We are at a crucial point in the history of humanity. Climate change is happening all around us and can no longer be ignored. We are told that we must cut our carbon emissions in half by 2030 to prevent more catastrophic damage, but what does that really mean?
For the past 10 years, I have been working with indigenous artisans to create a zero carbon womenswear line. It is handmade seed-to-button using ancient techniques that follow the cycles of nature. We grow the cotton, hand-spin the fiber, hand-weave it into fabric, and sew it together by hand – all without electricity. It is made from only 3 ingredients: sun, plants, and mountain water sourced from the surrounding mountain forest.
This zero carbon approach is not new. It is how humans have been making clothing for the last 20,000 years. Only since the Industrial Revolution 150 years ago has the fashion industry grown to become so polluting and damaging to workers. We have forgotten how to make clothing sustainably from nature. It is time for us to re-learn this traditional method again.
Small pockets of indigenous communities continue to practice these ancient methods around the world today. They live close to nature and have faithfully held onto their ancestral knowledge -- despite centuries of pressure to assimilate into the dominant cultures. But the elders are aging and they do not have much longer to teach us.
Of the 7000 languages that are spoken in the world today, half of them will disappear in our lifetime -- and with it, the knowledge accumulated over millennia of how to live in harmony with the earth. If the knowledge is not passed down to the younger generations, the know-how will be lost forever.
Indigenous knowledge holds the key to climate change. Without its continuation, our human survival is at stake – as are the livelihoods of future generations. For all of us around the world.
That is why I am so passionate about reviving traditional craftsmanship today.
My collection ANGEL CHANG shows how we can live a zero carbon lifestyle by creating a world made solely from indigenous craftsmanship. The pieces produced follow the 3 tenets of my zero carbon approach:
3) no electricity
The first collection was created with the Miao and Dong ethnic minority tribes in the remote mountain villages of Guizhou, China. My mission each season thereafter will focus on a different tribe and geographic region to highlight the many indigenous practices happening all around the world. Not only are the fabrics softer and more beautiful than industrially-produced clothing, but they are also all-natural and healthier for the body.
For the public, the collection enables them to learn about indigenous practices and experience the joy of wearing clothing made directly from nature. For the artisans, each purchase brings revenue back to their communities and creates jobs for elders, mothers, and the younger generation to assist with poverty alleviation and keep the traditional knowledge alive.
The collection brings together those who emit the most carbon emissions (the wealthiest countries) with the ones who emit the least (indigenous communities). By doing so, we can collectively reduce our carbon footprint and take action against global climate change.
- Angel Chang