Katharine Hamnett calls for big change in fashion system at Pure
As keynote speaker on day one of Pure London, Katharine Hamnett showed she still knows how to make waves and her appearance at the tradesheow at the weekend saw her laying into the fashion system for being complicit in the poverty of millions of farmers and workers worldwide.
Wearing her Second Referendum Now T-shirt (free samples of which she also handed out to the audience), she offered some solutions and called for a reinvention of UK manufacturing and also for the same standard to be applied to all products imported from outside the EU as those that come from within the trading bloc.
“In the 1980s no-one knew there was anything wrong with the fashion industry,” she said. “That has changed now, a lot of brands are changing, but a lot aren’t. Brands are unwilling because it puts up their costs. But consumer power is forcing the issue now.”
And she believes that with more robust standards in place within the EU - which extends to workers rights and the environment - the same approach needs to be taken globally.
“My overall solution is to insist on the same standards from goods outside the EU as the standards set inside the EU or they aren’t allowed in,” she explained. “It would create a level playing field, help clean up the environment, would mean the same health and safety and labour standards, and also make the EU more competitive.”
But while that might seem to suggest that she feels the situation in which most UK brands and stores now outsource their production means the end of manufacturing at home, that’s not the case.
She feels more needs to be done to re-industrialise the UK, but this time embracing renewable energy and new technology. And rather than what she clearly sees as a mistaken retreat from Europe leading to deals with 'cheap' manufacturing countries further afield, she thinks we can “make Britain great again” though a mixture of new thinking and legislation.
“We can start again as a manufacturing country. We need to start from scratch but do it completely sustainably, change the old business model and unnecessary profit-making,” she said. “But this must come from the top, it is the responsibility of the CEOs and boards of directors to make the changes. Businesses need to be arm-wrestled by legislation, we’ve had 30 years of choice and now we need laws.”
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