Hence the title!" – Ahmed Shihab-Eldin 

Filed under: fashion activism

Fair Trade is Not Enough

by Celine Semaan Vernon

A story about giving

When I was three years old, my family and I fled Lebanon. The violence and chaos had engulfed my hometown, Beirut. My father decided we’d immigrate to Canada. This journey was very stressful and uncertain; traveling as a refugee is particularly painful.

Our new life in Montreal was mostly peaceful, yet I was aware that the violence I’d experienced back home hadn’t stopped. We regularly called home – when the phone lines worked – and we received cassette tapes from family members filled with tears and often, bad news. We sent cassettes back to them and tried to send them joy by singing songs, but my mother would always end up locking herself in her room to cry.

My endless quest for the meaning of home and identity has made me into an explorer, an artist and a scientist. I restlessly create drawings, paintings, plays, performances and videos. Creating is a necessity. As Louise Bourgeois puts it, “Art is a guarantee of sanity”.

“Art is the guarantee of sanity” – Louise Bourgeois



I am an artist who found a way to be a designer by trade. I stumbled into design as an information architect and user experience designer, putting people, behavior and culture at the centre of the design practice and methodology. Humans fascinate me.

My work as a designer has made me question purpose, meaning and function in everything I make. My approach is to create a production process and products that are not harmful to the environment or to people, and that are meaningful and eternal. I did not attend design school; I learned everything on the Internet. I belonged to the culture movement of open standards, open source, open licensing: the Open Web.

In those days, contemplating pixels was a form of meditation for me. It allowed my restless mind and my anxious spirit to settle. I began collecting open-licensed NASA images. The nebulas, the planets, the chaotic patterns of city lights – they replaced my thoughts with a sense of connectedness to the world around me.

 

I decided to explore ways to make this feeling accessible to others through the power of open data and fashion – I wanted to combine these to reflect on trends and culture. Coming from the Internet and the awareness that “everything is a remix”, I mixed the two together and created Slow Factory two years ago.

We operated as an eco-business from the start; our approach was to use less water, work with organic dyes and operate with fair wage factories. I knew this was not enough – after all, fair trade should be the norm. Everything you make returns to earth either as food or as poison.

The world is chaotic as it is, we must care – because without it, we do not exist.

Recently I have seen my friend Bassel Kartabil jailed in Syria, read about children dying in Gaza and felt fearful for my parents in Lebanon every time there was an explosion in Beirut. Powerlessness is unbearable. Then I saw Alexander Gerst tweet ‘Gaza by Night’, alongside his caption,

“The saddest image I took from Space”

I felt the urge to see it on fabric. I decided to expand Slow Factory’s purpose, to do whatever we can to improve the lives of refugee families. The result was to create the Dignity Fund. We’ve partnered with a leading humanitarian aid organization, ANERA and are giving 10% of our sales to a Fund that will distribute basic survival kits to refugees in the West Bank, Gaza and Lebanon. We’re also working to tell the stories of those living in conflict, connecting the people who purchase our scarves with those they’re helping. We all share the same planet, and we must all give back.

Filed under: fashion activism