these past two weeks have been titled "i am green" at miltton showroom. since "green is the new black" it was past due that some pr-agency or another utilized the theme this widely.
in this day and age events around sustainable living must offer more than info on recycling -- we all recycle already, right -- and add to the self-evident solutions of cutting material consumption in favor of services, buying second-hand and favoring locally produced products. miltton's answer was to gather companies that promote ethical and ecological values under the same roof, and to invite consumers and press to experience different paths towards sustainable consumption. there were workshops, panel discussions and competitions in addition to an art exhibition.
combining ecological concerns with the needs of corporate and small company desires for growth and profit is, needless to say, not an easy task, and as others have already pointed out, miltton didn't exactly succeed. one of the problems, as anu pointed out, was the obfuscation of eco and ethical: quite separate and demanding different considerations, having it both ways seems to succeed rarely.
i was invited to come listen to a panel discussion earlier in the week, but somehow a group of corporate spokespersons did not strike me as a credible panel but more of a "let's pat each other on the backs for being so green" kinda discussion. i wholeheartedly welcome all moves towards more eco-friendly practices in all business, but if i want to know how neste and finnair deal officially with eco-pressure, i can visit their websites. moreover, if i want to know how their official position is criticized i can ask greenpeace or some other ngo. from a panel i expect questioning and critical discourse which are the results of variation in opinion -- i wonder why ngo representatives and someone professionally trained in ethics or ecology were not invited to take part?
therefore, i postponed my visit to saturday and checked out the eco-stylist competition. from my perspective, finnish eco-clothing needs a serious makeover before becoming fashion and the event did little to alter my view.
i am not sure whether the founding concept behind the theme was to be informative or transformative -- presumably both. the packed showroom suggested a large number of companies present, but the information provided on each was minimal, and thus, i left with very little added awareness about what was on offer. many of the companies i already knew of, some were rather surprising (like aurinkomatkat with their catalogue of global vacations also noted by nei... talk about some serious carbon print, huh?) and quite a few were so small the only info available was a self-printed calling card.
when it comes to transformative goals the main pragmatic challenge eco-consumption faces is facility: it needs to be easy because people tend to be lazy. with fashion, however, the problem is the apparent dilemma between aesthetics and moral responsibility, superficiality and depth. i quoted rogan gregory in my post about edun to point out that with fashion, surface is primary: if it isn't beautiful, we just don't care how eco it may be. unfortunately the track record of eco-fashion is ugly: weird hemp rags, recycled garments more infatuated with being creative than beautiful, etc.
therefore, i am quite sure i'm not alone in saying that i would buy eco without hesitation if only the garment fulfilled my requirements for beauty and quality, i.e. i am not willing to compromise my style over substance. i don't get a kick out of wearing something that is obviously self-made. i also continue to steer clear of garments that scream recycled: dresses made out of men's ties, brooches made of circuit boards and other such "clever" conversation pieces. don't get me wrong because i, for one, admire ingenuity and inventiveness, but if the results are as ugly and disgusting to the touch as these bags made of old tires, i am more than happy to bid farewell to eco-chic.
fortunately there were interesting and beautiful individual pieces of clothing, as well, but not many competed with mass-production stylewise. it was telling that the final admissions to the eco-stylist competition looked, well, eco-homemade-second-hand-hoohah rather than fashion editorial ensembles -- all explained by the selection of clothing available.
during the competition the aspiring eco-stylists were asked who they'd like to re-style eco-chic. one of the competitors answered "anna wintour", and i think she truly captured the challenge ecological fashion is facing. the companies direct their design and marketing towards a consumer niche that is already aware of eco and less aware of fashion when they should approach the whole process differently: changing the fashion world starts with fashionistas who are driven by the exterior. it is about providing alternatives that are pleasing to the eye rather than relying on eco as the strongest selling point because green may work as a fad, but prolonged change requires appeal on the fundamental level of aesthetic.
while the event was all about high morals and ethical thinking, truthfully i was appalled to hear the head designer of nanso rely on xenophobia and borderline racism in her attempt to promote their lempivaate line of clothing. such statements as "it's so cool to have a finnish middle-aged marjatta or irmeli work on our clothing rather than some tiny chinese person" do not arouse a wow-effect on my part -- although her blurt was received with "yeah, how cool" by many. as a reminder, the "tiny chinese person" is also someone's aunt and mother probably working under conditions no-one in their right mind would accept here and, moreover, even if i find local production truly worthy of preservation and promotion for various reasons, nationalism and xenophobia are not among them. thus, there's some serious need for pr-training at nanso: advancing local clothing industry does not require ignorant and offensive comparisons.
being green is probably the new cool which by definition requires some in depth thought. miltton's market of products relied too heavily on people's need to relieve their conscience to inspire a transformation in consumer habits. they succeeded in making it all look very easy, but my light mood slowly evaporated as i slurped my innocent smoothie and remembered the junk posing as fashion i left behind at the showroom.