Quite like the European Renaissance that spanned several centuries, we are being holistically reborn. Our perspectives and levels of awareness are changing rapidly. Thanks to the Internet, we have access to unlimited information — and misinformation. This global COVID-19 pandemic accelerated an awakening that was already in motion. It placed a monumental “pause” on Western life and business. We’ve had to pivot and adapt in new ways after years of settling into prescribed systems. The pandemic has devastated the already vulnerable, especially oppressed populations and the food insecure.
Then, after decades of police brutality coming to light, thanks to mobile phones, CCTV, dash and body cams, George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked a fire in our love-deprived, dried out and flammable towns and cities. Our combined outrage at the lack of justice within law enforcement exploded, compounded by the pandemic. When we look back at this time in history, we will see this painful moment as a critical turning point for humanity. Human beings from all walks of life are waking up to the injustice, suffering and division that have been sown over time — all symptoms of a planet and species out of balance. Our global collective is being forced to stop and recalibrate. The systems and constructs that no longer serve humankind are being knocked down so we can rebuild. More than ever before, humanity is questioning and rethinking all aspects of life. Fashion is just one of them.
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The underlying philosophy of the EcoRenaissance is: Yes, and. By that I mean there is no need to give anything up. No compromise. We can all have what we love and seek and make a positive difference to human and planetary health, farmer and worker welfare, and future generations. Yes, we can feed the world with delicious, wholesome food, and we can rebuild soil heath, global wellness and farmer livelihoods while we’re at it. Yes, we can have beautiful and functional clothing, and we can regenerate our planet and lift farmers and garment workers at the same time.
Fashion’s EcoRenaissance mirrors our global awakening and rebirth, reflecting its five pillars: creativity, connection, collaboration, community and consciousness. We’ve already seen brands and retailers dig to new depths of creativity to keep businesses afloat during the pandemic. We will continue to see an acceleration of innovation, with a focus on diverse voices at the table, to tackle supply chain resilience, automation and enhanced traceability with blockchain. Style, too, will continue to break boundaries and social norms as global consciousness elevates. With a renewed interest in equity, fashion’s former role in demarcating social status will fade away.
Connection will take on a new meaning, as boundaries between supplier, merchant and consumer continue to blur. Revolutionary technology and transparency will push all parties to serve a united whole, correcting the corruption and imbalance that currently plagues our supply chains. The understanding of our interconnection as a global ecosystem means that we are not immune to what happens across the world and so we must place equal care on every step in our supply chains — not just the end product.
We will collaborate as we never have before, elevating our communities with the power of the collective genius. We are social creatures — the psychological deprivation of being separated from one another has pushed us to find new ways to connect. When physical proximity is restored, we will embrace collaboration with a renewed vigor. Fresh perspectives and shared causes will unite competitors while we navigate the contraction and rebirth of our industry, together.
On that note, our individual concerns will take a back seat as our consciousness grows. We will begin functioning more as a global community as macro issues continue to impact everyone, regardless of geographic location or socioeconomic status. Locally, activism will strengthen our neighborhood circles and empower the people, giving voices to those who once were exploited or oppressed. We will hold one another accountable as we create a restorative global culture.
Our global consciousness will drive changes in farming, chemical usage, and consumer behavior. We have been told how to look, what to think, and what to buy for far too long. We will regain trust in ourselves as we develop a long-neglected sense of intuition. This inner guide will grow stronger in all of us, restoring faith in both the global community and in ourselves, as we reject the status quo and redesign humanity’s path.
One of my favorite quotes is, “Vision is the art of seeing things invisible,” by Jonathan Swift. This volatile moment in history is, in many ways, a blessing. We are being forced to stop, look, and see things that were not visible while we were in constant motion.
Silver linings are glimmering at us through the darkness of adversity. Improved air-quality maps are reinforcing our continued need to reduce human activity that leads to climate change. Increased pressure on local governments has resulted in reallocation of law enforcement funding, renaming of streets and schools and redesigning of state flags. The next generation of consumers and designers will care less about the superficiality of runway shows and fleeting trends and more about the positive impact embedded in fashion’s art form. That’s always been in the DNA of EcoFashion Corp., my “Greenhouse of Brands” — a high level understanding of why fashion matters and how we can sow seeds of consciousness into everything we make, we say and we do. We are entering a new digital age where we can react to sourcing challenges in real time. Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve today’s problems with the same consciousness that created them.” By paying attention, as we evolve, to the internal source that drives us as individuals, we can solve external problems all around us — in fashion, the environment, government and all the systems in between.
I am pulling a quote from my book, “ECOrenaissance: A Lifestyle Guide for Cocreating a Stylish, Sexy, and Sustainable World,” because it describes exactly how I feel about fashion’s potential for impact. “We have the power to look good, feel good, and do good in the world, all at once. Collectively, we just have to design this reality.” We get to decide what’s next for fashion. Let’s make it beautiful, on every level.
Marci Zaroff coined the term “eco-fashion” and is an internationally recognized eco-lifestyle expert, educator, innovator and serial eco-preneur.