In the labyrinth of global efforts combating the climate crisis, a distinctive initiative takes center stage at the blue zone of COP28 – the Entertainment + Culture Pavilion (E+C Pavilion). This pioneering endeavor stands as the first dedicated space within the COP Blue Zone, delving into the dynamic intersection of Entertainment, Culture, and Climate.
The Pavilion aims to serve not only as a physical space within the COP Blue Zone but as a metaphorical bridge connecting the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the creative industries. Their mission is to provide a platform for collaboration, education, and inspiration, and to establish a vital connection between the creative industries and the global climate discourse. This connection goes beyond symbolism, manifesting in interdisciplinary activations and programming events that inspire concrete climate action.
“As members of the creative sector, we hold immense power to shape mainstream perspectives, raise awareness on important issues facing our planet, build shared understanding and consciousness, and encourage behavioral change.”
The Partnership and Impact Director of E+C Pavilion, Samuel Rubin shared with Green & Beyond Mag
At the heart of the Pavilion’s significance is its unique ability to amplify climate dialogues globally. The Pavilion, according to the organizers, aims to be a space where “entertainment, culture, and intricate global climate dialogues intersect.” Its goal is clear: to use the influential realms of entertainment and culture to articulate, disseminate, and amplify pivotal climate discussions emerging from COP28 to a global audience.
Significance of the Entertainment + Culture Pavilion at COP28
Amidst the urgency of climate action, the E+C Pavilion emerges as a dynamic hub pulsating with creativity, activism, ambition, and hope. In an era where social media platforms dominate communication, the Entertainment + Culture Pavilion recognizes the power of narrative impact and climate storytelling. “Uplifting the power of narratives and stories in promoting planetary justice and fostering an understanding of interconnectedness, kinship, and care for people, flora, fauna, and the planet” is a focal point.
This approach aligns with the Pavilion’s mission to inspire collective action through the emotive strength of storytelling. Positioned within the Blue Zone, this pavilion seeks to amplify the emotional resonance and transformative power of Entertainment and Culture, fostering heightened awareness, inspiring collective action, and catalyzing systemic change.
“Climate change not only threatens natural resources, but also the cultural heritage of communities intricately tied to ancestral lands and waters. Culture therefore provides the imperative to educate and empower generations of community members to band together to generate locally-suited solutions to preserve natural and cultural heritage.”
– Samuel further shared with Green & Beyond Mag
Hence, the Entertainment + Culture Pavilion at COP28 marks a groundbreaking venture as its genesis lies in recognizing the transformative potential of culture and entertainment in steering climate conversations. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) underscores the power of narrative shifts and cultural efforts, estimating that the committed engagement of 10-30% of social influencers and thought leaders is pivotal for shaping new social norms.
“The creative sector urgently needs more hubs like the E+C Pavilion. These spaces are crucial for building essential infrastructure, advancing decarbonization initiatives, crafting policies, creating economic incentives, securing funding, and ensuring diversity and representation across the entertainment industry.”
– The Communication & Content Director of E+C Pavilion, Kirsten Wessel shared with Green & Beyond Mag
The significance of such a platform extends beyond the COP event. The organizers envision a world where the creative industries and cultural expressions play a pivotal role in shaping the global climate agenda. The pilot edition of the Pavilion at COP28 is designed to be a stepping stone for a permanent presence at COP and potentially other high-level conferences within the UN ecosystem. This ambition is rooted in the understanding that the creative sector, employing over 50 million people globally, is a powerful force that can drive meaningful change.
Cultural Catalyst for Policy and Action
Emerging from this understanding, the Pavilion aims to be a nexus where entertainment and culture converge to exert influence. In crafting this unique space, the organizers draw inspiration from UNESCO‘s view of culture as the “ultimate renewable resource” to combat climate change. The Pavilion is more than a platform; it’s a testament to the urgent need to leverage the interdisciplinary skills and global reach of the creative industries for climate advocacy.
“Tackling the climate crisis will take decisive action at all levels of society, so why not harness the interdisciplinary skills and global reach of the creative industries to actively address and combat climate change?We have no alternative but to make an earnest effort, crucially because it involves adapting to the evolving climate and mastering the art of navigating our current reality. Whether conveyed through music, film, art, or otherwise, it’s essential to feel acknowledged and share narratives of resilience and joy within our global communities.”
The Entertainment + Culture Pavilion positions itself as a bridge between the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the creative industries. The mission resonates with a commitment to inspire concrete climate action, fostering collaboration and leveraging culture’s power to engage a global audience. The organizers envision a world where the creative industries and cultural expressions serve as dynamic drivers of climate action and environmental stewardship.
The E+C Pavilion stands as a testament to the potent fusion of creativity and climate action. Through its objectives, the Pavilion aims to showcase the profound impact that culture, arts, music, and storytelling can have in interpreting the reality of the climate crisis. According to the organizers, “The emotive strength of these mediums taps into universal human experiences, transcending borders and languages.”
E+C Pavilion’s offerings throughout COP28 – Programming & Events
The Pavilion’s programming themes craft a vivid portrayal of its objectives. From exploring audiovisual sovereignty to examining the influence of persuasive industries in raising climate awareness, each theme is a thread in the larger narrative of leveraging culture for climate action. Notably, the Pavilion’s emphasis on health, mindfulness, and storytelling underscores a holistic approach to climate engagement.
As the organizers succinctly put it, “The Pavilion and its programming are designed to unite these subsectors and bolster the presence of the entire industry in the climate agenda.”
The Pavilion’s commitment to fostering collaboration is evident in its event formats. Whether through sectoral roundtables, discussion panels, or interactive installations, the Pavilion aims to provide a diverse set of avenues for engaging with climate issues. This inclusivity extends to community mixers, where people from diverse backgrounds converge to network and build bridges within the creative sector.
Panel discussions to be hosted by organizations like NAACP, Harvard, and MENA Youth Network will delve into crucial topics such as storytelling in the Black community for environmental justice, communicating climate change and health solutions through video media, and exploring climate action through the cultural lens of the Middle East and North Africa.
Additionally, the Entertainment + Culture Pavilion will feature a fashion show spotlighting eco-conscious clothing and accessories. This exhibition goes beyond the traditional runway, championing innovative design and creativity while emphasizing sustainability in the fashion industry. It serves as a testament to the Pavilion’s commitment to intertwining culture and climate across various sectors.
The lineup of performances is equally impressive. From Nile Rodgers, renowned for his contributions to the music industry, to spoken word performances by environmental justice advocate Isavela Lopez, the Pavilion offers a diverse range of artistic expressions. These performances aim not only to entertain but also to inspire a sense of responsibility and climate awareness.
The Pavilion’s vision goes beyond COP28. It aspires to be a stepping stone for a permanent presence at COP and other high-level conferences within the UN ecosystem. By encouraging dialogue, igniting innovation, and mobilizing people globally, the Pavilion seeks to contribute to a more sustainable and habitable planet.
As we delve into the details of the Pavilion’s offerings throughout COP28, it becomes apparent that it’s a hub of climate optimism, as the Pavilion’s dynamic programming aims to instill a sense of hope and empowerment. By incorporating diverse voices, the Pavilion seeks to catalyze tangible actions and solutions across borders and sectors.
Recognizing the Importance of Diversity & Inclusivity
The Pavilion’s extensive programming, comprising over 190 proposals from around the globe, reflects its commitment to diversity and inclusivity. Events will be conducted in English, Arabic, Spanish, and Portuguese, making the Pavilion a truly global platform. Private roundtables, interactive exhibitions, and community mixers highlight the diverse array of activities that participants can engage with.
Another crucial aspect of the Pavilion is its emphasis on talent diversity. From Indian actress Dia Mirza to climate lawyer and activist Farhana Yamin, the Pavilion brings together a diverse array of voices. This diversity is not just symbolic; it mirrors the Pavilion’s broader mission of uniting artists, innovators, and thought leaders from varied backgrounds to foster collaboration and synergy.
“A prime example being featured in the pavilion is Monica Jahan Bose, a member of our Delegation who founded “Storytelling with Saris”. Through this initiative, she uplifts traditional practices in rural Bangladesh, utilizing her own traditional clothing as a tool for movement building, climate action, and empowerment. During COP, Monica will lead a performance and host a workshop at the E+C Pavilion.”
– Organizers at the E+C Pavilion
“The Pavilion also features filmmaker collectives like Mullu, Midia Ninja, and Sauntr representing Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, and the US, establishing community- or Indigenous-led media platforms to create fresh content that focuses on community cinema and collective creation while supporting audiovisual sovereignty over their narratives. With over 100 community events and 150 partners, the Entertainment + Culture Pavilion represents a diverse array of approaches to intertwining environmental concerns with arts and culture.”
– the organizers further said.
Highlighting Individuals and Talents of the Entertainment + Culture Pavilion
The Pavilion boasts an impressive lineup of individuals who have made significant contributions to the intersection of climate action and culture. Dia Mirza, an Indian actress and Goodwill Ambassador for UNEP, brings her influence to amplify environmental causes. Climate lawyer, author, and activist Farhana Yamin, along with world-renowned economist Jeffrey D. Sachs, adds depth to the Pavilion’s discussions.
Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, President of the Indigenous Women & People’s Association of Chad, and Mustafa Santiago Ali, Vice President of the National Wildlife Federation, represent voices from regions deeply affected by climate change. Their perspectives offer valuable insights into the intersection of culture, indigenous rights, and environmental stewardship.
The Entertainment + Culture Pavilion also features youth leaders and renowned climate activists like Vanessa Nakate, founder of the Rise Up Movement, and Max Han, co-founder of Youths United for Earth. Their presence underscores the importance of empowering the younger generation in the climate discourse.
Xiye Bastida, co-founder of the Re-Earth Initiative, contributes to the Pavilion’s narrative with her focus on engaging communities and fostering a sense of global responsibility. Laurel Kivuyo, founder of Climate Hub Tanzania, brings a unique perspective from the African continent, emphasizing the importance of diverse voices in the climate dialogue.
Musical contributions come from Nile Rodgers, known for his guitar prowess and influential contributions to the music industry. The Pavilion also hosts a spoken word performance by Isavela Lopez, offering a poignant narrative of environmental injustices in Mexico and the United States.
These talents, along with others, represent a mosaic of experiences, expertise, and creativity. Their collective presence reinforces the Pavilion’s commitment to fostering a truly global and inclusive dialogue on the crucial intersection of culture and climate.
A Vision Unveiled: E+C Pavilion’s Long-Term Impact
In the heart of COP28, the Entertainment + Culture Pavilion materializes as more than a spectacle; it’s a visionary force intertwining creativity and climate advocacy. Beyond the dazzling events, the Pavilion paints a vision of collaboration, birthing a promise for a sustained presence in global conversations. This isn’t just an artistic spectacle; it’s a mission to align with the Paris Agreement’s ambitions.
The Pavilion calls for the creative industries to decarbonize, transforming into a stage where the entertainment industry becomes a protagonist in the fight against climate change. It’s a canvas where disciplines intertwine, giving birth to artistic expressions narrating tales of resilience in the face of climate challenges. Here, existing initiatives find a home, converging knowledge to avoid duplication.
The Pavilion acts as a haven for collective wisdom, echoing the argument for the expansion of cultural spaces championing climate causes. Amidst this vision, the Pavilion’s programming themes beat like a heart, each echoing a different facet of the climate story. From the struggle for audiovisual sovereignty to the harmonious blend of music and ritual in service of science-based targets, the themes become threads that create a landscape of climate narratives. As the Pavilion unfolds its programming, it ceases to be just a platform; it transforms into a living, breathing entity — a storyteller in the grand theater of climate action.
The journey of Lauren Di Meglio is a testament to the transformative power of passion and dedication. As a recent graduate with a double major in Tourism & Hospitality and Events, her love for the ocean and marine experiences has driven her to make a meaningful impact. Her family’s deep-rooted connection to the shipping industry has given her unique insights and a profound desire to preserve the beauty of our natural world for generations to come.
It was through Eco Fashion Week Australia (EFWA) that Lauren found a platform to marry her love for the environment and her burgeoning interest in fashion. Her initial experiences as a model for EFWA were nothing short of exhilarating. The exposure to sustainable fashion practices, coupled with her growing awareness of the environmental impact of fast fashion, ignited a profound shift in her perspective. This journey with EFWA has left an indelible mark, influencing her career path in eco-tourism and shaping her commitment to making conscious choices, supporting local businesses, and promoting sustainability.
Lauren’s story is an inspiration for aspiring individuals seeking to make a positive impact on the environment. It’s a reminder that every small step towards a more sustainable future counts, and when fueled by passion, the possibilities are endless. EFWA, with its focus on sustainable fashion, played a pivotal role in guiding Lauren toward a career dedicated to eco-tourism and environmental preservation. The journey continues, and the influence of EFWA shines brightly in her path ahead.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background in the eco-tourism and fashion industries?
My name is Lauren Di Meglio, I am 22 years old and have recently graduated from Curtin University with a Commerce degree, double majoring in Tourism & Hospitality and Events. Growing up I’ve always loved the ocean, beaches, rivers, and any body of water. Living in Perth and consistently traveling back and forth from a small fishing island in Italy, Ischia, my family and I have always been lucky enough to surround ourselves with marine experiences almost daily. My immediate and extended family on both sides work within the shipping industry, which has given me the opportunity to learn insights into the industry. As my love for the marine world grows, so does my passion and desire to preserve the experiences it provides for future generations. I intend to use my degree to help conserve and protect tourism destinations and to develop environmentally-conscious experiences for visiting tourists and locals.
How did you first get involved with Eco Fashion Week Australia (EFWA)? Can you share your initial impressions and experiences?
In 2017, I had been with Dene for 2 years and was confident in front of a camera and up on the runway. She mentioned a modeling call for Eco-Fashion Week Australia, an idea/concept that I hadn’t heard of before. From the moment my mum and I met Zuhal, we knew we wanted to be a part of EFWA! We would go to Fremantle every 2nd weekend to practice walking, try on beautiful garments, and involve ourselves in extra opportunities; Dowerin Field Days, Taylor Winery Events, etc.
The EFWA 2017 event was thrilling! As a 16-year-old, having the opportunity to be photographed, interviewed, and walk the runway in front of a new and growing audience every night for 5-days was incredible. The confidence and pride the experience gave me is something unmatched.
Going into the 2nd year of EFWA, Emily Craig, Taleisha Lee and I (and our mothers) were lucky enough to work closely with Zuhal. We would assist in running the runway training for the EFWA 2018 team, we were involved in numerous “bonus” photoshoots for the Green Embassy and even other international designers. We will always be EFWA’s and Zuhal’s #1 fans.
EFWA is known for its focus on sustainable fashion. How did participating in this event influence your perspective on fashion and sustainability?
I learned so much from Zuhal and the other designers about fashion pollution/fast fashion, up-cycled fashion, natural materials and dying processes, and all of the individual and unique ways that the designers would create their art. Learning these things gave me an appreciation for the designers and their work as it gave me an insight into the thought process behind the end result. It taught me, as a teenager who would regularly shop with friends at fast fashion outlets, the impact that my actions have on the environment around me, socially, economically, and environmentally. This helped me to rethink and reassess;
1. What do I want to support; big corporations who mass produce low-quality items or individual artists who carefully craft their designs with passion and consideration?
2. How can I benefit from buying locally or from slow fashion artists?
I learned that although slow fashion items may come with a bigger price tag, the item would always last in my wardrobe for longer as it isn’t trying to fit into a trend, the quality is better, and the personal connection with the piece. The knowledge that I learned from EFWA has stuck with me and has inspired me throughout my studies to keep conscious of my impact, current and future.
What aspects of EFWA’s sustainable fashion ethos resonated with you the most, and why?
I love that EFWA stands to educate, promote, and entertain its audience, both through physical events and media content, on the importance of shopping quality, and slow fashion. It teaches you to shift your perspective of fashion, reconsider your shopping habits, and make a more conscious and educated decision when it comes to shopping. The knowledge and moral value that EFWA passes on to its audience plants a new way of thinking that will ultimately benefit the individual, the fashion industry, and the environment around us.
In your opinion, how do sustainable fashion and eco-tourism intersect, and what role do they play in promoting environmental consciousness?
In my view, I wouldn’t be able to work for an eco-industry while ignoring another. I chose to venture into the eco-tourism industry because I want to preserve and conserve the natural environment around us, although my work may not directly correlate with the fashion industry, they ultimately have impacts on each other in the long run. The overarching ideologies of eco-fashion and eco-tourism overlap, for example, the simple idea of supporting local businesses is always a great way to ensure you are getting quality products and/or services.
How has your involvement with EFWA influenced your career path and aspirations, particularly in the field of eco-tourism?
The knowledge I gained from being a part of EFWA has assisted me throughout my studies and my day-to-day decision-making. During my time with EFWA I have traveled to many WA towns and locations, learning about their agricultural practices and the different ways of living (rural vs. city living), I learned about small, conscious decisions that people make in their everyday lives that benefit themselves and their environment. Through learning these behaviors and seeing the impacts that these could have on a community, I became intrigued by the small changes I could make to benefit other towns and individuals. This sparked an interest in tourism development and helped me throughout my studies by relating to these experiences.
You have just obtained a bachelor’s degree in commerce, majoring in tourism, events, and hospitality. How has your education complemented your passion for eco-tourism?
Throughout my degree, my favourite units were always the ones that covered tourism development and tourism conservation. I felt as though these units taught me the most about how I could make an impact through eco-tourism and allowed me to fuel my passion. I used my assignments as a means to put my ideas of conservation to the test, and I often reflected on my years of travel and experiences abroad. I would tailor my assignments to marine-based destinations when possible to keep my engagement high and use my knowledge of the shipping industry and individual companies to my advantage. Eco-tourism allowed me to find an industry that incorporated all of my interests and aspirations.
What advice would you give to aspiring individuals who are looking to make a positive impact on the environment through their careers, whether in fashion or eco-tourism?
Through my studies, I was often overwhelmed with the facts of how much damage has been caused by the fashion industry, how difficult it can be to make a conscious decision, and how I would be able to make a difference. It is important to remember that all you can do is take a step in the right direction, and then another, and another. Throughout my assignments, I would make conscious decisions about the destinations I was researching to make them relevant to the field in which I aspire to work. I would suggest to do the same, study and research the areas that you are passionate about. Take lessons that you learn through your studies and apply them to everyday living, and vice versa, take lessons and experiences from your years of living and apply these to your studies. If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your journey, your passion for eco-tourism, or the influence of EFWA in shaping your path?
EFWA has made a massive impact on my personal journey, it has taught me so many life lessons and has given me the opportunity to meet incredible individuals from all around the world. The years of getting to meet and know Zuhal, her family, and the other amazing friends that we still hold close to this day, was an incredibly valuable experience that I am so grateful for.
This is part of a series where Green & Beyond Mag explores the stories and takes a peek at the lifestyles of incredible people like green entrepreneurs, innovators, climate advocates, activists, community leaders, and content creators, all around the world, who love the planet and are working tirelessly to make the world a better place.
In the glitzy, ever-dazzling Dubai, where innovation and extravagance are the norm, a new kind of elegance is taking shape. Dubai is renowned for luxury and extravagance, but amidst the high-end boutiques and bustling markets, a different sort of fashion is finding its voice. The Sustainable Fashion Expo is set to grace this metropolis, where fashion isn’t just about looking good; it’s about doing good.
A Fashionable Prelude to COP28
As the Expo City in Dubai gears up for the grand Sustainable Fashion Expo, it’s not just another event – it’s a movement. Dubai, being the host of COP28, plays a significant role in shaping the global sustainability narrative. The fashion industry, with its vast reach and deep impact on the planet, must be a part of this conversation. This expo acts as a precursor to COP28, ushering fashion into the sustainability discussion. It’s a stage for the fashion community, both professionals and consumers, to discover and embrace sustainable choices. The significance is immense, as it lays the foundation for decarbonizing the industry and reducing waste. The expo positions Dubai at the forefront of fashion sustainability, where style meets responsibility.
Unveiling the Concept of Sustainable Fashion Expo
The concept of the Sustainable Fashion Expo is simple yet profound: shift the fashion paradigm to embrace sustainability. By bringing the community together under one roof, this expo aims to demonstrate that sustainable fashion is not only possible but beautiful and accessible. It’s a platform where professionals and consumers, united by a common cause, can explore sustainable choices. The timing couldn’t be more perfect, with COP28 just around the corner. This expo ensures that fashion is not left out of the conversation when it comes to decarbonizing the industry and reducing waste.
An Array of Engaging Experiences
Visitors to the Sustainable Fashion Expo can look forward to a packed schedule of events that offer a deep dive into the world of sustainable fashion. From insightful panels that dissect the issues and challenges to interactive workshops that allow you to learn and participate actively, there’s something for everyone. But that’s just the beginning. The expo boasts an extensive area where you can explore brands that prioritize the planet and its people. It’s a journey to discover products that are more than just fashionable; they are statements of conscious consumerism. The highlight of the event is undoubtedly the sustainable fashion catwalk. It’s not just about showcasing the latest styles; it’s a declaration that fashion can be both trendy and sustainable.
Designing Change with Graphic Tees
One of the standout features of this event is the competition to design the best graphic tee with sustainability messages. Sustainability has many facets, and this competition allows participants to express their passions. Each design has a unique message that contributes to a more sustainable future. It’s a reminder that the journey towards sustainability is a canvas, and everyone has a unique brushstroke to add.
Pioneering Sustainability in the Middle East
The Sustainable Fashion Expo has a noble mission – to become the Middle East’s hub for innovation and education in sustainable fashion. It aspires to catalyze the change that the fashion industry desperately needs. This isn’t just about hosting an annual event; it’s about nurturing the designers and brands that are pioneering and bringing palpable change to the fashion scene.
Key Partners and Collaborators of Sustainable Fashion Expo
No event of this scale is possible without strong partnerships and collaborations. The Sustainable Fashion Expo is fortunate to have partners who share its vision and mission. The University of Wollongong provides not only a dynamic venue but also education in sustainability. It’s a space where academic knowledge merges seamlessly with practical applications. Sustainability is not just a concept; it’s a way of life.
Fashion Revolution, a global not-for-profit organization, is one of the pillars of support. With chapters around the world, it has been relentlessly addressing the issues in the fashion industry. The UAE chapter is one of the strongest in the region, working closely with universities and schools to educate the public through a series of events and initiatives.
Goshopia, another prominent partner, is the biggest online marketplace working solely with slow, sustainable, and socially responsible brands. It’s pioneering the art of making sustainable fashion both accessible and stylish.
The Sustainable Souk, renowned for its ability to create communities around eco-friendly events, has lent its expertise in managing and coordinating this expo. It takes more than just good intentions to create an event of this magnitude; it requires skill, expertise, and a deep commitment to sustainability.
The event has also received support from influential individuals like Sonya Vajifdar and various media publications. Media plays a pivotal role in amplifying the message and reaching a broader audience with the right information and options. The Sustainable Fashion Expo has a powerful ensemble backing it, and together, they’re crafting a narrative of change.
Changing the Fashion Landscape
Consumer demand plays a pivotal role in changing the fashion industry. As the tagline goes, “The Fashion industry will only change if we, as consumers, demand that change.” Brands listen to consumers. If consumers demand sustainable choices, the industry will follow. It’s a reminder that while the fashion industry has immense power, consumers have the ultimate say. It’s not just about creating beautiful clothing; it’s about creating a beautiful future. And this future begins with the choices we make.
An Expo with Festive Spirit
As we gear up for the festive seasons of Diwali and Christmas, it’s essential to remember that these are some of the most shopping-intensive times of the year. The Sustainable Fashion Expo has a message that aligns perfectly with the spirit of these festive seasons. It’s about choosing gifts that have a beautiful story behind them, not just something random from a quick stop at a mall.
The Sustainable Fashion Expo is the perfect place to find thoughtful, handcrafted presents. It’s about pieces crafted by skilled artisans and dedicated designers. The supply chains here are short. You know who is doing the work, understand the inspiration behind the creations, and know how their lives would be impacted if their income were to disappear. It’s a conscious choice, a statement of support for those who dare to be different in a world of mass-produced conformity.
When we were looking for a name for the event, one of the options was the Sustainable Fashion Festival. The objective was clear – to make it a celebration of what has been achieved so far. The name might have changed, but the spirit remains. It’s a celebration of all the people and brands who have dared to make a difference. The celebration goes beyond just fashion; it’s about music, live performances, and activities for the whole family.
Be Part of the Change
The Sustainable Fashion Expo invites you to be part of the change. Your support matters, and in the world of sustainability, every effort counts. If you can’t make it to the region, spread the word. It’s all about creating awareness and starting conversations. In sustainability, we often say, “It is better to have 1 million people doing sustainability imperfectly than 100 people going all the way.” This is a numbers game. If you are not in the region, share with your friends and family. It helps open up conversations and bring awareness.
Join the Conversation with the Sustainable Fashion Expo
Stay connected with the Sustainable Fashion Expo and its partners:
As we countdown to COP28 and the festive seasons of Diwali and Christmas, the Sustainable Fashion Expo reminds us that the change we seek begins with us. It’s where fashion meets sustainability, and the world changes for the better.
In the heart of Nairobi, Kenya, a transformational fashion event is on the horizon, one that promises to challenge the very essence of the industry. Kibera Fashion Week, scheduled for October 14, 2023, is not just another typical fashion extravaganza; it’s a profound narrative of sustainability, community empowerment, and a refreshing perspective on the art of fashion.
Kibera: More Than Meets the Eye
Often depicted as a place of despair in need of help, Kibera is far from a one-dimensional story. It’s a bustling metropolis, a cradle of creativity, constantly evolving and innovating. It’s within this vibrant community that Kibera Fashion Week finds its roots, challenging the neo-colonial realities of the fashion industry.
The organizers of the Kibera Fashion Week, expressed their vision, “Kibera Fashion Week envisions a future where fashion transcends borders and becomes a unifying force for positive change. It aims to create a global fashion ecosystem that celebrates diversity, empowers local talent, and challenges the conventional norms of the fashion industry.”
With 11 designers set to grace the runway, Kibera Fashion Week stretches far beyond a one-night event. It is, in fact, a year-long program with a mission to fundamentally reshape the narratives and dynamics within the fashion world.
The organizers of Kibera Fashion Week share a collective vision – to redefine how the world celebrates its heroes. In Kibera, they’ve found everyday heroes, individuals who’ve risen from the depths of unemployment, homelessness, and adversity. These heroes have not just overcome their challenges; they’ve become role models for the youth in their community.
Kibera Fashion Week breathes life into this vision, using the power of arts and creativity to challenge the notion that only certain professions are worthy of applause. It’s a platform where the legitimacy of artisanal work, tailoring, and craftsmanship is celebrated. These vocations provide not only sustainability but also hope, guiding the younger generation towards more meaningful pursuits.
The Impact of Kibera Fashion Week on the Local Community
Since its inaugural show in November 2022, Kibera Fashion Week has left a significant impact on individuals and groups within the community. It’s not just about fashion; it’s about transformation and empowerment.
Emerging designers like Moom Jay Designs kicked off their journey at the November 2022 event. Today, they’ve evolved into established fashion brands, contributing substantially to the growth of the local fashion scene.
But it’s not just designers who’ve been touched by the magic of Kibera Fashion Week. The event has actively collaborated with local artisans and craftsmen, giving rise to a unique fashion experience that spans fashion accessories and garments. Victorious Crafts, talented jewelry designers from Kibera, now have a sustainable source of income and a means to preserve their traditional crafts and livelihoods.
The local models and performers have also thrived, gaining exposure and opportunities in the entertainment and modeling industries. Beyond the runway, the event’s various activities, including runway shows, exhibitions, and workshops, have had a positive economic ripple effect throughout Kibera. Local businesses, including food vendors and artisans, have experienced increased foot traffic during the event, translating into tangible economic benefits for the community.
Sustainability at the Heart of Kibera Fashion Week
Sustainability is not just a buzzword for Kibera Fashion Week; it’s a way of life. The event’s commitment to sustainability is evident in every facet of its planning and execution.
Sustainable sourcing and fabric maximization: Designers are encouraged to champion sustainable, locally sourced materials for their collections, minimizing the carbon footprint associated with sourcing materials from distant locations. Textile waste is minimized through efficient patternmaking and the innovative reuse of materials.
Ethical production: A strong emphasis is placed on ethical production practices, ensuring fair labor conditions and equitable wages for artisans and workers engaged in crafting fashion collections.
Community engagement: Kibera Fashion Week forges vital connections with the local Kibera community through strategic partnerships with organizations and skilled artisans, fostering social inclusion and presenting valuable economic opportunities for community members.
Education and awareness: The event serves as an educational hub, hosting workshops, panel discussions, and exhibitions that encourage conversations on sustainability, inclusivity, and ethical fashion practices.
Spotlight on local talent: Kibera Fashion Week passionately prioritizes local talent, spanning models, performers, and designers, nurturing the growth of the local fashion industry.
Designers: The Heartbeat of Kibera Fashion Week
Let’s hear from the designers themselves, each with a unique story and vision:
“I am passionate about transforming the ordinary into extraordinary. My journey is all about giving new life to thrifted garments and crafting them into beautiful designs that radiate uniqueness.”
“The brand saw opportunity in involving raw bones and horns as unique resources that could solve the lack of our region’s identity in designs and again using it as locally sourced raw materials to represent the region’s creations to the global platform.”
“The more my outfits are seen and appreciated, the more bamboo is known more in my country. Bamboo as a sustainable, resilient, and hardy grass is very beneficial in carbon sequestration which is an important process in cleaning the atmosphere.”
Many designers at Kibera Fashion Week are embracing upcycling, a practice that breathes new life into old materials. Millicent Adhiambo Oluoch, founder of Simply Milly, is passionate about upcycling. She skillfully reimagines thrifted garments into fashionable pieces, minimizing waste and demonstrating the beauty of sustainability.
Unique Materials for Unique Designs
Jack Nyawanga, founder of Victorious Bone Craft, takes a different route with his brand. He uses raw bones, horns, and metal to create unique designs such as costumes and jewelry. He believes that using locally sourced materials can represent the region’s creativity on a global platform.
Fashion with a Positive Impact
Joseph Ganda, founder of Bolla Footwear Designer, saw an opportunity to create fashionable shoes while simultaneously reducing waste. His brand repurposes old clothes, used car tires, and waste materials from local tailors into distinctive, stylish footwear. Ganda’s goal is to create job opportunities for the youth living in Kibera.
Championing Sustainability in Fashion
Kibera Fashion Week isn’t just an event; it’s a movement aimed at transforming the fashion industry. It places a strong emphasis on sustainability, ethical production practices, and inclusivity. Through workshops, panel discussions, and exhibitions, designers, participants, and attendees gain valuable insights into sustainable fashion practices.
By spotlighting local talent, fostering economic growth, and promoting social empowerment, Kibera Fashion Week challenges the status quo of the fashion industry. It sends a powerful message that fashion excellence and innovation can emerge from unexpected places.
A Vision for the Future
As Kibera Fashion Week approaches, these designers are not just focused on the runway. Their vision extends beyond the event itself. They aspire to expand the use of sustainable materials and practices, advocate for ethical production, and create job opportunities within their communities.
Together, they hope to change the way we view fashion and demonstrate that sustainability is not just a buzzword but a way of life. They encourage consumers to buy consciously, promote sustainable brands, and actively contribute to a cleaner, greener world.
Kibera Fashion Week is proof that fashion can be a force for good, a platform for change, and a symbol of hope. It’s an event that transcends traditional runway shows, inviting us all to be part of a movement towards a more sustainable and inclusive fashion industry. As Beth Kariuki from Lina Yarn aptly puts it, “We only have one world to live in, let’s keep it clean and green for our next generation to come.”
So, mark your calendars for October 14, 2023, as Kibera Fashion Week promises to take you on a journey where sustainability meets style, and fashion becomes a catalyst for positive change.
In the heart of Tokyo, where tradition and innovation converge, Fashion World Tokyo (FaW Tokyo) 2023 is set to unravel a fascinating tale of sustainable fashion. As Japan’s largest international fashion trade show, FaW Tokyo has transcended the boundaries of mere fashion exhibitions. It has become a platform that echoes the soulful harmony of sustainable practices, wellness, and avant-garde fashion trends.
Japan, a nation celebrated for its reverence for nature and cutting-edge technology, plays host to the grand spectacle known as Fashion World Tokyo. This colossal fashion exposition, organized by RX Japan Ltd., brings together a staggering 1,150 exhibitors from across the globe. Beyond being a fashion extravaganza, FaW Tokyo is an endeavor to spearhead sustainability in the Japanese fashion industry, aligning with the nation’s ethos of respecting nature as a fundamental part of its culture.
In a world teeming with fashion expos, FaW Tokyo stands apart with a resolute mission – to foster a circular economy and a recycling-based society within Japan’s fashion industry. It’s an ambition that dovetails perfectly with Japan’s reputation for innovation and reverence for the environment. The event seeks to achieve this by showcasing the latest sustainable technology and practices through its exhibition.
The Genesis of Sustainable Fashion Expo
The inception of the Sustainable Fashion Expo within FaW Tokyo was not by mere chance. It sprouted from the growing awareness of the fashion industry’s environmental impact. In 2019, as major fashion houses made headlines for waste incineration, Japan witnessed the profound effect of such incidents on its fashion landscape. Visitors and exhibitors called for a dedicated space to spotlight sustainable fashion. FaW Tokyo responded by launching the Sustainable Fashion Expo.
FaW Tokyo has emerged as a dynamic catalyst for the advancement of sustainable fashion in Japan and beyond. Major Japanese exhibitors such as YKK, trading giants like Itochu and Marubeni, and textile leaders like Toray and Shikibo illuminate the Sustainable Fashion Expo. Beyond these stalwarts, the expo showcases exhibitors committed to textile resource recycling, upcycled materials, and various technologies aimed at reducing clothing waste. These highlights collectively underline FaW Tokyo’s role as a harbinger of sustainability.
Japan Leading the World
As Japan paves the path to sustainability, it aspires to lead the world someday. The nation’s strong emphasis on wellness and health aligns seamlessly with the global trend. FaW Tokyo envisions Japan becoming the vanguard of sustainability, setting an example for the entire fashion industry.
Empowering Sustainable Fashion Brands
FaW Tokyo takes dedicated strides to empower sustainable fashion brands. It hosts a specialized exhibition, the Sustainable Fashion Expo, where brands can spotlight their commitment to sustainability. The event management proactively disseminates exhibitor information to industry media and press. FaW Tokyo’s commitment to promoting sustainable fashion transcends the event itself, extending to television broadcasts on two major national channels, collaborations with influencers, and extensive website, email, and social media promotions.
Following the success of Sustainable Fashion Expo, FaW Tokyo ventures into the world of wellness fashion. This addition aligns perfectly with Japan’s growing emphasis on longevity, wellness, and health. The concept resonates not only with the Japanese audience but also with the global wellness trend.
The Wellness Fashion Experience
Visitors to the Wellness Fashion Expo can expect an array of intriguing products. From Femtech-related fashion to comfort shoes, from fabrics that produce vitamin E to wearable smart fabrics, the expo offers a glimpse into the future of wellness fashion. Japan’s dedication to wellness and health finds expression in these innovative offerings.
Even in the organization of an event as colossal as FaW Tokyo, sustainability challenges are tackled head-on. FaW Tokyo is actively working to reduce waste by transitioning to recycled materials for its on-site materials. Collaborations with stand builders further contribute to minimizing the environmental footprint of the event.
FaW Tokyo doesn’t tread this path alone. With the guidance of the Conference Advisory Board, comprised of fashion industry leaders, the event launches sustainable fashion seminars and initiatives. Collaborations with major industry publications like WWD, experts, and the media help create a collective force that drives the industry towards sustainability.
In closing, FaW Tokyo extends an invitation to all to witness the direction in which the fashion industry is heading. It beckons readers to explore the latest and most advanced technologies and functional fabrics that Japan, the land of innovation, has to offer. FaW Tokyo isn’t merely an exposition; it’s a declaration that sustainability is the future of fashion.
FaW Tokyo 2023 is a journey that transcends borders, celebrating sustainable fashion as a bridge between tradition and innovation. In the heart of Tokyo, it’s a reminder that fashion isn’t just about what we wear; it’s about how we shape our future.
In the world of sustainable fashion, there are journeys that inspire and voices that echo powerful messages of inclusion and eco-consciousness. Tia Semi, a remarkable designer with a unique perspective, embodies both. From the runways of EFWA (Eco Fashion Week Australia) to her evolution as a sustainable fashion advocate, Tia’s story is one of resilience and creativity.
Navigating life with many challenges, Tia’s journey is a testament to the transformative potential of the fashion industry. EFWA provided not just a platform but a community that celebrated her uniqueness. It empowered her to create designs that fuse her Pacific Island heritage with sustainability, promoting eco-friendly practices and inclusivity. In this interview, we explore Tia’s vision for a more conscious and inclusive fashion landscape, where every individual, regardless of their background or abilities, can contribute to positive change.
Can you share with us your journey from being a runway model at EFWA to becoming a sustainable fashion designer? How did EFWA influence and inspire you to take this path?
EFWA made me more conscious of my impact on Mother Earth. I am privileged to combine the influence of my Pacific Island background and EFWA in learning about sustainability and as much as utilizing resources on our Earth, but also giving back to our Earth. I am more conscious of how I use my materials- I hand print my patterns on materials instead of mass production, I ensure I use and stretch every inch of fabric by having smaller offcuts created into scrunches and hats etc.
You have a unique perspective as someone who has personally experienced challenges such as cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, epilepsy, and being deaf. How has sustainable fashion and the platform of EFWA played a role in your mental and emotional well-being?
I am forever thankful for the EFWA platform, as they saw beyond my disabilities. This platform has proven to be impactful in a holistic way- they have embraced me as the being I am and I will forever pay it forward. Every individual has something to contribute to society and the Earth, we all leave an impact, no matter how big or small. EFWA embraced my uniqueness and now I can go out and share this with others. Together everybody achieves more. I am just getting started, what’s your excuse?
EFWA is known for its commitment to inclusivity and diversity. How has this platform empowered you as a designer and helped you bring your unique perspective to sustainable fashion?
EFWA embraced me and my uniqueness. I am not the same person when I first started my journey with EFWA 2018- I am bolder, and I am more confident in who I am and what I can achieve and contribute. I am more than willing to be the cheerleader and advocate for anybody else who needs guidance to find their path. Sustainability and Pacific Island fashion are my mandates- I am now an advocate by default. The Pacific Islands are the first to be affected by rising sea tides, so I have a responsibility to promote sustainability through my fashion label. EFWA has enabled me to be more conscious and dig deeper into my intentionality of what I am doing and how it affects Mother Earth.
What are the key values and principles that you incorporate into your sustainable fashion designs?
I am a voice for the Pacific Islands and the effects of Global warming which affects the rising sea levels surrounding our Islands. My fashion label is a platform for sustainability and being conscious of how we leave our impact in this world. I use non-toxic fabric paint, I hand paint my materials, I utilize as much material to create accessories, etc. I would like to explore using my voice more to promote sustainability in my community and outer audience.
EFWA places a strong emphasis on eco-friendly materials and small-scale production of artistic clothes. How do you ensure that your designs reflect these values, and how has it impacted your creative process?
As I mentioned earlier, I use non-toxic fabric paint, hand-paint my materials, and avoid mass production. Also, I have collaborated with an Indigenous designer and created a line of upcycled Island design denim jackets (sourced from Op shops). This project was so fun and I would probably revisit it again in the near future. What a privilege to collaborate with other conscious and creative-minded fashion designers. This platform has opened up avenues I never should have manifested on my own accord. I am forever thankful and blessed for this opportunity.
How does fashion, as an art form, enable you to express yourself and communicate meaningful messages about sustainability and inclusivity?
Exploring sustainability through fashion is the best of both worlds! It is so fun and I love how we can develop our creations by digging a deeper level of creativity and innovation. My label embraces all people.
Can you share a specific moment or experience at EFWA that had a profound impact on your journey as a sustainable fashion designer?
Networking and collaborating with other fashion-conscious designers has been such a blessing. Also being on the runway and making lifelong friends through the experience with EFWA is something I’ll forever cherish in my life journey.
EFWA is known for raising awareness about the climate crisis and honoring biodiversity. How do you infuse these critical themes into your sustainable fashion designs?
I have mentioned in former questions my fusion with sustainability and the Pacific Islands- I am exploring more about how to be an impactful voice to reach a wider audience. My fashion is my voice, and I am developing and evolving this more and more.
As a designer, how do you envision contributing to a more eco-conscious and inclusive fashion industry? What message do you hope to send to other aspiring designers and the broader fashion community?
We must utilize our strengths and explore our curiosities. If you asked me 4 years ago if I knew where I’d be now in my fashion and sustainability journey, I’d think you were talking about someone else. Just keep going, trip, fall, get up, and keep going. If your heart is true and you are willing to help others along the way, you cannot fail.
Lastly, how has EFWA as a platform shaped your perspective on fashion, sustainability, and the power of collective action?
As I have mentioned before, EFWA embraced me and my uniqueness and helped me to become more conscious of my impact on Mother Earth. Every person I have encountered on my journey has had an impact on my life. I love to reflect on my experiences and can only smile with appreciation and humility. I am a strong young Samoan and Aussie woman, I am alive, and I have a purpose and a voice. I will not give up, so don’t you give up. We all have a role to play. Start small and build- one foot in front of the other.
This is a part of a series where Green & Beyond Mag explores the stories and takes a peek at the lifestyles of incredible people like green entrepreneurs, innovators, climate advocates, activists, community leaders, and content creators, all around the world, who love the planet, and are working tirelessly to make the world a better place.
So how would you like to define “addiction”? We all know that there are several proper definitions of it according to study fields like medical science, psychology, and many more. Yet, I’m asking you to define it because I believe it’s important to define such things by ourselves. Because before defining it by yourself, you will take some time to think about it – how you feel about it, and I think that is what’s really important. Of course, I am not telling you to ignore the proper dentitions provided by the experts – we will definitely take those definitions and studies into account as we move forward.
To me “addiction” is a habit that one does not have control over. The starting of it may be simple or fun, but as time passes the habit does not stay as simple as it was in the beginning. It becomes so complicated that overcoming it needs a really powerful force. Along with it, I think the habit of “addiction” harms the one who is addicted, it also may harm the ones close to that person, and it surely has detrimental environmental, social, economic, and health aspects.
How real is Fast Fashion Addiction?
Let’s think about a narcotic substance that surely causes addiction. Let’s consider cocaine for the sake of the discussion. The first experience of cocaine for someone mostly starts due to simple reasons like curiosity, fun, or the fact that everyone else is doing it – the enjoyment really feels worthwhile. But as the habit grows, the person who started it due to simpler reasons gets into a solid web. Parties and hangouts become less fun if there’s no cocaine. Friends who have the connections to supply become closer friends. Numbers of drug dealers get saved in the phone books. Money starts to vanish. Health starts to go bad. Family and good friends start to get worried. To maintain the supply of cocaine “The War on Drugs” continues to fail, people get tortured, enslaved, and killed.
Now you might ask – “Seriously? You are comparing my shopping habit to something so harmful?”. My answer would be – “Yes! But I don’t have anything against you. I am simply trying to paint a picture for both of us to understand this more clearly.”
From what I understand, following fast fashion or following new trends is fun at the beginning – because it’s simple to follow trends ( no need to think much about our own point of view of style ). It’s also something that almost everyone is doing around you – so it’s easier to join that team. It’s super available. It’s cheap – because the industry that’s producing it is surely using cheap materials to produce those, not providing proper wages to the real producers of those items in the best-case scenarios because, in the worst-case scenarios, we still hear about modern-day slavery of the garment workers.
Now let’s talk about the detrimental effects of it. To keep up with the trends – to hang out with those friends, to join those parties; you need to keep buying the latest trends. Just like the drug dealers on speed dial, you have all the apps that you need to keep ordering new ones – otherwise, you will be the one who will feel like an outcast at the next party. Now to keep buying those, you need a constant flow of money and if you don’t have that – well they will be sold to you for credit, you will prioritise that over your basic needs.
Now let’s think about the social effects. By seeing you following the trends, your friends will be more intrigued to follow those too. I am saying “more” because the industry through its amazing marketing and advertising has fruitfully convinced us that – it’s important, it’s fun, and it’s the only way to stay relevant. So, when you’re someone who’s following those, you’re doing free marketing for the industry too – your friend who is being inspired to do so by seeing you (along with the advertisements and seeing others) and probably considering it more important than basic needs too, just like you.
If you think about the environmental effects of it – it gets more serious. To keep the price low, the industry seeks cheap materials. Those materials don’t last, but you won’t be wearing them after a few times eventually, so it doesn’t matter! So for those cheap materials, the industry turns to detrimental environmental practices of production which ensures bountiful materials at a cheap rate, and for that toxic chemicals are used. When those toxic chemicals get released into our water and air and soil, all of those get polluted – it affects our food production, puts our water security at threat, makes us inhale toxins harmful to our bodies. The process through its pollution affects all the other species too. Not to mention, to bring that product to your doorstep a huge amount of fuel is burned – the cost of which is way more than what you’ve paid for.
The health concerns now! I’ve already said how the production process can affect our environment. How tough it is to understand that what’s bad for the soil, the water, the air, and for other species – is harmful for us too? By wearing those things we let our bodies be in direct connection to those harmful materials.
Now let’s paint the picture for real
Let’s see how addiction is defined by the experts. According to the website of the NHS – “Addiction is defined as not having control over doing, taking or using something to the point where it could be harmful to you.”, it is also mentioned that while addiction is mostly associated with drugs, gambling, alcohol, and smoking; it is also possible to become addicted to things like shopping, internet or even work.
This is what the American Psychiatric Association says about addiction – “Addiction is a complex condition, a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequences.”
So according to these definitions, we can surely say that:
“Not having control over” – is a major factor of addiction.
It is a complex condition.
It is possible to become addicted to shopping.
Despite harmful consequences, addiction goes on.
Can’t we all relate it to what I have said earlier about the addiction to fast fashion?
Let’s get inside the brain to understand fast fashion addiction
The whole idea of “addiction” is very complex, and what I have found out is – that there are many reasons behind the addiction to fast fashion too.
One of the most common things is something called FOMO (fear of missing out), but I guess you all know about it. This is what the European Union says about FOMO – “FOMO is an overwhelming fear that other people at any given time are participating in exciting experiences in which you are not part of”. Social media plays an important part in spreading this, and fast fashion brands are using it perfectly. They are constantly offering discounts that do not last long, showing photos of clothes that celebrities are using and claiming that the stock of those clothes is limited, and constantly releasing new designs to make you feel that you have missed the last trend and this new one won’t last long too; so you need to grab it right now!
Shopping can be addictive, and fast fashion brands know it well. According to a study by a team of researchers from Stanford, MIT, and Carnegie Mellon – the pleasure center of the brain gets activated when a person comes across something that she/he/they wants to buy. The more the person wants the item, the more the pleasure center in the brain gets active, and when the item can be purchased at a cheaper rate, the brain gives the maximum sense of pleasure.
Now fast fashion brands produce about 52 micro-seasons in a year or one new collection a week! Just think about, every week how many clothes they are putting on display for you to see and desire. The cheaper the clothes, the more people desire them, the more people purchase them, and the more you see them on social media ( because people like to show what they bought, that they are keeping up with the trends, and the brands encourage everyone to keep posting photos and videos of their clothes that people bought and tag the brands in those contents; that’s what “fashion hauls” are ), and the more you desire to own them too. The crazy part is, that this cycle goes on every week, and the fashion industry keeps feeding this loop in our brains which creates an effect something very similar to addiction.
To keep this cycle of consumption alive a culture of mindless consumption and throwing away has been established. There is a huge group of consumers who believe that they do not want to be seen in an item more than once because that might give others the idea that they have gone out of style! It’s important to point out that by “being seen” they mean that, they do not want to appear on social media twice in the same piece of garment!!
Let’s Calculate the Numbers for Fast Fashion Addiction
For the sake of the calculation, let’s say your favorite brand is H&M and you are someone who is willing to buy every week from their new collections. If you buy something in the price range from $20-$40 from them every week, then at the end of the year the amount of all your purchased items from this brand will be somewhere around $1040 – $2080 ( calculated in reference to 52 seasons a year ), and that is just one brand, and that is just a moderate pricing range considering different socio-economic situations. After this, to go with these clothes, you will need accessories and shoes too!!
Now think about that friend of yours who is super inspired by your shopping habit to do so! That’s another $1040 – $2080 dollars, plus the accessories and shoes!
Now, let’s talk about environmental numbers. Between 80 and 100 billion new clothing garments are produced globally every year, and from these new garment, 92 million tonnes end up in landfills. This means a rubbish truck full of clothes ends up in landfills every second, and this industry is expecting to grow more every year! More importantly, around 60% of all clothing material now is synthetic fibers, which means plastic – nylon, acrylic, polyester, etc. The textile industry generates 42 million tons of plastic waste per year. Every time you wash a synthetic garment, it releases tiny plastic microfibers into the water. Up to 500,000 tons of microfibers end up in the ocean every year. This industry accounts for 9% of annual microplastic pollution added to our oceans. This is just a tiny fraction of the whole environmental problem caused by fast fashion, and it is expected that the apparel industry’s global emissions will increase by 50% by 2030 if the business-as-usual scenario continues. Along with every kind of plastic pollution, the fast fashion industry harms our environment through the usage of textile dyes, and pesticides, overproduction of low-quality garments that end up in landfills ( and creates waste colonialism too! ), excessive usage of water and water pollution, emissions from the transportation sector due to long supply chains and global shipping, energy-intensive production process which is heavily dependant on fossil fuels, methane emissions from the landfills due to overproduction of low-quality garments made mostly from synthetic fiber and waste colonialism.
It is not tough to understand that all of these adverse environmental impacts are harmful to our health too. Plastic pollution can damage human cells and can lead to infertility, obesity, diabetes, prostate or breast cancer, thyroid problems, and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, among others. Prolonged exposure to textile dyes can lead to skin allergies, respiratory problems, hormonal imbalances, and even certain types of cancers. Methane emissions reduce the amount of oxygen breathed from the air and cause mood changes, slurred speech, vision problems, memory loss, nausea, vomiting, facial flushing and headache, lung diseases, asthma attacks, cardiovascular morbidity, and mortality, and heightened stroke risk. These are just some of the health effects that can be caused by the pollution generated by the fashion industry, and if you still want to learn more about it, I am sure you can google it and learn from verified sources.
All the other adverse effects
At this point of the article, I am really feeling overwhelmed and tired to even talk about all the other negative impacts caused by fast fashion, but they surely include serious factors like – labor exploitation, deforestation, biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse, etc.
How to overcome the fast fashion addiction
Now that we’ve explored the deep-rooted addiction that fast fashion can become, it’s time to shed light on breaking free from this cycle. Embracing a sustainable, eco-conscious approach to fashion and lifestyle is not only a remedy for our planet but also for our well-being.
Slow Down, Choose Quality: Shift your focus from quantity to quality. Invest in timeless pieces that are made to last. Seek out brands that prioritize durability and craftsmanship. Remember, a well-made, classic garment can serve you for years, saving you money in the long run.
Circular Fashion: Embrace circular fashion principles. Explore thrift stores, vintage shops, and second-hand markets. Not only will you find unique pieces with character, but you’ll also extend the lifespan of clothing and reduce waste.
Regenerative Fashion: Support regenerative fashion practices. Look for brands that prioritize sustainability, ethical labor practices, and environmental conservation. These brands often use eco-friendly materials, reduce waste, and contribute positively to local communities.
Capsule Wardrobe: Simplify your wardrobe with a capsule wardrobe. Choose versatile, mix-and-match pieces that suit your style. This minimalist approach reduces the temptation to constantly buy new clothes.
Mindful Consumption: Before making a purchase, pause and reflect. Ask yourself if you truly need the item or if it’s just a fleeting trend. Consider its impact on the environment, and opt for eco-friendly materials like organic cotton, hemp, or recycled fabrics.
DIY and Upcycling: Get creative! Learn basic sewing and repair skills to mend and upcycle your clothing. Transform old items into new, unique pieces. It’s a fulfilling way to reduce waste and express your individuality.
Educate Yourself: Stay informed about the fashion industry’s impact on the environment and society. Understanding the consequences of fast fashion can motivate you to make more conscious choices.
Community and Swap: Organize clothing swaps with friends and family. It’s an enjoyable way to refresh your wardrobe without spending money and gives previously-owned garments a new life.
Support Sustainable Brands: Discover and support sustainable fashion brands and designers. They’re leading the way in creating clothing that’s stylish, eco-friendly, and ethical.
Spread Awareness: Share your journey towards sustainable fashion with others. By raising awareness and educating friends and family, you can collectively reduce the demand for fast fashion.
Breaking free from fast fashion addiction isn’t just about changing our habits; it’s about transforming our perspective on fashion and consumption. It’s a shift towards a lifestyle that’s not only better for us but for our planet and future generations. Remember, small changes lead to big impacts. Together, we can create a fashion industry that values quality, sustainability, and ethical practices over mindless consumption.
How you dress is an expression of your identity, so explore and express yourself mindfully – let fashion be a force for good.
In the dynamic landscape of sustainability and fashion, Habiba Abdulrahman Hemed emerges as a compelling advocate for change. At just 30 years old, she’s making remarkable strides in promoting eco-consciousness and responsible fashion practices. With her unwavering commitment to environmental causes and sustainability, Habiba is a driving force behind positive change in the region.
As the CSR Ambassador at Mrs. Earth UAE and the founder of ‘Trashion Kenya,’ Habiba has dedicated herself to raising awareness about environmental issues and transforming the fashion industry into a more sustainable and responsible one. In this exclusive interview, she shares her insights and experiences, providing a glimpse into her inspiring journey and her vision for a more eco-conscious future.
Congratulations on being awarded 2nd Runners Up and CSR Ambassador at Mrs Earth UAE!
Can you tell us more about your role as an ambassador and how it connects with the Women of the Earth Foundation’s mission for positive change, sustainability, and social responsibility?
Thank you so much for your kind words! It is a great honor to have won Mrs Earth UAE Water Award symbolic of one of the elements of nature as 2nd Runners-up. Being also awarded as the Mrs Earth UAE CSR Ambassador Award for the Women of the Earth Foundation is a great achievement and a recognition for my commitment to sustainability and the environment. As the Mrs Earth UAE Water and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) ambassador, I have the opportunity to raise awareness about important environmental issues and inspire others to take action and promote the Mrs Earth UAE Women of the Earth Foundation’s mission and values. This is especially meaningful in the Year of Sustainability in the UAE, as the country prepares to host COP28.
Additionally, as Mrs Earth UAE Delegates, we serve as ambassadors of the Women of the Earth Foundation which is a non-profit organization and the official philanthropic initiative of Mrs Earth UAE, with a mission to inspire change and overcome nature’s issues collectively by promoting environmental literacy and inspire collective community changes to help save our planet.
Your journey as a sustainability advocate and founder of Trashion Kenya is impressive.
What initially sparked your passion for sustainable fashion and environmental consciousness, and how have your background and experiences shaped your commitment to making a positive impact in the field of sustainability?
Thank you for the great compliments. My passion for sustainable fashion and environmental consciousness was sparked by a desire to make a positive impact in my country, Kenya. My sustainability journey started with volunteering for charity work, community clean-ups, and nature regeneration initiatives such as mangroves and tree planting through different local organizations in Kenya. I witnessed firsthand the impacts of plastic pollution, textile, and other waste on our ecosystems.
This drove me towards researching for solutions both online and offline, by attending sustainability-focused events such as the first sustainable blue economy conference which was hosted in Nairobi, Kenya in 2018 where I gained knowledge on sustainability and insights on environmental solutions by interacting and engaging with experts in the field. I also discovered the art of creating fashionable products from waste through sustainability events. Since I was also already blogging about travel, lifestyle, and fashion, this motivated me to combine my background in blogging, fashion, and content creation with my commitment to sustainability, leading me to found Trashion Kenya. My personal blog is now dedicated fully on sustainable fashion, travel, and lifestyle as an ethical influencer, habibabien.eco.
Through Trashion Kenya, I had the the opportunity to volunteer in schools in Kenya where I started the ‘Trashion Club’ which included fun up-cycling activities and awareness talks before I moved to the UAE. Not to mention more youth participation opportunities such as the Creative World Forum in Eindhoven Netherlands where for the first time, I presented Trashion Kenya to the world and engaged with youths, experts, and leaders in the sustainability space where we exchanged great futuristic ideas. Through Trashion Kenya, I aim to raise awareness about the importance of sustainability in fashion including innovative up-cycling and recycling solutions, join hands with fashion activist organizations in my country and globally for climate-just fashion, train and educate youths in partnership with the Green Futures Fellowship and inspire others to embrace more sustainable practices.
As a sustainability advocate based in the UAE, how do you see eco and sustainable fashion evolving in the region? What challenges and opportunities do you see for promoting sustainable fashion in your location?
As a sustainability advocate based in the UAE, I see eco and sustainable fashion evolving positively in the region. There is a growing awareness and interest in sustainable practices among consumers and fashion brands. However, there are still challenges to overcome, such as limited access to sustainable materials, the need for more education and awareness, and the need for more sustainable fashion businesses, only a handful in the region. The opportunities lie in promoting local sustainable fashion designers, encouraging collaborations, and fostering a culture of conscious consumption such as clothing swap events, thrifting, renting, and reselling.
Fashion Revolution U.A.E plays a significant role in raising awareness about ethical fashion. Can you share some of the initiatives or campaigns that you’ve been involved in and how they have contributed to promoting a more transparent and sustainable fashion industry?
Fashion Revolution UAE, with the valuable contribution of its dedicated organizing team, plays a vital role in advancing the cause of sustainable fashion in the region. As part of the Fashion Revolution UAE organizing team, we have been involved in various impactful initiatives and campaigns every annual Fashion Revolution Week (held every year on April 24 for one consecutive week) to promote a more transparent and sustainable fashion industry. One of our key initiatives is the “Who Made My Clothes?” campaign, where we encourage consumers to question the origins of their garments and demand transparency from brands.
We also organize educational workshops and events to raise awareness about ethical fashion practices and showcase sustainable designers and brands, including local fashion school students’ sustainable fashion contests. Through these efforts, we aim to empower individuals to make informed choices and drive positive change in the fashion industry. Our collective efforts at Fashion Revolution UAE and commitment to promoting conscious and eco-friendly practices, I believe, are making a profound impact on the industry and inspiring positive change in the fashion industry, promoting a more sustainable and conscious approach to fashion. Together, we can make a significant impact on promoting sustainable fashion in the UAE.
You are the founder of Trashion Kenya. Could you tell us more about this organization and its goals in promoting sustainability and environmental consciousness through fashion?
Trashion Kenya is an initiative I founded with the goal of promoting sustainability and environmental consciousness through fashion. It was established as a media platform to raise awareness through a fusion of trash and fashion design that is either upcycled or recycled whilst communicating environmental conservation and advocating against plastic through campaigns, beach cleanups, and workshops. We believe that fashion can be a powerful tool for positive change.
Our mission at Trashion Kenya is to raise awareness about the environmental and social impact of the fashion industry. We aim to inspire individuals to embrace sustainable practices and understand the value of reducing waste not only plastic and textile waste but waste in general. Additionally, we strive to offer sustainable alternatives to promote a more sustainable future. It’s been a challenging journey; Trashion Kenya took a pause during the Covid-19 pandemic but has eventually resumed this year in 2023 with the main focus on serving as an educational platform teaching youths about climate justice and sustainable fashion.
Through a partnership with the Green Futures Fellowship, we have been educating passionate youths on climate education, including sustainable fashion. With great efforts from the Green Futures Fellowship’s team lead, Jonah Kirabo, we brought in climate experts from various fields, and I’m proud to say that the first cohort was a great success! At Trashion Kenya, we are driven by our goal to make a global impact through storytelling, education, and sustainable fashion innovation. We aim to inspire people to make more conscious choices. We’re currently exploring various avenues, such as books, documentaries, and educational institutions, to bring our bigger vision to life. Taking it one step at a time, we’re committed to creating a more sustainable future for fashion and the planet.
How do you see your role as a young woman in sustainability influencing and inspiring the next generation of advocates and changemakers in the field of sustainability and eco-fashion?
As a young woman in sustainability, I strive to be a role model and advocate for positive change in the field of sustainability and eco-fashion. By sharing my passion, knowledge, and experiences, I hope to inspire the next generation of advocates and changemakers to embrace sustainable practices and make a difference. Together, we can create a more conscious and environmentally friendly future for fashion and the world.
As someone who is deeply involved in the sustainable fashion movement, what advice would you give to individuals and communities who wish to incorporate more sustainable choices into their daily lives?
For individuals and communities looking to incorporate more sustainable choices into their daily lives, my advice would be to start small and be mindful of your consumption. Consider thrifting or buying second-hand clothing, as it reduces waste and supports a circular economy. Invest in quality, timeless pieces that will last longer. Embrace the concept of “less is more” and avoid fast fashion trends. Educate yourself about sustainable materials and ethical brands. And most importantly, remember that every small choice counts, and together we can make a big impact.
Can you share a story or experience that has been particularly meaningful to you during your journey as a sustainability advocate and how it has shaped your perspective on the importance of sustainable fashion and environmental responsibility?
Visiting waste recycling facilities, slums, and dumpsites in my country, Kenya, during my journey as a sustainability advocate while working on a sustainable fashion campaign for Trashion Kenya was a profound experience that left a lasting impact. It opened my eyes to the environmental challenges we face and reinforced my commitment to promoting sustainable practices. Especially seeing the mountains of discarded plastic waste and clothing, and learning about the challenges of second-hand traders about the poor quality of “mitumba” (second-hand clothes) that often end up being burned or discarded.
Interacting with the community living in these areas and hearing their stories of experiencing pollution firsthand reinforced my commitment to promoting sustainable fashion and environmental responsibility. What truly inspired me was witnessing the beauty that can be created from waste by the Trashion community in Kenya as a sign of hope and true activism. This led me to explore global innovations in sustainable fashion which has further fueled my motivation to promote the movement. It’s incredible to see the endless possibilities and inspiring ideas that are shaping the future of fashion and it’s moments like these that drive me to continue my work and inspire others to make a positive change.
How do you envision the future of sustainable fashion in the UAE and beyond? What are your hopes for a more eco-conscious and socially responsible fashion industry?
I envision a future where sustainable fashion in the UAE and beyond becomes the norm, rather than the exception. A future where shopping malls are filled with sustainable fashion brands with no sight of fast fashion brands. My hope is for a fashion industry that embraces eco-conscious practices and prioritizes social responsibility. I hope to see an increase in sustainable materials, ethical production processes, transparent supply chains, and fair pay for professionals in the fashion industry in the UAE including fashion models. I also hope for greater awareness and education among consumers, leading to more conscious purchasing decisions. Ultimately, I believe that by working together, we can create a fashion industry that is both stylish and sustainable, making a positive impact on the environment and society.
For me, success is not just about personal achievements, but also about making a positive impact in the world. It’s about pursuing my passions, embracing my values, and striving to create meaningful change. Success is finding fulfillment in what I do and inspiring others to do the same. It’s about leaving a positive legacy and contributing to a better future for all.
What’s your mantra for life?
As a sustainability advocate, my mantra for life is to “Be the change you wish to see in the world.“ It reminds me to lead by example, to live in alignment with my values, and to actively work towards creating a more sustainable and equitable future. It’s a constant reminder that even small actions can make a big difference.
Thank you for offering me the platform for others to support my work in sustainability. They can join my sustainability journey by following my personal eco page habibabien.eco on social media platforms active on Instagram,Facebook, Twitter, and Threads, where I create content to raise awareness about sustainable fashion and environmental responsibility. I’m soon to launch my website. They can also connect with Trashion Kenya on social media Instagram, Twitter and Threads, Trashion Kenya on LinkedIn and Facebook to explore collaboration opportunities on climate-just fashion and education. I also extend an invitation to eco-conscious brands and individuals who are interested in partnering and collaborating with me to amplify our efforts and promote sustainable practices together. We can also get acquainted on my LinkedIn, Habiba Abdulrahman. Together, we can create a more sustainable future!
This is a part of a series where Green & Beyond Mag explores the stories and takes a peek at the lifestyles of incredible people like green entrepreneurs, innovators, climate advocates, activists, community leaders, and content creators, all around the world, who love the planet, and are working tirelessly to make the world a better place.
In the heart of Brazil, a sustainable fashion revolution is blooming, led by the visionary founder of TUAessence, Fernanda Lopes Lima. This trailblazing brand intertwines ethical principles with artistic brilliance, offering a new paradigm for conscious fashion. In an exclusive interview, Fernanda unveils the captivating story behind TUAessence’s inception and the inspiration behind its meaningful name.
With a background in fashion, contemporary art, and eco-social responsibility, Fernanda’s approach to ethical fashion design is deeply rooted in her personal values. TUAessence embraces slow fashion, veganism, and eco-friendly practices, using biodegradable fabrics for its one-of-a-kind collections. Through transparency and compassion, Fernanda fosters fair trade practices within the brand’s supply chain, building genuine relationships with everyone involved in the creation process.
As a climate activist, Fernanda emphasizes the role of education in reshaping the fashion industry’s impact on the planet. With a strong commitment to environmental preservation and social consciousness, she extends her mission beyond fashion through fundraising campaigns, supporting indigenous communities, and protecting flora and fauna in Brazil.
Join us on this enlightening journey as Fernanda Lopes Lima invites us all to embrace mindful choices and co-create a future where sustainable fashion reigns supreme.
Can you share the story behind the formation of TUAessence and the inspiration behind its name?
TUAessence was born in 2015 on a life-changing trip I took to Costa Rica with 7 other friends. I fell in love with it and couldn’t leave. TUA was the vehicle and catalyzer created so I could move there. On the trip, I met Ju, my ex-business partner and dear friend. I have always worked with fashion; she worked in the pharmaceutical sector, also fell in love with the little fishing village by the Pacific, and agreed to join me in this adventure.
TUA’s name is a funny story! Ju and I didn’t know how to name it at first. We brainstormed with friends over wine sessions, writing all possible names on the white kitchen tiles with washable markers. Until one day Renata, a great friend of mine who was studying numerology, came up with a name that had the energy of the number 6 (we had that very much in mind at the time) and meant Transformation, Union, and Amor (Love). Bingo! TUA! Transformation, Union, and Amor lived in the essence: TUAessence!
How did your educational background in fashion, contemporary art, and eco-social responsibility shape your approach to ethical fashion design?
Each one of these paths helped me somehow. Fashion has brought me technical, technological, and empirical knowledge, as well as experience. The arts have always shaped and guided the way I see the world: through colors and textures. Beauty is everywhere and it moves me. As for the eco-social aspect, it was very much present my entire life, living and growing up amongst/experiencing such a profuse culture and passionate people in a country like Brazil: wild, raw, varied, intense, and mesmerizing. But the greatest was to be lucky enough to grow up with grandmothers who were both seamstresses very committed to love. This gave me awareness, basic notions of limits, keeping it real, and mostly of gratitude to honor and respect my ancestors and nature.
How do you find inspiration for your designs and incorporate your personal values and beliefs into your creative process?
These two are linked, and I believe, inseparable. My personal beliefs and values are the lenses through which I see inspiration. I can only feel passionate, motivated, and inspired by something that deeply touches me. That will necessarily be linked to something very deep within me, shaped by my core values, experiences, and memories. My creative processes and the themes I choose for the projects and collections are always linked to something I’m in love with.
As a climate activist, how do you incorporate environmental and social awareness into your design process and brand philosophy?
TUA is a slow fashion, vegan, eco, and fair trade beachwear brand ethically made in Brazil with biodegradable fabrics. All suits are double-sided (reversible). The prints are made with non-polluting water-based pigment, exclusively developed in partnership with visual artists. We produce in small quantities and only one collection per year, optimizing the use of fabrics and reducing textile waste. Any scraps are reused in the production of other handicrafts or destined for charities that use them for the same purpose. Our packaging and labels also follow our conduct of respect for the environment; we do not use plastic.
How do you ensure fair trade practices within the supply chain of TUAessence, and what steps do you take to support the workers involved in the production process?
I know personally every single person who collaborates with me. I meet them, shake their hands, look them in the eyes, know about their lives, and share about mine too. I see where and how they work. We co-create. Every single TUA suit may have been initially thought of and designed by me, but it has in it a little bit of every single brain, heart, and hand that helped me think, shape, give form, and bring that suit to life. We establish a give&take balanced relationship based on trust and affection. Everything I do, I do with love. If I’m not emotionally involved and driven, I can’t create beauty in the world.
Could you elaborate on your experience with textile technology research and the development of collections using biodegradable and organic fabrics?
I have always worked for other brands until I founded TUA. I had never really thought much of the fabrics used, even though I was already involved with textile technology, natural dyeing, etc. But then I moved to Costa Rica, to live in the middle of the jungle, and my entire perspective changed in regards to nature, my personal relationship/impact on this planet, and how disconnected humanity got from it. I’ve always enjoyed studying, and having an academic background helped me with more profound research. I had to dig deeper to learn more and find the truth about the fashion industry at a time very few people were starting to really talk about it, never mind doing it. It just stopped making sense to work with polyester, for example. I also learned how to better identify greenwashing and empty/fake sustainability used simply as marketing and shallow propaganda, and that was the basis for all of my choices within TUA.
Could you share any specific challenges you have encountered while promoting sustainability and ethical practices in the fashion industry, and how have you overcome them?
I don’t know if I’ve overcome them. They’re here, on a daily basis. For example, the customers who tell me there’s a fast fashion brand that has a somewhat similar piece of clothing and it costs ⅓ the price… Or the salespeople who represent the textile companies and try to sell us really bad quality recycled plastic disguised as some brand new technology and solution… Or “sustainable” cotton made with tons of pesticide and/or slavery labor. It’s challenging because we, those truly committed to making the real deal “conscious fashion,” don’t work solely with the production of fair trade biodegradable goods. We work with education. We inform, create, and shape new consumption consciousness and habits. This takes time.
In your opinion, what are the key changes that need to happen within the fashion industry as a whole to move towards a more sustainable and responsible future?
We need transparency. We need companies to tell the truth, and we need buyers to know exactly what they’re buying, what they’re paying for, and what they’re sponsoring, strengthening, and encouraging. Like the Fashion Revolution campaign says: “When people know, they care!”.
Could you share some examples of your fundraising campaigns for the protection of fauna, flora, and indigenous communities in Brazil?
“Sustentabilidade no Dia a Dia” (Daily Sustainability) lecture about more sustainable choices and habits, with specialist guests to raise donations for flood victims;
“Semana Verde” (Green Week) 35% OFF with 5% of sales to Instituto Nawá of Studies and Preservation of Brazilian Indigenous Cultures;
“AcroYoga Beneficente” (fundraising AcroYoga) to raise donations for Instituto Nawá of Studies and Preservation of Brazilian Indigenous Cultures.
Can you talk about any collaborations or partnerships that TUAessence has undertaken to further its mission of sustainability and responsible production?
I have always partnered up with local artisans, artists, small businesses and shops, as well as NGOs to create events, collections, and projects since I was in university. My graduation project was very special and dear to me. In 2007, I developed costumes for the kids of Instituto Kairós’ music class with upcycled materials back when the term “Upcycling” didn’t exist yet. The clothes were made from old curtains and upholstery, and the sandals were made of bean sacks with old tires as soles.
How do you see the role of fashion evolving in the fight against climate change and the transition to a more sustainable and regenerative economy?
I can only see this through education. We have got to raise our collective awareness and engagement on what we buy, because in a capitalist world, every single time you choose to spend a single cent on something, you’re giving it a vote. You’re amplifying that product/company/idea/concept’s voice.
What advice would you give to aspiring ethical fashion designers who want to make a positive impact in the industry?
BE CURIOUS! Go live with the entire production chain. Get close and familiar with every single step. Learn where the raw materials/fabrics you want to use come from, how and where they were made. By whom? What’s the composition? Choose wisely the production processes (fibers, dyeing, printing, pigments), and especially the people who will be collaborating with you and establish real relationships with them. They aren’t numbers; they are lives, and the creative process is about CO-creation. To create is to relate. There’s no lush, healthy creative process without relationships. Go relate and live the whole process, from the supply chain to the final customer.
What is your favorite Brazilian food? Does climate change have any impact on it?
My favorite Brazilian food is Feijoada (black bean stew usually made with pork – even though I take the VG version as I don’t eat meat – rice, kale, and orange). Climate change, as well as production and consumption habits, have a direct impact on it. First of all, the animal farming industry and the spread of meat consumption drive farmers to destroy native forests to make pasture. Alongside animal farming, the plantations of transgenic soy, corn, and wheat to feed these animals cause the impoverishment of grain diversity in Brazil. Rice and beans are the basic meal in every Brazilian plate but, due to monoculture, Brazil has been importing rice and beans for over 10 years now. Instead of using our super-rich soil wisely to produce a great variety of food that will actually feed our people and animals, we’ve been enslaved by the monoculture industrial farming that deforests The Amazon to basically grow GMOs and abuse cattle for export.
How do you define success?
This is a tricky one… Success is to go to sleep and wake up with satisfaction and gratitude. Success is to live a healthy meaningful life surrounded by nature, animals, and people I love. Success is to have the freedom to come and go, establishing bonds of love and not domain. To leave planted trees, clean air, and freshwater, as well as a regenerated abundant planet filled with life and possibilities (like I found), to the ones to come yet.
I have no clue (LOL). I hope I get to be in the middle of the woods or in the jungle, once again. Preferably by a pristine beach, with clean water, and fresh air, surrounded by nature, animals, and people I love.
What’s your mantra for life?
LOKAH SAMASTAH SUKHINO BHAVANTU (May all beings everywhere be happy and free. May all my thoughts and actions contribute to that.)
Learn more about Fernanda Lopes Lima and her work at TUAessence.
This is part of a series where Green & Beyond explores the stories and takes a peek at the lifestyles of incredible people like green entrepreneurs, innovators, climate advocates, activists, community leaders, and content creators, all around the world, who love the planet and are working tirelessly to make the world a better place.
In a world where stories have the remarkable ability to spark change, Lensational, an organization at the forefront of empowering women through photography, stands as a beacon of hope. We had the privilege of sitting down with Lydia Wanjiku, the passionate and visionary CEO of Lensational, to delve into her journey and explore the transformative power of visual storytelling.
In this captivating interview, Lydia Wanjiku takes us on her personal and professional journey, from her discovery of Lensational to her current role as CEO. With a background in both development and photojournalism, Lydia offers a unique perspective on the intersection of these two fields and how they shape Lensational’s approach to empowering women through photography.
Get ready to embark on a journey through the lens, as we dive deep into the inspiring world of visual storytelling with Lydia Wanjiku, CEO of Lensational. Discover the transformative power of photography, the untapped potential of marginalized voices, and the role each of us can play in shaping a brighter, more sustainable future.
Lydia, tell us your backstory and the journey you took to become the CEO of Lensational.
Following my Passions
As far back as I can remember, I have always wanted to do things that I feel passionate about and this was the same for whichever career I would decide to pursue. After completing my undergraduate degree in Business and Innovation Technology, I didn’t immediately enter the workforce. I wanted to ensure that I made a well-informed decision about my future. However, this decision was challenging, as my traditional upbringing emphasized pursuing conventional career opportunities solely based on having a degree. My father was not pleased with my choices during that time, and to alleviate the pressure, I took up various jobs.
One of these jobs was in the fashion industry, an area that still captivates my interest today. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, fashion is intricately linked to storytelling, which is a fundamental aspect of all my passions. Subsequently, I worked in technology as a project lead, and it was during this period that I discovered Lensational.
While searching online for photography storytelling jobs, I came across a tweet by Hivos Awards, which highlighted an organization empowering women through photography. Lensational recently received a social innovation award. Intrigued, I visited Lensational’s website and found an opening for a curation manager position. Although the role required someone based in London, where the headquarters were located, I applied nonetheless. Bonnie, the founder of Lensational, offered me the opportunity to volunteer as a program manager in Kenya. It was an incredible opportunity since Lensational had yet to establish a presence in Africa.
Initially, I contributed to Lensational on a voluntary basis until 2018 when we formed a partnership with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). Faye Cuevas, the Vice President at IFAW at the time (now a member of our Board of Directors), had pioneered an innovative approach involving indigenous Maasai women in conservation efforts within their communities. We partnered to explore how photography could facilitate meaningful participation for these women. This partnership required my full-time commitment, so I dedicated myself exclusively to volunteering at Lensational. Working closely with Faye provided me invaluable insight into the systems and processes of a large organization like IFAW. At the time, I never envisioned becoming CEO, but my keen eye for detail allowed me to observe these aspects which have come in handy in my current role.
The women I worked with spoke a language I don’t speak, necessitating the use of translators. This challenged me to think critically about how best to deliver effective training. Every session became an opportunity to provide feedback to Lensational, aiding in the improvement of our delivery methods and measurement of social impact. Although I believe this pilot partnership could have been more successful with the knowledge we now possess, the experience laid the foundation for our subsequent program achievements, gaining significant recognition.
The partnership continued for approximately a year and a half, but I began yearning for financial independence. This posed a dilemma for me since I still possessed an immense passion for Lensational and saw its untapped potential. Leaving to pursue a job that provided a steady income bothered me greatly. When I discussed this with Bonnie, she offered me a full-time position as Programs Director in 2020. This opportunity coincided with Lensational’s shift in strategy, adopting a bottom-up approach and increased involvement in training programs. Being closely involved with one of our most active programs granted me valuable insights into program management.
Navigating Challenges and Shaping Strategic Direction
As you are aware, 2020 was an exceptionally challenging year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We were unable to run any programs and faced financial hardships. During this period, I proposed utilizing our downtime to focus on programming. This involved evaluating our past programs, identifying areas for improvement, and enhancing our curriculum, which directly influenced program delivery. Unbeknownst to me, I was unintentionally influencing the overall strategic direction of Lensational through my programming work. This led to some friction with the CEO, who is also the founder, as well as the board of directors. However, during an Innovation Bootcamp with the World Food Programme Innovation Accelerator, I had the opportunity to present my work. Bonnie happened to witness my presentation and was deeply moved by its impact. Shortly after, she messaged me, expressing her newfound appreciation for my vision.
From Programs Director to CEO
After a few months, Bonnie approached me and asked if I would be interested in becoming the CEO of Lensational. I eagerly accepted the position, which I officially assumed on International Women’s Day in March 2021. The rest, as they say, is history.
Can you tell us more about Lensational and how it came to be?
In the early 90s, in Hong Kong: A Struggle and a Revelation
In the early 1990s, in the vibrant city of Hong Kong, a young girl named Bonnie Chiu resided with her grandmother, Lin Fa. Their modest life was a constant reminder of the struggles Lin Fa had endured after fleeing her home in Medan, Indonesia, during an anti-Chinese conflict. As Bonnie listened to her grandmother’s harrowing tales of survival and the challenges she faced in making ends meet, she realized the importance of preserving these stories for future generations. Driven by her grandmother’s illiteracy, Bonnie recognized that without her own active participation, these powerful stories would remain untold. This profound experience ignited a passion within Bonnie to uplift women who shared similar backgrounds.
An Encounter in Turkey: Unleashing the Power of Photography
In 2012, Bonnie embarked on a journey to Turkey, where an unexpected encounter would shape her future path. While exploring Istanbul’s magnificent palace, Bonnie found herself capturing precious moments with her friends. In a serendipitous turn of events, four Turkish girls approached her, requesting assistance in taking photographs and learning the art. A deep connection quickly formed between Bonnie and these girls. Later, as Bonnie interacted with them through social media, she discovered something remarkable. The captions accompanying their photographs defied the stereotypes often associated with Muslim women. This revelation sparked Bonnie’s realization of the immense potential of photography as a universal language capable of transcending words, geography, and cultural barriers.
A Vision Takes Shape: Lensational is Born
Drawing from her own travel experiences and the shared stories of women she encountered along the way, Bonnie developed a profound understanding of women as powerful agents of change and the custodians of countless untold stories. Fueled by her unwavering determination to amplify these voices, Bonnie founded Lensational in 2013. The organization’s core mission was twofold: to provide women with the necessary skills in visual storytelling and to create income-generating opportunities for low-income community women in regions such as Asia and Africa. Lensational achieved this by showcasing and selling their powerful images, as well as securing commissioned assignments for these talented photographers.
Through the power of photography, Lensational has continued on this transformative journey, championing women’s empowerment and amplifying their stories to the world.
You have authored a curriculum on photography storytelling for climate action. How can visual storytelling help inspire action on climate change?
Photography in visual storytelling is a very powerful tool to inspire action on climate change by conveying the urgency, impact, and human dimension of the issue.
One way is by evoking emotions. Climate change is still seen as a distant and abstract problem, especially for people who are not directly affected. Photography can bridge this gap by capturing compelling images that evoke emotions such as empathy, compassion, and concern. By showcasing the human and environmental impacts of climate change, powerful images can engage viewers on a deeper level and motivate them to take action.
Closely connected to that is raising awareness. When events and stories related to climate change are visually captured, they bring attention to issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, such as the melting of glaciers, the destruction of ecosystems, or the displacement of communities due to rising sea levels. There are people who without seeing what’s happening in the world would never believe that climate change is an issue.
Photography also puts a human face on climate change by capturing the lived experiences of individuals and communities affected by its consequences. By showing the real people behind the statistics and highlighting their struggles, hopes, and resilience, photography storytelling helps create a personal connection and fosters empathy. This personalization of the issue makes it more relatable and motivates people to take action. This additionally amplifies the voices of marginalized communities, indigenous peoples, and activists who are on the front lines of climate change and gives them a platform to speak for themselves.
Last but not least is showcasing positive examples and solutions. While it is essential to depict the challenges posed by climate change, photography also highlights positive examples and solutions which in addition to giving hope encourage individuals and communities to adopt sustainable practices and support climate-friendly initiatives.
I find myself standing at the crossroads of two starkly contrasting realities. On one hand, I have the privilege of closely working with underserved communities, affording me an intimate understanding of their realities and lived experiences. On the other hand, I also have the privilege of comprehending the inner workings of development systems and processes, particularly in programming and implementation. What I’ve observed is that despite the goodwill of policymakers to connect with underserved communities, a significant disconnect persists, lacking a common language through which they can communicate and merge their aspirations.
As documentary photographers and photojournalists, we bear the responsibility of bridging this gap. In the realm of photojournalism, documentary work, and development, however, there exists a prevalent tendency to approach underrepresented communities with preconceived notions about what their issues are and how their stories should be told. Often, we evaluate their circumstances through our own lens and determine the narrative angle that should be emphasized, inadvertently misrepresenting them.
By solely focusing on challenges, communities naturally yearn to understand how their situation will improve, which may lead to disappointment if tangible solutions are not presented.
Occupying this intersection has continually challenged me to explore avenues for these two entities to find common ground. Through our experiences working with these communities, I have come to recognize their desire for active participation in shaping how they are portrayed and the role played by development practitioners. At Lensational, we are currently investigating how the women we train can foster collaboration and active participation within the communities they document, even if it involves their own communities.
Our current approach prioritizes including the voices and perspectives of the communities themselves, allowing them to actively participate in the storytelling process. This shift fosters a more accurate representation of their experiences, challenges, and triumphs. By showcasing their resilience, resourcefulness, and agency, we not only empower them but also contribute to a more balanced and authentic narrative that transcends the confines of the victim label.
Lensational works in a range of diverse contexts locally and internationally. Can you share a specific project or experience that has been particularly impactful or meaningful to you?
It is so hard to narrow this down, however, I will say that taking part in in-person training with our photographers interacting with their communities is an experience that is forever transforming me.
Lensational has a focus on amplifying the voices of women. In your opinion, why is it important to elevate the perspectives of women in conversations and decision-making around sustainable development and climate action?
Women make up approximately half of the global population, and their experiences, knowledge, and ideas are essential for creating comprehensive and inclusive solutions. By tapping into their voices we ensure that the perspectives of all segments of society are taken into account, promoting diversity and avoiding the marginalization of certain groups.
Women also have unique insights and knowledge. They play key roles in resource management, agriculture, and community development, which are critical areas for addressing climate change and promoting sustainable practices. By including their perspectives, we tap into a wealth of expertise and foster innovation in tackling environmental challenges.
According to you, what is the role of storytelling and media in creating social change and driving sustainable development/climate action?
Stories form our perceptions of different things. When we think of a particular country for instance, a particular mental image immediately comes to mind based on the stories we hear and see essentially in the media. I firmly believe that every individual has a role to play in sustainable development and climate action, regardless of how small it may seem. However, when we lack proper information about the reality of what is happening, we are unable to effectively fulfill our roles. Hence, the media and storytelling assume a critical role and in my honest opinion, as one of the key players in driving climate action and sustainable development.
As a leader in the sustainable development field, what advice would you give to individuals or organizations looking to make a positive impact in their communities?
Having a clear purpose is essential for individuals or organizations looking to make a positive impact in their communities. It provides a guiding light and a sense of direction. Equally important is the active engagement and involvement of communities in the pursuit of that purpose. By including community members in decision-making processes, valuing their perspectives, and addressing their needs, a more inclusive and sustainable approach can be achieved. Together, with a shared purpose and engaged communities, we can create meaningful and lasting change in our communities.
What’s your mantra for life?
I am intent on knowing and becoming the best and highest version of myself. That’s the mantra I live by.
How can others be involved with you and Lensational?
There are many ways to get involved with us. We are in the process of raising funds for a number of projects and we want to break the idea that philanthropy is the purview of billionaires by inviting individuals with which amount of giving they may have to be part of a greater course. More information on the projects to give to can be found on our website.
We are always looking for new talent to join our team and information about available positions can also be found on our website.
Find Lydia and learn more about her work at Lensational.
This is part of a series where Green & Beyond explores the stories and takes a peek at the lifestyles of incredible people like green entrepreneurs, innovators, climate advocates, activists, community leaders, and content creators, all around the world, who love the planet and are working tirelessly to make the world a better place.