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“Companies have to start asking, ‘what can my organisation do for the world?’ rather than ‘what can the world do for us?’ Instead of saying ‘what's the sustainability case for business’, they need to ask 'what's the business case for sustainability?’ and ‘what role can we have in change?’ Otherwise, there will be a day that they won't be relevant - business won't exist without water, soil or human health.”


Meet Mathilda, a mum and fashion enthusiast (but not as you know it). We talk to her about how she became an advocate for sustinable fashion, and how less really can mean more. 

Originally from Stockholm, Mathilda has spent lockdown in her London flat with her two girls aged seven and nine. She has submerged herself in the world of homeschooling, sewing, growing, painting, and cooking (and more cooking), all the while building her campaign to encourage consumers to think 'earth logically' about fashion. Mathilda works as a professor in design with a strong focus on climate as well as social justice - thinking about diversity and activism are both a theme at work and at home. Mathilda’s awareness of climate change started when she was a child. She recalls,

"In Sweden when I was eleven years old, there was a big election around using nuclear power which introduced me to some of the climate questions.”

Text:  Beth Mark
Photography: Sandra Freij

This early introduction to environmentalism piqued her interest and became a fundamental part of her decision-making processes.

“It's always been part of what I do. I can't imagine not thinking about these things, and trying to do what I can.”
After studying a degree in fashion in the early '90s and attempting to source organic textiles to little avail, Mathilda went on to pursue a Masters Degree followed by a PhD in design and sustainability at Goldsmiths in London. Fashion is her love, but she could only enable this love to grow if she explored the industry with sustainability in mind, she adds,

“The answer is not in the product. Even if we change to organic textiles that is not going to do it. We need to think broader to the economic systems with which we live. For me, I have to go outside of fashion to understand fashion better.”

Along with Kate Fletcher, it was this thinking that led Mathilda to build the ‘Earth Logic Fashion Action Research Plan’ campaign. Mathilda explains her thoughts behind ‘Earth Logic’,

“We have become increasingly frustrated that change doesn't happen fast enough, and the change we do see is not systemic. We want to talk about the elephant in the room to make a real difference. Earth logic is really our attempt to say, ‘we can fiddle with technology, and we can start changing fashion', but unless we really look at the very heart of the problem, we're not going to have the changes we need. The heart of the problem is that the economic growth that drives the fashion sector (as well as most other industries) is illogical.

Unless we address and understand how economic growth drives people to do things that they shouldn't have to do and drives extraction of resources at the absolutely unrealistic pace, all other attempts we make will make little difference, because the sector keeps growing.

People keep talking about going back to 'normal', but 'normal' was in crisis, and 'normal' is broken. So, rather than trying to recreate the 'normal', we can make something different." 

Over lockdown, the pair have ran workshops and talks about their 'Earth Logic' campaign to those within the fashion sector and the everyday consumer. Mathilda explains,

“Fashion does not just belong to industry. It must involve a mix of stakeholders. So this is a really radical invitation to industry, to governance to citizens and to media (very importantly) to work on this.”

Mathilda goes on to explain how she sees logic changing within industry. She summarises,

“Companies have to start asking, ‘what can my organisation do for the world?’ rather than ‘what can the world do for us?’ Instead of saying ‘what's the sustainability case for business’, they need to ask 'what's the business case for sustainability?’ and ‘what role can we have in change?’ Otherwise, there will be a day that they won't be relevant - business won't exist without water, soil or human health.” 


As consumers and members of the public, Mathilda explains what we can do to help,

“The easiest trick is to consume less - it's to buy fewer things, use things for longer, be more creative, and more confident and just slow down consumption. Try on all your clothes and make a list of all the things that make you feel good. There are no other quick fixes. We need to produce less, we need to consume less, we need to wash things less, and we need to wear clothes for longer. We need to do less of everything.”

We move on to discuss the bare bones of what it is that drives the majority of people to change, Mathilda articulates her feeling,

“I think it's about values. Ultimately, profit or numbers do not genuinely motivate most people – it is their values. At this time, we need to give space in society to talk about what’s important to us – our kids, our health and nature… We can all have a role with that - to steer the conversation to what matters...my children remind me everyday to look after the future after I’m gone. It was a perspective that was abstract for me before. Now it is tangible.”

Mathilda’s advice to somebody wanting to get active to support environmental issues is,

“Don't be afraid of making a fuss or making people angry or causing a bad atmosphere. I have learned that it's okay - people get angry, and they usually get over it, which creates a space to talk about it. You can’t think that change will be smooth - it causes a lot of friction, but you have to learn to take that discomfort.” 

Mathilda uses the phrase ‘stay with the trouble’, which was first used by the thinker and philosopher Donna Haraway. She explains what this phrase means to her,

“It means that it can get messy, and there will always be complex questions… like how do we make sure that people have a better livelihood at the same time as saving our planet?! All these troubles are there, but that doesn't mean that we can abandon the project. We have to stay with that and address that - it's not going to be perfect, but that is our task…even if it feels insignificant, we stay on track and do what we know is right." 

To prepare myself for the interview with Mathilda I had the pleasure of reading “Earthlogic” and found myself drawn into the beautiful world of possibilities described. It’s a world where our high-streets have turned into communal places, where fashion is manifested through community action and coming together to sew, mend and create. It is a world beyond a paradigm shift – a new, better sort of normal. The sort of normal that is, in fact, “normal”. A normal balance defined by earth logic. I can’t wait for the world where I walk down my local high-street and enter a mending café, a swap shop or a community run enterprise.          

The campaign has so far had an excellent response and can only grow from here. 
If you’re interested in learning more as an individual or as an organisation, please join Mathilda and Kate by reading Earth logic and signing up for one of their events – the language is clear and engaging to capture the hearts and minds of a broad audience.

Three  take home statements

Don’t be afraid to make a fuss and create awkwardness - change involves friction.

Find a community of change agents so that you can support each other, celebrate and be upset together.

Don’t wait until you have the perfect idea and plan, winging it is better than not doing it.

London 2020