How did you choose the voices that are part of the book? What gap in the industry do you want the project to fill?
I work with people I like. I have a relationship with every person in the book. That’s because I make sure I do. I have conversations before I jump into bed. I want to know that we align. That what matters to me also matters to you. That is the only way anything will have any longevity. Longevity is so crucial. We miss it’s power in our culture because we deal with issues and people in the same way we deal with products – in a rush. But you can’t rush this, I need it to soak in.
It isn’t about a gap. It’s about radical change. It’s about us finally lifting the veil of racism, talking transparently about the mental health crisis, work culture, open-source education, connecting the dots finally between these issues including the necessity to safeguard our future and that includes our planet, whilst moving towards a holistic education that should go hand in hand with action in our industry and beyond. It’s about providing the intersectional education that was amiss in my studies and many of my peers’. So that when kids now, or whomever, aspire to contribute to the creative industries and go looking for a holistic, education that has been necessary for an age, they are equipped with the tools to dismantle systems that do not place people at the centre. It’s about equipping people so they can challenge beliefs (even their own), practises and models – including those rooted in racism, imbalance and apathy. That is the sole aim.
“You cannot discuss critical race theory without human stories, in the same way you cannot combat racism without looking at economic and social (including Industry) structures and the disparities between them. It’s time for this industry to wake up and stop thinking they are uniquely innocent.” -Georgina Johnson
The project is touching several major topics of the industry, from sustainability and mental health, to social injustice and climate change. What do you think is the most uncovered topic in the industry and why do you think people are not that comfortable talking about it?
What do I think is the most uncovered topic or most underserved experience? All these groupings pertain to life, human or biodiverse, so essentially our language needs to be updated and expanded for us to understand what is missing. Language isn’t solely what we read, it’s what we see, it’s how we posture and gesture, it’s what we consume that shapes us. I am a Black woman, but I’m not a monolith. I can talk about all of these things because I see and have experienced the very real implications of not doing so, of ultimately being another cog in a monstrous machine and the danger of apathy. It isn’t about pulling one thing out and dissecting it in isolation, it is about having an active and loud conversation about how layered our lives are. You cannot discuss critical race theory without human stories, in the same way you cannot combat racism without looking at economic and social (including Industry) structures and the disparities between them. It’s time for this industry to wake up and stop thinking they are uniquely innocent. When something is systemic, it means it is far reaching. It infiltrates all parts of life.
We see the recent move towards environmentalism in recent years, and this has gathered brilliant momentum. It’s necessary and incredibly important, but marches need to be followed up with action. The difficult conversations around the environment are beginning to take place, in the same way that the really hard conversations are starting to take place in relation to mental health. But when industries and policy makers continue to view these things as single pillars they absolve themselves of accountability, because they think “Ok, we spoke about this this week, let’s move on”. It goes back to longevity. There is no longevity, so how can you begin to serve any experience without commitment to the long game. None of these issues suddenly existed over night, it’s years of oppression, ignorance and passivity that have contributed to weaving societal consciousness. So stop thinking it’ll dissolve with a few posts and the sprinkle of an influencer.
What do you think that the fashion industry is lacking right now, and how do you think that fashion education carries a responsibility on this?
Fashion education has a huge huge huge impact on the industry. It is a mirror of the future. Who is in your classrooms and who isn’t. What is being spoken about and what isn’t. You look at this and you will see the shape of the industry in the next 4-5 years; Simple.
The fashion industry is missing accountability and action. We use blank statements and 30 seconds of our time with a post and think that will solve any real issue. That to me is more a reflection of the apathy at the heart of capitalism which is internalised and quite frankly a manifesto for many brands and individuals. If you do not put in the time to do the work, it will not get done. If you are not having the uncomfortable conversation with yourself, the people around you (not black folk) and then go back and talk to the people you work with then you are complicit in the continuance of oppression. We are in a moment where our lives are for the most part, halted, but we still see the sacrifice on display; of lives that are deemed more worthy than others, of lives that have to serve the economy and endanger their health and likely that of those connected to them because governments are more concerned about the health of capital. Have we seen enough to want to change every strand of our society yet? Does this matter to you yet? The fashion industry is in no way innocent. It lacks a follow through, because it thinks it’s solved it’s issue with race with the placement of a few editors here and a model here and there. Again, that only reveals ignorance and apathy. If this industry does not commit to: supporting the issues that are affecting our world – penetrating the systems we all exist within, and more to the point actively support the communities of individuals that are pushed to the back; Black + POC, differently abled people people; and begin consciously examining themselves, setting intentions, looking at the structure of their business and its culture, calling in bad practise, putting people before profit, paying black people properly, empowering black business and organisations (grassroots/Informal) run by black people to decentralise wealth, pushing their careers forward with the same aggression and intensity fashion co-opts with, and not thinking that our bodies are endless energy sources for voyeuristic pleasure and endless wells of ‘cool’. If this industry does not stop the performance and drop the attitude and instead embrace radical empathy met with action, then it will self-combust.
If you want to commit to unlearning, pre-order The Slow Grind here
More on Georgina Johsnon‘s work at The Laundry Arts