Collaboration by Orsola De Castro

Sometimes I wonder how many brilliant people didn’t manage to achieve much, or leave a powerful legacy, simply because they did not, in their lifetime, encounter the support and friendship of like minded individuals ready to share a journey, or support an idea, however far fetched.
And instead how many perfectly normal people outperformed themselves and became better because they were surrounded by others who encouraged them, and battled alongside them.
The more I grow up, the more I realise that life is just as much about who you are as who you meet along the way.
I am reminded of this almost daily in my working life, having lived through the last 10 years in an environment that has forged new ideas, opened up new possibilities and made the unthinkable seem like something achievable, through collaboration.
CSF Designers Borders and Frontiers. Image credit: Kerry Dean
In my field, fashion and sustainability, I have both witnessed and been a part of the UK community positioning itself as a worldwide leader, both in thinking and in design, pioneering a shift towards a different way of interpreting and practicing fashion.
Over the years we have seen the birth of groundbreaking initiatives such as The Centre For Sustainable Fashion at LCF, Estethica, The Ethical Fashion Forum, Futerra, TED (Textile Environmental Design), the Green Carpet Challenge, to name but a few.We have championed the development of successful brands and designers like Christopher Raeburn, People Tree, Wool And The Gang, Beautiful Soul, and and we have heard the powerful reasoning of individuals from all walks life – parliamentarians, academics, catwalk models, factory owners and journalists.
Without wanting to get all hippy and kumbaya about the whole thing, because we certainly have not been living in each other’s back yards chanting whilst building our successful individual endeavours, as a shared journey this one has been powerful, informative and always collaborative in some way or another – like there is a genuine need to reach out to each other for information and support, not to cannibalise for a personal agenda, but to strengthen for the benefit of all.
For me, Fashion Revolution ( which I co-founded together with Carry Somers in 2013, has been the perfect example of this unity – an initiative that has managed to bring together almost everyone from the fashion and sustainability community (in this case internationally, as we now have 66 Fashion Revolution hubs worldwide) in order to demand increased transparency in the supply chain, galvanise consumer participation and ensure that our collective voices can be heard further than ever, by brands, governments, academia, the blogosphere, press and opinion makers.
The core team of leading revolutionaries is made out of individuals from all of the above mentioned organisations, proving that a strong community will reunite, again and again, in support of each other and the cause we have all pledged to further.
It is this show of unity that has made the difference: by operating in unison we have increased the power of our message, adapted it to our various audiences, amplified its reach, made it more relevant and more compelling.
By encouraging a collaborative structure of individuals who believe that change is possible, we have shifted attitudes from focusing on the burden of having inherited a massive problem, to the enthusiasm of becoming a fundamental part of the solution.
The famous Margaret Mead quote “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has” resonates loud and clear in this environment.
Collaboration is the first principle of sustainability – getting together to be disruptive, challenge the status-quo and innovate.
Collaboration is like a magic potion, with an alchemical formula for success: put the right people together, shake well, and witness the incredible unfold.
Orsola de Castro is the founder of From Somewhere, which makes clothes out of recycled offcuts of luxury materials. With her partner, Filippo Ricci, she curates Estethica, an initiative in association with the British Fashion Council that showcases eco-fashion brands.