Multidisciplinary artist Georgina Johnson on slow fashion and mental health.

Like, retweet, share, move on – in 2018, efforts towards positive change are too easily distilled on a 2D screen. But sometimes, rare and resolute individuals push against the grain and shows us exactly how to attain it in real life. Georgina Johnson is one of those people.

Since launching her contemporary couture brand, Laundry Service (currently on hiatus), multidisciplinary artist Georgina has created an fresh, inclusive platform for artists to show their work through her arts programme, The Laundry.

Over the past year, The Laundry has held events and exhibitions dedicated to exploring all aspects of identity. Her next venture “Slow Fashion to Save Minds” unpicks mental health and sustainability, opening with a panel discussion on Tuesday. Moderated by writer and mental health advocate Sara Radin, Georgina will speak alongside photographer and filmmaker Campbell Addy, journalist and author Tasmin Blanchard, and director of research design studio Ma-tt-er Seetal Solanki.

Ahead of the event, we caught up with Georgina to discuss pioneering ideas and pulling them off on her own terms.

Can you explain a little bit about The Laundry and what you do?
The Laundry is an arts programme mainly focused on raising the voices of people from Black, South Asian and MENA backgrounds, who are currently grossly underrepresented across these industries. We’ve worked with three cohorts of artist’s to date, ranging from material designers to photographers and sound artists, hailing from Saudi Arabia to NYC, Israel and back. We work with our residents to produce visceral and immersive experiences that destabilise the traditional gallery environment and ring true to our diverse community.

How did “Slow Fashion to Save Minds” come about?
I guess my own experience with fashion – I decided at the start of this year to take a break. I was running a brand called Laundry Service and I found that my mental health was suffering really badly. I understand that the systems and framework we’re taught and socialised within are terrible, there’s a learned behaviour to stretch yourself to the end of yourself, which I’m not about and am working to unlearn. So I guess I’m on hiatus, I’m doing things on my own terms.

Where are you going to take “Slow Fashion To Save Minds”?
The event is more or less a precursor to a campaign in the same name. We aim to work with brands and educators about making mental health a proper, more consistent conversation in the industry. Also pinpointing the counter-cultural, like the slow fashion movement and all the things that intersect with it, and how it can benefit really positively on people’s mental health.

Fast fashion really doesn’t make sense – it’s a creative industry, yet people are on such tight schedules to churn out new ideas.
Exactly, it’s really common sense to be honest! In my opinion the fashion industry has been having a mental health crisis and people romanticise the crazy genius creative when people are actually sick. If we had more of a positive attitude and better systems in place people could create healthily.

Taken from Georgina’s 2017 zine with photographer Tyler Mitchell.

Taken from Georgina’s 2017 zine with photographer Tyler Mitchell.

What do you think we can be doing to create more positive attitudes towards mental health?
Loads of things. We have to first uncover what is contributing towards poor mental health though, which is why open conversations in general are necessary. People are our biggest resource and if we don’t take care of people then we won’t have anything. I also think the way that we see designers should change. There should be a better dialogue between designer and audience, so that they aren’t on a pedestal that ultimately perpetuates unattainable ideals around who they should be what they should be churning out.

How does the sustainability aspect come into it?
Slow fashion is basically taking care of people, practice and place; having a practice embedded in your business where you take care of those three things. That can be anything from asking how your team are doing to working with sustainable British brands and using recycled materials and natural dyes. When you create at a slower pace, you put more focus on the creative process rather than just churning out six collections a year. And social sustainability is about creating a culture that isn’t hyper-real and ensuring all people are seen. We need to make sure diversity isn’t a two-season situation, but that we actually recognise the power in real representation.

Taken from Georgina’s 2017 zine with photographer Tyler Mitchell.

Taken from Georgina’s 2017 zine with photographer Tyler Mitchell.

What do you want people to gain from the evening?
I think it’s going to be an event where people feel like they can leave and do things differently themselves. If you don’t see it, if you don’t have an example of it, then you’re going to keep doing things the old way. And it’s not something that’s going to stop with the event, it’s going to continue into the campaign. I’m going to be talking to brands and educators about how they can implement these things, have better care systems and think about the wellbeing of their students and audience.

What’s next for The Laundry?
The campaign is going to be a focus for next year but we’re also doing some more community things. The publishing industry ridiculously under represents Black, Asian and minority people. Last year I self-published a zine with Tyler Mitchell, which was my first step into publishing and really brought home how much agency there can be in giving your work a physical tangible afterlife, rather than a solid image you will likely scroll past. So we’re going to be focusing on other people who are self-publishing and doing sick things themselves. We want to hold monthly or bi-monthly symposiums and we’re looking at making it global.

“Slow Fashion To Save Minds” will take place on Tuesday 18th September at Ace & Tate, 10 Earlham Street, London WC2H 9LN, from 7.30-9pm. RSVP (essential) at [email protected]

Portrait photography
Undine Markus
Rosie Byers
With thanks to

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