Lena Hartog: “Evolving the fashion industry with Slow Fashion”

Dutch Lena Hartog is 29 years old and lives in Amsterdam, where she has been committed to the climate for several years. She participated in a wide variety of campaigns to transform our production and consumption methods. Then she found her subject: the fashion industry. Today she is the head of the “Slow Fashion Movement”.

Changearth Project is a series of portraits of young people committed to ecological transition, across Europe. This project, co-created by two students, Astrid and Carla, aims to highlight these young people who are committed to climate and biodiversity and to inspire others to do the same. WE DEMAIN will publish one of these committed portraits once a week throughout the summer.

Activism, an activity in itself?

Lena first became aware of social inequalities through her master’s degree in sociology. Then she became aware of the climate emergency and the direct link with the social issues that were already close to her heart thanks to the reading of This changes everything by Naomi Klein. She then began to advocate for important but still neglected issues in the fight against climate change. This is what prompted her to join the Fossil free campaign a few years ago. The goal: to encourage institutions and companies to get their money from fossil fuels. Then to focus on sustainable travel long before this topic became a staple of climate activism.

She took part in the Sail to the COP project: with more than 36 activists, researchers and entrepreneurs committed to the climate – including Adélaïde Charlier – she crossed the Atlantic by boat to reach Chile, where the COP25 was to take place . . Although the climate talks eventually took place in Madrid because of the protests in Chile, they were still able to complete their journey and produce a report on sustainable travel, which was brought to the COP by other volunteers.

Subsequently, she also led the NGO CollAction, a “crowdacting” platform that aims to “turn an individual effort, such as the decision to go vegan for a month, into a collective movement with great impact“. It is also on this platform that 3 years ago the Slow Fashion Movement started, a movement in which Lena is now committed to changing the fashion industry, which for her the most notable example of overconsumption“.

“Young people have a role to play”

If Lena has multiplied her commitment to the environment, she underlines, it is not easy to make a living in this area. Because “capitalism will not fund its own transformation“. She will always do part of her work on a voluntary basis. And has long had to combine different activities to remain financially independent.

Nevertheless, she argues that young people have a real role to play in the ecological transition. They are indeed in a unique position. “They are less part of the current system than previous generations, but it is these new generations that will shape the lifestyle and cultural norms of tomorrow.“. Above all, they still have time to choose their studies and careers and try different ways of getting involved in order to find the one that allows them to contribute best to the evolution of society.

The Slow Fashion Movement, when individual action becomes collective

The phrase “Slow Fashion” was constructed in opposition to Fast Fashion, an industry responsible for 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. An industry also known for its disastrous working conditions, which has led to disasters such as the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013. After seeing the documentary “The True Cost” on Netflix, which explores the social and environmental realities behind fashion denounced, a group of young people decided to launch a quarterly “detox” challenge on the CollAction platform and social networks, where they would not buy new clothes. Nearly 2,500 people took up the challenge the first year, followed by 15,000 the following year. And now tens of thousands of people around the world participate every summer.

Faced with the success of the challenge, Lena and other activists subsequently launched the “Slow Fashion Movement”. The goal is to “building a global community of activists campaigning for more responsible fashion“. The movement and its international branches provide content on social networks. But also physical or online events to draw attention to the problems of the fashion industry and to draw attention to existing alternatives. To join the movement, nothing could be simpler:anyone can become an ambassador on social networks, submit and re-share posts, create a national group to offer content adapted to their own culture, or participate in the next season of the Slow Fashion Challenge!

Reducing the environmental and social impact of our clothing, instructions for use

As Lena rightly reminded us, “acting in an environmentally responsible manner means that first of all we ask ourselves what we really need, what makes us happy“. You have to know how to be sober. In this case, learn to search your wardrobe and ask yourself how many new clothes you really need. And this without being influenced by social networks or advertisements. “The goal is to use, repair or trade the clothes you already own and buy only the few items per year that you really need.”

The model “The Buyerarchy of Needs” summarizes this advice well. Inspired by Maslow’s pyramid, it ranks practices from the most to the least sustainable. Use the clothes you already have first. Then borrow a suit from someone. Then exchange his clothes with the people around him. Or buy some at thrift stores. Or even make them yourself. Finally consuming new ones, from more ethical and sustainable brands, if necessary.

Labels to identify brands that are truly committed to Slow Fashion

In addition, to distinguish an involved brand from another that engages in greenwashing, we can refer to international labels. Or to platforms such as Good on you that assess brands on social, ecological and transparency criteria. In any case, Lena advises us to give preference to small innovative companies from the Social and Solidarity Economy (ESS). Indeed, if some big companies start to change their practices,”they still have a lot of work to do to limit their impact on the planet“. There are also more and more initiatives to promote the exchange of clothing in your neighbourhood. As offered by The Clothing Loop in the Netherlands.

Finally, if eco-responsible clothing sometimes costs more than fast fashion, “it should not be forgotten that these prices much better reflect the work and energy required for their production“. And for all budgets, second hand remains the preferred alternative. In addition to being affordable, it is even more beneficial for the environment, as it saves the energy needed to produce a new garment alone.

Find your place in the fight against global warming

Lena wants to remain actively involved in the Slow Fashion movement. But she also wants to lean on”the psycho-sociological impact of climate change“. Such as Joanna Macy, eco-philosopher and author of the book Active Hope. She plans to start an impact company that would offer climate guidance through workshops and training led by young scientists. “I would like to help others regain hope and find their place in the fight against climate change“.

This young woman and activist was the first person we met on our trip. She advised us, like all young people, to talk to as many people as possible. This is still how we will find the best way to work for the planet. She was a real inspiration for the rest of our trip. Thank you!

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