Manchester  The ultimate guide to ethical fashion with Lucy Siegle


The ultimate guide to ethical fashion with Lucy Siegle – The Guardian Masterclass

Date: Tuesday 10 March 2015


Words by: Hutton Maplanka and Harriet Newman

(Students at Manchester Metropolitan University studying BA (Hons) International Fashion Promotion)


Held at The Guardian offices in London on the 10th of March, Lucy Siegle’s master class commenced at 18hrs30, and we believe it is fair to say that Lucy Siegle’s master class was one of those rare but very important events that if possible should be used as a template to advance the efforts of the ethically conscious individuals and organisations alike.


Self described as a Lego-haired eco pundit on her twitter account, Lucy began her class by laying down very strong house keeping rules that spoke to the desire of no media in the form of picture taking or video recording through out the event. Lucy also expressed how she wanted it to be more of a discussion rather than a talk and question and answer kind of presentation, Lucy felt that would have just required the audience ourselves included to just listen to what she had to say, instead she really wanted the audience to take part and be involved in the event.


In the first part of the first segment of the master class Lucy Siegle spoke to the audience about the pressure the planet is under in terms of dwindling resources and environmental changes for the worst that the apparel industry is contributing to so heavily, and not to mention the human sacrifice in the form of sweat, blood and tears and even lives that are the currency used to pay for the production of a colossal 80-180 billion garments a year, most of which are casually thrown away after one use.


Three of the most gruesome tragedies in the history of apparel making had occurred within a space of 12 months. 389 deaths at Ali Enterprises in 2012, 112 deaths of Tazreen fashion in 2012, 1127 deaths at Rana Plaza in 2013, all these tragedies are a result in great part of the developed countries irresponsible consumption of goods, which in itself is supporting corporate greed that cares for nothing else but profits at whatever the cost.


Transitioning to the second part of the first segment of the master class, Lucy Siegle puts up a cartoon figure in which a white lady is gleefully looking at clothes in a shopping mall, and all the clothes seem to be smothered and drenched in what appears to be blood, very symbolic of most of the modern first world country consumers. We often walk into shops looking for those bargains, careless in thought as to where these bargain clothes came from and how they are so cheap. An extended exclusive trailer of a new documentary called The True Cost starts with cameras following a woman who suddenly breaks down and says “You have no idea how hard it is for us to make these clothes, we sacrifice everything for you, our blood, sweat, tears and lives are all put on the line to make these clothes, as if that was not enough at the end of it all we have very little or nothing to show for our sacrifices ”, our eyes watered and almost popped out of their sockets, and as for our emotions forget about it they were taking part in the Olympics gymnastics games, there could not have been a better time to be released for that 20 minute break that was allocated to us.


Lucy Siegle and Livia Firth are the executive producers of True Cost movie, Andrew Morgan is the director of the documentary and Michael Ross produces the documentary, more information can be found on the documentary on the website The movie will be screened and available on the 29th of March 2015 in digital download format or DVD/ Blu-Ray format. We kid you not, The True cost is a must see film everyone must make an effort to see.


Having pulled ourselves together during the break, we made our way back into the master class assigned room, here Lucy had put up some of her clothes on display for the audience to examine and pick at for further discussion later on, we begged the organisers of the master class to allow us to at least take a few photo’s and we were granted just five minutes to do so while Livia Firth was getting ready to get on the stage for an all inclusive conversation with Lucy and the audience. Livia Firth brought to light the interesting developments the organisation she is working with and for called Eco-Age has been creating, such as the green carpet initiative that brings well-known celebrities into the fight for a just and better world. Livia also spoke to the fact that many high fashion brands, because of the landscape that fast fashion has created are struggling to make sales, and with this in mind these brands are with great delight turning to the sustainable approach as a way of separating themselves from the competition in an effort to appeal to their ever enlightened and conscious growing consumer. Ethical fashion and sustainability approach apart from helping brands offer something different also very aptly boosts a companies Corporate and Social Responsibility profile, which is what every company that wants a future is desperate to build.


The second half of the second part of the master class was mainly everyone in the audience chipping in to add their ideas, thoughts, and questions and sharing possible solutions to tackling the task at hand. Scheduled to end at 21hrs30 the master class ran a little longer and we dismissed at 21hrs53, and we must say it was to the great relief of the security team that seemed desperate to go home.


In closing, we will leave you with quotes to inspire, encourage and celebrate the heart of the conscious being that we hope you are, or are striving to be. Every life matters, we think there is nothing better than a life well spent in the field of bringing hope and happiness to other people whose voice, hopes, dreams and thoughts have been crushed by despair. Let the quotes below, if you may inspire you.


“We are looking at a slave trade, what is going to be regarded as a slave trade of the future and if we continue to buy into it, we have to ask ourselves what we doing.” Lucy Siegle


“People have a preference to remain ignorant, even though they claim to care about big matters like sweat shop labour, they will make an effort not to know about it, this enables them to justify their bargain purchase” Neeru Paharia


“One of the major problems is that retailers and big brands in the West have been able to outsource production and therefore think that they have outsourced responsibility.” John Hilary


“This consumption of goods, is a response to our disconnect to the product being created by a person. Leah Garvin


“The actual business model of fast fashion is completely unsustainable and unethical no matter how you look at it unless you change that model you can not change anything “ Livia Firth



“Sometimes working conditions become secondary to getting the product at a certain price.” Peter Kaufman


Lucy Siegle is a journalist and broadcaster specialising in environmental and social justice issues, and ethical consumerism. She joined the Observer in 2000 and has been a columnist since 2004. She also founded the Observer Ethical Awards. Lucy’s book on the fashion industry and the need for reform, To Die For: Is fashion wearing out the world?, was nominated for the Orwell Prize for investigative non-fiction in 2012. In 2014 she co-wrote a Guardian Shorts ebook on the Rana Plaza disaster in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where over 1,100 people died in a fashion manufacturing building. Lucy is also an experienced and passionate public speaker and broadcaster, having presented for the BBC and delivered a TEDx talk on sustainable fashion. In 2009 she co-founded the Green Carpet Challenge, a marketing platform for sustainable style that aims to raise the profile of ethical fashion, and raise the bar on its aesthetic and execution. Read Lucy’s Guardian and Observer articles here.


Written by Zoë Hitchen