As millions of "Fashion Revolutionaries" gear up for another week of asking the question Who made my clothes? for Fashion Revolution week (24th - 30th April), we thought we'd ask the ethical fashion experts and influencers that we've come to know (and hugely admire) over the past year about what they're doing to actively change the way people think about fashion and the industry.
Next up in our Fashion Revolutionaries series is Sian Conway, founder of ethical fashion support network #EthicalHour. Her Twitter "chat" forum reaches over 1m impressions every week so if anyone's going to know what's going on in ethical fashion it's Sian. We take part in as many "ethical hours" as we can - they're every Monday evening from 8-9pm - and we always come away feeling inspired and reinvigorated by the growing community of ethical fashion bloggers, businesses and consumers. Prepare to be inspired...
HI SIAN, TELL US ABOUT YOU / YOUR BACKGROUND?
I’ve worked in marketing for almost 10 years across many different sectors, including education, arts and culture, finance and tech. I’ve also worked on business start-up programmes coaching and training young entrepreneurs, start up businesses and social enterprises.
I’ve been lucky to work around the world with people from a range of backgrounds who are turning their business dreams into reality and creating positive impact. From women in Sierra Leone who survived civil war and are re-building communities by starting businesses, survivors of the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia who are creating a better life through traditional handicrafts, to young entrepreneurs in the UK.
I’m now an Ogunte ambassador for their Impact Women project, which aims to connect 1 million women social entrepreneurs by 2020. As a peer-to-peer support network, the project provides a platform for mentoring and collaboration.
I’m also co-founder of ethical fashion brand and blog Little Lotus Boutique and founder of the world’s first support network for ethical businesses and bloggers - #EthicalHour.
WE LOVE #ETHICALHOUR. TELL OTHERS ABOUT IT!
Being an ethical business owner and trying to live ethically can be lonely at times, and your family and friends don’t always understand it. #EthicalHour is a community of like-minded, ethically-focused business owners, bloggers and people trying to live more ethically, who support and encourage each other.
We host a weekly Twitter chat using hashtag #EthicalHour, where we discuss different aspects of living ethically and running an ethical business or blog. We’ve now also got a Facebook group, YouTube channel and blog, and we’re going to be launching an online training academy soon as well.
We provide advice, support and training to help ethical businesses grow and maximise the positive impact they make. We’re a friendly tribe and we’re always looking for new members! In the #EthicalHour community you’ll always find likeminded people ready to support you, lift you up and inspire you to keep moving forward.
WHAT OR WHO INSPIRED YOU TO START #ETHICALHOUR?
In June 2016 I was looking for new ways to promote my ethical fashion blog, which gave me the idea to start a Twitter chat for ethically-focused blogs and brands. It quickly became popular and now has over 5,500 followers and reaches over 1 million impressions during each chat!I realised through the #EthicalHour conversations that ethical business owners are in real need of support, advice and a community around them to help them grow and maximise their impact – so that’s exactly what #EthicalHour has become. We provide support, advice, collaboration and training through our growing community across social media and our blog.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE CRUCIAL 'ETHICAL' ISSUES IN / AROUND THE FASHION INDUSTRY AT THE MOMENT?
Thankfully, I think people are really starting to wake up to how unethical the fashion industry and fast fashion can be. I was reading recently about the growing trend of hiring clothes instead of buying them – which I think shows that people are starting to move away from fast fashion cycles. This was focused on formal wear, but hopefully it will take off even further.
I think the big issue people are becoming more concerned about is the environmental impact of producing clothes, and the amount of textile waste we’re producing around the world. It’s just not sustainable, and we’ve only got one planet.In the UK the estimated average lifetime for a garment of clothing is 2.2 years. Extending the life of clothing by just 9 months would reduce carbon, waste and water footprints by around 20-30% each. I think designers and consumers are starting to see some of the flaws in fast fashion and are trying innovative things to make the industry more sustainable.
HOW HAS THE FASHION COMMUNITY / PEOPLE GENERALLY RESPONDED TO #ETHICALHOUR?
It surprised me how quickly #EthicalHour took off to be honest! We reached 5,000 followers in less than 9 months, and we’ve had big brands like Oxfam Fashion and Divine Chocolate show an interest.
There’s a thriving community of smaller ethical fashion brands and magazines that regularly take part in the chat, and regular participants have achieved media coverage in national and industry press, and made sales as a result of taking part.
Everyone in the community is so supportive and helpful – always willing to share their advice for ethical living or running a business.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR #ETHICALHOUR?
As well as the free marketing masterclasses we offer on our YouTube channel, we’re planning to launch an online training academy soon. This will cover marketing, branding and business growth topics in even more detail to help people take practical actions to grow their ethical business and maximise their positive impact.
Some of the profits from these training courses will be used to fund microfinance loans for entrepreneurs in developing countries – so every time we help someone develop their business here, they will help someone overseas transform their lives and grow their business too.
We’re also starting an Ethical Bloggers Club which will develop into a platform to connect ethical bloggers and brands for collaborative opportunities, sponsored posts etc.
TELL US ABOUT LITTLE LOTUS BOUTIQUE 'BRANDS WE LOVE'?
‘Brands We Love’ is a feature I ran on the Little Lotus blog last year. I was connecting with some really creative and innovative ethical fashion brands doing some great things, and I wanted to spread the word about them – as well as understand how they were creating an impact in the world of ethical and sustainable fashion.
I decided to interview them as part of a blog series to understand what they do, why they do it and what ethical fashion means to them. It’s amazing how they’re all approaching it in different ways but having such a positive impact!
WHY FEATURE NU BLVCK?
When I interviewed Nu Blvck you’d just launched your first collection, so it was a really exciting time! What I loved most (and still do!) was your commitment to transparency, desire to tell the stories of the designers and makers and ambition to disrupt the mainstream fashion industry.
Lots of ethical fashion brands are happy and successful in their niche, but are scared to take on the corporate giants of the mainstream fashion world. I loved how committed you are to putting people at the heart of what you do and showing the fashion industry that there is a better way.
You can join the ethical fashion conversation on Monday 24th April, from 8-9pm by following #EthicalHour on Twitter.
To read more of our interviews with Fashion Revolutionaries click here.