Lucianne talks us through what initially drove her to write the book, the importance of regenerative agriculture, traceability within supply chains and more.
“In your book Sundressed you outline your vision of the future of fashion. What drove you to write the book? And can you share a brief summary with us?”
I wrote Sundressed just after a devastating bushfire season in Australia and in the midst of some of the worst floods we had ever seen. During the fires I went swimming at Bondi beach and when I got out of the water there were tiny specks of ash clinging to my skin. It was a very painful moment in time – but it was also very clarifying. I knew we couldn’t “sustain” anything that we were doing, especially in fashion since it’s responsible for 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
It solidified a belief in me that we need something more than sustainability, we need something that can heal the damage we have done to the earth. That’s how I discovered regenerative agriculture and how it can be used to grow natural, carbon negative fibres and that is what Sundressed is about.
Each chapter is an exploration of the farmers and designers working to regenerate the landscapes where the raw materials for fashion are produced. I visit farmers all over the world who are using the techniques of regenerative agriculture like planting native species and focusing on the health of the soil to grow cotton, linen, silk, wool and cashmere. It is a story of hope for what the industry could be and how we can buy and wear beautiful clothes that have been created in ways that give back to the earth.
Plus, natural fibres are better in function and form on the body so they create better clothes. Loving our clothes and wearing them for longer is key to reducing our consumption, which is the most enormous piece of the puzzle. We are producing, consuming and throwing away far too many clothes so Sundressed is also a love letter to fashion and to my wardrobe.
“What exactly is regenerative fibre farming and how can it be the answer to fashion’s climate crisis?”
Regenerative farming is a way of managing landscapes that respects nature and natural processes. Think of a meadow and all the different species of plants, animals and insects that live there – that’s what a regenerative farm should look like. Of course, it differs depending on whether they’re growing mulberry trees for silk, or grazing sheep holistically for wool or intercropping cotton plants with chickpeas and mung beans for the health of the soil. But no matter what they’re growing, a regenerated landscape is one that doesn’t have any bare ground, where the landscape is visibly and audibly brimming with life.
Regenerated farms have more biodiversity, don’t need to be sprayed with pesticides because they have functioning ecosystems and also don’t need synthetic fertilisers because the soil is full of nutrients, and healthy soil has better water absorption and retention so the land is more resilient to extreme weather events like fires and floods. This means the farmers on these landscapes experience better outcomes financially because they are not in debt to chemical companies, they have higher quality fibre and are working in a much healthier way for themselves and their families.
It's a complete reformation of the fashion industry towards methods of production that are actively improving the landscapes and the livelihoods of the people along the industry’s supply chains. And while it is about making clothes with a carbon negative or zero-carbon footprint, it’s about so much more than carbon which is a measure the industry has become quite fixated on. It’s about restoring ecosystems, providing habitats for native birds and animals, building up the mycelium in the soil and trusting the natural intelligence of the earth. So many farmers I spoke to said that nature will drive the regeneration for you if you get out of the way.
“Have you learned anything new since writing your book that you wish everyone knew about?”
Trees speak to each-other. Through their roots, through networks of mycelium in the soil and by sending signals into the air.
“The EU announced it’s working on a Digital Product Passport to increase greater traceability and compliance - do you believe some notoriously tricky industries such as cotton can ever be fully sustainable?”
Yes absolutely but only because of advances in technology. There are a few innovations in this space, including DNA and isotope testing that can be used to test cotton for its origin by region. I think it is just a matter of time for the traceability technology to get up to speed and circumvent the opacity of the current supply chain.
Which is super important because we need that visibility all the way back to the farm because cotton's impacts vary so widely. For example, cotton can be grown regeneratively when it is native to the landscape and has been planted amidst plant and animal biodiversity. Cotton farmed using techniques that focus on the health of the soil, including mycelium rich composts in the place of fertilizers, not tilling and alternating rows of cotton with other plants like vegetables, can draw carbon out of the atmosphere and back into the ground - which is very different to the impacts of conventional cotton farming.
“What are some red flags you look out for when reading a garment label?”
Synthetic materials are an immediate no from me. I don’t believe anyone should wear plastic next to their skin. It doesn’t breathe, it holds on to odour and it stains permanently because the oil it is made from bonds with the oil in whatever you’ve spilt on it.
“And finally, you modelled some of our collection for our photoshoot. What are your favourite MOP pieces and why?”
The Alma waistcoat and the Brodie pants. The organic cotton blended with TENCEL™ is so thick and soft.