How good storytelling can inspire action

By Florence Howarth

A warehouse with piles of used fabric sorted into different colours

Recently, I was watching a TEDTalk from sustainable fashion entrepreneur and founder of tailoring platform SOJO – Josephine Philips. In the 10 minute talk, she passionately discusses one solution to combating fast fashion – valuing the clothes we have. The talk doesn’t offer any new or radical solutions to climate change, but instead looks at how we change our mindset from viewing clothing as ‘disposable’, back to valuing, repairing, keeping and wearing clothes for longer.

The way storytelling is used in the talk, using personal anecdotes to discuss a wider issue, and changing consumer minds is what makes this TEDTalk so powerful. There are three things Josephine does to capture the audience in the short time:

Make it personal

The talk opens with a trip back to Sierra Leone, in the 1950’s, where Josephine’s beautiful grandmother purchases a short yellow dress in a market – which she then hands down to her granddaughter six decades later. This dress had travelled across the world when her grandparents emigrated to London. She also uses her sister’s pair of jeans that she has owned for over 15 years, and repaired twice as another opener to discuss the sentimental value of clothes. Using personal experiences and making them relatable is key to capturing the audience.

Highlight the wider issue

Josephine then delves into the issue – the over consumption and over production of waste. She uses examples like the 15 million garments shipped into Ghana every week, the pile of clothes in the Atacama desert, so big it can now be seen from space, or the fact that annual clothing waste has reached 92 million metric tonnes – weighing more than every person in Europe combined.

She is able to contextualise the wider issue with examples that highlight the scale of the issue, and shock audiences – this is key to making the problem feel real, and making people think about the impact fast fashion is having on the planet.

Offer a solution

Finally, Josephine ties the talk together by introducing her business, an online repair platform that aims to keep clothes out of landfill, see garment workers paid a decent wage, and create a movement where our clothes impact the way we look and feel, not the planet. Josephine offers a ‘simple’ solution to one of the largest crises the world is facing right now.

Watching this talk, and being confronted by the facts of fast fashion, made me stop in my tracks. At Forster, addressing the pressing climate issues lies at the heart of everything we do. There is no one solution to tackling fashion’s overproduction and consumption – but the way Jospehine’s storytelling brings this life, made me feel the need to look at my buying habits, and make a change.

Last month I took part in Oxfam’s Second Hand September, and I have decided to extend this until the end of the year. Buying no new clothes until at least 2024, and changing my shopping habits for good. I encourage everyone to look in their wardrobes, repair that piece of clothing that has been sitting in a pile for months if not years, and think about how we can value our clothing more.

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