Souvenir invited Katharine Hamnett to talk about Brexit, being European, and the future of the EU in our Q&A.
A true pioneer; Katharine has been campaigning constantly across her career to raise standards within the fashion industry. She was the winner of the first British Fashion Awards in 1984, she was the first to use organic cotton despite many suppliers turning her down for the lack of demand, and for her collections she never succumbed to the pressure of trends, always seeing the bigger picture & focusing on how fashion can be utilised to make change.
Our garments are produced in Portugal by one single reliable partner, which itself has high social, ethical and ecological standards. Besides producing up to 43% of its needed energy with solar panels, the producer provides several major certifications in the fields of ethical and sustainable manufacturing such as GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), BCI (Better Cotton Initiative) and SEDEX (Supplier Ethical Data Exchange).
Katharine Hamnett with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, 1984
“58% DON’T WANT PERSHING,” a reaction to the Falklands war - the famous stand against Margaret Thatcher, an image that got international media coverage, holds as an example of how powerful clothing can be when used as a medium for a message.
Katharine interweaves political opinions into her practice as a designer, leading by example to utilise her platform to spread a message & put pressure on those in power.
SANCTION CHINA, Spring/Summer 1997
USE A CONDOM, Naomi Campbell, Spring/Summer 2004
What does Europe mean to you - and do you feel you’re a European? Why (not)?
Katharine Hamnett: Geographically speaking Europe is a continent of which the UK is a part regardless of whether it us part of the European Union. As a child I spent half of my childhood living in Europe, in France, in Rumania, in Sweden - as a family we travelled all over. I speak several European languages and went to several schools there, as well as attending boarding schools in the UK. I’ve also spent a huge part of my professional career working in France, Italy and Spain. I traveled all over the world and one this I discovered meeting many people is that we have much more in common than things that divide us. I am a hybrid - I feel that I’m a European first, British second. I care about Britain hugely, but I feel more at home in Europe.
How do you see Europe evolve in the future and what should be its most important goals?
KH: The European Union with its Free Trade and Freedom of Movement within it is a wonderful thing -hugely enriching culturally, economically educationally and environmentally- and of benefit to everyone, so we should stick together. It’s a force for good- for prosperity, democracy, education, culture, peace and civilization. Any problems it may have are best resolved from within.
KH: I see Brexit as an unmitigated tragic disaster for the UK- culturally. educationally, economically, environmentally and regarding social justice and human rights. What’s wrong with having a free trade agreement with the richest, largest (pop.550 million) trading block in the world less than 50 kilometre away- compared to having one instead with the US (pop.350 million- and only if they get Northern Ireland sorted) over 8000 kilometre away, or New Zealand and Australia (pop. 28 million) almost 20.000 kilometre away? It makes no sense at all.
Is your work influenced by politics and if so, how?
KH: Everything is politics. As a fashion designer and manufacturer national and international trade rules and agreements govern the cost and type of raw materials and the processes we can use, how the people who make them are treated and the cost including sales taxes and logistics of making, selling and distributing clothes globally. Laws regarding freedom of speech and freedom of expression govern what you can and can’t say or wear on a T-shirt -even what parts of your body you can expose or not. The enormous media coverage that fashion gets worldwide is a platform to disseminate political messages and to effect political change that maybe could not be said or heard otherwise.
What can we all do ourselves to create more unity?
Is there anything you’d like to add?
KH: I’ll think about it. Yes probably lots- but bye for now...