Our Visit to the Forest For Change

June 11, 2021

As humans, we’ve historically loved to dominate and take ownership of things. We saw something, free-formed, colored outside the lines, and said, “Nope, I didn’t say that was allowed.”

So, it makes sense then, that back in the 18th century a man named William Chambers wrote into the architectural covenant of Somerset House in London that you can’t plant or allow trees to grow in the courtyard of the house, because the “symmetries of the central courtyard must never be interrupted.”

Cut to today, and Es Devlin (a London-based artist) is planting a massive forest in the courtyard of Somerset House, so say goodbye to those symmetries. Chambers may be turning in his grave, but the Forest for Change is a much-needed statement about the climate emergency. The installation is part of the London Design Biennale, countering the human superiority syndrome we have over nature. In the middle of it, you’ll find a ring of pillars, not a sacrificial area like my first thought, but these pillars outline the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that have been set by the UN and that 195 countries have committed to achieving by 2030.

A group of us from ForwardPMX were lucky enough to visit the forest, as we also celebrated the launch of the Fashion Avengers campaign there. ForwardPMX is now an official partner of the Fashion Avengers, joining the likes of Burberry, PANGAIA, Marie Claire, and Bottletop, all of whom are committing to achieving and promoting sustainable change within the fashion industry.

It felt extremely apt to launch this campaign in the forest, with the G7 summit happening in Cornwall and World Ocean Day just behind us, a reminder of the work that is being done, and yet to happen. Gail Gallie, co-founder of Project Everyone told us “Fashion is one of the few industries that touches on every single one of the goals,” bringing only further reasoning for the need to create change within this sector.

We were first offered a tour of the forest, which consisted of 400 trees and plants across 27 species. As we looked around us, the hum of London traffic being drowned out by speakers producing birdsong, we spotted some of the Silver Birches looking limp thanks to the heat of the June sun. “The trees required a huge team watering them every morning,” we’re told by Jon Hales, Climate and Business Director at Project Everyone. “Once the forest has finished its run, they’ll be taken from Somerset House and replanted in the countryside.”

When we reached the pillar circle, we were told each pillar represents a goal, with a quote highlighting why we need to keep striving for change within it. Each pillar is mirrored, “so you can see yourself within the goal,” Jon told us. Poignant, and looking around, also great for taking selfies.

There is also an opportunity to get your voice heard and state what change you want to see in line with the goals, and the recording is then played around the forest. Members of the ForwardPMX team, Bobbi Byrne, Dammi Afolabi, and Felicity Dudley took to the stage with ease, announcing their dreams for the Global Goals, having their words immortalized (well, for one week anyway) within the forest.

Once we had enough time to soak up the serene and compelling nature (see what I did there?) of the forest, talks were led by Gail Gallie and Caroline Rush, CEO of the British Fashion Council.

“The Fashion Industry leads in terms of setting the cultural agenda, setting trends and what’s to come. We must do this now through environmental action. Seeing the emphasis from both brands and consumers, thinking about the way that they are buying and operating – now is the time to commit to doing things differently. We are an organization known for celebrating excellence and creativity, now more than ever we need to lift businesses that champion environmental and community impact.”

These words from Caroline hit home for us, as talking about being part of an industry that sets trends, ForwardPMX too can fit within this remit. Rather than dictating the course of outfits for Spring/Summer, we are an agency filled with innovative and leading talent, often setting the tone for our clients and industry practices. We too need to begin to harness this and leverage it for change. Becoming a Fashion Avenger is a start, realizing and admitting the change we need to make, whilst being transparent about the industries we work with.

Here are some words of reflection from Dammi Afolabi, Marketing Communications Manager at ForwardPMX:

“So pleased to have been given the opportunity to be a part of a movement that’s hopefully going to bring about change in the areas that we need to see improvements on in our world and on our planet. To be a Fashion Avenger is something I feel many people in years to come will be striving to become.”

Our time visiting the forest was one filled with hope, inspiration, and urgency – emitting exactly what the goals stand for and what our work, striving for social change, is all about.

You can visit the Forest for Change at Somerset house in London, throughout June.

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