Tansy Hoskins, Author of Foot Work: What Your Shoes Are Doing to the World | Podcast Interview Transcript
Image credit: Liam Yulhanson & Michelle Woods
My guest this month is Tansy Hoskins, an author and journalist based in London. In March 2020, she released “Foot Work: What Your Shoes Are Doing to the World”, an exposé of the shoe industry, and the damage it is doing to workers, consumers and the planet.
Tansy's previous book, Stitched Up: The Anticapitalist Book of Fashion, is one of my favourites exploring the political issues in fashion. It’s a 360 degree view of the issues at stake, looking at everything from Karl Lagerfeld to Karl Marx. Actor Emma Watson chose Stitched Up as one of her favourite books.
In her work, Tansy combines environmental concerns with a critique of capitalism and issues facing the global working class, Tansy is at the forefront of not only illuminating the problems facing fashion now, but thinking of how we might build a better future for all.
Rena: Tell me about the book, first of all. Why did you choose shoes, particularly as a garment that represents so much that needs to change in fashion?
Tansy: Well, I wanted to write about shoes, partly because there hasn't been a critical book on shoes, most books on shoes are more about the design of shoes and they are usually very beautifully presented books. But I wanted to go deeper into the very fabric of those shoes and the people who made them. I wanted to explore how they come into being. And also, shoes were one of the first objects to be globalized and to be made on a truly global scale scattered all around the world. And I just thought that was a really interesting story and something that needed exploring and so shoes can be something that tell us more about the world that we live in.
Rena: Tell me about that idea that one of the first things that's been truly globalized, because, of course, when we look at the history of fashion production, the industrial revolution started in Britain and France and a small part of Europe before spreading out to the rest of the world. So why was shoes one of the first things that have become global?
Tansy: Because shoes are relatively simple to make. The primary reason was because you could pay people a lot less if you got them made on the other side, the world, than if you've got them made in America or Europe, that was the number one consideration. So after the Cold War ended, lots of different markets opened up. So then you suddenly could start producing in China or in Indonesia. And that was just a gold mine, it was a gold rush for labour at that point.
Rena: And what is it about shoes particularly? Is it because there's less elements to the construction of shoes in particular?
Tansy: Well, garments also when we went overseas very quickly. But yes, it's a relatively simple job. I mean, I hate the phrase unskilled labour. If anyone's tried making a shoe. I mean, I've tried to make a shoe. It's really difficult! Say it's a skilled job, but it's one that you can be trained to do in a in a relatively short period of time. And then it's just very, very repetitive. And the biggest cost really involved in making shoes is labour, the pay packet of the people who are making them. So if you can slash that pay packet, then you can make far, far greater profit on the shoes that you're ultimately selling.
Rena: Yeah, that is an interesting misconception, isn't it? I guess not just in fashion, but in globalised industrialization. But the idea of skilled and unskilled labour, because actually in fashion, most people know about the sweatshop reality of mass production. But at the same time, when it actually comes to the things that are being made, actually does take a lot of skill. And so do you think that makes it particularly the injustice of the pitifully low wages, the awful working conditions - do you think that makes that injustice particularly acute in fashion?
Tansy: Yes, I do. And I also think that it is an incredibly gendered question. I think this is about how society doesn't value the labour of women right across the world. The fact that wages are so low is intimately tied up with the fact that these are jobs being done by women. And of course, what we see now is that these are jobs being done by women in the Global South. So there is a racist element to the shoe industry, and to the fashion industry as well.
Rena: Yeah, I think that's especially if you're reading the statistics about the gender imbalance and in the workforce in particular affects women and of course, children are involved, and refugees. Refugees and migrants make up a massive proportion of the workforce in so many parts of the fashion industry. That's something you talk about in the book, isn't it, as well?
Tansy: Yeah, that was one of them. One of the more disturbing things was looking into the fact that there are Syrian refugee children working in basement workshops in Turkey from the age of 6 years old who are stitching shoes which are then exported to Germany and to Italy and to Britain as well. And you've just got that horrible irony there that the shoes that these refugee children are stitching are welcome across the border, they are welcomed into Britain and Germany and Italy. But the children themselves are not welcome to cross that border. And it's a very bleak part. You know what? We've globalized the labour market, but we've not globalized our common humanity.
Rena: You talk in the book about how the labour conditions in the shoe production industry in particular are so much further behind clothing production. Why is that?
Tansy: Yeah, that was one thing that I definitely discovered when researching Foot Work. And it's partly because there just isn't the same spotlight on shoes as there is on clothing. And I think a big part of that is to do with the fact that although there have been fatal factory accidents and fires in the footwear industry, there hasn't been anything on the scale of Rana Plaza, which we've sent seismic shocks through the fashion industry and put a strong spotlight on fashion and on clothing. So there hasn't there hasn't been that. And as a result of that, there hasn't been as much NGO scrutiny and as much kind of journalistic scrutiny placed onto shoes. And so as a result, shoe multinational corporations are doing mostly whatever they want to do. And as we know, that is that's never ever good. So you are left with a subcontracted deregulated industry where conditions are really low, where every point in supply chains are in crisis from the leather industry and the chemicals that are involved, to the glues that are being used. Yeah, the whole thing is a mess and it urgently needs regulation.
Rena: How did you come across that? Because I know that you through your previous research and through the journalism work that you do, you have done a lot of research around the fashion industry, and the garment industry as a whole, including shoes. And so at what point did you realise that there was this imbalance between shoes and garment production?
Tansy: Well, it was partly from interviewing people who are experts on the industry and people who've been campaigning in this and so gathering their opinion. And there was this consensus that, look, shoes are at least a decade behind the rest of the fashion industry in terms of standards and regulation. And then just the things that you see, going into a shoe factory like the ones that I visited in Eastern Europe, and you are immediately hit by a very strong chemical smell that gives you a headache literally within half an hour I had a headache, my eyes hurt, my nose was hurting. You don't get that in your average garment factory where people are just on sewing machines. So, and then looking into that, more of the research about the chemicals that were in this and what people are breathing every day so that, the conditions, the material conditions are just worse in footwear.
Rena: A lot of people might not be aware of this, but what is it about fashion that leaves the system so open to this downward crush of worker standards? Because you talk about how the production of shoes represents the inter-dependencies and injustices shaping our world and the fashion industry has a very particular way of making things. How we make clothes and how we make shoes is quite particular as opposed to other products in that it does have a longer production line. Can you explain a little bit about that?
Tansy: I think it comes down to the fact that one of the things that is hidden about not just about clothing and about shoes, but basically about everything, is that the two things that make everything that we have is number one is human labour. And number two is not natural resources that the biosphere, and within that I would include the animal kingdom as well. And so what every corporation wants to do is maximise the profits that it makes, and on each item that it makes. And so, first of all, what we've had is the natural world being treated like it's a completely free resource so that there's no consequences. Water is free and air is free, and the land the soil is free; and we're now living with the consequences of that.
And then the other thing that they have to squeeze is labour. And so unless you are unless you have slaves and some sections of the fashion industry do run on literal slavery, but unless you have slaves, you have to pay a wage. And so the people are literally rewarded for driving these wages down and down and down. And so those are the two elements that go into fashion and go into footwear and everything else.
Rena: That makes sense. And then the other thing is there's a lack of accountability as well, isn't there? Because the brands who people are buying from and which people recognise are not the people who own the factories, isn’t that right?
Tansy: Yes, that something which is particular or which fashion does very well, is that the brands, in the 70s, 80s and 90s and early 2000s severed the link between branding and manufacturing. So it's incredibly rare now to have a fashion corporation who owns any factories. Britain, Europe, America used to be full of factories. Now, that's not the case. they've outsourced it.
It's incredibly subcontracted, and the whole supply chain is completely deregulated because obviously the other benefit of no longer producing in England, but going over to Bangladesh or the Philippines or wherever, is that, suddenly oh, look! All these pesky environmental regulations have gone. All these regulations about providing healthcare and maternity care and creches, or a living wage, that's all gone. What a lovely corporate playground we now have.
Rena: Absolutely, and in Bangladesh, I was reading that 80 percent of the export industry in Bangladesh relies on the garment trade and they employ an industrial police force who literally crack down on any union activity. So it really is a corporate playground. It's a country that's entirely gearing itself towards international corporations coming in and using its workforce.
Tansy: Yeah, you're completely right. I mean, it's completely terrifying. Number one, to have your economy so exposed to a single industry is a terrible idea, so I'm very worried about what the future will look like for Bangladesh, whether through the rise of automation or whether because companies decide that wages in Bangladesh have gone above a certain threshold and so they jog on to Ethiopia or wherever. So Bangladesh is incredibly overexposed and it's very scary.
And then I think what people need to remember is that a lot of the time the politicians in Bangladesh are intimately linked with the factory owning class to the extent that often you'll have politicians who also own factories or you'll have factory owners who are, for example, retired army generals. So there's a kind of a horrible Victorian-style system where the workers are literally up against a kind of old school ruling class block and that will take whatever extreme measures it needs to keep the factories running.
Rena: It really does feel Victorian, which is why I find it really interesting reading either Marx or what about what Marx had to say about the fashion industry, because the conditions really haven't changed very much since the 19th century and if anything, they've just rolled out to around the world. It's really frightening.
And then I want to talk about what something you've just touched on briefly, but the environment as well. Most shoes aren't recycled. You talk about that in the book, the link between this overproduction of one single item, and the impact it's having on the planet, is massive.
Tansy: Yes, it's terrifying. And it's terrifying when you think about the scary statistics I found that we make sixty six point three million pairs of shoes every single year. And, I was lucky to go up to some laboratories that are based at Loughborough University. And they were saying that 90 percent of shoes are not recycled. So there's this whole section of the supply chain that I still don't think we talk about enough. What happens after that object is not with you anymore? Where does it go? And with shoes, if 90 percent of the time they're not being recycled, where are they going? And what consequences is that having on the planet if we're just burying this stuff that is going to be there in a thousand years time?
Rena: Absolutely. Something I think I found really interesting, which you talked about in Stitched Up, was the conversation around fast fashion because you were talking about the way consumers get blamed and how that's really wrong for corporations to turn around and say that individuals need to buy better. Has this research around shoes confirmed those thoughts that you had about fast fashion?
Tansy: Yes, it definitely has. I'm really keen to avoid class-shaming people. And I think a lot of a lot of the time, sustainability movements kind of fall into that trap. And it's really not people's fault if they don't have the money to save up to buy a two hundred pound pair of trousers or whatever. The ability to save money is a condition of class. And I think not know a lot of the time, people don't remember that enough.
My research into shoes has completely confirmed that, it's like the longer lasting shoes are the expensive shoes. If you go into somewhere like Shoe Zone, you can buy a pair of boots for £15 and they are not like they're not going to last. But that's not the fault of the person who only has £15 to buy a pair of shoes for that for themselves or for their child. So, yeah, it's horrible. But, eventually we need a restructuring of our society so that we have a level playing field and that everybody can afford nice things.
Rena: Yeah, exactly. And it's the idea that we have the resources to create a world where people have things that last, and we don't need to treat things as disposable or try and treat things which were possibly intended to be disposable and trying to make them last.
Tansy: Yes, and in terms of shoe consumption, it's not equal. We make 66 million pairs of shoes a year, but the consumption is not equal on a global level, but it's not is not equal within Britain, or within London. So you've got people with a thousand pairs of shoes and then you've got people with one pair.
Rena: Another thing that I'm going to bring up briefly as well, which I really liked in Stitched Up, was when you were talking about the brand Toms and how they give a pair of shoes for every pair that's bought. And I hadn't thought about this before, but you were talking about the fact that that's treating a symptom of poverty, not the cause of poverty itself. So, of course, people who are poor don't have access to footwear, but just giving them shoes isn't going to take away their problems. I thought that was a really interesting idea.
Tansy: Yeah, I think it's Desmond Tutu who said that we've got to stop fishing people out of the river. We need to go upstream and work out why people are falling into the river. That's the challenge. At some point you can't just keep fishing people out the river. You have to find out what's what's really going on.
Rena: Definitely. I want to talk about your background. I remember when I was reading Stitched Up, you were talking about how you had and I think this absolutely came across in the book. You had a clarity because you weren't coming to the fashion industry from the perspective of a fashion journalist. You talked about the way that fashion press is really glorified advertising. And as somebody who trained as a fashion journalist, I thought this was so true. And I thought, like I say, I think that clarity really came across in the book, which allowed you to be really critical. What brought you two to write Stitched Up?
Tansy: Well, I wrote Stitched Up in order to answer the questions that I had about the world, which I think is often one of the firmest starting points for a book or a big project. For me, I grew up in the 90s when Primark first existed; me and my friend could go to Houslow high street, we could buy shoes for seven pounds. That was like heaven on a Saturday, but I was always aware that I could shop and shop and shop, come home with loads of bags of basically rubbish and then wake up the next day and want to do it all over again.
So a lot of it was what is going on internally? Why is there this black hole that I can never fill up? And then I had friends who had eating disorders, so it was like, what is what is going on there? What is the impact of our visual culture? And then, and then I've always been interested in the environment, and then workers rights started to become more important to me. So I'm interested in fashion and I enjoy the creativity of it, but like you say, fashion doesn't pay my bills, so I was free I was free to say whatever I wanted. I don't want to be hired by a fashion brand. No fashion brand in its right mind would want to hire me so I could say whatever I wanted. And I think that was really necessary for that book.
Rena: Yeah. And it was interesting to see that you'd written for you've written for The Guardian and Al-Jazeera, the i Paper and I.D. and you've also written for the Business of Fashion, talking about sustainability and talking about crises that fashion is going through.
Tansy: Yeah. That was the very early days of Business of Fashion. And then we ended up parting company because they're not radical in any real sense. And I pitched some stuff and it wasn't working. And also they never paid me for anything, but it was good to get some of these opinions into that world. But I think that they should pay journalists and be more radical!
Rena: Absolutely. I was at London Fashion Week last weekend and there's one thing that was really obvious was that there was much more model diversity on the catwalks in terms of size than I've seen before. But also the British Fashion Council were talking about sustainability a lot. They had a swap shop organised; Mother of Pearl, hosted a sustainability event. But I wondered what you thought of this idea of sustainability and whether it's a buzzword and something that people might like to be seen to be talking about, or whether the industry really is capable of change.
Tansy: I think Extinction Rebellion have done a very good job of making the environmental impact of fashion unavoidable at Fashion Week. And I think the moves that we did see at this February Fashion Week were a response to them. Is it enough? No is absolutely not enough. Are we basically seeing every every brand just print the word sustainability willy nilly on everything? Yes. But does fashion need to change? Absolutely.
Either they change or climate change is going to change the industry and the world irrevocably. Climate scientists consensus is that we now have eleven years in which to halt runaway climate catastrophe. And fashion is supposed to be about the future, fashion is obsessed with the future. But we are in a moment where fashion is unable to comprehend what is coming at it and what it has helped to create as well.
Rena: That is a really interesting contradiction, actually, because we've just talked as well about Victorian working conditions. And as somebody who works in fashion, I find that the people who are least willing to be the first to do something are actually people in fashion. It makes me laugh that something will come along and everyone will say, "Oh, that's awful", and then all of a sudden everyone's doing it. And I feel like there's this thing where it's the idea of being part of the future. And it's kind of pro-change, which I've sort of observed over time. And I don't know what that says about people.
Tansy: I don't know what the means will be, but I think I personally think there's going to have to be regulation. I don't think we will have a situation where a single brand or a single company will be able to go far enough by itself, even if they really wanted to because all their competitors won't be doing that. So I think we can do them a favour by making it very clear what they legally can and can't do.
Rena: Yeah, I think regulation definitely has to come into it. And I think you're right, I think the model of capitalism is so competitive between brands that even that even the issue of size, even the issue of getting models that look like more representative of most people, even getting that kind of change has been a really hard slog and remains something which has a long, long way to go. What do you think about the idea that it's not just the fashion companies that are held back, but capitalism as a whole is geared towards conservatism?
Tansy: Yes, I think with regards to the climate it is geared towards being conservative to head towards being backwards, because at the top, the two pillars are profit and competition, outdoing your competitors, squeezing as much as you can out of your labour and out of the planet. So yeah, it's not geared towards doing anything other than that. Which is deeply depressing!
Rena: So you say that the source of all wealth is the planet and human work. And we have what it takes to create a more equal society, so what would that look like for you?
Tansy: Within the fashion industry or society? I mean, that's the big question. Fashion without capitalism for me would be very exciting and interesting. I think it's kind of two points here.
The first one is that I think if you want to see the exact impact of capitalism on fashion is, you have to go back to Rana Plaza and you have to go back to that morning in April 2013. And what a lot of people don't realise is that there was an argument outside the factory just before it collapsed between the managers and the workers. And the workers knew that the building was unsafe and they didn't want to go inside. And eventually the manager said if they wouldn't go back in and get to work, that they would lose a day's pay, or more, in fact, which is impossible. So the workers were forced to go back inside that factory. And for me, that's the moment where we see the impact of capitalism, where we see that the lives of those young women were judged to be less important than the products, the clothing that they were stitching on their sewing machines.
So, first of all, you would never have that drive to mass produce stuff to the extent that it overrules the sanctity of human life. You would have instead you would have worker control of the factories and immediately that would cut production down because nobody is going to vote or make themselves work a 70 hour week. They'll make sure they pay each other, and so production would immediately fall.
And then at the same time, one of the things I think is really exciting about fashion without capitalism is the design possibilities because at the moment, fashion is governed by loads of stupid rules that aren't real. So pink for girls, blue for boys, trousers for men, skirts for women, high heels, all of these things. And then what people can wear to work, what is acceptable to wear in certain social situations, sexuality; people aren't free to express themselves, like the rules around race and fashion. So all these really destructive things, and then also, most people don’t get the chance to really, really be creative within fashion.
Design is kind of on lockdown at the moment, there's a one percent who get to do the fun stuff, and then everyone else just gets to kind of buy what they can afford. And I think if people had more autonomy and involvement in design, then also they would be more connected to the clothes that they have as well. So I think fashion without capitalism would be really exciting. And for me, that would be autonomy of yourself and of your community and of your workplace and of the planet that we live in and living within the means of the planet not living in order to make profit for giant multinational corporations who don't care about any of us.
Rena: Sometimes you get a sense that big fashion companies don't even care about the art of fashion, in a sense, they're just pumping out these clothes, versus people who really care about fashion as an art form. It's just another product to be sold and to make that profit on, and not really about the art. I mean, capitalism really does kind of suck the life and joy out of things.
Tansy: It's true, a lot of fashion on the high street is very boring but even a lot of high fashion is boring, couture and stuff is still for a market, and I would argue an increasingly conservative market at the moment. So it's not the best that we could do at all.
Rena: I think what you just said throws up a whole lot of things as well, like the fact that, our grandmothers’ generation knew how to make clothes and knew how to even alter things that they would maybe buy or they would make things from pattern. And there was a lot of problems in that, in that it was often women's work and it was and it would fall to women to do that unpaid at home. But still there's a loss of those skills.
It's interesting now when we admire each other's clothes. Most of the time it's like, oh, you shopped well! That's actually what you're congratulating someone for, they found something in a shop. But it's really interesting to think of fashion without capitalism because they are so linked I mean, capitalism infuses everything that we do. So what about production? Do you think that we'd be producing a lot less as well without capitalism?
Tansy: Definitely. We should be producing for what we need, and to an extent what we want as well. What we're doing at the moment is producing what shareholder capitalism needs and that is not benefiting you and I. It's not benefiting anyone. Not benefiting people making the clothes. It's not benefiting people on this hamster wheel of consumerism. And it's sure as hell is not benefiting the planet in any way. In fact, this is destroying it. Number one cause of Amazon deforestation is cattle farming, and 50 percent of everything made from leather is shoes. So do you really want to chop down the Amazon to have a new pair of shoes?
Rena: It feels like we're living in a time warp where we have these ways of producing things which just are so outdated, just treating things as disposable like we're in the Midwest in the 19th century we've just discovered, white people just discovered virgin land or whatever.
Tell me about your activism in general. Because I was reading that you were involved in Stop the War Coalition and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. So what's your journey into activism been?
Tansy: So I was brought up in a very Left-Wing kind of vegetarian old Labour household. I was at university when the so-called war on terror started, so the attacks on Afghanistan and the attacks on Iraq. That completed my political education. I've been involved in stuff like Reclaim the Streets and things like that before. But then with Stop the War, I know that moment when the Twin Towers were attacked and then when Afghanistan was attacked, Iraq was attacked, that just exploded my whole world view of everything.
I went to work for Stop the War straight out of university and then the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament as well. This is just like oxygen to me. I've just just always been doing that kind of like that kind of thing and just trying to make politics accessible as well. That's one of my big passions and it's partly why I started writing about fashion is because I don't think the left should leave any stone unturned. Like I said, if we're not talking about fashion, then you just leave it up to like know the neoliberal agenda. And I think that would be really bad. So that was one of the reasons I was like, no one's writing about this. Like we should be!
Rena: Absolutely! I mean, speaking as somebody who's on the left and who loves fashion, that was one of the most amazing things about your book was that you were speaking with such clarity and such great analysis of the industry and coming at it from a left wing perspective. Why do you think the left does have such a problem with talking about fashion?
Tansy: Oh, I don't know! It's hard, I think there's a certain amount of snobbery around, and it's not seen as serious, which is ridiculous. I expect there's a certain amount of sexism in it as well in that, this is like this is "women's work" and "women's pastimes" and stuff. But also, I mean, like I think at the same time, there's a lot going on!
I think we had some time before 9/11 where the anti-globalization movement was really good on sweatshops and was really good on things like Nike and globalization and corporate power. But 9/11 really kind of snookered that. Then it really, it had to do just then be all about Iraq and Afghanistan. And so there was a moment that was lost, which I think that is one of the huge tragedies of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan; like the environmental movement got knocked back, the anti-corporate movement got knocked back. We lost a good decade at least.
Rena: And a lot of not new, but in new forms, issues came up like racism and Islamophobia and things, didn't they? It created a whole lot of other things that people wanted to focus on. And there's only so much resources that people have.
Tansy: I talk about that in Foot Work. With anti-globalization, we were so global. And one of the central ideas was global solidarity, so it was about us. And then, all the hideous rhetoric around the the war on terror made it like about "us" and "them"; us in the West versus Islam and all of this awful rubbish. And so, yeah, it knocked a lot of people's view. And so then you having to go back to the basics that we're all on the same side. And then you had Occupy, who were good at kind of bringing it back to the 99 percent and 1 percent. But we lost a lot of time.
Rena: And how have things changed since then? Now we've got Donald Trump in the White House. Do you think the environmental issues are bringing corporate responsibility back into the equation in the way that they were in the conversation before the War on Terror?
Tansy: Not enough. I really think not enough. I think we are still thinking too much about ourselves and we're still looking at these issues in terms of, what can I do about my own wardrobe or my own food cupboard or my own makeup bag? Or whatever. I don't think we're back to having the kind of systemic analysis that we had in the late 90s. And that's the one thing I really hope to be able to help with is that political education and like this is not this is not your fault. Yes. Individual change is a factor but you can do that to your blue in the face, it's not going to change the world.
Rena: I read that there's those corporations who have the carbon footprint in a year of the entire population of France. Pushing it back onto the individual to change, and talking about veganism and all these things, as great as it is to try and do your best, is really shifting the focus of responsibility away from the people who really have the power.
Tansy: Yeah, we've had a massive growth in corporate power over the last few decades and it's not been matched by a gross income in global governance or global legislature or anything. So it's the Wild West analogy again, they're just off doing whatever they want to do. And we need to act really fast. And part of that is people letting go of the idea that all they can do is shop differently.
Rena: I'm going to go on to the last questions. So the first question is how can people support even what you do?
Tansy: Well, I think what I would love at the moment is for people to track down a copy of Foot Work. I've been working on the book basically by myself since 2017. And I would just love for people to read it and to give me feedback on what they think! Whether you can buy it or get your university or library to order some copies.
Rena: And how can people reach you? Are you on Twitter?
Tansy: I am on Twitter and Instagram, as @TansyHoskins. I am also on Facebook, I've got an Author Page, and I'm also on GoodReads. I'm trying to tick all the boxes! And I've got my website,TansyHoskins.org.
Rena: Is there anything else you can think of that people can read or watch to inspire them to make change? Anything that inspired you in the past?
Tansy: I've got a weird suggestion! Obviously there's shelves full of fantastic left wing texts. We've talked about Marx and Trotsky and Engels and Rosa Luxemburg, all these things exist. But there's a really cool fiction book that I would quite like to recommend, because it's the book that gives me a really clear vision of how things could be very, very different. And it really, interestingly, talks about clothing as well in a really exciting, dynamic, interesting way that doesn't shirk on design or anything. It's really interesting.
That book is Women on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy; it came out in the late 70s and it still is a very feminist book. My one warning would be that 50 percent of it is set in a violent hospital, what we would have called an insane asylum back in the day. And so I would put lots of content warnings on it. But the bits that aren't in the hospital are just extraordinary. It's like a whole new society. It's amazing.
Rena: That is really exciting! Thank you for that. And then the last question is how would you say that people can get involved more generally to make change?
Tansy: I think the good news is that there are lots of really interesting and well organized groups of people who are already doing this, so my first thing would be to basically pick the issue that you are really passionate about, or pick several issues, and then go online and just find the groups that are already doing stuff. So for the fashion industry, for example, in the United Kingdom, you already have a War on Want; Labour Behind the Label; you've got Extinction Rebellion, the fashion section are doing really exciting things; you've got TRAID. So there's lots of groups who are already doing stuff.
Find other people, because it's about collectively changing stuff. Get out there, connect with people, go on demonstrations and find more like minded people; and blog, take photographs, make art, write books, write articles. We've got to demonstrate that the alternative to capitalism and neo liberalism is better, and we can attract more people in!
Rena: That works in so many ways, because of course when you make those personal connections, it really helps you to get involved in those things, and it's amazing when you find people who are thinking the same way as you. But then also, of course, we are stronger together. More people doing things together is going to create change.
Tansy: Yes. We need to demand change. I often read a lot of people who are kind of giving a lot of advice about how to shop differently and there is a lot of that happening on Instagram and stuff. There must be like hundreds if not thousands of people doing that. And I often think, I wish you would all just get together! If you just decided to go and have a demonstration or something, there would be thousands of you! Or all pick one demand and write to your MP about it, or the British Fashion Council, or whoever you pick - and collectively act, it would be a huge boost to the fashion change movement.
Rena: That is a brilliant place to end. Thank you so much for sitting down with me,Tansy. It's been such an interesting conversation.
Tansy Thank you. It's been a pleasure!