This year was not the one we expected. Masks cover our faces as we shield ourselves from more than the cold. The freedoms we once took for granted have been taken away and our homes, once our refuge, are starting to become prisons. In a country where we’ve been free to go anywhere at any time, being restricted for nearly a year is frightening.
The UK is a country that for years has been shielded from the fears other countries face, but the pandemic has shown us we are not untouchable. Like many countries around the world, we have suffered loss and have been forced to dramatically change our lifestyles to keep ourselves and other people safe. Jobs have been lost and businesses have suffered. And after all of this, we are still the lucky ones.
After working in Asia, spending time in different countries, and immersing myself in different cultures, witnessing their struggles as well as their celebrations, I have to admit I started to grow impatient with my own culture. I have never experienced true poverty. I have never suffered hunger, endured racial discrimination and have never witnessed war. In my opinion that is what privilege is.
The more I saw the more I learnt, and the more I became ashamed of the colour of my skin and the pain it has caused for centuries and what it still represents today. I became frustrated with our greed and our self-entitlement, even by having so much more than others, it’s still not enough.
My love for fashion started to fade as I saw the true cost of the clothes I once proudly wore. I saw western fashion deciders expecting factories to follow our rules but didn’t give them our benefits. I saw beautiful party dresses being sewn by small worn hands and my heart broke seeing local environments being destroyed as an expendable side effect of our ever-growing demands. I started to despise an industry I had always admired; the glossy images of fashion in my head were now replaced with images of struggle.
I naively thought that offering TOBEFRANK to fashion retailers, I would be greeted with open arms by our UK retailers, but instead I was told I would just highlight how unsustainable their current brands are. Throughout this year, seeing many large retailers ignoring their commitments by not paying their workers due to covid whilst claiming to be working on ‘sustainable’ ranges, has infuriated me. However, despite all of this my faith has remained. I realised, it isn’t about the retailers, it is about the shoppers. The incredible people who have choosen to shop from us and other responsible brands instead of fast fashion has given me faith. Seeing social media full of people dramatically changing their shopping habits and seeing all the incredible support from our customers, means just so much.
I started on this mission of TBF because I truly believe that the fashion industry can change for the better. I saw the difference even small changes can make when producing clothes and saw the wonderful lives people could have by implementing simple changes and ensuring living wages were paid. As a start-up struggling through a pandemic in our first year of trading it’s been tough. My trust has been cracked, my faith has been shaken, but my determination has not been broken.
Once this pandemic has passed and life starts to resemble something like ‘normal’, we cannot go backwards. This pandemic has shown us we are not untouchable, we are dependent on so much for our basic survival and we need to take better care of our home. We have been hiding away from the side effects of our modern world for so long. It’s time to be the strong people we are and change.
2020 was the year the world changed, but let’s make 2021 the year WE changed the world.
See you all in 2021......
Love & Peace,