Archive for the ‘fashion’ Category

One Rolex short of contentment

December 24, 2013

That they are crass, brash and trashy goes without saying. But there is something in the pictures posted on Rich Kids of Instagram (and highlighted by The Guardian last week) that inspires more than the usual revulsion towards crude displays of opulence. There is a shadow in these photos – photos of a young man wearing all four of his Rolex watches, a youth posing in front of his helicopter, endless pictures of cars, yachts, shoes, mansions, swimming pools, spoilt white boys throwing gangster poses in private jets – of something worse; something that, after you have seen a few dozen, becomes disorienting, even distressing.

four Rolexes

four Rolexes

burning money

burning money

bar bill

bar bill

The pictures are, of course, intended to incite envy. They reek instead of desperation. The young men and women seem lost in their designer clothes, dwarfed and dehumanised by their possessions, as if ownership has gone into reverse. A girl’s head barely emerges from the haul of Chanel, Dior and Hermes shopping bags she has piled onto her vast bed. It’s captioned “shoppy shoppy” and “#goldrush”, but a photograph whose purpose is to illustrate plenty seems instead to depict a void. She’s alone with her bags and her image in the mirror, in a scene that seems saturated with despair.

drowning in bags

drowning in bags

Perhaps I am projecting my prejudices. But an impressive body of psychological research appears to support these feelings. It suggests that materialism, a trait that can afflict both rich and poor, which the researchers define as “a value system that is preoccupied with possessions and the social image they project”, is both socially destructive and self-destructive. It smashes the happiness and peace of mind of those who succumb to it. It’s associated with anxiety, depression and broken relationships.

swimming pool

swimming pool

There has long been a correlation observed between materialism, a lack of empathy and engagement with others, and unhappiness. But research conducted over the past few years appears to show causation.

For example, a series of studies published in June in the journal Motivation and Emotion showed that as people become more materialistic, their well-being (good relationships, autonomy, a sense of purpose and the rest) diminishes. As they become less materialistic, it rises.

In one study, the researchers tested a group of 18-year-olds, then re-tested them 12 years later. They were asked to rank the importance of different goals: jobs, money and status on one side, self-acceptance, fellow feeling and belonging on the other. They were then given a standard diagnostic test to identify mental health problems. At the ages of both 18 and 30, materialistic people were more susceptible to disorders. But if in that period they became less materialistic, their happiness improved.

giant sofa

giant sofa

In another study, the psychologists followed Icelanders weathering their country’s economic collapse. Some people became more focused on materialism, in the hope of regaining lost ground. Others responded by becoming less interested in money and turning their attention to family and community life. The first group reported lower levels of well-being, the second group higher levels.

These studies, while suggestive, demonstrate only correlation. But the researchers then put a group of adolescents through a church programme designed to steer children away from spending and towards sharing and saving. The self-esteem of materialistic children on the programme rose significantly, while that of materialistic children in the control group fell. Those who had little interest in materialism before the programme experienced no change in self-esteem.

in the plane

in the plane

Another paper, published in Psychological Science, found that people in a controlled experiment who were repeatedly exposed to images of luxury goods, to messages which cast them as consumers rather than citizens and to words associated with materialism (such as buy, status, asset and expensive), experienced immediate but temporary increases in material aspirations, anxiety and depression. They also became more competitive, more selfish, had a reduced sense of social responsibility and were less inclined to join demanding social activities. The researchers point out that as we are repeatedly bombarded with such images through advertisements, and constantly described by the media as consumers, these temporary effects could be triggered more or less continuously.

A third paper, published (ironically) in the Journal of Consumer Research, studied 2,500 people for six years. It found a two-way relationship between materialism and loneliness: materialism fosters social isolation; isolation fosters materialism. People who are cut off from others attach themselves to possessions. This attachment in turn crowds out social relationships.

The two varieties of materialism which have this effect – using possessions as a yardstick of success and seeking happiness through acquisition – are the varieties that seem to be on display at Rich Kids of Instagram. It was only after reading this paper that I understood why those photos distressed me: they look like a kind of social self-mutilation.

my painting

my painting

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why an economic model based on perpetual growth continues on its own terms to succeed, though it may leave a trail of unpayable debts, mental illness and smashed relationships. Social atomisation may be the best sales strategy ever devised, and continuous marketing looks like an unbeatable programme for atomisation.

Materialism forces us into comparison with the possessions of others, a race both cruelly illustrated and crudely propelled by that toxic website. There is no end to it. If you have four Rolexes while another has five, you are a Rolex short of contentment. The material pursuit of self-esteem reduces your self-esteem.

posing with bottles

posing with bottles

I should emphasise that this is not about differences between rich and poor: the poor can be as susceptible to materialism as the rich. It is a general social affliction, visited upon us by government policy, corporate strategy, the collapse of communities and civic life and our acquiescence in a system that is eating us from the inside out.

This is the dreadful mistake we are making: allowing ourselves to believe that more money and more stuff enhances our well-being, a belief possessed not only by those poor deluded people in the pictures, but by almost every member of almost every government. Worldly ambition, material aspiration, perpetual growth: these are a formula for mass unhappiness.

— George Monbiot

Published by George Monbiot on his blog.

Materialism, far from making us happy, increasing our well-being, simply destroys our lives.

In the last few days before Christmas, the news was how much is being spent, is it more or less than last year. No one questioned this mindless consumption.

In conversation with Dougald Hine in Dark Mountain 4, Gustavo Esteva makes the point poverty is relative. He worked with poor peasants and contrary to the received view, he found them to be happy.

Install a new kitchen because that is what the marketing says you want. It dies not improve the cooking skills, this despite cookbooks are the best-sellers. Quality food is not bought from local suppliers, no, the cheapest rubbish the supermarket has to offer.

We are not poor because we lack the latest iPhone, clothes with a trendy fashion label.

When not engaged in mindless consumption, sat like zombies in front of a widescreen TV watching garbage.

I only have one Rolex, a Montegrappa pen. Do I need more? No.

Afternoon tea at Pimento Tea Rooms

February 11, 2013
Mercury Shoes

Mercury Shoes

Mercury Shoes

Mercury Shoes

I had intended to have tea at Pimento Tea Rooms, at least I had had I arrived earlier. But too late, absolutely no way am I stopping to have tea, not time.

I stop and have tea.

I drop of the BookCrossing code for The Shadow of the Wind which I had dropped off last week, and say I will register Pimento Tea Rooms as a BookCrossing zone.

I find a lady stood watching both shops. I ask is she a security guard? She says no, no one in the shoe shop, she is the book keeper who has climbed down from her garret. She needs to serve a customer in the shoe shop, ask the girl in the tea rooms, to go off and find a pair of shoes, I am promoted to guardian of the tea rooms and left in charge.

Pimento Tea Rooms appears to be a meeting place of the local literati, or what in Lincoln passes as the local literati, people chat about books.

I talk to two ladies about The Shadow of the Wind, BookCrossing, writer Paulo Coelho and read The Alchemist. All unknown to them.

On leaving I have a brief chat with a very attractive young woman in the shoe shop. She is the owner of the shoe shoe the tea rooms. Very upmarket shoes.

Pimento Tea Rooms has very interesting access. Either through a fashion shop or a tea shop. The owner of the fashion shop was the owner of the tea shop, now the ownership has changed hands to the owner of the shoe shop.

Excellent Assam tea.

I picked up a slice of their carrot cake to eat later, or to be correct vegan carrot cake.

Nothing like carrot cake. Interesting icing or cream on top, slightly spicy. The cake though is nothing like carrot cake. On display it looks like carrot cake, but when you eat it, you see it looks nothing like carrot cake. More like Christmas pudding in constituency. The taste nothing like carrot cake. If expecting carrot cake, then disappointing, but nothing wrong, just different. Needs to be called something other than carrot cake, or at least vegan carrot cake.

Pimento Tea Rooms has occasional evening music. Friday 22 January 2013, guitarist Karl Svarc.

Earlier in the day I was at a whole food stall in the Central market. I commented on flyers for Pimento Tea Rooms and the evening with Karl Svarc, for the lady to tell me it was her husband and she had his CDs on sale. I was talking to a man running her stall a few weeks back, but did not recognise him. She dug a handful of CDs out of a drawer. I asked did she know what automatically played on his website as it was very good, but no, she did not. I took a chance and bought one of his CDs, Strong Foundation. I suggested he uploaded his music to bandcamp. I did wonder, why hide the CDs in a drawer, not going to lead to many sales.

Synchronicity: This evening I added release notes for the book I had dropped off. As I do so my eye is caught by a quote on the page, it is from The Shadow of the Wind!

Carlos Ruiz Zafon:

Bea says that the art of reading is slowly dying, that it’s an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us, that when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind, and great readers are becoming more scarce by the day.


November 26, 2012

In their greed to get into a Wal-Mart store, not panic to get out of a burning building, shoppers trampled to death a Wal-Mart employee.

How debased have human beings become?

In Bangladesh, a sweatshop factory has caught fire killing over 100 workers. It was making clothes for Wal-Mart.

Only a few weeks ago, a sweatshop in Bangladesh or Pakistan caught fire. Who were they producing for?

Fatal fires are commonplace in sweatshops in Bangladesh.

Gap, Wal-Mart they know the conditions of sweatshops, but they choose to turn a blind eye.

Since 2006, more than 500 Bangladeshi workers have died in sweatshop fires.

Tensions have been running high between workers, who have been demanding an increase in minimum wages, and the factory owners and government. A union organizer, Aminul Islam, who campaigned for better working conditions and higher wages, was found tortured and killed outside Dhaka this year.

Fashion party at Guru

October 1, 2012
Fashion Party at Guru

Fashion Party at Guru

Last night until at least 2am this morning a Michael Adams Fashion Party at Guru.

Guru is a self-styled lifestyle bar, whatever that means. It is usually empty. Last night was the exception. It was packed for a fashion party, though only until a little after midnight, though the party went on until 2am.

Deck a place out in white, add some fancy lighting, loud music, charge an extortionate price for drinks, and rich kids with more money than sense, can be conned into parting with their money under the illusion it is a cool place to be.

Last night was one such night.

Michael Adams. Who? My thoughts entirely.

Sunday seemed a strange night for a party. Today a public holiday.

Very warm night, very high humidity. 3am early hours of the morning sitting on my balcony overlooking the sea, it was as though in the Tropics. 7am, sunrise, when at least cool, a temporary respite, it was not cool.

No 1 Top Story in The Cyprus Holiday News (1 October 2012).

Whose Games?

July 27, 2012
London 2012 the biggest sponsor of the games is the public

London 2012 the biggest sponsor of the games is the public

Its two miles as the crow flies

But I ride four wide

Due to the Olympic bubble

Plonked in the middle

And I’m thinking, John Lewis,

Will ye let me through this?

All this building mess

So Stratford gets an M&S

Wetland marshes become marches

Football pitches become clear ways

Keep open a canal tow path?

You must be having a laugh

Triathlons with a Big Mac

Have a happy heart attack.

Enjoy, Drink, Think Coke-a-cola

Sure of course they don’t own ya

Taxpayer’s money for capital builds

And whose name’s on the fields?

Every dirty multi-national

All brought to you by visa

Don’t tell me it’s for world peace

Sure what did it do for Greece?

It’s a totalitarian regime

Giving Stratford a clean

A dictator’s wet dream

No one can criticize

As the budgets rise

Contracts to be dished up

Media all hushed up

An Olympic stadium

Is a public distraction

To stop us sussing the system

Give us bread and roses

Give us sexy poses

Give us brand new noses

But we don’t get peace

To cross the land we lease

From our ancestors before us

Corporations don’t own us

— Catherine Brogan

The corporations don’t own us, they are only minority sponsors of the London 2012 Olympics, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s have contributed less than 10% towards the cost of the Games, but one could be forgiven for thinking it otherwise.

We are facing an epidemic of childhood obesity.

Adidas, one of the corporate sponsors, source their Olympic consumer tat from sweatshops.

2012 London time (2312 Moscow time) London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony begins.

Over 2 million people estimated to have seen the Olympic torch relay.

This morning at 0812, bells rang across the country for three minutes. Any bells, church bells, bicycle bells, door bells, even Big Ben.

The torch was carried by boat from Hampton Court Palace down the Thames to the Tower of London.

Last Friday it was taken from Guildford to the Tower of London by helicopter. All week it has been carried around London. Yesterday to famous London landmarks like St Paul’s Cathedral.

The torch will then go from the Tower of London to the Olympic Park where it will light the cauldron.

The Olympic torch relay has proved to be very popular. Not so the Olympic Games. Not because people do not like sport but because it is tainted by the corporate sponsorship, companies like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s.

Top Story in The Poetry Daily (Saturday 28 July 2012).

Top Story in The delhidreams Daily (Thursday 2 August 2012).

Adidas worker exploitation for London 2012 Olympics

June 7, 2012
Adidas exploitation

Adidas exploitation

Adidas, one of the London 2012 sponsors, has been accused of sourcing its tat from sweatshops.

As Adidas take centre stage as the official sportswear partner of London 2012, the harsh reality of life for the workers who make their clothes is being exposed.

Workers making Adidas clothes around the world are paid poverty wages, have little or no job security and face harassment or dismissal if they try and organise trade unions to defend their rights.

This is exploitation. It’s not ok for Adidas to treat workers like this in the UK, and it shouldn’t be ok anywhere else.

Adidas – which has more than 775,000 workers making its products in 1,200 factories across 65 countries – is the official sponsor of Team GB, with footballers such as David Beckham tipped to join UK Olympic hopefuls Jessica Ennis and Christine Ohuruogu.

In March, Adidas unveiled its best-ever annual profits, reporting an 18% rise in net profits in 2011 to 671m euros ($881m; £559m).

In April media reports cited workers supplying Adidas in Indonesia receiving as little as 34 pence an hour, with some factories paying less than the minimum wage. Employees were verbally abused, slapped in the face and told to lie about their conditions during Adidas factory audits.

In May, research by the Playfair 2012 campaign found workers making Adidas goods being paid poverty wages and forced to work excessive overtime. The research found people in China working from 8am to 11pm. In Sri Lanka researchers found people being forced to work overtime in order to meet production targets. In the Philippines, more than half the workers interviewed said that in order to cover their basic needs they are forced to pawn their ATM cards to loan sharks for high-interest loans. At all of the factories researchers visited, workers reported that they were not paid a living wage that covers their basic needs.

Today, War on Want added its voice calling for an end to Adidas exploitation.

It is not only Adidas tat that is sourced from sweatshops. The official tat for the London 2012 Olympics is also sourced from sweatshops.

I am always amazed that anyone wastes their money on this overpriced tat. Fast fashion as opposed to slow fashion.

What a breath of fresh air, the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations that took place over the last four days, no corporate sponsorship.

At the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, John Carlos used his moment on the winner’s podium to make a stand for human rights. His gesture of resistance, as part of the civil rights movement, and in solidarity with those living under Apartheid in South Africa and blue collar workers in the States, is a defining moment in the struggle for equality, justice and peace.

That struggle still continues today. John Carlos has been touring the UK, speaking out.

The unwanted London 2012 Olympics will result in massive congestion in London, Olympic only traffic lanes, criminalisation of those who challenge the sponsoring brands, blocking of accounts on twitter …

London 2012 Olympics sweatshop misery

June 1, 2012

For Londoners, the London 2012 Olympics will be a summer of misery. Their misery is as nought to those working in the sweatshops who supply the goods.

Workers making Olympic sportswear for London 2012 for top brands and high street names including Adidas and Next are being paid poverty wages, forced to work excessive overtime and threatened with instant dismissal if they complain about working conditions.

A worker at an Adidas Olympics supplier factory in the Philippines, working on minimum wage for 10 years without a pay-rise:

We are forced to take overtime work so at least it supplements our take-home pay. Otherwise, how can I survive with such meagre income, how can I pay rent for the small room where I stay, cope with my daily necessities, and send some money for my family in the province? At the end of the day it is zero balance; there are no savings left for whatever uncertain things may happen to me and my family.

A few examples of the continued systematic and widespread exploitation of workers in sportswear factories:

  • Poverty wages were found across the board. In Sri Lanka, some workers have to survive on around £1.78 a day, little above the UN’s official poverty line, and only 25% of the amount needed for a living wage, enabling workers to live in dignity. In the Philippines, 50% of workers were forced to pawn their ATM cards to loan sharks for pay day loans to get them through the month.
  • Workers had legal benefits systematically denied to them by repeated use of short term contracts. Employers used these to avoid paying social insurance including pensions, sick leave and maternity benefits.
  • Workers were forced to perform overtime under threat of losing their jobs.
  • In all 10 factories there was no recognised union or credible workers’ representatives, meaning workers had no voice on pay and conditions. In China workers were threatened with job losses for distributing leaflets that could ‘hamper employer-employee relationships; and in the Philippines all workers interviewed said that they were scared to join a union as they would lose their jobs.
  • Living conditions showed the poverty levels experienced by workers. Chinese workers shared cramped and overcrowded rooms with hot water only available after 23:00, when their shift finished.

Those making the consumer junk, the mascots and toys, fare no better.

A worker at a Chinese sweatshop making London 2012 mascots:

Consumers may feel the Olypmic mascots are fun and cute, they will never think of the hard work, low wages…..we have in the factory.

A few examples of working conditions in two factories in China producing the Olympic mascots, Wenlock and Manderville, and London 2012 pin-badges:

  • Poverty pay, in some cases below the legal minimum, where workers were not paid enough to cover their most basic needs, and benefit payments for pensions and medical insurance were not paid in accordance with Chinese law. For example, a worker making an Olympic mascot could be paid as little as £26 a week, while a mascot can retail for around £20. An average living wage is around £225 a month.
  • Excessive overtime, sometimes up to 100 hours a month, nearly three times the legal limit in China. Some workers were doing 24-hour shifts, while others were working seven days a week. Overtime was often compulsory.
  • Child labour was used in the factory producing pin badges.
  • Workers were locked into a five-year contract and had to pay a fine if they tried to leave beforehand. At one factory, workers were not given a contract of employment, and in the other factory, workers did not receive pay-slips. In both factories, workers did not fully understand how their wages and over-time were calculated.
  • Workers did not receive health and safety training in both factories, and would tend to forgo wearing protective equipment, when provided, so they could work faster and earn more – to top up their poverty pay.
  • Workers were prevented from joining unions in both factories, and it was made clear to them that anyone engaging in trade union activities would be dismissed.
  • Evidence of audit fraud – with workers coached on how to answer auditor’s questions, and in some cases bribed to give the correct answers.

An ethical Olympics?

M&S shwopping scam

April 28, 2012
shwopping not the future of fashion

shwopping not the future of fashion

M&S shwopping scam

M&S shwopping scam

Thursday, to much fanfare, M&S launched shwopping.

M&S cynical exercise in greenwash

M&S were concerned at the billion items of clothing that go to landfill every year. They wished to do something about it, bring your unwanted clothes to M&S and M&S will recycle the clothes.

A dumb video featuring Joanna Lumley emptying her wardrobe and taking her unwanted clothes to M&S to be recycled.

The CEO of M&S was asked could people bring their unwanted clothes to M&S and not buy anything. The fraction of a second hesitation, before he answered yes, said it all.

The day after the launch. I checked out shwopping.

A big poster in the window of M&S, very much in your face as you walked into and around the store, even the staff wore badges encouraging you to shwop. You could not miss that shwopping was the next big thing, the future of fashion, as M&S claim.

The store was not, as I expected to find, awash with unwanted clothes.

I asked a very helpful lady, had they been inundated with unwanted clothes all day.

No, she replied, she did not think any clothes had come in.

She pointed to a small box where people were to dump their unwanted clothes.

Could we please have a look inside, I asked.

We looked and found a couple of carrier bags of what we assumed to be clothes.

Is, this it, I asked.

Looks like it, she replied.

She then explained how the scam, oops sorry, scheme worked.

People were to go through their wardrobe, find all what they did not wear and bring it into M&S so it could be worn by someone else.

So far, so good, but not quite the stopping unwanted clothes going to landfill as the clothes were not going anywhere, the clothes were sitting in a wardrobe.

She then went on to explain that whilst in M&S you could buy new clothes, and that there was an incentive to do so as you could enter a prize draw and win £100 of M&S vouchers.

The helpful lady then handed me a leaflet, a step by step guide to shwopping:

Come in store for those new season’s ‘must have’ and bring an old item of clothing with you.

And there you have it, this is not a green initiative, this is about shopping, buying those ‘must have’ fashion items, consumerism writ large.

The very name says it all shwopping not shwapping. The emphasis is on shopping not swapping.

Deborah Orr could not have put it better in an article in The Guardian:

One is tempted to suggest M&S would achieve its aims better if it discouraged feckless clothes-buying, by specialising in more expensive investment items, made in Britain, like it used to. Or refrained from selling so much of its food in plastic packaging.

But all retailers want consumers to keep consuming. If they can market the idea that it’s green to do so, they will. And “Shwopping”? It’s an ugly word for a mildly dubious enterprise. I don’t suppose there’s much harm in it. But I can’t help feeling it’s not good enough for such enthusiastic endorsement from Lumley.

Some apologists say it closes the loop. No it does not, as you are going out and buying new clothes.

Shwapping, closing the loop, would be to buy from charity shops, donate to charity shops.

M&S are to be complimented on a very slick marketing campaign, ease the conscience, whilst carry on shopping.

This is a bit like airlines who offer to plant a few trees to offset the carbon of the flight. Only it does not.

The carbon of the flight is emitted over a period of a few hours. The tree absorbs the carbon over seventy years for a fast growing tree, a few centuries for a slow growing oak. And this ignores who looks after the trees, who safeguards the trees.

Fast fashion is a very dirty industry. Growing of and processing cotton (unless organic) is highly polluting. Irrigating cotton leaves the land coated in salt, the hazardous chemical sprays pollute the land and water supplies, processing of cotton, the bleaching and dying, more hazardous chemicals. Then the cotton goes into the sweatshops to be turned into the clothes we wear.

Anything that closes the loop, that uses natural materials, is to be welcome. But that is not what M&S is doing.

Slow fashion: Clothes that are well designed, clothes that look stylish, clothes that we value, that we launder and repair, clothes that can easily be recycled.

Fast fashion: Cheap clothes (though at a cost to people and planet), clothes we throw away, that cannot be easily recycled and end up in landfill.

Slow fashion will come from a small designer, we can ask where the clothes come from, how they were made, the materials used.

The CEO of M&S claimed they were buying British.

Thursday evening In Business on BBC Radio 4 looked at what was left of the textile industry in Lancashire. One of the mills had M&S pull the plug and they collapsed overnight.

The CEO of M&S claimed they were the No 1 High Street retailer on the environment, way ahead of other High Street retailers.

Really, thought I, is that why you import King Edward potatoes from Israel?

What of Lush, thought I.

Next visit was to Lush. I told them of shwopping and the claim from M&S No 1 on the environment.

To say they were incredulous would be an understatement.

Why do you not shout about your environmental credentials I asked.

We do not need to all the staff chorused, all you have to do is look around our shop and you can see with your own eyes.

They were right.

We then had a long discussion on environmental matters and I signed their petition calling for a ban on animal testing of products.

How many products in M&S are tested on animals?

It is not what M&S say they are doing, but what they are doing that matters.

I picked up from M&S a prawn and avocado sandwich. It was inside a paper bag with a plastic window. The paper bag was lined with plastic. Virtually impossible to recycle. When I opened up my bag, I Found my sandwich to be inside a plastic tray!

The only positive thing about the M&S cynical greenwash exercise, is that it has highlighted the amount of clothes that go to landfill. But you do not solve this by emptying your wardrobe and restocking it from M&S.

You solve it by adopting slow fashion. Slow fashion is the fashion of the future simply because it is the only fashion that is sustainable.

Will M&S be advising to buy quality clothes, to not buy so many clothes, to look after our clothes, to recycle our unwanted clothes to extend their useful life?

I somehow think not.

M&S cynical exercise in greenwash
Lush Cosmetics – Our Environmental Policy
‘Shwopping’? An ugly word for a dubious enterprise
Do we recycle enough of our clothes?
Disposable clothes
M&S launches ‘shwopping’ scheme
Joanna Lumley joins M&S to launch shwopping
Joanna Lumley launches Marks & Spencer’s Shwopping campaign

M&S cynical exercise in greenwash

April 26, 2012
M&S CEO Marc Bolland and Joanna Lumley at The Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane, London for the launch of new campaign 'Shwopping'.

M&S CEO Marc Bolland and Joanna Lumley at The Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane, London for the launch of new campaign 'Shwopping'.

I listened with growing incredulity to the M&S breathtaking crass hypocrisy and exercise in greenwash on You and Yours BBC Radio 4 this lunchtime.

M&S are shedding crocodile tears at the amount of clothes that are dumped every year in landfill. A billion items of clothing they claim. Their solution is that we take all our unwanted clothes to M&S for recycling, and no doubt replace with new clothes whilst we are there.

Cut out the middle man, take your clothes direct to a charity shop.

Support slow fashion, not fast fast; dress for style, not fashion; buy quality, not rubbish.

Is it necessary to replace what is in a wardrobe every few months with new clothes?

In M&S their food is over-packaged. I suggest we return all our packaging to M&S.

M&S charge 5p for a plastic carrier bag. Read carefully the small print: Only 1p goes to an environmental charity. This a cynical ploy to milk the customer and to distract from their over-packaging.

Why no paper bags in M&S for our loose fruit and vegetables? The bags can then be recycled or composted.

The stuff we buy spends less than six months in our homes before it continues on its one-way linear trip to landfill or incinerator.

The Story of Stuff

M&S compared the recycling of clothes through their stores with the successful recycling of glass bottles! When was the last time anyone took a glass bottle back? We recycle glass, not bottles!

Yes, we need to reduce our waste and energy consumption. We do so by reducing consumption and increasing recycling, not by taking our unwanted clothes to M&S and whilst we are there replacing old for new.

When you donate to charity shops, choose the smaller charities who do not throw away after a couple of weeks what you have taken the trouble to donate. Avoid Oxfam and British Heart Foundation who rip off customers with the prices they charge. Another reason to avoid Oxfam is that they are the partners in this greenwash scheme with M&S to encourage increased consumption.

Are people really this gullible that they fall for a cynical exercise in greenwash?

Shwoping is a slick marketing campaign to encourage easily led fools to empty their wardrobes and run off down to M&S to buy more clothes. Green it is not.

A green campaign, which shwopping claims to be, would encourage slow fashion, to buy quality, to value our clothes, not throw them away.

Shwoping is not sustainable fashion.

Slow fashion’ was coined by Kate Fletcher. It has evolved from slow food, is part of the slow movement.

Do we recycle enough of our clothes?
Disposable clothes
Oxfam rips off its customers (yet again)
M&S launches ‘shwopping’ scheme
Joanna Lumley joins M&S to launch shwopping
Joanna Lumley launches Marks & Spencer’s Shwopping campaign

Scarves for Solidarity

April 5, 2012

Scarves for Solidarity are designed by Catalina Estrada. Monies raised go to support Laboratorio del Espíritu, a project in Colombia.

I just couldn´t possibly feel happier and more proud to see one of my favorites projects ever finally starting to come out. It´s a dream come true and I hope you like it as much as I do.

After visiting the Rural NGO Laboratorio del Espíritu (directed by amazing Gloria Bermúdez) a few months ago, I was totally in love with their project, it completely stole my heart.

Their aim is to promote local development with activities focused on the value and strength of the rural areas with special dedication to Arts and Crafts. Their main base is a Rural Library and Community Center located at Vereda Pantanillo, Municipio de El Retiro – Antioquia, Colombia.

Catalina Estrada illustrated Moments, a diary with quotes from Paulo Coelho.

Slow fashion: artisan designers supporting projects for the rural poor.

Fast fashion: global corporations exploiting sweatshop labour.

scarves for solidarity

scarves for solidarity

scarves for solidarity

scarves for solidarity

poetry in scarf by 9 year old Francy Arledys González Castañeda

poetry in scarf by 9 year old Francy Arledys González Castañeda

Poetry in this scarf written by 9 year old Francy Arledys González Castañeda:

Yo soy el fuego que arde en las tardes
Yo soy el sol del día que ilumina
Soy las nubes que corren
Yo soy la flor roja de amor
Soy el agua pura del río
Soy Dios que viene desde el cielo
Soy la lluvia que cae del cielo
Soy los pétalos que caen del viento
Soy el viento que sopla con amor
Soy la naturaleza que crece y crece

I’m the fire that burns in the afternoons
I’m the sun of the day that illuminates
I’m the pure water of the river
I’m God that comes from the sky
I’m the rain that falls from the sky
I’m the flower’s petals that fall from the wind
I’m the wind that blows with love
I’m the nature that grows and grows


Scarves for Solidarity pájaros

Scarves for Solidarity pájaros

Scarves for Solidarity pájaros

Scarves for Solidarity pájaros

poetry in scarf by 12-year-old Jhon Jairo Rojo Flórez

poetry in scarf by 12-year-old Jhon Jairo Rojo Flórez

Poetry in this scarf written by 12-year-old Jhon Jairo Rojo Flórez:

-¿Si tuvieras 24 horas de vida, qué harías?
-Deshacerme de todo lo que tenga
Ver payasos
Recorrer la vereda
Ver los pájaros
Ver como los pájaros salen del huevo

-¿If you had 24hours of life what would you do?
-Get rid of everything I have
See clowns
Walk along the village
Watch the birds
Watch how the birds come out of the egg


Scarves for Solidarity pantera

Scarves for Solidarity pantera

Scarves for Solidarity pantera

Scarves for Solidarity pantera

poetry in scarf by 9-year-old Tania Flórez Lince

poetry in scarf by 9-year-old Tania Flórez Lince

Poetry in this scarf written by 9 year old Tania Flórez Lince

Soy el sol de mi cuerpo
Soy la nube negra cuando estoy triste y me siento fea
Soy la luz más bella de mi casa y cuando me enojo soy una pantera
Soy la estrella más bonita del universo y cuando lloro me apago todo Soy la luna que alumbra tu caminar y cuando me odias tanto me enojo y me pongo a llorar
Soy una nube negra, triste y fea
Soy la estrella más bella que te alegra
Soy el sol brillante que se alumbra con la alegría

I´m the sun of my body
I´m the black cloud when I´m sad and I feel ugly
I´m the most beautiful light of my house and when I get angry I´m a panther
I´m the most beautiful star in the universe and when I cry everything everything gets dark
I´m the moon that lightens your walk and when you hate me so much I start to cry
I´m a black cloud sad and ugly
I´m the most beautiful star that cheers you up
I´m the shinny sun that brightens up with happiness


Scarves for Solidarity pescados y fruitas

Scarves for Solidarity pescados y fruitas

Scarves for Solidarity pescados y fruitas

Scarves for Solidarity pescados y fruitas

poetry in scarf by 12-year-old Jonathan Camilo Arias Hincapié

poetry in scarf by 12-year-old Jonathan Camilo Arias Hincapié

Poetry in this scarf written by 12 year old Jonathan Camilo Arias Hincapié:

Agüelo yo te quiero mucho y un día de estos voy a ir a Bogotá
y le ayudo a trabajar y le llevo plata y comida, y se viene a vivir por aquí y nos ponemos a pescar pescados y truchas y capitanes y tilapia.
Y jugamos el cogido y cogemos guayabas y moras. Y ayudarle a mi papá, y le ayudo a venir y dormir y soñar y jugar mucho.
Y te quiero mucho y con cariño. Chao.

Grandpa, I love you very much and one of these days I will go to Bogotá and I will help you work and I bring you money and food and
you come to live here and we go fishing for fish and trouts and captains and tilapia.
And we play and we get guavas and blackberries. And we help my father and I help you come here, and sleep and dream and play a lot.
And I love you very much. Bye


Notepads, notebooks and postcards available with these same images are available at the Laboratorio del Espíritu. If you want to pre order your notebooks, notepads please contact Laboratorio del Espíritu directly:

tel: (+57) 315 516 43 03 · e-mail:


Special thanks to Alfredo Molina for his generous donation of these scarves produced in Spain.

Special thanks to super talented Lucrecia Perez for sewing the borders of the scarves in Spain.

Special thanks to Esteban Clavijo, Jaime Zuluaga, Andrea Gutierrezand Adriana Arias from Línea Directa, for their generous donation of the scarves produced in Colombia as well as all the love and care they have put into this project.

Special thanks to Pancho Tolchinsky as always for his lovely pictures of the scarves.

Special thanks to those who would like to contribute with this beautiful project.


Top Story in The Sue Searle Daily (Thursday 5 April 2012).