When we set about the serious task of enlightening people to the benefits of up-cycling, recycling and reusing clothes, therein lies the problem. The ‘serious’ word: the first cousin of worthy, nephew of pious, uncle of heavy, stepfather of boring and the next-door neighbour to ‘I’d rather stick spoons in my eyes’.
We just seem to get wrapped up in the idea that the environmental and social benefits of doing it are enough to make it really really attractive to people and we forget to seduce and engage and inspire.
Recycling clothes with some panache is at least hanging in there Cali style. Andreas choice, at 2 million + Youtube hits uses her Valley girl whatevrrr guide to Britney style t-shirt recycling to tempt a large proportion of like minded girls and boys to check her out. And the prize for how to recycle a t.shirt into a hoody dress at 316,000+ you tube views goes to GiannyL
But the prize for creative storytelling in regards to promoting thrift and granddad’s clothes must go to Micklemore & Ryan Lewis’ Thrift Shop at almost 479 million Youtube views. Okay, it breaks all the PC rules so perhaps doesn’t quite tick every do-good box. The sandpaper swearing comes with the territory. There’s collateral damage in there; the B*&@h word always sadly present: a lazy street slang that not only degrades the recipient but also demeans the user. BUT.
Whether we like it or not, the sheer size of audience Micklemore Et Al attract is staggering – and if only 10% of that audience eschewed another piece of Primark tat for an old OXFAM onesie next time they went clubbing, that makes for 4.7 million people NOT buying a $30 T or skirt that will go from body fill to land fill in the inappropriate and possibly sexist wink of an eye.
The sensational intellect that threads up-cycle and recycle innovations in fabric and textile re-engineering and reuse into systemic process and practice strategies for smarter lighter clothing consumption are both laudable and impressive – but when it comes to creating storytelling to generate some infectious feel-good around them we still need to find the common touch more often.
M&S’s Shwopping comes super close, using the exceptional ambassadorial skills and unmitigated charm and integrity of Joanna Lumley. Her ability to communicate the benefits of recycling those old clothes for good with elegance and aspirational panache is wholly infectious.
So perhaps we just need to do a little gap analysis to define or reveal some smarter storytelling formulae to get us closer to what good looks like more often.
But lightening up is a great place to start.
Having just finished a conversation recently on the toxic nature of tech and battery disposal, I was reminded of the stand up comedian Michael Mcintyre’s Man Drawer sketch – a sublime stroke of observational genius.
With eye-watering clarity of purpose, he unearthed one of the most expansive, multi-site and otherwise invisible storage facilities for old tech and used batteries in the western world: Men’s Special drawers. Drawers packed with tat of every shape, hue, nature and function. A veritable treasure trove.
Now most Youtube stuff around tech and mobile disposal never seems to get beyond a few thousand hits.
But I’d venture that if we got Michael Mcintyre to re-task the Man Drawer sketch as the leading drive in ‘a how to smartly recycle tech and safely dispose of batteries’ campaign we may be in danger of even getting Jeremy Clarkson to think twice.
Suddenly, the content ideas that drop out of this topic also become a lot more interesting. I would love to create a real time infographic based upon the Man Drawer.
Imagine if, having run a small pilot sample to identify a standard unit of control for type, quantity and status of ‘stuff’ in the average Man Drawer, we took it city by city – estimating the number of Man Drawer men between 25 and 55 – and running the numbers to identify potential quantity, sources and scales of tech and batteries lying around – their potential recycle reuse and disposal values – their latent capability or functionality, even untapped energy and intel sources (the SIM graveyard and quantity of rechargeable batteries lying uncharged!). I can already see the real time dials spinning.
Back to the point though, ‘funny’ can unlock a rather arcane and not terribly seductive topic with a lightness of touch usually missing from the average piece of communication around what should be a smarter, lighter living strategy.
So, between leopard-skin onesies in da club, a man with a relentless-stride approach to illuminating the text of everyday life, and a more enlightened approach to how we story-tell, I do think we can get there.
We just need to remember perhaps that sometimes its OK for the messenger to get danced around or laughed at: it’s a whole lot better than being shot.