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Livia Firth on Why Going Green Should Be More Like Common Sense to Save the Planet

We’ve lost our instinctive connection with what’s important for ourselves and the planet – and it’s time for common sense to lead the way again.

Photo: Elizaveta Porodina

Almost every interview I have done in the last 14 years or so starts with the same question: “When did you become sustainable?” Sometimes the phrasing is different, but the concept is always the same: how and when did it happen?

I usually shrug my shoulders and come up with an answer, but the truth is, I am not sure there was a precise moment – it was more a collection of circumstances that brought me to where I am today. I associate my personal journey with the transformation not only of the fashion industry, but with how we went from being “citizens” to being “consumers.”

I was born in 1969, the year of that fabulous Woodstock festival and the hippy movement, and the first man on the moon. I spent the first 20 years of my life (if not more) in an era pre-internet, pre-mobile phones, pre-consumerism. I was also born in Italy, so everything that happened in the 80s – including the beginning of consumerism and fast food – arrived in my country much later than in the US (where it was born) or the UK (where I moved to in 1996). I am sure the same is true for any of you who are from my generation and are not based in one of those two countries.

Two-year-old Livia at her aunt’s wedding with her mother, wearing a custom-made silk dress which she later gave to Livia

Apart from Madonna’s music, huge earrings, and shoulder pads, the 80s for me are about my twin brothers being born, my family suddenly becoming four siblings, my dad having to maintain everyone with one salary, and my mom buying lowenergy light bulbs not because we were “eco,” but because we needed to save money. The same went for clothes that were mended, altered, passed down, and exchanged – simply because we couldn’t afford it and cheap fashion didn’t exist anyway. We had to save money to buy clothes and we bought quality clothes to save money, as they had to last through the years.

Things start to get blurry later on, and maybe the question is not, when did I become sustainable, but rather, when did everything become super fast, super cheap, super accessible, and super charged at the speed of light? When did we start living in an era when we had to certify things, or call them “sustainable” or “eco,” while it had been normal practice up until then?

Livia wearing a Laura Strambi recycled plastic bottles dress. Photo: Getty

At some point this is what happened, and it suddenly became cheaper to buy new socks, rather than mending the holes in them, and we started buying readymade mash potatoes at the supermarket rather than boiling and mashing two potatoes. Isn’t it interesting that, in the span of my lifetime, I saw this huge transformation from one kind of world to a completely different one? And now I’m witnessing a new revolution: the technological craze of Web 3.0 and all things “metaverse.” Maybe this is why I always say that for me, sustainability – call it green or any color you like – is more like common sense than anything else. And if you start looking at it in this way, then there are a million questions whose answers will always be no. Does it make sense to you that we buy things that we throw away after a few times? (Think about this for a moment – the fact that we throw away clothes like food that has gone past its expiry date in our fridge.) Does it make sense to you that we wear toxic materials on our bodies? Does it make sense to you that we spend our time looking at the lives of people we don’t know on social media, because our lives are so empty that the only way of feeling alive is to feel envious over what someone else is wearing, or which place they have gone on holiday? Does it make sense to you that, although we technically abolished slavery last century, we still enslave millions of people in supply chains around the world, since we need to buy lots of very cheap things, very often? I could go on, but shouldn’t the real question be, when will we start to care again, to reconnect with what matters again?

Livia in a factory in Dhaka. Photo: Reza Shahriah Rahman

For the last two-and-a-half years I have been writing these pages, every month on different topics, every month trying to involve you in something new. This month I would like to throw the ball back in you court and would like to ask you what you care about. What would you like to know more of, explore more, understand more? What is your story and what are your solutions for the future of humanity?

Originally published in the June 2022 issue of Vogue Arabia

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