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© Higher State Industries Ltd 2017

A FOUNDER'S LETTER OF RESURRECTION

26.11.2018

Hi… I don’t know if you remember me. it’s been a while since we last met... I'm the founder of a fashion rental startup that aims to confront consumerism whilst delivering our consumerist dreams…

 

Our recent silence is likely unnoticed as the avalanche of ‘content’ in your feed and your mailbox kept flowing relentlessly. Isn’t the modern death of a business when your social media stops its murmur? Has anyone checked our pulse?

 

We’ve been effectively dead. I had defected to the other side where fashion happens in Paris, is published in glossy magazines, worn by giraffe like models and where people mock you when you don’t know who they are. I found myself in the fringes of that caricature of fashion that is the fashion industry.

 

Having started my entrepreneurial journey by writing an Op-Ed for The Business of Fashion about how the solution to the industries woes was to stop selling clothes and move towards post-ownership and a circular economy, I found myself doing exactly what I’d set out to avoid. I was in Paris selling clothes at wholesale for a luxury brand.

 

Here the topic of climate change was frequent - every stockist suffered as heatwaves swept the world. This spring/summer, the purpose of clothing became to prevent nakedness whilst feeling naked. Despite a lack of demand, my job was to persuade buyers to keep buying and to buy more. I assure them we’ll be creating more demand. We’ll be selling the dream of culture, excess and punk like we’ve never sold it before. Don't people always need more clothes?

 

Playing along with egos that are blind to their predicament made me queazy. The world has changed but those that pander to the ‘official’ fashion system have not. As I’m in the showroom writing orders using pencil and paper, its business as usual despite a fashion system broken by the internet and questioned in regards to its social and environmental impact from the increasingly woke generations. Will Gen Z ever want to consume in this way? The ship was sinking but the party going strong.

 

Whilst there, I wrote my second BoF Op-Ed about a career in sustainable fashion. I posed the question, “do you want to be an entrepreneur or an intrapreneur?” I positioned both as equally important - the need to infiltrate and the need to start from scratch to push change. Subconsciously, this article became a way for me to justify selling my soul to the devil to relieve myself from from what had become the monotony of scraping a living as an entrepreneur.

 

Though an entrepreneur’s primary job is to relentlessly sell an untainted vision and uphold confidence despite any holes that may be appearing, I feel a duty to share the truth behind that - I had run out of money, hadn’t been home in two years, had lost all enthusiasm for doing Airbnb to fund the business and working from home made me feel trapped. It was crunch time but things weren’t falling into place in the way that was needed to get investment. Along had come a dream job opportunity for someone seeking the ability to be promoted to the high ranks of the industry. I persuaded myself that infiltration was a better tactic.

 

But as the IPCC report was published, what I already knew, became undeniable. There is no time left for incremental change of antiquated system.

 

Let’s be clear - the IPCC report is not new information. This report means the nations of the world coming together to publish findings on the difference between warming of 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees. By nature, its politically influenced and conservative and therefore fails to consider the danger of tipping points that when reached, create positive feedback loops resulting in runaway global warming. But even despite all of this, the report is alarming.

 

The conclusion is that the difference is stark. 1.5 degrees is highly dangerous but 2 degrees is a total genocide. For example, at 1.5 degrees degrees of warming, which we are expected to hit by 2040, coral reefs are projected to decline by another 70-90% but at 2 degrees, loss is projected at 99%. With the climate policies currently planned as part of the Paris agreement, we are on course for 3-4 degrees of warming. If the policies run astray, as they may do in the US, Brazil and Russia, we could see warming of 4-5 degrees.

 

Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees requires “rapid, far reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” by 2030 which includes not just stopping carbon emissions but taking carbon out of the air. But remember, nature already invented amazing carbon sucking technology - they are called trees and we’re currently cutting them down. There is hope, but we are in a sprint against time and we need mobilisation of the world like nothing we’ve seen before - the nearest comparison being the world wars. This needs to start now or we won't need to be imagining what we call those that come after Gen Z.

 

Warming is not the only part of this environmental crisis. A crisis of biodiversity shows we are in the 6th ever mass extinction having wiped out 60% of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles since 1970 and half of plant life. It would take 5-7 million years for the world to recover if we end the destruction now. And that’s not all. One third of the earth’s soil is acutely degraded affecting our ability to harvest crops. In the UK, some areas have 30-40 fertile years left.

 

As this all hit home, I left the job to return to higher.studio with a resignation letter stating this:

 

‘I have a war to fight for the planet. This will take 10 years and I have no time to waste.’

 

I’ve been told many times that optimism is needed or complacency sets in. I’ve been told over and over to give attractive solutions not the fear tactic but it is only with facing the reality of the situation and taking the appropriate action, can true hope be re-ignited. I’m done with only painting half the picture.

 

This is not a lost cause but we must accept that this is beyond being an exercise of consumer power. Conscious consumerism, boycotting, zero waste, eating local and so on are not going cut it. Yes we should do our part - importantly, eat vegan when possible and avoid flying but we need to stop manufacturing hope in actions that are a step in the right direction but ultimately won’t save us from extinction. This is now a question of putting pressure on governments. Governments need to declare emergency and make hard and necessary decisions. No longer can economic growth be a priority. 

 

As humanity, if we do what it takes to avoid total meltdown, the businesses that will survive are those that are agile enough to quickly adjust to zero environmental impact, i.e. become totally circular. As a business owner, I believe it’s not just about aiming for circularity, but devising ways to give back to the planet to make up for the past. And most importantly, about creating, educating, empowering and mobilising your communities to save the planet.

 

Please join me by having the courage to face the truth and act. Only with courage is there meaningful hope. I deeply regret that it’s no longer about infiltration and incremental change but about a revolution. We may or may not succeed, but doing what’s right is what’s important.  

 

 

higher.studio is back with a Christmas pop-up store to launch a special partnership with

SWIM XYZ and Circular Vision.

 

Let us know if you can join us.

 

13 - 16 December 2018

265 Well Street

E9 6RG

 

There will be nothing available for purchase during this event.

 

Experience and try on new items available to rent from:

Phoebe English

Minki

Ovelia Transtoto

Ode to Odd

Congregation

Additionally, we’ll have some special pieces from our archive.

 

We will soon be announcing a series of intimate events to bring our community together for meaningful action.

 

 

 

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