In part two of our interview, Fashion Designer Joe Corre talks about his his work, action against fracking and taking on the government and corporations. You can read Part 1 by clicking here.
Interview by Manisha Ganguly
You refer often to commodification- do you think it’s possible to reclaim fashion in this age, because on the one hand you’ve got unaffordable haute couture which doesn’t use sweatshop labour, and then you’ve got cheap stores with sweatshop labour goods where working class people buy from because that’s all they can afford?
I disagree with that quite strongly. What people want now is not because they can’t afford good clothes, it’s the changing mentality where in order to feel part of this society they have to keep buying on credit, like an addiction, to feed their own self-worth. It’s the experience of going out every weekend to the shopping centre. You don’t have to do that, you can buy second hand things, buy less and better quality. It’s a choice that we make.
I’m not in fashion, nor is Vivienne. Fashion is about what’s the latest trendy thing. For me it’s about what’s good. People who buy Vivienne Westwood do so because they’re choosing something that’s not supposed to fit in, that works with their body and shows it off. Fashion in the end is all about sex and making yourself look naked. When you wear those clothes, what are you gonna look like naked? That’s the truth, so people keep buying. The amount of clothes that go into landfill every year is insane. And in order to keep people buying, they need to have the price lower.
You called your store, ‘A Child of the Jago’, an “anti-brand”. Do you think the people who purchase your clothes are conscious of your politics?
With ‘The Child of the Jago’, I tried to find a business model that works at a small-scale: making everything in the UK and using up all the fabrics left over on the shelf from the fashion industry. I can buy them at a very cheap price because they’re what’s left, but then it’s only a certain quantity of that fabric so everything I make becomes limited edition. Because I buy the fabric cheap, I can actually pay the labour cost without having to make them in China. We’re not cheap because it’s not making mass-produced stuff but it’s not expensive for what we do.
We get a lot of people who need stagewear, from magicians to popstars to actors – and people who really want something they can’t find in the mainstream.
You tweet a lot about the state of the media – where do you go to for your news?
The only newspaper I buy is the Financial Times. It’s useful because the corporations are running the media, society and government and I find with FT a broader view of what’s pulling the strings in the city.
There are certain websites on fracking that I go to as well. With post-truth media, people don’t know what to latch onto. The things Real Media is doing is great because it cuts through all the bullshit and is a respected stream of information that you can rely upon. At the moment, what you get in the mainstream is just propaganda.
You’ve been active in climate change activism. What other campaigns apart from anti-fracking have you been working on?
For climate change, we support the Inga Foundation which promotes subsistence farming through Inga alley-cropping in tropical rainforests where slash and burn cultivation (one of the main causes of deforestation) is practised. This gives them food security, a small cash crop and also regenerates the soil. I support Climate Revolution, Vivienne’s initiative.
I’m working with Dale Vince from Ecotricity, trying to get people to switch to renewable. I find it difficult to stand outside the system and go, you’re wrong, instead of finding solutions. With Ecotricity, we protest to stop the frackers. We offer an alternative: this green gas plant which recycles old organic waste. You don’t need to fight the propaganda that fracking is good for the economy, will create jobs, because the alternative does that too without killing you or harming the environment.
You’re fighting the government with this alternative but if you look at what happened with the electric car, the oil and gas companies killed it and it’s them lobbying the government. How do you negotiate with these corporations?
You don’t really negotiate with them – you just need to kick their marketing plans apart and stop people buying. Corporations listen when it affects their profits. A good example is carbon tracker which stopped the Bank of England from investing pension funds in fossil fuel. Funnily enough, we now have a choice to switch to renewable in the UK, thanks to Margaret Thatcher, because she opened up the electricity market.
I’m also working on a fracking report we’ve commissioned to counter the McCay Stone report which the government used to pursue fracking in the UK. The McCay-Stone report concludes that fracking is not as harmful for the environment by taking information from the US fracking industry, with fundamentally flawed data in it. We’ll be doing a parliamentary launch before the end of February before releasing the report to the public domain.