Livia Firth: ‘Let’s buy less, only by slowing down will we solve this mess’

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  • With COP26 – the UN’s next climate change summit – round the corner, there’s never been a better time to look at how the fashion industry as a whole can help with the environmental crisis.

    Which is why the president of Tuscany, Eugenio Giani, and Mayor of Florence, Dario Nardella, have launched The Renaissance Awards, in partnership with Eco-Age, which help brands to lower their impact on people and planet.

    The Renaissance Awards are the first global awards dedicated to the work of international young leaders on sustainability. They will premiere worldwide on SKY on 18th October.

    Here, Eco-Age co-founder and creative director Livia Firth tells us all about the new awards, which come after four years of the Green Carpet Fashion Awards.

    What are the Renaissance Awards all about?

    They are about young leaders all over the world who are working on solutions for a more socially just, environmentally regenerative, economically inclusively and technologically balanced world.  They are sending a strong message that we are forward facing, taking on global challenges constructively, employing shared innovation, empathy, and earth awareness to implement authentic, deep change. They are our new Renaissance – hence The Renaissance Awards.

    How has it evolved from the Green Carpet Fashion Awards?

    Although with Eco-Age we always used fashion as a lens through which to look at issues like climate change, inequality, slavery, and so on – this year we needed to elevate the conversation above industries. As one of my mentor’s, professor Hakan Karaosman always says – sustainability is a multi faceted issue and we can’t cherry pick one without the risk of getting distracted or greenwash.  These  young leaders take on global challenges with intersectionality at heart, knowing we cannot solve one problem without looking at them all.

    So the GCFA will come back next year with a special edition which will take everyone by surprise!

    How did you pick the winners?

    We used the Future Fit framework to create the 4 pillars of:

    • Socially Just
    • Environmentally Restorative
    • Economically Inclusive
    • Technologically Balanced

    And under each one of them we selected the young leader recipients of the awards – by also working with organisations such as Nile Rodgers’ We Are Family foundation. We wanted to give exemplars but there are millions of young leaders deserving these awards!

    When did you first start becoming aware of the impact your wardrobe had on the planet?

    The first time I went to Bangladesh, in 2008, and visited a factory had the biggest impact on me – I witnessed first hand the repercussions of fast disposable fashion on women like me who happen to live in a country far away and whose lives are considered somehow less valuable… I was devastated, I got angry and this anger or indignation still drives me today.

    If you watch the latest episode of our Fashionscapes series on the circular economy you will see what we are doing to the planet – one example being in Ghana in the Kantamantu market where 15 million items of clothes arrive each week and Sammy, one of the fashion designers we interviewed there closes the film with a very simple question to the fast fashion CEOs: why are you comfortably killing the planet?

    What can fashion brands do to become more sustainable, and what can we do at home to help?

    Fashion brands have to seriously create and implement sustainable business strategies that go beyond a power point presentation or a press release. This is what we do daily at Eco-Age by working relentlessly with some of them. And each one of us has the biggest power of all – way bigger than brands or governments as when we buy we vote with our wallet.

    So let’s cast the right vote, let’s buy less and buy better, let’s reward brands and products that work in harmony with people and planet. And more than anything – let’s buy less. Only by slowing down will we solve this mess.

    Is there anything you look for in particular when buying a new outfit?

    How long can I wear it for? My wardrobe is full of old clothes – they are like my favourite memories. Good quality, good design, something that I bought at 20 I am still wearing at 50 and if I buy something today I want to know that I will wear it when I am 80!

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