Zines – pamphlet-like, often non-professional publications – have long been associated with grassroots activism as a means of raising awareness and challenging accepted narratives. While some exist simply to celebrate a cultural niche, others are a platform for those who feel their voice isn’t being heard elsewhere, typically offering a low-cost, DIY means of protest. What’s more, with the spirit of protest in the air, they are thriving.
“To me, radical zines are ones that change the discourse,” says Mia Maxwell, the founder of media-diversity title Fem Zine, speaking at a panel discussing the rise of the radical zine during Fashion Revolution Week.
The history of small-circulation zines, especially those that take a stand against the mainstream, is extensive. The term “fanzine” was coined in October 1940 by the chess champion Russ Chauvenet, who first used it in the sci-fi zine Detours, which he founded. Punk zines emerged in the late 70s, continuing into the 90s when the band Bikini Kill published the riot grrrl manifesto in their zine.
Hamja Ahsan, the founder of the zine festival DIY Cultures, also references the zine-making that took place at the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, where women protested in the 80s and 90s against the stationing of cruise missiles on the base.
While it’s true that zines started as a means of distributing information outside of the mainstream media well before it was available online, Ahsan argues that they function equally well as a solution to “digital fatigue”. He also believes that many spaces that were once considered radical have now become commercialised; in a time when “so much of politics is about celebrity”, he says, zines offer a more authentic platform.
So, with zines continuing to carve out a space for marginalised voices and provide a platform for topics sidelined by politics or the media, here are eight with a focus on climate change and fashion sustainability worth delving into.
The fanzine put out by the Fashion Revolution movement seeks to “uncover the stories behind the clothing we wear” and make “a strong and beautiful visual impact to enhance the journey”. Its fourth issue, Fashion Craft Revolution, focuses on “craft as culture”, touching on issues of cultural appropriation and the challenges facing artisans in the 21st century and beyond.
An irregularly published zine on its seventh issue, it describes itself as the “last surviving ecology magazine”. Ecocore seeks to understand and protect nature “from the unique point of view of theory, aesthetics and culture”. Think mesmerising eco-themed imagery alongside big-name contributors.
This New-York-based “slow fashion” zine is taking an “indefinite hiatus”, but, if you can get your hands on a copy, it’s worth checking out the back issues. Inspired by the motto of Vivienne Westwood – “Buy less, buy better and make it last!” – this Kickstarter-funded publication seeks to encourage sustainability and foster conversation surrounding ethical practices within the fashion industry.
Launched last year, this climate change zine aims to find the middle ground between “the remote, technical language of science” and “the hotheaded outrage of activism”, with data and facts informing articles, as well as original artwork. Issue three, on the theme of protest, is coming soon.
A zine celebrating “clothing cultures beyond fast fashion”, Sew Irregular’s latest issue includes features on the upcycling enterprise Worn Reborn, “digital embroidery masters” 1831 and LGBT clothing initiative G(end)er Swap, among others. It also offers audio descriptions of the zine online, and “introvert-friendly” launch parties via Spotify.
One for creative souls: this zine seeks to “enable artists who are passionate about nature to unleash their creativity … and stand up for the preservation of our planet”. Expect impressive art and photography spreads designed to inspire activism, as well as practical eco tips. Issue three is out now.
A Paris-based zine exploring global warming and environmental issues – and aiming to do so with a mix of “expertise, playfulness and poetry”. Contributors range from scientists to performers and photographers, all with “overlapping thoughts regarding climate change”. Issue two is on sale.
Describing itself as “an accessible independent platform focused on social issues online and in print”, issue four – the environment issue – is worth a read if you are looking for art, poetry, interviews and short stories on the theme of climate change. Past contributors have included Martin Parr, Pam Hogg and Maxine Peake.