By Radical Yes Founder & Brand Director Kerryn Moscicki.
In case you haven’t heard, the fashion industry is the second biggest polluter of the planet behind the oil industry. That’s right – the making of garments is almost as destructive to the earth as the extraction and distribution of petroleum.
As someone who has made a career out of fashion product development, it is a fact that weighs heavily on my mind. It was a kind of thinking and self-awareness that meant that after a number of years working in fashion wholesale, overseeing production of products that would often run into the 1000s, I had to take a complete break from the industry and go more deeply into my Yoga practice. To find my own answers in a more holistic and sustainable framework.
Better product less landfill
It was from this place of contemplation that Radical Yes was conceived. I emerged with an objective to create a range that was produced in smaller quantities, were 110% useful and of a quality level of materials that were not available to me when producing ranges for the High Street brands I had been working with up to that point. So that I could be assured that what we were producing would actually be worn, would last more than a 6-week season and most importantly be really loved.
Sometimes what gets lost in the sustainability conversation is this question of beauty and usefulness. You can make the most organic, eco-efficient, ethically produced garment in the universe, but if it is ugly, ill-fitting, or lacks a point of view and looks like the racks and racks of other product already in the market - and perhaps most importantly it does not inspire joy in the wearer - it becomes just as wasteful as a $3 tee-shirt produced in Bangladesh for volume chain store retailers.
More wears means less impact
For this reason versatility lies at the heart of our design process. We are empathetic with our customer’s lifestyles and needs because as a team we are also busy working women who demand considered quality items over fast fashion disposability.
Through the designs themselves, we aim to make shoes that are highly wearable, useful items – in silhouettes that we believe can guarantee a minimum of 30 wears - a figure that 'True Cost' Film Producer Livia Firth demonstrated to be a tipping point in reducing the environmental impact of manufacturing in terms of water consumption, material waste and resource management - and is one of the many reasons we choose to only make flat shoes.
The Radical Yes guide to shopping sustainably
1.Ask yourself, will you be able to wear this garment 30 times or more? Another way of framing the question is – will I still like this object in 12 months time – can I imagine wearing it again next season?
2. If you can’t answer a brutally radical YES, ask yourself how can this product be used again? In the industry this is part of a system referred to as ‘closed loop’ manufacturing and it is considering things like the recyclability and longevity of the materials that have been used to manufacture the product. One of the ways we assist our customers with this process is through our ‘Toe Tapper’ trade initiative. Bring your pre-loved Radical Yes shoes into The Fitting Salon and we will pass them on to our Not-For-Profit partner Ready Set to either sell at their famous fundraising sales or to help dress long-term unemployed women looking to re-enter the workforce.
3. Care for your belongings. At Radical Yes we passionately advocate care and repair of all products. This includes practicing a monthly full moon ritual of loving your shoes. Waterproofing, polishing and moisturising uppers. After all these items are on your feet, bearing the brunt of your daily life – it is not reasonable – or sustainable - to expect things to last without some care and attention.
As Rose Marcario, CEO of Patagonia explains "as individual consumers, the single best thing we can do for the planet is to keep our stuff in use longer. This simple act of extending the life of our garments through proper care and repair reduces the need to buy more over time—thereby avoiding the CO2 emissions, waste output and water usage required to build it."
Small choices big change
There is no doubt the problems of the industry are fraught and complex. But we believe that conscious daily choices can lead to bigger longer lasting impacts.
For us as a small manufacturer and you as a consumer, affecting change in a huge industry can be a daunting task. Personally as a brand we follow closely industry leaders like Patagonia who speak in more realistic terms of reducing impact and minimising harm to the environment.
So remember to ask yourself - Will I wear this item more than 30 times? Is this a high-quality piece that I can extend and enhance with care and repair? Will I still want to wear it in 12 months time? Can I find a way to keep it out of landfill when I’ve finished with it?