Thursday, 3 May 2018

Cosplay meets conscious consumerism

May The Fourth Be With You!

I’ve mentioned in a previous post how I enjoy combining my love of ethical fashion and sci-fi and fantasy by looking out for innovative new products that will (hopefully) save us from living in a dystopian hellscape. I also love the ways that the creators of imaginary worlds can critique our own by entertaining rather than lecturing us, and I’ve learned more about myself from fictional characters than I ever would have learned from a self-help book! 

Since today’s date has become synonymous with bad Star Wars puns, I thought I’d commemorate the occasion by putting together a “closet cosplay” (dressing up using clothes I already own) of one of my favourite lesser-known Star Wars characters, showing off one of my favourite sustainable fashion purchases, and musing about how movies can translate their aesthetic and message into merchandising. 

Although the Star Wars movies are a cultural phenomenon in their own right, they are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to stories of a galaxy far, far away. While no one could ever replace Princess Leia (or Carrie Fisher) in my affections, I’ve developed a fondness for Hera Syndulla, who appears in the tie-in novel A New Dawn, set a couple of years before Rogue One and A New Hope. It’s a really fun story about middle-management shenanigans, how (and how not) to be a good activist, and how corporate greed devastates the environment. Oh, and there’s a reluctant Jedi and an exploding moon, if that’s more your sort of thing. Hera is a capable woman who lives by her principles, but gets people to join her cause through kindness rather than anger. That’s definitely something I aspire to! 

As a costume nerd, I’m always interested in a designer's background and where they get their ideas, so I was intrigued (but not surprised) to learn that John Mollo, the original costume designer, had a background as a military uniform historian. While his designs for the trio of heroes featured neutral styles with no specific ties to time or place, the uniforms worn by many of the Imperial officers on the Death Star resemble uniform worn by the axis powers during World War Two. Since Hera is working against the empire but isn’t part of the military, I’ve reimagined her costume as a 1940s Land Girl/factory worker style (this definitely wasn’t just an excuse to wear this cute dungarees and blouse combo).

While the rest of the outfit is vintage, the shoes are one of my favourite and most versatile new-ish purchases, from Po-Zu shoes. The silver leather is actually Pinatex, a vegan leather substitute made from pineapple fibres. I’ve been so excited about this material ever since I first heard about it; it combines natural fibres with a high-tech, futuristic finish. Made into shoes with soles from ethically sourced rubber and a memory foam insole, they are some of the comfiest I’ve ever owned, not to mention the most eye-catching! 

I really love the Star Wars by Po-Zu collaboration and want to see more like this: well-designed tie-in merchandise that is functional and versatile, rather than just a novelty item that is quickly going to be discarded. Big movie franchises have a captive audience for branded clothing; clothing that will put a smile on our faces because we are reminded of our favourite stories, and help us to make connections with other fans.

It would be great if we could add to the feel-good factor by knowing that our geeky garments are made ethically and sustainably; independent t-shirt printers Teemill work with Rapanui, whose t-shirts are made from organic cotton in a wind-powered factory; it would be incredible if this could happen on a wider scale. The stories we love are often about someone trying to make the world a better place, standing up against cruelty and greed, and working to improve the lives of people they might never meet because it’s the right thing to do. The fashion industry isn’t just the chain stores on the high street, it’s everywhere we buy our clothes, and there’s room for improvement everywhere. You might not be able to fight aliens single-handed, but you can always ask “who made my clothes?”

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