ABOVE (Photo: Art Brewer) — We are of this planet. Not above it. All our actions are rooted in this place and all our actions impact this place. The results can be beautiful or ugly. The choice is ours. Man and elephant, out for an afternoon swim after a day of hard work in the Andaman Islands, Bay of Bengal, India, 1997.
"We started Outerknown to prove that fundamental change in the fashion industry is not only necessary, but possible. In order to radically change the industry's environmental footprint, beneficial fibers must be brought to scale and made affordable. Organic, recycled and renewable materials will become the industry standard if we band together and advocate for this as a reality. Please join Outerknown in creating a future where the best choice for the planet is also the best choice for business."
These are the first words you encounter in The Blue Book, and they are not flat and benign but rather they leap off the page, whack you in the face. The Blue Book is not a lookbook or a puff piece; it’s a call to arms. Aimed primarily at people connected with the fashion industry, it offers important information to anyone who’s ever donned an article of clothing (which, post Garden of Eden, means all of us).
I learned a whole lot. First and foremost I learned that the apparel industry wreaks havoc on Mother Earth—“In 2015 alone, the U.S. threw out 14-million tons of fashion trash, the bulk of which will still be wasting away in a landfill generations after the death of whomever put it there.” I learned that the U.S. government gives tax breaks to apparel brands that spray their imported fabrics in Gore-Tex, aka DWR, which is a toxic, shitty chemical. I experienced that same soul-crushing feeling I had when I learned that Santa Claus was a fiction, and years later when I learned that pharmaceutical companies were in bed with the politicians (i.e., that big corporations will inflict tremendous harm upon the world if it translates to big profit).
LEFT — Illustration by Geoff McFetrdige RIGHT — Illustration by Serena Mitnik-Miller
But then I learned about Preferential Tariffs for Benefit Fibers. Outerknown’s idea is to provide tax breaks for textiles that work with the planet, instead of against it. Currently, Benefit Fibers (think Recycled, Reused, Regenerated, Organic) cost more than conventional fibers, but with Preferential Tariff legislation, we could change that.
The Blue Book does something really interesting. It pinpoints a problem and offers up a solution. It also washes the reader in beauty. Art Brewer’s photographs of the natural world and we humans interacting with it are breathtaking, aspirational. Quotes from Oscar Wilde, Stella McCartney, Yvon Chouinard, Julia Butterfly Hill, and Mahatma Gandhi galvanize. A Q&A with Outerknown co-founder and creative director John Moore inspires. You’re lulled into a unity, a oneness. The beauty of the world, the beauty of the mind, the beauty of the maker, the beauty of being responsible, of, pardon the cliché, doing the right thing—it’s all inextricably linked.
ABOVE (Photos: Todd Glaser): From above to below and all the places in between, nature is perhaps the greatest teacher when it comes to sustainability. At top, the light of the heavens dances upon the surface of the sea somewhere in the South Pacific. At bottom, Kelly Slater gets closer with the underwater landscapes of Off the Wall, Oahu, Hawai'i.
BELOW (Photo: Art Brewer): No matter what your thoughts on climate change, you cannot argue with the fact that the ice caps at both ends of Earth are shrinking at an alarming rate. The evidence is overwhelming and immediately visible to even an amateur eye. These vast networks of ice and snow help set he pace for the world's weather patterns. They are also mesmerizingly beautiful. An ice wall along the Lemire Channel, Antarctica, 2000.