This week we have had the privilege to speak with Mairi Lowe, one of the founding members of Sustainable Fashion Scotland (SFS). After receiving a distinction in her master’s degree in Social Innovation, Mairi went on to participate in a huge array of fashion programmes to build upon her knowledge of the sustainable fashion industry and learn more about what we can all do to create positive changes in the world of fashion. Then, in February 2020, SFS was born. Mairi actively works with the 70 other members of the community to shape the future of fashion in Scotland, and we think that this is truly inspiring!
In the interview, we find out more about Mairi’s successes thus far, as well as how she stays motivated during the tough lockdown days. Being in the sustainable fashion field herself, we truly resonated with what Mairi said throughout the interview.
Our favourite part was when Mairi referred to her reason for staying motivated – “I think it’s important to acknowledge our strengths and successes rather than worry about what we haven’t done yet.”
We think that this is incredibly true, it is so important to celebrate every win, big or small. Be
kind to yourself!
Mairi in Clara in Burgundy
Q - Can you tell us about your incredible social enterprise?
A - I am a Founding Member of Sustainable Fashion Scotland (SFS) – a community-led social venture with the mission to connect the fashion community in Scotland and facilitate a sustainable fashion transformation, through collective impact and knowledge exchange. We launched in February 2020 at an inspiring in-person event (just before lockdown) with 70 people wanting to work together to change the future of fashion in Scotland. Since then, our small but dedicated core team, in collaboration with the wider community, have been exploring through both practice and research what the most impactful opportunities are for us all to create change together. We hold monthly Community Calls and a bimonthly Book Club to bring the community together, exchange knowledge, and understand our collective challenges, desires, strengths and opportunities.
Q - How did you end up becoming a sustainable ‘goddess’?
A - I think I felt myself fully embody my sustainability ‘goddess’ when I realised there is not one perfect solution to solve the problems of fashion, nor is there only one purpose for fashion and its potential. Everybody can contribute to the change we need from their unique perspective, and the possibilities of what fashion could look like in the future are limitless. This uncertainty is scary but exciting.
Q - What is your personal story? How have you gotten to where you are today?
A - During my BA (Hons) Fashion Management course, I started volunteering for a social enterprise called ALICAS founded by Rachael Bews. The venture gifted bespoke clothing parcels to survivors of domestic abuse and women in clothing crisis, using surplus retail stock and tags-on donations from the public. This experience opened up my perception of fashion and made me realise that fashion can be a force for good. Since then I have been committed to exploring how we can use fashion as a tool and practice to unlock positive impact for people and the planet. This commitment has evolved into my systems studies and work with
Sustainable Fashion Scotland.
Q - What do you love most about your job(s)?
A - What I love most about SFS is engaging with the wider community and connecting with so many inspiring people. I am also very grateful to be able to spend time learning and applying my systems knowledge in practice. Working with an incredible purpose-driven and women-led core team is also a blessing that I am not taking for granted!
Q - Can you tell us about your life achievements to date?
A - I was ecstatic to receive my master’s degree in Social Innovation with Distinction. I was invited to apply and then participated in the Rethink Fashion learning programme co-hosted by the RSA and Ellen MacArthur Foundation. I recently completed Basecamp#10 at the School of System Change with Forum for the Future which was life-changing. Another thing I am proud of is blocking my abusive ex on Facebook. Internally, I am proud that I am making more time to learn how to be kind to myself. Publishing the SFS Magazine was another feel-good moment. And then being awarded two out of the three funding applications that we submitted for SFS truly blew me away!
Q - How do you celebrate your wins?
A - During lockdown I celebrate with a dance around my room to my favourite music, or a takeaway with my flatmate. Otherwise, I take time to sit with myself, my feelings and my thoughts. I like to journal my wins and make sure I pat myself on the back as I think it’s important to acknowledge our strengths and successes rather than worry about what we
haven’t done yet.
Q - How do you deal with the losses?
A - Sometimes, not very well! By this I mean I can get easily stressed, but I actively take steps to gently move through this. I often worry I am not doing enough to make the world a kinder place or I doubt myself and my capabilities. When I have these feelings, I try to replace them with thoughts on all the wonderful things I have contributed to and remind myself that I am a beautiful person and I am trying my best. I like to adopt a learning mindset, meaning I make time to reflect on losses and figure out what I can take forward from those experiences. I also remind myself to breathe.
Q - How do you balance work and life responsibilities?
A - I don’t always do this very well as a freelancer in charge of my own time, but recently I have been trying to schedule my work into more regular hours (i.e. 9-5) so that I make sure to switch off. Rest is so important for our wellbeing and our productivity, so it makes sense to look after ourselves so that we can show up for our work and enjoy the process, rather than feel stressed out all the time. However I am aware of my privilege in having spare time to take care of myself – I am always in awe of people that do similar work to me and also have
children or other caring responsibilities.
Q - How are you coping with lockdown?
A - Lockdown has been so tough. I go between feeling positive and grateful for the health, friendships, family and shelter I have, and then feeling utterly fed up and purposeless. I am upset I haven’t hugged my parents in over a year but I am glad they are both now fully vaccinated and that the future is looking a lot brighter. At first, I was frustrated that I was sleeping in more, but then I realised this is an exhausting, traumatic and long-lasting experience we are all going through, so I have been trying hard to be kinder to myself too.
Q - How do you motivate yourself ? Whether that is after really tough day juggling work or just having to cook a meal at the end of a long lockdown day? What are your coping strategies?
A - Motivation during lockdown has been tough, but something that always helps is coming back to my ‘why’. Why am I doing the work I do? What drives me, what am I hoping to contribute to this cause? For me, it is to help create an equitable and sustainable fashion system, one that has potential to strengthen community capacity, improve wellbeing, regenerate the environment, and unlock and catalyse more positive impacts. And underlying all that is my love for people and community. If I’m ever feeling super unmotivated, I’ll arrange a call or catch up with one of my many inspiring friends or colleagues to help put my self-doubt into perspective and
reignite my hope for the future.
Q - Which incredible women have inspired you and why?
A - Rachael Bews (who founded ALICAS) and her altruistic determination inspired me to begin my sustainability journey and explore how fashion could be a force for good. Since then, I have found inspiration from the women I have worked with for SFS (especially Liisa, Antoinette, Cass, Jacki, Izzie, Katy) as well as the wider fashion community in Scotland – we have some incredible women leading the way. Otherwise, I have a few friends from university who are my number one cheerleaders. They all are powerful, kind women in their own unique way, and they build me up and have supported me through the toughest of times. Women are amazing!!