Global Britain, Local Stories: APPG Textiles and Fashion event at the V&A

Global Britain, Local Stories: APPG Textiles and Fashion event at the V&A

On Thursday 18th July, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Textiles and Fashion, partnered with their Secretariat Fashion Roundtable, delivered an informative and inspirational event focusing on culture within fashion, in the home of creativity - the V&A. 

The event, ‘Global Britain, Local Stories’, succeeded in exploring the plethora of cultures and identities which influence contemporary fashion, and contribute to establishing a richer and more vibrant visual language. The event also highlighted issues surrounding sustainability, and how they can be resolved through the utilisation of methods from indigenous or traditional cultural practices. 

The APPG for Textiles and Fashion and Fashion Roundtable were joined by individuals stretching across the fashion and policy industry, all with a desire to battle the current cultural, environment and economic challenges endured by the fashion industry. Speakers included: 

•   Dame Eleanor Laing MP, Deputy Speaker

•   Tolu Coker, Designer and Fashion Scout’s Autumn/Winter 2019 Merit Award Winner

•   Teleica Kirkland Creative Director, Costume Institute of the African Diaspora 

•   Rahemur Rahman, Designer

•   Salma Tuqan, Deputy Director of Delfina Foundation 

•   Vicky Ngari-Wilson, Founder of Good Ambition 

•  Moses Quiquine, Designer 

•  The Royal School of Needlework also showcased their work

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The event began with a warm welcome from Director of the V&A Tristram Hunt, former MP and advocate of creativity in education, who highlighted the museum’s ongoing commitment to championing the work of fashion practitioners from a diverse range of cultures, communities and backgrounds.

Dame Eleanor Laing MP delivered an illuminating keynote speech on the importance of the fashion industry. Despite being historically restricted and hindered by economic fluctuations, it now embodies an impressive strength and capacity within the UK economy. The fashion industry now resides as the UK’s largest creative industry, contributing to £32.3 billion of the UK's GDP and creating 890,000 jobs, making it almost as large as the financial sector.

Compelling speeches were also conveyed by fresh creative talents at the forefront of the contemporary fashion sphere, including Tolu Coker, Rahemur Rahman and Moses Quiquine. All explained how they incorporate their individual cultures and draw skilfully on elements from their heritage, identity and differing life experiences in order to display a unique narrative within their art. 

The young designers also encouraged the audience to rethink and deconstruct fashion norms, to question terms which are too often oversimplified and overgeneralised within fashion such as ‘luxury’ and ‘Britishness’. The speakers also provided an eye opening insight into the wrongful amalgamation and misattribution of cultures within fashion, and how certain artists have been completely written out of history. 

In addition to stimulating discussion regarding culture within fashion, the speakers also offered methods which should be employed in the pursuit of sustainable fashion. Vicky Ngari-Wilson, founder of Good Ambition, former beauty Queen and activist, asserted that, “Indigenous practices and craftsmanship should be utilised globally, as tools for life and education”. Teleica Kirkland, Creative Director of the Costume Institute of the African Diaspora, also spoke about the necessity of not only educating local students on the importance of incorporating sustainable practices, but to reach out to students universally, especially those in developing nations who are primarily affected by the consequences of unsustainable fashion.  

The apparel and footwear industries now account for an estimated 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, with fashion being the third highest-polluting industry in the world. The fast fashion industry relentlessly contributes to noise, air and water pollution. Despite only 16 officially approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, around 2,000 different chemicals are used in textile processing. Additionally, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, the fashion industry produces 20% of global wastewater, harming local communities, inhabitants and species habitats.

The day concluded with a Q&A which stimulated a final round of thought provoking speeches and ideas. When asked how to encourage consumers to participate in sustainable fashion, Tamara Cincik CEO and founder of Fashion Roundtable, stated that, “it must start with the policy makers”. Rather than place such a heavy burden on the already stretched consumer, the government should address and incorporate solutions, such as those highlighted in the Environmental Audit’s recent report, in order to force the fashion industry to be more accountable and consider it’s environmental harm.

A final summary was provided by Edwina Ehrman, Senior Curator of Fashion at the V&A. 

Event roundup by Molly-Kate Vickers 

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