How I Became a Fashion Revolutionary

How I Became a Fashion Revolutionary

I really enjoyed listening to Gosia Piatek, founder of Kowtow, talk about some of the smaller pivotal moments that prompted her decision to make the brand 100% plastic-free. It was both humbling and inspiring to hear that someone as knowledgeable about and committed to the sustainable fashion movement as Gosia is also motivated by such relatable moments as reading a news article or registering the sadness on David Attenborough's face.

It reminded me that everyone is uniquely motivated by our own experiences and sharing the stories of these ‘pivotal moments’ is a wonderful way to connect on a human level as we work through such an enormous challenge.

So, for #FashionRevolutionWeek, here is my small story:


I’m fortunate that my mother is an experienced sewist, knitter and all round passionate crafts person so I grew up with an appreciation for the beauty and complexity of textiles, craft and clothing. But that alone didn’t make me a ‘fashion revolutionary’; it took time and many small cumulative ‘oh’ moments to become one. Here are a few that I often find myself reflecting on.


An Unromantic Date

In 2007 my not-then-husband took me on a romantic date to see the movie Earth. From the makers of the Planet Earth TV series this documentary follows three species of animals over the course of a year, documenting their successes, tribulations but most poignantly the impact environmental change is having on their ability to survive.

“Why would you take me to THAT?!” I remember asking as I ugly cried all the way home. This powerful movie about the beauty and fragility of life on earth brought home to me, in a way I could no longer shrug off, just how significant our everyday actions are and how real the consequences are felt by innocent creatures (and people) on every stretch of the globe.

An awe-inspiring and heartbreaking portrayal of the real life impacts of rapid climate change on some of the most majestic creatures on our planet.


The Primark Scandal

Which one you ask? Fair question. Does anyone remember when, in 2014, an SOS note was dramatically found in the pocket of a pair of Primark trousers? I certainly do. I was living in London at the time where Primark is BIG so this story was everywhere (albeit briefly). The story goes that a woman bought a pair of trousers from Primark then put them straight into her closet because they were broken (no surprise there) and forgot about them. Later she pulled them back out and discovered a note written in Chinese characters with SOS written on top. Translation of the note indicated that it was from a prisoner, pleading for help from the inhumane working conditions they were suffering. A few further notes were reportedly found and Primark launched an investigation which determined the notes were ’most likely’ a hoax.

The SOS note found inside a pair of Primark pants ‘may’ have been a hoax but the reality of how little is known about what goes on in the fashion supply chain is anything but.


Regardless of the authenticity of these notes, this news item stuck with me for a couple of reasons:

  1. It was a stark reminder of the unseen people who make our clothes. These people have lives, thoughts, feelings, dreams and needs. What do we know of them? Nothing.
  2. Even if this particular note was a hoax (according to Primark), it may as well be true. These types of scenarios play out routinely throughout the fashion industry; a t-shirt simply wouldn’t cost $10 if the person making it received a fair wage. Everyone knows it - we just don’t want to admit to it.


The Melting Dress

The photo below records the last time I ever bought an item of clothing made of polyester (aside from some togs, one set of activewear and a raincoat). I was already trying to avoid buying from fast fashion shops at the time and having always been drawn to natural fibres I’d never actually worn a huge amount of pure polyester (although plenty of blends I’m sure). I remember checking the label and feeling a bit hesitant that it was 100% polyester but I loved the dress and it was vintage so I figured it was a sustainability win. 

The day I realised polyester really is the pits.


It was an absolute scorching day in Italy when I wore it for a friends wedding. The disadvantages of polyester were confronting. Not only was I a sticky, sweaty mess I was genuinely anxious. It really felt like my dress was starting to melt onto my skin, like whatever was inside the fabric was leaching out. It felt unhealthy and it felt unsafe. Needless to say that dress was never worn by me again, but we can be sure it’s still floating around out there somewhere. Now, my day of discomfort under the Tuscan sun was a privilege but millions of people live constantly in extreme temperatures, many of whom probably have little choice but to wear cheap, unsuitable, unsafe polyester clothing. 

That day cemented my view that some fabrics just shouldn’t be made, or used for clothing at all. And whilst I acknowledge that ‘natural’ does not automatically equate to ‘sustainable’ or ‘better’, it does at least have the potential to be in a way that synthetics simply don’t.


A Personal Pledge

These experiences helped to shape my views on fashion and sustainability but my shopping habits probably didn’t change irreversibly until 2019 when I pledged to make all my own clothing.

The impact of this pledge wasn’t that I started making all my own clothes (I didn’t), it wasn’t even that I started making more clothes (I didn’t). What this pledge did was provide the opportunity for me to break my shopping habits, reimagine how many clothes I actually needed and dig into what ‘sustainable’ clothing actually meant to me. 

Not allowing myself to buy new clothes meant I no longer wandered into clothing stores, I stopped looking at magazines and trawling clothing websites ‘just for fun’. Before I bought something I asked myself ‘could I make this?’ The answer usually resulted in me putting the item back. I often didn’t go on to make the item, I simply moved on.

As a result I stopped craving 'new' and I realised that I didn’t need nearly as many clothes as I thought. Suddenly I could afford better clothes than I’d ever imagined before, and that felt liberating!

Lastly, and maybe most important for the origin story of Paper Scissors Cloth was the realisation that making my own clothes wasn’t necessarily ‘more sustainable’.


Making my own clothing addressed concerns about garment worker exploitation but left so many questions still unanswered.


Whilst making my own clothes took away the risk of exploitation in the sewing stage of garment production there were still so many stages of the supply chain and facets to sustainability that were left dangling. Finding fabrics and trims that provided me with the information I wanted proved difficult and so the idea behind Paper Scissors Cloth was born.


And that brings me to where I am today. Not the perfect consumer. Not the perfect business owner, but a committed fashion revolutionary on a journey full of challenges, revelations and constant learning.

As I reflect on my own journey and hear the stories of others, like Gosia Piatek, I’m reminded that every small step counts and every pivotal moment helps to shape our own unique path. As we share our stories and experiences, we strengthen connections and inspire each other to keep pushing for positive change. So, here’s to embracing our unique motivations and to seeking out those ‘oh’ moments that propel us towards a fairer, safer future full of fashion revolutionaries!

What are some of your ‘oh’ moments?

Ainsley x


Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.