In the dynamic realm of sustainable fashion, Talisha Lee emerges as a vibrant thread intricately woven into the narrative of Eco-Fashion Week Australia (EFWA). Her journey, from a transformative experience at an early age to becoming the Face of EFWA Closet of the Anthropocene in 2024, reflects not just a runway showcase but a profound exploration of the impact of fast fashion on the environment. Talisha‘s story embodies personal evolution and a commitment to amplify voices often unheard, making her an ambassador for diversity, equity, and sustainability.
Beyond the glamour, Talisha’s perspective as a medical student adds depth to her understanding of the connection between sustainable fashion and personal well-being. For her, it’s more than a runway; it’s a belief that what we wear should echo the commitment to natural, organic choices in life. Talisha’s artistic flair extends beyond modeling, with her passion for singing and acting enriching her expression on the runway. Balancing a medical career with modeling, she envisions a future where both seamlessly coexist, contributing to a vibrant and sustainable world.
Hi Talisha! You’ve been a part of Eco-Fashion Week Australia (EFWA) since its inception. Could you share your journey with us? How has the EFWA experience influenced your perspective on fashion and sustainability?
My first experience with EFWA was when I was 13 years old, and it was the first large-scale fashion/modelling show that I had ever participated in. I had the lucky opportunity to meet a multitude of different people from different countries and backgrounds and witness their own unique styles of creating sustainable fashion. From designs made of coffee bags and coffee pods, to Merino and alpaca wool, all the way through to up-cycling and redesigning op shop finds. It also opened my eyes to how much of our current fashion consumption is considered fast fashion, and just how damaging this is for the environment. Prior to my experience with EFWA I felt as if I was oblivious to the impacts of fast fashion on our environment, and to what fast fashion actually looked like in our everyday lives.
Being the Face of EFWA Closet of the Anthropocene for EFWA 2024 is an incredible achievement. Can you tell us more about this role and what it means to you?
To me being the face of the EFWA closet of the Anthropocene means not only advocating for sustainable fashion and minimising the impacts of fast fashion, but it also means giving a voice to smaller groups and communities that are often not seen and heard in the media. It means encouraging diversity and giving a voice to those who often do not have one, so that all Australians are given equal opportunity to share their story. It is up to us to use the platform that we have been given to advocate for diversity, equity, and sustainability. Having been a part of EFWA since its inception, I have been able to see the effort that this incredible team has put in to ensure diversity and equity for all of our models, designers, and community members, and I feel as if I have a responsibility to keep promoting these same values.
As a medical student, you have a unique perspective on health and sustainability. How do you see the connection between sustainable fashion and personal well-being?
To me, sustainable fashion is a much more viable alternative to fast fashion, not only for the environment but for us. We know that natural products are always better for an individual’s health, whether that’s organic foods to organic products, what we consume should be no different from the clothes that we put on our bodies.
You’re not only a model but also have a passion for singing and acting. How do these different forms of creative expression complement your modelling career?
Not only did singing and acting improve my confidence and stage presence, but it also gave me the skills required for modelling. A lot of people don’t realise that modelling is an art form, there are so many different styles of modelling and how we choose to compose ourselves on the runway is a form of individual expression. Acting and singing allowed me to explore my own unique style, from body language to facial expression, to perfect my modelling capabilities.
Eco Fashion and traditional fashion can differ in many ways. What do you find most distinctive about modelling for sustainable fashion as opposed to conventional fashion?
With sustainable fashion, you truly uncover the story behind the clothes. You get to listen to designers tell you every single step that they took to create the final piece that you’re wearing. From how they decided which materials to use, to how those materials were sourced and by whom, through to the designing and creating process. You get to listen to designers point out unique spots on their clothes that might have been a mistake when they were sewing or crocheting, and you really get to see the clothes come to life. With traditional fashion, on the other hand, you don’t get the same intimate story. You get to listen to the designing process, then the clothes are often shipped off to a foreign manufacturer before being shipped back for you to wear down the runway.
EFWA is often described as a close-knit community, like a family. How has this sense of belonging impacted your journey as a model?
With EFWA it really made a difference to me starting out my modelling career as a part of this family, because it made the modelling world so much less daunting to me. It showed that there were genuine people out there who would be willing to support me and treat me as their own. I feel like in everyday media and even just as a teenager looking online, we always get told that the fashion industry is one of the most cutthroat and exclusive industries, with everyone being pitted against each other. Being a part of the eco-fashion team, you get to see that that is far from the truth, you get to see everyone treating each other as family, whilst still giving each other the opportunity to shine as an individual.
In your opinion, what kind of impact does EFWA have on the fashion industry and the wider community?
EFWA has opened the door for communication and raised awareness regarding the impacts of fast fashion and how much of the fashion industry participates in fast fashion. It has given a platform to individual community members to raise awareness about sustainable fashion and showcased various different projects in support of our cause.
Balancing a career in the medical field and modelling is no small feat. How do you plan to pursue both these passions simultaneously?
Having studied in such a competitive and intense field, I feel like I’ve developed skills to find a balance between my career endeavours and my passion for modelling, and so I do intend to continue working on both. Modelling to me is a fun environment that allows me to escape from the pressure of studying, and I truly believe it will play a pivotal role in my life as I continue with my career.
The fashion industry plays a significant role in environmental issues. Do you believe models can be influential voices in raising awareness about sustainable fashion and addressing climate change?
100% yes. As models, we are the face of the clothes that we wear so we have a voice, and we have the ability to make an impact. If we keep raising our concerns and keep raising awareness then as models, and even as everyday individuals, we are able to make a change.
What advice do you have for newcomers entering the world of modelling, especially those who are interested in promoting sustainability?
My advice is to be confident in yourself and know that you are worthy of achieving everything that you set out to do and so much more. The industry can be quite harsh, and as much as we are working to change that, and I do believe change and progress are being made, you must be confident in yourself and believe that you will get where you want to be. Regarding promoting sustainability, that is such an important message to be sending out, and just continuously promoting that and believing and fighting for your cause will get you very far.
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 vibrant heart of Kenyan ingenuity, a groundbreaking event is set to unfold, promising a week that transcends the ordinary realms of fashion. Welcome to Eco Fashion Week Kenya, a transformative experience conceived by the visionary Belinda Smetana, founder of Sustainable Fashion and Travel. This event, in collaboration with Cleanup Kenya, is not just about runway glamour; it’s a holistic celebration of sustainability, inclusivity, and a profound commitment to healing our planet.
A Visionary’s Dream
Belinda Smetana, the luminary behind Sustainable Fashion and Travel, envisions more than a fashion week; she dreams of a collective journey toward conscious living. Her brainchild, Eco Fashion Week Kenya, is a testament to her commitment to creating a transformative experience that leaves an indelible mark on Kenya’s fashion landscape.
As Belinda puts it, “Our vision is to be the first-ever Fashion Week in the world that focuses more on cleaning up textile waste by creating inclusive intergenerational activities that every human who wears clothes can relate to.”
In a world where inclusivity often stops at diverse models on the runway, Eco Fashion Week Kenya takes a giant leap forward. For them, inclusivity extends beyond the glamour, encompassing intergenerational activities that involve everyone who wears clothes. This commitment to inclusivity goes hand in hand with their core belief that sustainable fashion should be for everyone, breaking traditional beauty standards both on and off the runway.
Belinda emphasizes, “We are not just working with fashion brands; we are including other industry leaders contributing to a better environment. Our transformative experience aims to inspire positive change, making sustainable fashion accessible to all.”
The journey begins at The Artisanal Gallery, Nairobi, with a press briefing and networking day. The venue, known for its unique concept store, sets the stage for what promises to be a fashion week like no other. The welcome drink from official wine sponsors Le Decanter and gifts by JUA add a touch of celebration and community spirit to the event.
As we step into this artistic space, Belinda’s words resonate, “We want to create a Fashion Week where the power of fashion is harnessed to leave a positive imprint on our society and the planet.”
A Tapestry of Experiences
The week unfolds with diverse activities, each day bringing a new facet of sustainable fashion to the forefront. From eco-fashion workshops and the selection of winning pieces to mending, repair, and swap workshops, the event is a rich tapestry of experiences. The emphasis on education through seminars and discussions underlines a commitment to not just showcasing fashion but fostering a deeper understanding of sustainable living.
Julie Adhiambo, Founder and CEO of Duara Textiles, who is one of the featured designers of the Eco Fashion Week Kenya, adds her perspective, “Embracing Circular fashion systems including recycling and upcycling is crucial. Brands should embrace slow fashion, make quality apparel that will last for generations, and use sustainable and degradable materials.”
JUST FASHION DAY – Challenging Norms
One of the highlights is the “JUST Fashion Day,” a challenge presented by the JUST Fashion team through the Eyes of the Artisanal Gallery, AfroWema, and Seeds & Stories. Delight Fashion and Design School students are tasked with creating one piece each with the theme “No New Clothes.” This bold initiative aims to combat textile waste by using existing clothes that would otherwise end up in landfills.
Belinda expresses her confidence, “We are challenging designers, especially the students, to make a difference. The winning piece will be showcased and auctioned, supporting upcoming designers. It’s about avoiding waste and overproduction, aligning with our commitment to a sustainable fashion future.”
This addition emphasizes the pivotal role of student designers, making their contributions integral to the ethos of Eco Fashion Week Kenya.
An Evening of High Fashion and Responsibility
As the week progresses, the event moves to Lions Eco Resort & Spa for a night fashion show. Designers will showcase collections made from used materials, emphasizing the theme of “No New Clothes.” The emphasis on not purchasing new clothes for the event aligns with the ethos of discouraging overconsumption.
As Julie Adhiambo, Founder and CEO of Duara Textiles, puts it, “Circular economy – reusing, recycling, and creating new materials and products from already existing materials hence reducing waste.” Julie’s dedication to sustainable materials and practices echoes the broader message of Eco Fashion Week Kenya.
In a world inundated with fast fashion, Eco Fashion Week Kenya emerges as a beacon of conscious choices, a celebration of slow fashion that values quality over quantity. It’s a movement that goes beyond trends, embracing the well-being of the planet and its people above all else.
As we step into the future of sustainable fashion, events like Eco Fashion Week Kenya play a pivotal role. The rising consciousness on the importance of sustainability and environmental responsibility is turning it into a norm rather than an exception. More brands are adopting circular fashion systems, becoming accountable and transparent in their product cycles.
Belinda envisions, “It will become the norm rather than the exception. More people will start embracing unique handcrafted artisanal products that are of high-quality finish.”
Embrace the Change
Eco Fashion Week Kenya is more than a fashion week; it’s a call to action. It challenges norms, encourages dialogue, and actively engages individuals in the journey toward sustainable living. Belinda Smetana’s vision extends beyond the glamour of the runway, aiming to weave a sustainable future, one thoughtful choice at a time.
As the fashion world gears up for this groundbreaking event, it’s not just about style; it’s about shaping a future where fashion and responsibility go hand in hand. So, mark your calendars for a week that promises not just runway spectacles but a transformative experience that resonates with the rhythm of a planet in need of healing.
Join the movement, embrace sustainability, and be a part of Eco Fashion Week Kenya – where fashion meets responsibility, and every choice makes a difference.
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.
Adding to a cart is one of the most fulfilling clicks in most of our lives. Especially when there is a 70% off sale on Shein, and with Black Friday coming up in a few short weeks, fashion brands like H&M and Zara will be sure to give the people what they want – clearance sales, and major discounts. The holiday season means new outfits to buy, and matching family sweaters to seek out – clothes have always been such a primal part of the celebration, but also everyday life.
But how often do we really stop to think before clicking “Add to Cart?” Serious questions like – how is this brand offering such a huge percentage off for the holiday season and still making profits? If they are not making profits, then why are they running their business? If they are making profits even after those significant discounts, how cheap are these clothes? What is the secret behind such low prices of these clothes – are the materials used in these clothes cheap or low-quality? If these materials are below quality, how long will we be able to use them – is it a good investment? What will happen to these clothes made from low-quality materials after we won’t be able to use them anymore? If the materials are not low-quality, then how come the prices are so cheap? If you are someone who thinks these are serious or at least interesting questions to be asked, then you are in the right place. It’s time to learn about fast fashion before clicking “Add to Cart” this holiday season. So, buckle up and brace yourself.
What is fast fashion?
Fast fashion is a phenomenon that has been noticed over the past 30 years, one that spread globally and quickly. According to the UN, fast fashion is a business model “of quick turnover, high volume, and cheap prices.” It is basically where fashion brands – to keep up with current trends and styles – mass produce their items at a low manufacturing cost to supply high demand. Fast fashion has been a booming industry since the late 1900s and the early 2000s, and these retailers include Zara, H&M, and Shein.
What customers usually notice is that clothing items in fast fashion brands are relatively cheap, with a magnitude of vast options.
Why does fast fashion exist?
Shopping for clothes was once considered an event. This means that people would save up throughout the year and purchase new clothes at specific times. Style-conscious people would be well aware of the latest trends and designs through the fashion shows that showcased clothing pieces months before they were available in stores. People were used to shopping for clothes once or twice per year, in the regard that it was an occasion.
However, in the late 1900s, that began to change. Shopping quickly changed into a form of entertainment and leisure, which consequently meant that people bought clothes more often, at a higher pace. This was what set off the concept of fast fashion – retailers could mass-produce clothing pieces at low prices, which made consumers feel they were up to date with the latest trends in real time. Fast fashion items were never made with the intention of lasting multiple years or wears – its goal was to manufacture cost-effective clothing directly satisfying the shifting demands of the consumer.
The fashion industry is one of the largest working industries globally, with a value of 2.5 trillion dollars, providing employment for over 75 million people worldwide, as stated by UNECE. In theory, and from pure definition, fast fashion sounds harmless – a company is mass-producing clothes, for a cheaper price, which people can afford. If anything, this can be seen as a strategy that grants people easier access to clothes due to their affordable price. However, the consequences of fast fashion are ones that aren’t easy to notice, but hard to ignore. Fast fashion directly contributes to waste colonialism and exploitive labor practices – which consumers are unaware of during their purchases.
How does fast fashion negatively affect the environment?
Alright, so what about clothes during the holiday season? According to USA Facts, clothing, and accessory retailers have the highest jumps in sales during the holiday season. Statista found that in 2022 47% of Gen Z purchased new fashion items for themselves to wear on Christmas, while Millennials were at an astounding 50%. This shows that there is a high intent for purchase and paired with the high discounts available in fast-fashion brands, it explains why people tend to buy more new clothes during the holiday season. Since fast fashion utilizes low-quality fabrics, that means the clothes purchased during the holiday season would have a life span of only a few months – and when that life span is over, people do what they always do when something has served its purpose – they throw it away.
Fast fashion relies on a business model that depends on “recurring consumption and impulse buying, instilling a sense of urgency when purchasing.” This business model has clearly succeeded, with global consumption rising to 62 million tons of apparel per year, and by 2030, it is expected to reach 102 million tons.
Fast Fashion’s Global Impact
The Ellen Macarthur Foundation – a UNEP partner – estimates that a truckload of abandoned textiles is discharged into landfills or incinerated every second. This is why it is estimated that people are buying 60% more clothes and wearing them for half as long. According to The Business Insider, 85% of all textiles go to dumps every year. The textiles in landfills have the capacity to contaminate soil. Countries such as Uganda, with high rates of agriculture and farmers, export contaminated food and resources to other countries. This can lead to major health risks and dangers, alongside negative side effects to animals and plants in their ecosystems.
This means that fast fashion contributes directly to waste colonialism. Most fast fashion exports are from developing countries across Asia, including India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, China, Indonesia, Cambodia etc. This means that the Global South is not only the one with the highest production of fast fashion but is also the one that suffers its consequences the most after it gets thrown out. The BBC reported in 2022 that more than half of the clothes imported to Chile end up in the Atacama Desert. On Jamestown Beach, located in Accra – Ghana’s capital – you must walk between mountains of shoes, pants, and tattered t-shirts. These used textiles come from Western countries and Asia to be dumped and dealt with in Ghana.
These discharged textiles contribute to microplastics found in the water, which can then affect marine food chains – which means that the Ghanaian people eat contaminated fish. Discharged textiles are often brought into the Global South without warning, leaving them to deal with methods to get rid of these clothes. Because the quality is so low, merchandisers can’t even sell discharged textiles – therefore, it is another burden of waste that they are responsible for getting rid of, or facing the consequences it brings – most of the time, it is both.
Fast Fashion and Climate Change
Besides the littering and waste of fast fashion, it directly affects global warming. Producing clothes requires natural resources, which emit greenhouse gases. According to the UN, the fashion industry is responsible for 8-10% of global emissions, surpassing aviation and shipping industries combined. The World Bank suggests that global clothing sales are to increase to 65% by 2030. A higher percentage in global sales indicates more discharged textiles to deal with – putting even more pressure on the Global South to manage the waste provided by the Global North.
Some may argue that the average consumer isn’t aware of the negative connotations that come with fast fashion. According to Nayab Sohail, a Pakistani Slow Fashion ambassador, consumers must be educated about the issues fast fashion causes. Once consumers are educated on the link between fast fashion and climate change, that would allow for a change in their approach towards fast fashion. Merlina Carolina, the Global Creative Lead of the Slow Fashion Movement and founder of Slow Fashion El Salvador, believes that the average consumer is “so caught up in routine and system that they probably don’t have the energy to question or consciously think about how the environment works.”
Others argue that consumers are aware – to a small degree – of the link between fast fashion and the environment. Grace Kemp, another ambassador of the Slow Fashion Movement, believes that a “majority of people” are aware of the impact fast fashion has on the environment. Kemp claims that because of the sudden uprise of “green” campaigns in recent years, this must correlate to the level of awareness existing amongst consumers.
How can you reduce your fashion footprint?
Kemp mentioned how people might be aware of the negative link between fast fashion and the environment; however, they feel as though “it is too big for them to be able to do anything, so they carry on.” The typical solution to fast fashion has always been slow fashion. But slow fashion brands are usually expensive – the biggest disadvantage that fast fashion solves.
Even then, there are solutions to fast fashion that don’t necessarily have to break the bank. Karen James Welton, a slow fashion stylist, advises to wear what you own. Purchasing clothing pieces for the sake of a current, temporary trend usually means it won’t be worn again. Welton also advises shopping vintage and second-hand. Swapping clothes with your family members and friends, or borrowing clothes isn’t shameful in any way – it is a direct solution to make sure you aren’t buying too many clothes. Kristīne Čeirāne, an ambassador’s coordinator of the Slow Fashion Movement, says, “The most sustainable wardrobe is the one people already have. Look after your clothes and wear them for as long as you can. The greenest purchase is the one you didn’t make.” Welton also recommends that for new purchases, you save up for investment pieces that you will be able to wear for years. Timeless, classic pieces that will always look good regardless of the current trend going around.
A Joint Effort for a Sustainable Future
The solution to fast fashion isn’t reserved for individual consumers only. The UN initiated the #ActNow Fashion Challenge, which aims to show individuals and industries how to improve the environmental impact that fashion leaves. Limiting and decreasing the carbon footprint that the fashion industry leaves is a key factor in reducing global warming, which is why NGOs have pointed out fast fashion’s harmful business model. Greenpeace and other groups have urged the sector to slow down the trend of mass-producing clothes that are thrown away so quickly. In COP-27 in Egypt, the fashion sector did promise a net-zero carbon footprint, but giant clothing retailers still struggle to manage their own emissions, considering the high demand for fast fashion now.
It is essential that there is a joint effort – between the consumer and the industry – to work towards a less wasteful, more sustainable style of fashion. Looking good and trendy shouldn’t have to come at the cost of the environment. There is work towards sustainable fashion, and as long as there is work, there is always a way.
The holiday season doesn’t need to be ugly for everybody. You can still look wonderful in the clothes you have – maybe styling it differently will give it a new look! Remember the consequences of clicking “Add to Cart” from a fast fashion brand – no one should spend their holiday season struggling through mountains of discharged clothes for the sake of fashion.
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 world of fashion and modeling, Hayley Beardman started her remarkable journey at the tender age of 7. Growing up amidst the ever-evolving trends and styles of the industry, she has honed her craft into something truly extraordinary. As a dedicated member of the Eco Fashion Week Australia (EFWA) family, Hayley has played an integral role in promoting sustainability and empowerment in the fashion industry. Her passion for nurturing emerging talents and empowering young models shines through in every role she takes on.
Hailing from the vibrant city of Perth, Western Australia, Hayley has graced the pages of numerous magazines, showcasing her remarkable versatility across a wide spectrum of genres, from high fashion to artistic expression. Yet, what truly sets Hayley apart is her indomitable spirit and unwavering commitment to making a difference. She’s not just a model; she is an empowering force, a mentor, and a trailblazer.
Explore her inspiring journey and insights in the full interview below, as she shares her experiences and sheds light on the vital intersection of sustainable fashion and mainstream trends. Get ready to be inspired by the formidable Hayley Beardman!
Can you share your remarkable journey with EFWA from its inception? How did you first become involved, and what inspired you to join this movement for sustainable fashion?
The first time I walked for Zuhal wearing Green Embassy was at the Ellington Jazz Club. It was before Eco Fashion Week even evolved in Perth. It was a small event showcasing her work. I honestly fell in love with her designs even more wearing them. Once I understood the story and how they were actually made, I was truly excited to be able to walk and work with Zuhal for Eco Fashion Week Australia when the first show was in 2017. By the end of this show, I knew I wanted more.
Balancing a full-time job, motherhood, and a modeling career is truly commendable. How have you managed to keep your passion for modeling alive amidst your busy life?
It’s definitely a juggle, and balancing is a hard word to say already! (Laughs) I do have a loving partner who supports me with everything I do and an amazing family who is happy to help with Austin & Ariela when I am working in the Modeling field. This career I started when I was 7 years old; I was actually a really shy kid & would hide behind my mum’s legs. Modeling is what brought out the sparkle in me and made me passionate about this career. It’s why I truly enjoy doing this. I feel that if you’re passionate about something enough, you never work a day in your life.
You’ve been a steadfast presence even during EFWA’s early days when financial constraints were challenging. What motivated you to continue with EFWA despite the financial hurdles?
It is a passion of mine, modeling and being involved in such amazing projects. Money isn’t everything; this show is more than just a show – it’s a story, and it needs to be told! Zuhal is an amazing woman, and her story is truly courageous. I love supporting Zuhal and honestly cannot wait for the next year 2024 EFWA!
Using your work holidays to practice for EFWA showcases your dedication. How do these events differ from other fashion shows you’ve been a part of, and what keeps you motivated to invest suchtime and effort?
Participating in EFWA’s showcases feels more like joining a close-knit family than just another fashion event. It’s a unique blend of camaraderie, support, and genuine care. We know we can rely on each other, from fellow models to the dedicated parents who become like our own. It’s a nurturing and welcoming environment, unlike any other show. Even in challenging times, like in 2018 when my son, Austin, was just 3 months old, EFWA’s exceptional support allowed me to return to the catwalk on the Finale show, a gesture rarely seen in most fashion events. This is the essence of EFWA – it’s not merely an event; it’s a family.
How do you manage the dual role of being a model and a mother during such high-energy events?
I am going to say it’s hard work tbh, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I honestly really enjoy Modelling and being able to help others. Keeping the energy levels up is easy when it is something you are already passionate about. I love being on the catwalk and strutting my stuff tbh is honestly a lot of fun, and if I’m behind the scenes doing backstage/ coordinator for the models, it’s a rush to get things done and knowing others are looking at you as a role model too.
You’ve taken on the role of managing young models backstage. Can you share your experiences in this mentorship role? How does it feel to be an older sister figure to these aspiring models?
It’s something I really like doing and being able to help others in this industry is honestly a blessing. To be known in this industry is quite surreal tbh and being asked to help with a lot of modeling events or help train other models for other shows I am involved in is a dream of mine… I started my journey by opening up my own Modeling school – Poise Modelling Academy wanting to teach young models, the safety of modeling and inspire them. I have models I taught in my modeling school who still come to me and ask me questions to this day and it makes it worthwhile. Unfortunately, it’s not easy and not everyone wants to pay but doing this opened up a lot of opportunities for me especially mentoring, choreography, and running backstage.
EFWA seems to have become more than just a platform for you. How would you describe your role in the EFWA family, and what does this community mean to you?
It means the world to me, when I found out Zuhal was re-opening up this Project, I was so excited!!! I honestly cannot wait to be back on the catwalk, helping backstage, and being around everyone again.
As someone deeply connected to the sustainable fashion movement, could you share your insights on the differences between fast fashion and sustainable fashion from a professional model’s viewpoint?
Working with a lot of the designers on the runway to photoshoots – the difference I feel personally is creativity in their design. There’s a lot of thought, and effort, and shows truly how designers in “sustainable fashion” are passionate about the environment and the world around them. I am not saying that fast fashion doesn’t have passion as such – I am saying that it’s just that they can sell easily from catwalk to the shelves, while sustainable fashion is usually a once-off piece. This is only my perspective and my thoughts, but everyone thinks differently. Working with and hearing the designers’ stories who work in sustainable fashion shows their willingness to evolve.
EFWA embodies sustainable fashion. Could you elaborate on how this event’s philosophy aligns with your values as a model, and how it differs from typical fashion shows?
It’s very similar in certain ways as typical fashion to sustainable fashion on what happens backstage with catwalk shows, some show it’s just a straight catwalk where you will walk up to the front pose, then walk off, to some it might be a small routine with others on the catwalk. What I do find different is with EFWA they do talk about the actual designer and hear the stories behind the designs coming to life on the catwalk. I feel with Sustainable fashion – some designers want a bit of character on the catwalk where they might want a bit of sass, smiles, and to really show the design off not just a mannequin on the catwalk.
From your unique perspective, what message do sustainable fashion events like EFWA send to the fashion industry and society as a whole?
Sounds a little crazy, I was speaking with Zuhal having a chai, and talking about how I see fashion with what she is doing with EFWA and how designers are evolving to grow in this way, and then how I see this movement growing not just fashion but to the world – think about, everyone is already trying to go greener slowly as it takes time…
Our area that I live in has a buy nothing group where another person’s unwanted items become someone else’s new toy, new clothes, new kitchen utensils, etc. instead of them just throwing them out they become reused. I just purchased last week some Eco-Friendly kitchen reusable baking mats that can be reused up to at least 100 times and eventually save me money too in my pocket. They are catching on – but it does take time to understand.
How do you see the role of models evolving in promoting sustainable fashion? How can models contribute to raising awareness about ethical practices in the industry?
Social Media has a huge presence for Teens nowadays, they constantly have a phone glued to their hands! I feel this is likely the only way to help evolve and showcase sustainable fashion. If the Teens / Models are talking it gets others talking.
How do you educate yourself about sustainable fashion, and what changes have you personally made in your fashion choices to be more environmentally conscious?
I haven’t really bought any clothes for about 7 years… the BUY NOTHING GROUP is where I shop! Unless it’s underwear of course hahaha!
With your experience, what advice would you give to aspiring models who are interested in pursuing a career aligned with sustainable fashion values?
To give it a go, you have nothing to lose, and might be surprised how much you actually enjoy it!
As EFWA grows and the fashion industry evolves, where do you envision the intersection of sustainable fashion and mainstream fashion in the coming years?
I feel some designers might be willing to take on the challenge eventually, it will take time and it’s already happening in Tafes where they are learning and challenging themselves in “sustainable fashion”. I do feel mainstream will slowly evolve into sustainable fashion on the catwalk even more, especially with how our world is already evolving and talking about climate change to recycling items & reusable goods, why can’t fashion be that as well?
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.