Last week the Observer Ethical Awards handed out their gongs at the V&A museum in a glamorous (and ethically sourced) celebration of the best sustainable initiatives taking place around the country and across a range of sectors from fashion to wildlife, and food to film and TV.
Hearing and reading about all who were shortlisted got me thinking about the importance of celebration. It was inspiring and humbling sitting through the ceremony listening to all the great stuff people have been doing to positively impact their communities and our society. Working hard, working towards something, working for change can be a thankless task. When the end feels a long way off small difficulties and problems can crowd out the end goal. And reasons for not choosing the well worn path and approaching things differently, whether that be a dissertation, the organisation of an event or campaign or implementing extra steps for a fairer supply chain, can get lost in the challenge of detail. As momentum ebbs and flows, it is important to not only celebrate achievements but recognise doing too, which is what the Observer Ethical Awards do.
While thinking about the importance of celebration I came across this insight into celebration by Abraham Joshua Heschel, Jewish philosopher and theologian, which felt fitting after an night at the awards: Celebration is an active state, an act of expressing reverence or appreciation… Celebration is a confrontation, giving attention to the transcendent meaning of one’s actions.
Over the years the Observer Ethical Awards have celebrated individuals and groups recognising and celebrating the (often) small steps and contributions being made that make a tangible and positive difference to ways of being and ways of doing. In marking these steps as important and opening doors for future action, celebration can help sustain the momentum that new ways of doing things need. This year the awards not only celebrated, they were also celebrating – ten years on the job, a milestone indeed. CSF were thrilled to be celebrating alongside Lucy Siegle and the Observer team as well as with CSF friends and alumni.
To follow Abraham Joshua Heschel as above, is to express appreciation. So to Nudie Jeans, winners of the Sustainable Style category, we salute you. Their repair service and take back system offers a narrative of care and an expression of valuing clothing that adds much to deepen the discussion around what ‘sustainable’ can mean for fashion: new skills, repair, a challenge to notions of disposability and waste. Which I’m guessing formed part of the judges thinking (right, Dilys?)…
The judging must have been tough – and this isn’t biased – but both Here Today Her Tomorrow and Rosalie McMillan, the two runners up do much to further what fashion can be.
Here Today Here Tomorrow, initially started by four graduates from the MA Fashion and the Environment (now MA Fashion Futures) course at LCF, creates and also supports (through their studio shop) fashion that values all involved in its design and production. A glance in the window of their Dalston space immediately links you not just to fashion items but to the skills and materials involved, they themselves celebrating how things are made and the people that make them.
Alongside the girls from HTHT was Rosalie McMillan who has become a friend of the centre through her participation in our business support programme. We umm and ahhh in delight when she brings her geometric jewellery in to the office, her use of used coffee grounds as material is ingenious in the re-valuing of a waste material, the celebration of the possibilities through process and care within what is discarded and the execution of using this unusual material.
We are delighted to honour all the work being done across all the categories. While there may be personal sacrifices – time, money, energy – the actions of those working towards better lives for us all are to be valued and cherished. And we celebrate you all.