Respecting Nature - From Food to Fashion
I have been raised by the most wonderful and extraordinarily beautiful, kind and proud Lozi woman, from Zambia. And she often reminds me of the differences in her upbringing in Zambia versus my European one.
One thing, that has really been highlighted to me, is the respect for seasons and nature that Zambians and actually many African and developing countries still have. Maybe its due to the fact that many African countries have not yet developed mass industrialisation or maybe it's not, who knows?... But one thing I do know is that landing in an African country you will know the season by what nature produces. For instance, if you arrive in Zambia in December you will be greeted by Mangoes literally everywhere you go, it is known as mango season, you will taste the freshest and the world' best mangoes you can imagine. It is a gift of the season from nature so of course, it would be great.
Now what a sharp contrast it is here in the UK and much of the western world, where mangoes are all year round, so are avocados and strawberries, and anything really. We have all been there, following a recipe from an app we have downloaded and having realised you have run out of some essential ingredient like banana (which has never grown in the UK) we expectedly nip to the local Tesco express, Sainsburys or Waitrose. And it becomes almost offensive not to find rows of good-looking fruit and veg, bagged and neatly packed, it doesn't matter how obscure the ingredient we expect our loyal supermarket buyers to have stacked the shelves with whatever planet earth can produce, for our convenience.
Ok, so whats the problem Esther I hear you ask?
Well, the problem is the over manipulation of nature, our natural resources. Do you know what? I would love to know the season I am in, to appreciate what mother nature has gifted me. Not saying I don't appreciate having stacks of avocados in my local Sainsburys for late night guacamole but there is something almost not real about it, something not authentic. What are we playing at here? Would any school child or adult, be able to identify the season we are in purely on the basis of the products found in our supermarkets?...Not really!... We in the West are over consuming the kindness of the earth and we have to ask, is this right?...Is it ok to strip natural resources from all around the world so that I/ we can have every exotic fruit under the sun at our fingertips? What happened to travel and tasting new foods and having new experiences and respecting the seasons.
It now looks like the world is just a glorified farm for the demands of the western pallet, not only in food but in fashion too. This on-demand culture is literally killing us, it is frankly unsustainable.
From food to fashion, we are demanding and creating this gross overproduction to stay 'on trend'! This is unnatural and it is disrespectful to the wonderful world we have. I think having this distance from how nature really works is partly to blame. Nature tells us a story by season, it can produce without manipulation from human beings. But as our on-demand appetite has increased so sadly has the disrespect to nature and many of the world poorest - I mean how many fashion factories in developing countries have contributed to the deaths of workers due to the poor working conditions of the people creating clothes, you and I will wear for one season then throw away (from the world' most well-known brands).
We are in an unsustainable epidemic, greed will be the death of the West and many other regions of the world if a drastic change is not implemented. We want nature to produce and produce and produce - and mother earth is groaning, the planet is no longer a willing participant.
Thank God that we are realising now and that they are many brands and companies geared to change this sorry status.
And please don't get me wrong because I am all for inter-continental fair trade. I mean if I am in Zambia in the middle of December with an overload of mangoes and the lovely supermarket buyers in the west are willing to give me a fair price for the mangoes then why not I suppose. But let there be respect and fair trade and accountability to the natural resource we take from.
I think the fashion industry can really take lessons from the food industry, who are a few years ahead in terms of their willingness to display fair trade labelling, and to implement sustainable practice guidelines from fishing to fruit, you see a real campaign in the UK grocery stores at least to present a thoughtfulness in food sustainability. This has taken conversation and the creation of guidelines for better trade and the rise of sustainable farming practices.
I am happy that there is a change in Fashion, and of course there are many designers who are taking a stand by using sustainable materials, so lets showcase these in more retailers, lets have clear labelling and also clear guidelines as to what is sustainable and ethical in fashion and in retail rather than this ad-hoc marketing gimmick. Not only should there be a circular respect of nature in the design of our clothes but there must be a synergy between sustainable fashion brands (not just the famous luxury ones) and retailers to stock them.