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Narrated by activist Tori Tsui, it’s an indelible reminder of the fashion world’s own promises.

Many of the quotes recited throughout Extinction Rebellion’s new ‘Fashion Act Now’ video sound as if they were freshly penned by the group.

“At times of crisis, there is an opportunity to vision a new future,” reads one. “[Production is] just a waste of time and energy and materials,” laments another.

The latter’s author Marc Jacobs, though, isn’t a newly emerging spokesperson for the group. He’s – well – Marc Jacobs of Marc Jacobs init.

The twist, then, is that every single caption used is taken verbatim from a fashion designer’s own mouth, from Stella McCartney to Virgil Abloh. As XR says: “2020 is the year you have spoken, and we can’t have said it better.”

Released in time for Paris Fashion Week, it superimposes these weighty words over video clips of sizzling forest fires and massifs of mass-produced waste. The challenge? To hold the fashion world’s own words to account, and make sure that these well-received promises are acted-upon.

As XR notes, we need to act quickly and meaningfully when it comes to making the fashion world more sustainable. It notes that by 2030, fashion consumption is predicted to grow by 63%. Time, then, is running out. We’re seemingly not just at the cliff-edge, but a few metres in front, suspended above catastrophe like Looney Tunes’ Road Runner, freshly-sneakered shoes searching for ground in thick-air.

Of course, it’s well worth noting that XR is not without its own fault lines. As POC climate justice group Wretched of the Earth noted last year in an open letter, XR often glosses over the fact that it is marginalised groups that are hit by ecological disaster disproportionately severely.

Pointedly, it questions whether XR acknowledges that its promotion of voluntary arrest is not balanced with an understanding of police violence towards Black protesters. XR’s own composition, too, deserves scrutiny. In a rather pot-calling-kettle-black piece, Tatler highlighted a study that showed that a huge proportion of XR’s protestors were white, southern and middle-class.

That’s not to say that those with privilege should be criticised for speaking out about the climate crisis. Rather, they should acknowledge this privilege and amplify less-privileged voices, especially considering the brunt of XR protestors feel very diluted direct effects of pollution, flooding and so on.

Nonetheless, XR’s video is a worthy reminder of what’s at stake when it comes to the fashion industry. A picture is worth a thousand words, perhaps – but a few quoted words reflected back to those who spoke them is surely worth more.

It’s an ample reminder that, if we choose to speak out for environmental or social justice, we must act with equivalent force – or risk a soapbox culture that’s less raring-to-go straight out of the box, and more soap-opera.

Watch the video and learn more online here.

Verity Smiley-Jones
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