Clare Press Tells Us About Her New Book, Which Tackles Grass Roots Activism

by: Rosie Dalton | 2 years ago | Features

Image: Clare Press with Eco-Age founder Livia Firth. 

Clare Press is a dear friend of Well Made Clothes. The author and activist is Vogue’s Sustainability Editor at Large and she has also penned one of our favourite books about ethical fashion, Wardrobe Crisis. In between juggling episodes of her podcast by the same name and global appearances at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, though, Clare has most recently been working on a brand new book. For Rise & Resist, she turns her attention to grassroots activism and how we can use fashion as a vehicle for positive political change. So with the book officially hitting shelves this week, we caught up with Clare about pussy hats, Model Mafia and “living lighter on the planet”. 

Rosie Dalton: Congratulations on the release of Rise and Resist Clare! Can you tell us about the initial catalyst for writing this book?
Clare Press:
 Thank you. It started with the Women’s Marches, then took shape on a trip I made with the Climate Council to the Great Barrier Reef in September last year.

It’s obvious that activism is on the rise. We are seeing people come together to make their voices heard across a number of different issues: climate change, plastic pollution, waste, social justice, you name it. This book is about how those issues intersect, and how we – as active citizens – can play our parts, how we can organise and build movements to make the change we want to see.

Rosie: What was the research and germination process like for this one and in what ways was it similar or different to your journey with Wardrobe Crisis?
 The writing process was much the same as for Wardrobe Crisis. I write narrative non-fiction based on interviews and story-telling. The slog part is always the research. For Wardrobe Crisis, I spent weeks learning about plastic. For Rise & Resist, it was doing as much reading as humanly possible about climate change. I was talking to experts, and getting them to read my drafts to make sure I hadn’t made any glaring rookie mistakes. This is no science textbook, but as a writer you have to get your facts straight before you can tell the story. The human stories are the fun bit.

Rosie: What are some of your favourite stories or anecdotes from the book?
 They are all my favourites. But okay, I loved talking to British craftivist Sarah Corbett about what she calls gentle activism. Sarah says, “If we want our world to be a more beautiful, kind and fair place, then shouldn’t our activism be more beautiful, kind and fair?” I got some friends together in Sydney, including my Fash Rev mate Kirsten Lee, and we tried it ourselves. You’ll have to read the book to find out how it turned out.

Image: Clare’s new book, Rise & Resist.

Rosie: Fashion has long been used as a medium for personal expression. Why do you believe it is such a powerful vehicle for the communication of socio-political ideals?
: While I come from fashion, I don’t see that as a siloed place where all we can do is look at fashion issues, like diversity on the runway or textile waste. If you care about diversity in fashion, then you care about social justice in general, surely? You care about equality. If you are concerned about fashion’s impact on the environment, then wouldn’t you care about the impacts of other industries on our natural world too? You’d care about climate change, sustainability, living lighter on the planet, right? This is something model/activist Cameron Russell points out very eloquently in Rise & Resist. Everything’s connected.

Have you been following the work Cameron is doing with Model Mafia? It’s fantastic. She encourages models to think of themselves as women in media. Since fashion makes headlines, it provides a platform to talk about the issues that matter to us. I think we can extend that beyond those working inside the fashion industry, to everyone who wears clothes. We can make powerful visual statements with our clothes. We can use them as conversation starters and to support causes dear to us, whether that be garment workers’ rights or tackling pollution. I like the idea of wearing your values.

Rosie: How can everyday women take up this challenge and take action through their own wardrobes?
 I also like the idea of being a fashion activist. Of taking something that some might see as potentially disempowering – or dismiss as merely surface-driven and not very important – and using it as a tool for political and social change. Fashion matters. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It reflects the times, and it can be a powerful tool for self-expression and communication. You don’t have to wear a slogan T-shirt to make a sustainable fashion statement. You can take up the challenge by supporting local, ethically- and sustainably- made clothes. Shall we call them well-made clothes? I think you might relate to that.

Rosie: And how do you personally approach this in the context of your own wardrobe?
Clare: Rosie, I would love to be able to tell you that I’ve become a minimalist, and am totally up for the Project 333 challenge. But no, I still have a giant, bulging wardrobe. I remain a hoarder. The plus side is that I never throw my clothes away. If they don’t fit or suit me anymore, I take care to find sustainable ways of passing them on. I’m still a fashion nut. Just a conscious fashion nut.

Rosie: It has been a very busy year for you Clare! What are you working on next and where can our readers find you?
I took on a lot on this year: writing a book, a new job, heaps of travel, but it has been its own source of energy. You get out what you put in. I’m feeling inspired because of community and all the amazing people I’ve met, and work with, in sustainability – including the incredible team at Well Made Clothes.

This week I start my book tour in Melbourne, and we’re putting on events in Sydney, Adelaide, the Sunshine Coast. I’m talking at the Integrity Festival in Brisbane, which is going to be a highlight. Our Canberra event is a clothes swap. If you’re reading this, please come along and join the conversation. You can check out my website event page for details.

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