Interview with Safia Minney, MBE, about her book ‘Regenerative Fashion’

By Rafa Salti, fashion designer & writer for Fashion Declares

Last November Laurence King published Safia Minney’s Regenerative Fashion, “Part guide and part manifesto, this book shares stories of our interconnectedness with the natural world and each other, divided into sections on Nature & Materials; People, Livelihoods & Crafts; and New Economy & Leadership.” It was published in English, Spanish and Japanese. 

My first encounter with Safia Minney’s work was in 2015 through The True Cost documentary. I was so disturbed by it that I had to take a two-day break before finishing it. At the time I was a Fashion Studies student at Stockholm University and was planning on writing my final thesis on ethical fashion, but I wasn’t sure how to approach this wide and complicated topic. Hearing Safia speak about her experience with cotton farmers and artisans was so moving that I went into a deep dive into the work of People Tree. I have always been intrigued by communication whether through words or visuals, so I focused my research on ethical fashion branding, citing People Tree as one of my case studies. 

Fast forward 2022, I’m in London and I get a notification that Safia’s newly founded nonprofit Fashion Declares is recruiting for volunteers. I sign up and get on the call expecting to have a representative running the meeting but there was Safia herself. She was warm and genuine and took sincere interest in each one of the potential volunteers on the call. To say I was star struck would be an understatement. This launched a series of fun, exciting, and nerve-wrecking collaborations with the team of volunteers. 

The latest and the most nerve-wrecking of them all was interviewing Safia on her book Regenerative Fashion. I have to admit, at first glance, the well-designed book seemed like a useful industry resource but didn’t exactly promise a fun read. So, I thought, “Oh, I’ll just skim through the facts closer to the day of the interview.” Boy, was I wrong. One, the book was full of the most touching stories about incredible people working with regenerative fashion. Two, once I started, I could not put the book down, it was like a daisy chain of gripping perspectives where each one was more interesting than the last. 

Easy to say, I felt immensely underprepared trying to prioritize questions or cover the extended list of topics. April 24th and on the tenth anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy, the time struck 16.00, people started showing up and I found myself fumbling through a series of question that Safia answered with great care and seriousness. 

I always found Safia’s persistence on the issues of the fashion industry inspiring and was very curious about how it all started. Safia shared her growth story that began with inspiration from her grandmother who was an embroidery designer to becoming a global brand working with fair trade artisans across many countries. I also loved hearing the logic behind the different sections of the book and the developments in ‘Regenerative Fashion’ on Safia’s previous books – I discovered she has written nine books to date! Among the topics that came up was degrowth, dependence on fossil fuel, overproduction, fashion waste, carbon offsetting and insetting, on which Safia’s passion comes through clearly. The questions were closed with advice to young designers to develop circular systems that guarantee climate justice but also a just transition for all the workers and farmers involved in the fashion industry. 

 I learned so much from and during that interview and was exceedingly grateful for the opportunity. My part withstanding, I advise you to get a cup of tea, listen to the interview and order your copy of Regenerative Fashion. You will be the smarter for it.

Watch our full conversation: