The bond between Sigrid McCarthy and Kowtow runs deep. She is the Media & Communications Coordinator at Ethical Clothing Australia and Founder of Intent Journal, a digital magazine which promotes kindness and respect for the environment and humans in the fashion industry. In light of Fashion Revolution Week we sit down with Sigrid to learn more about her and discuss ethics in fashion.
Story photographed by Tasha Tylee.
What keeps you up at night?
I’m an incredibly light sleeper, so pretty much anything keeps me up. One thing I often mull over while lying in bed though is whether or not I’m reaching my potential. Will I be proud of my contribution to the fashion industry? What do I consider ‘success’? Am I conscious of my privileges in the world? How can Intent Journal grow while remaining loyal to its core values? Considering my overactive brain, it’s a surprise I get any sleep, really.
What makes you happy?
Finishing something that has really challenged me. I feel particularly elated after public speaking, as it is a fear I keep on conquering. My job requires me to regularly speak to groups of strangers—from a small handful to several hundreds—and each time I put an immense amount of pressure on myself to do well. The feeling I have when leaving an event is a combination of happiness and pride (with a side of exhaustion). On a more personal note, nothing makes me happier than seeing my partner Tom’s ginormous goofy smile. His daggy humour and energy is the best antidote to a rotten day.
What does sustainability mean to you?
Sustainability is an umbrella term that encapsulates so many things for me. It means a living wage and conditions for workers that help them lift themselves out of poverty and lead dignified lives; it means a deeper connection with what we wear; it means walking away from the terms ‘consumer’ and ‘consumption’ and becoming active citizens with critical minds. Increasingly it means closing the loop and taking responsibility for the lifecycle of everything we interact with.
How have you seen the fashion industry change in recent years?
I’ve seen the topic (ethics in fashion) become less of a taboo, which is a relieving and exciting shift. More brands are starting to explore ways of managing risks throughout their supply chains, as well assess their environmental and social impact. Both media and customers are also beginning to ask the right types of questions that push for greater business accountability.
When do you think people’s attitudes in ethics towards fashion started changing?
The Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in April 2013 cast a dark shadow on the industry and was a catalyst for various campaigns and initiatives to begin. Fashion Revolution in particular has fueled a beautiful and positive dialogue among everyday citizens who collectively have significant buying power. It encourages people to be more mindful and ask brands the simple question, “Who made my clothes?”. I’d love to see this type of engagement taking place all year round; for people to take time to assess their own moral compasses and shop with personal values in mind.
How do you think fashion can change the world?
The fashion system relies on the human touch of millions of people. If we all genuinely cared about the environment and the welfare of fellow humans—and changed our behavior to reflect this—we could collectively change the world. In order for us to reach a healthier system, we need to first acknowledge that the farmers in the fields and the garment workers in the factories are real people with real families, real vulnerabilities, real strengths and real needs. If we treated each purchase as an of voting, we could consciously choose to support artisans; to support those implementing lower impact practices; to support brands doing the right thing. I think this potential is huge.
What are you currently reading?
I’m reading Grown & Gathered by Matt and Lentil as well as The Course of Love by Alain de Botton. I’m also a notorious tab saver, which means I keep loads of tabs open on my computer with articles I have either started reading or plan to read. These are mostly related to the fashion supply chain and human rights abuses. Heavy stuff, but important if I’m to understand the state of the industry and build Intent Journal to be a credible and informed resource.
View Sigrid's project Intent Journal.