Being mindful in fashion

Mindful fashion is about embracing sustainable and ethical fashion. Instrumental in leading the way is Christchurch’s Untouched World founder Peri Drysdale. Lynda Papesch finds out more.

Late last year a select group of fashion industry representatives gathered in Christchurch for the South Island’s inaugural Mindful Fashion NZ networking function. Among the key speakers was Untouched World founder Peri Drysdale.
Well-known in fashion circles, Peri has long believed working together as an industry, and sharing both challenges and opportunities, will lead to a stronger collective voice.

She started worrying about the planet and its people while travelling in the 1980-1990s. “I was travelling a lot, exporting through Western Europe, North America, Asia, and Australia,” Peri explains.

“I became extremely concerned about the trajectory the planet was on, seeing environmental degradation going on, from visit to visit. It’s easier to notice if you are visiting a place only once or twice a year, rather than living in it day to day.
“One visit I would go to a pristine lake in Canada and then on the next visit, there would be a sign up saying the water is polluted. Driving down the autobahn in Germany through a dirty grey haze of pollution, I had no idea what was beside the motorway, was it houses or green fields. I couldn’t see.”

Peri wasn’t only seeing the visual pollution, she was also learning how dirty the global clothing industry was.

“Government level talk was all about GDP at whatever cost. Business groups were only about growth and the financial bottom line. There was no conversation at
all about the environmental cost of all this lauded, desired, and aspirational growth.”

She started wondering how someone from a little company in a little country at the bottom of the world, and a woman to boot, could move the dial.

“I finally concluded that every one company, every one person, could make a difference.”

At the time Untouched World was a very pure, certified bio-grow organic undyed knitwear label under the Snowy Peak brand. “Our first step was to expand Untouched World to a full brand,” says Peri.

“We wanted to model a different way of doing business. There was no blueprint, so we had to create our own The whole company had to engage,” she recollects.

The company wrote its first sustainable development report in 2002, highlighting the areas needing work with black sheep. “There were a lot of black sheep,” Peri laughs.

A few years later the company helped develop United Nations policy on fashion sustainability.

At the same time, the Untouched World Foundation leadership for a sustainable future programmes were created, to inspire young adults to develop, a sustainable future. “We thought this would generate a real impact,” says Peri. It has, now recognised by UNESCO Paris as one of three global leaders in their space. Untouched World has also been named the UN Global exemplar for corporate education for sustainability.

Peri continues working on her dream that New Zealand fashion and its creative industry becomes synonymous with global leading sustainable fashion practice.
Largely thanks to Peri’s initial vision, there is now a blueprint for how to be genuinely sustainable, and a growing market demand.

“I know we can do it,” she says. “Together. With integrity.”

A force for good

Since Jacinta FitzGerald (above), Chief Executive, Mindful Fashion NZ, started her journey she’s been inspired by using fashion as a force for good.

“We know we can’t continue to use materials as we have been, or throw away clothes as we have been. The world can’t support this rate of churn. Things need to be done differently.”

Mindful Fashion is a New Zealand non-profit facilitating action in critical areas by inspiring, educating and enabling businesses. In 2022, through its Climate Action Programme, it helped 10 businesses through measuring their organisational carbon emissions and developing reduction strategies.

It also runs education programmes to enable change in areas such as fibres and materials, sustainability strategy, circular design and textile waste.

“Making and using our clothes sustainably has a huge role to play in creating a world we all want to live in. It comes down to being mindful in how we purchase and care for our clothes. Vivienne Westwood nailed it with ‘Buy Less, Choose Well, Make it last’, a simple mantra that I repeat regularly.”

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