A TEDTalk that will change the way you dress

Featured in Fashion Revolution
1 YEAR AGO
Written by Joelle Firzli

“Joelle… you’re on stage in 3!”
My heart is pounding, my knees are shaking, my mouth is dry, my hands are sweaty, the mic is itching my ear… in short, I am having the full panic attack.

I stopped for a moment, closed my eyes and took a deep breath before I heard my name one last time and walked out on stage. Under the spotlight, I was terrified, but the excitement took over and I was feeling better already. Besides, I was wearing my lucky shorts, so I was equipped for anything…I felt protected.

The story I’m about to tell you is the one I shared at the TEDxLAU event. It is an account of a personal memory of a much-loved piece of clothing: my lucky leather shorts. I bought them in 2005 from a vintage shop in East London; according to the label, they were manufactured in France and from the cut, I would say they were made in the mid-90s. Since I bought them I must have worn them 100 times. They became my travel companion, and flew all over the world with me. Those shorts speak about key moments in my life. They speak about my weight loss and my weight gain, my break ups and my love stories. With time, the shorts became damaged and a small rip on the lining appeared. This rip grew and I could not wear them anymore. I had 3 choices: 1- I could throw them away, 2- I could give them to charity, although they were too damaged, or 3- I could just repair them.

I believe that we are emotionally connected to our own clothes, because of the memories they hold, the moment we live with them. So, no! I was not ready to abandon my shorts. I decided to fix them. I took the sewing kit my teta (i.e grandma in Arabic) has bought me a long time ago, and I started mending until the rip was completely covered. Today the shorts have a scar and this scar is a token of my life.

The shorts are beyond just a fashion item. I care for them. So it was no surprise then when I was chosen to give a 12-minute talk at the Lebanese American University, also my alumni university, I decided to share that intimate worn story with the audience. I recognized the potential opportunity to finally share my passion for sustainability and fashion in my own country, the opportunity to raise awareness on the issues pertaining to the fashion industry, and the opportunity to share my work. So I accepted the challenge, overlooking the untold discomfort and nerves that hits you when you are about to go on stage.

Yes, before my tedxtalk I was terrified yet excited. I was scheduled to speak in the afternoon session however after seeing other amazing and inspiring speakers get applause, I was afraid my topic might seem frivolous to some. The TEDxLAU team was amazingly supportive, I had made it so far and I was prepared. Above all, I had a truly serious message to convey, one that touches on our garments but also garment workers, environmental issues and social responsibility. If I’m able to express a sense of passion for what I’m doing, it means I’m doing it right and I’ll already be a winner. So here I am, standing in a red circle, in a room filled with people that I can’t really see, disclosing my passion for clothing.

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I believe that our relationship with clothes is much more than just about fashion; I believe it is physical, cultural, emotional, spiritual and personal. The clothes we choose to wear celebrate our history; they form an essential part of the self we present to the world. Clothing choices send messages and tell stories. Our garments are memory keepers and they deserve to be taken care off.

In this saturated fashion market, we as consumers ought to make sustainability an authentic, core value of the way we consume fashion. We ought to be responsible consumers who make sustainable choices. Recycle, swap, up-cycle, fix or donate instead of dispose. Ask #whomademyclothes and care for your clothes. When you look after them, they will last longer, you will establish a stronger connection, and you will create more of lucky shirts. You will collect more stories.

I delivered my message successfully with sincerity, conviction, and clearly, a very intense French accent. I felt humbled and proud to be able to provide some guidance and solutions to the audience in Lebanon (a country that have been struggling with a waste disposal problem for years now). Most of all, I truly hope I was able to inspire people to create a culture of sustainability, to think differently about their garments and take action towards a more ethical future for fashion.