Tia Semi’s Inspiring Path from EFWA Runways to Sustainable Fashion

Tia Semi’s Inspiring Path from EFWA Runways to Sustainable Fashion

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.

Tia Semi in a black outfit on the EFWA Runway
Photography by Port Douglas Photographer, Outfit by Curtin Spring

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.

Tia Semi in an orange outfit on the EFWA Runway
Photograph by Port Douglas Photographer

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.

Tia Semi in a white and brown outfit on the EFWA Runway
Photography by Port Douglas Photographer, Outfit by Sylvia Calvo BCN

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.

Fast Fashion Addiction: The Cycle We Need to Break

Fast Fashion Addiction: The Cycle We Need to Break

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.

Drug addiction

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. 

Garments worker in Bangladesh protesting on the street

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. 

shopping

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.

fashion waste dumpsite

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: 

  1. “Not having control over” – is a major factor of addiction.
  2. It is a complex condition.
  3. It is possible to become addicted to shopping.
  4. 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

Woman thinking

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

Fashion waste dumpsite

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!!

Shopping addiction

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. 

Deforestation

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.

Love for earth

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.

Woman wearing a beautiful white dress in the field
Empowering Women Through Fashion: Hayley Beardman on her EFWA Journey

Empowering Women Through Fashion: Hayley Beardman on her EFWA Journey

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.

Photo of Hayley Beardman with Zuhal Kuvan-Mills, Founder of Eco Fashion Week Australia standing in the garden of Green Embassy
Photo of Hayley Beardman with Zuhal Kuvan-Mills, Founder of Eco Fashion Week Australia

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 such time 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.

Trashion to Fashion: Habiba Abdulrahman Hemed’s Stylish Eco-Journey

Trashion to Fashion: Habiba Abdulrahman Hemed’s Stylish Eco-Journey

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. 

How do you define success?

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 toBe 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. 

How can others support your good work?

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.

Weaving Dreams: Emily Craig on her Path from EFWA Model to Designer

Weaving Dreams: Emily Craig on her Path from EFWA Model to Designer

In the realm where fashion intertwines with sustainability, a captivating narrative unfolds – that of Emily Craig, a beacon of inspiration within Eco Fashion Week Australia (EFWA). In this exclusive interview, we embark on a voyage through time, tracing Emily’s transformative journey from her first steps onto EFWA’s runway to her present role as a visionary fashion designer. 

From the early days of EFWA, where Emily first graced the stage, to her current position as the inaugural designer for EFWA 2024, her story reflects the very essence of what EFWA stands for – a harmonious blend of creativity, innovation, and a profound commitment to sustainability. Join us as we unravel the chapters of Emily’s evolution, each page adorned with insights into her experiences, inspirations, and aspirations within the realm of sustainable fashion.

Can you take us back to when you first started with Eco Fashion Week Australia (EFWA) as a model in 2017? How did you get involved, and what was your initial experience like?

I was 15 when I went to a model casting for EFWA’s first show in Fremantle in 2017. It was an eye-opener into what fashion and design could be – this was my first runway experience and I felt part of a bigger purpose and felt at home. 

EFWA has a strong focus on sustainable fashion. How has being a part of this event influenced your perspective on fashion and sustainability?

Before EFWA I was aware of the effects of the fashion industry and its cost on the environment.  When I was introduced to EFWA and met Zuhal and other designers, hearing them talk about their practice and seeing their collections opened my eyes to how diverse sustainable fashion can be whilst being unique and fashionable.  I’ve really tried to embed this into my practice, viewing multiple aspects, not just what fabrics are used, but storytelling, design concepts, and how to present your collection.

As a young fashion design graduate, how has your journey with EFWA shaped your career aspirations and design philosophy?

The EFWA ethos has always been with me throughout my studies –  sustainability being the core of any of my decisions. There is an emphasis on having your own individual voice but also being a part of a team and a larger conversation. EFWA has a profound balance of that and has shaped how I balance that within my own design philosophy. 

What specific aspects of EFWA’s mission and values have resonated with you the most, and how have they inspired your work as a fashion designer?

Not being afraid to be non-traditional. Adapting and having the confidence to do so and be better, for the sake of our environment. 

EFWA has been known to provide a platform for emerging designers to showcase their talent. How has this opportunity impacted your growth and development as a designer?

It’s amazing to have this event in Australia. EFWA has always placed emphasis on emerging designers and I’ve seen that from the very start. EFWA gave me the courage and the dedication to start my growth as a designer. EFWA inspired me to focus my studies on fashion way back in high school where I made a garment from recycled materials as a canvas for my painting.  I showed this, my first piece, with EFWA at Dowerin Field Days. It gave me the confidence to say  ‘Yes I can actually do this’, and I applied to study a Bachelor of Design, majoring in Fashion at ECU.

Could you share a memorable moment or experience you’ve had during your time with EFWA that stands out as particularly inspiring or influential?

I remember after our show in 2019, we all got on the stage to celebrate the week-long event and everyone behind the scenes – models, designers, volunteers – the energy of the EFWA family was and is always so high!  So much support and love was on that stage that night – it still inspires me today. 

As the first designer for EFWA 2024, how does it feel to be a part of the event from both the modeling and now design perspectives?

Surreal! I feel like I’m growing alongside EFWA, and I’m so honoured to continue to be a part of it! 

Sustainability is at the core of EFWA’s ethos. How do you plan to incorporate sustainable practices and values into your designs for EFWA 2024?

Through my studies and time with EFWA, I believe the most fundamental way to start to view cloth is through meaningful storytelling –  to essentially make and wear with purpose. My inspiration for my collection is a reflection, a memory of my childhood. I revisit my memories as a child along the coast of the West.  Subtle imagery of shells, seaweed, and organic silhouettes alludes to a liminal space.

My garments are a ‘pod’ that carries these memories of childhood and are between time.  They envelop me and connect then and now- yet it is continuously moving, growing, transforming. Same with how I spend time with my garments – I manipulate them and enhance them – the act of devoree,  printing multiples of my imagery back over-dyed cloth, laser cutting intricate patterns, stitching over print, and stitching beads. All of these make me spend time with my garments, strengthening an act of habitus – my connection with cloth and my own collection.

What message or impact do you hope to convey through your designs at EFWA 2024, both in terms of fashion and sustainability?

A message being the making and consuming with purpose and the integrity to reuse and reimagine. That has always been an integral message with EFWA and applies to both fashion and sustainability.

As someone who started with EFWA as a young model and is now a designer for the event, what advice would you give to aspiring young designers who wish to make a positive impact in the fashion industry?

Think kindly and be brave! You have to be true to yourself in every aspect of this industry, keep your uniqueness, treat and respect fellow artists and resources, and don’t be afraid to be innovative. 

How do you see your future evolving within the sustainable fashion space, and how will your journey with EFWA continue to influence your path ahead?

Within the sustainable fashion space, always adapting and growing is fundamental but also staying true to your roots and your own story, to keep creating with purpose and not lose that. This is how the circular mind works, always revolving and morphing from one center point. To be a part of the EFWA family and see other designers work like this, and to learn and share with them is always going to continue to influence my path ahead. 

EFWA aims to inspire and promote young designers. What do you hope your involvement in EFWA will bring to the next generation of fashion enthusiasts and eco-conscious individuals?

I hope my involvement in EFWA as a designer, adds to the urgency for a change in the way we view fashion. I hope that the next generations see EFWA’s family and strong ethos living in the people involved and inspire them the way it inspired me from first being involved when I was 15. 

Click to learn more about Emily Craig and Eco Fashion Week Australia (EFWA).

TUAessence: A Tale of Sustainability, Crafted by Fernanda Lopes Lima

TUAessence: A Tale of Sustainability, Crafted by Fernanda Lopes Lima

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.

How do you envision your future?

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.

Nivi Murthy’s IKKIVI: Paving The Way For Sustainable Indian Fashion

Nivi Murthy’s IKKIVI: Paving The Way For Sustainable Indian Fashion

In a world where fashion is often synonymous with fast-paced trends and fleeting styles, there are passionate individuals who are reshaping the industry’s narrative. Meet Nivi Murthy, the visionary founder of IKKIVI, an online marketplace dedicated to sustainable and ethical Indian fashion. With a mission to provide a platform for talented designers who champion mindful practices, Nivi has transformed IKKIVI into a global destination that blends artistry, culture, and consciousness.

Amidst the bustling streets of the Indian fashion landscape, Nivi recognized the need for a space that showcased sustainable and ethical designs, amplifying the voices of those dedicated to making a positive impact. IKKIVI, the result of her unwavering commitment, has become a beacon of hope for designers and conscious consumers alike.

The birth of IKKIVI

Nivi’s journey began with a profound awakening when she watched the eye-opening documentary ‘The True Cost.’ The film shed light on the dark underbelly of the fashion industry, compelling her to take action and assume a greater responsibility. No longer content with being a mere platform, Nivi and her team at IKKIVI set out to raise awareness and actively contribute to the development of sustainable and ethical fashion.

Since its inception in 2015, IKKIVI has blossomed into a trusted marketplace, connecting conscious consumers with designers who embody the values of handcrafted excellence, use of natural and organic fabrics, fair trade practices, minimal waste, utilization of traditional techniques, and a commitment to vegan fashion. The platform has recently expanded and opened their headquarters in New York. With over 45 designers on board, IKKIVI is bridging the gap between the past and the present, fusing India’s rich cultural heritage with contemporary aesthetics.

In this exclusive interview, we delve into the inspiring story behind IKKIVI and gain insights from the visionary herself. Join us as we explore Nivi Murthy’s unwavering commitment to sustainable fashion, the challenges she has faced, and the remarkable strides she has made in creating a better, more ethical future for the Indian fashion industry.

What inspired you to come up with the idea of IKKIVI?

The richness and depth of the fashion industry in India along with the talented growing number of independent contemporary designers made me want to create awareness and bring these brands to international markets.

What does sustainability in fashion mean to you as a conscious entrepreneur?

Quality, care and use for a long period of time is what sustainability means to me in the fashion industry. 

IKKIVI supports more than 45 brands from India. What makes these brands stand out to be a part of IKKIVI?

Unique aesthetic, quality and their strong values.

Having run IKKIVI for more than half a decade, what do you think is the current state of conscious consumerism in comparison to the time when you had just started your journey with IKKIVI?

Yes, a lot has changed over the years. The concept of sustainability in fashion hadn’t yet reached enough people. Now, consumers are a lot more aware and are thinking twice about making purchasing decisions. We see Gen Z being more conscious with thrifting being at the helm of it all. We are seeing a lot more brands reconnecting and redefining their visions and wanting to make a change with the power they have as conscious brands. There is still a long way to go but we are headed in the right direction.  

From your point of view, what is the current situation of the fashion scene in India right now?

Everyone has their eyes on India, looks like. It’s a great time to be in the fashion industry and wanting to take Indian brands international. There is more recognition and awareness beyond the stereotypes which is exciting. The amalgamation of traditional crafts and techniques with modern/international aesthetics is so beautiful and I’m excited to see that through the brands both established and young.

India is a big name when it comes to the global garments industry. But we know that the fast fashion industry still does not treat the garment workers with the fair living wage and respect that they deserve for their work. What do you think as a conscious entrepreneur needs to change?

I really appreciate the work that Fashion Revolution does with their ‘Who Made Our Clothes’ campaign. I feel such movements will put these large brands under the spotlight and scrutiny forcing them to change systemically. It is not going to be overnight but consumer awareness will increase a demand for change along with changemakers at the forefront demanding this systemic change.

Does the climate crisis affect your business? If yes, then what measures are you taking to mitigate and adapt?

I think it affects us all. As a small business we are taking small steps individually as well as creating awareness through our platforms with our community. But as an ecommerce business, our biggest footprint is shipping and packaging and we are slowly working on it step by step. First was using packaging that has the least negative impact and now we are working on grouping shipments for our international orders so as to avoid sending them individually.

What are the challenges that you had to overcome while trying to turn your incredible idea into a business?

One of the biggest challenges is finding the balance between doing business for profit  and being a conscious business (and the decisions that go with it). Still something we are trying to work on.

Photo of Nivi Murthy, founder of IKKIVI, a sustainable Indian ethical fashion marketplace

As an entrepreneur, how do you deal with negative emotions like self-doubt, criticism, or burnout and keep yourself motivated?

A strong support system, podcasts and the innate desire to solve problems and tackle challenges.

What advice would you give to someone who is trying to become a green entrepreneur?

Take it a step at a time, there is no rush to have it all check marked the day you start. It all takes time to figure out. Start and slowly work through the aspects of being a green business. We are still a work in progress and I think progress should be given more importance and recognition.

How do you define success?

When you are able to define the way you spend your day and live it as fully as you want to

What’s your mantra for life?

Do more of what makes you happy and excited.

Learn more about IKKIVI or connect with them on Instagram.

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.

The Last Fighter: Championing Sustainable Fashion in the Film Industry with Debora Frosini

The Last Fighter: Championing Sustainable Fashion in the Film Industry with Debora Frosini

The film industry has a significant influence on popular culture and trends, including fashion. As concerns about the environmental impact of the fashion industry continue to grow, it is becoming increasingly important to bring sustainability into all aspects of fashion, including the film industry. Promoting sustainable fashion in the film industry can not only raise awareness about the importance of sustainable practices but also encourage viewers to make more conscious fashion choices. Moreover, this can inspire designers, filmmakers, and consumers alike to consider the impact of their choices on the planet and take steps towards a more sustainable future. We had the pleasure of taking an interview with Debora Frosini, a sustainable fashion designer who recently collaborated with the Tuscany actress Shari Fontani to bring sustainable fashion to the big screen.

Debora’s Journey of Introducing Sustainable Fashion in the Film Industry

Debora Frosini’s journey in fashion started after high school after working for various brands in the knitwear industry. However, it was her collaboration with a sustainable fashion brand in Florence that led her towards a more sustainable approach to fashion. In 2021, Frosini launched her own sustainable knitwear brand, Atelier Biologico, which is inspired by nature, tradition, and Tuscan craftsmanship. Her passion for sustainability and fashion led her to collaborate with Fontani for Alessandro Baccini’s latest film, ‘The Last Fighter’, which brings attention to the Syrian war and sustainability. Frosini’s work on the costumes for the film showcases her commitment to sustainable fashion.

Poster of the movie "The Last Fighter". Used in this article which is titled "The Last Fighter: Championing Sustainable Fashion in the Film Industry with Debora Frosini"

Designing costumes for a film sounds like a dream job. Tell us about your journey to get where you are today.

I grew up in a family where I was lucky enough to always see my grandmothers, aunts, and mom sewing or knitting. After high school, I started working with my mother in her knitwear workshop. During that time, we worked for different designers and brands, so I was able to learn a lot. Later, I spent over ten years collaborating with one of the first sustainable brands in Italy. The founder was an agronomist who taught me so much about the fashion industry and its impacts on the environment. During those years, we collaborated with schools, brands, and even with special events and I met plenty of enthusiastic people in the field. 

When I realized what was happening in the fashion industry and how destructive it had become for our planet, I was shocked. Since that moment, my life had totally changed and I couldn’t look at the world around me with the same eyes. It was during that time when I met the Tuscany-based actress and model Shari Fontani and we became friends.

She was very interested in sustainable fashion and we collaborated on different projects like an ‘ARTIVISM’ shooting for a competition launched by Fashion Revolution Italy. Although we weren’t selected, I believe that artivism has no winners or losers. Artivism is just an art form to complain, to reflect, to do something active.

When Shari was chosen as the co-protagonist in Alessandro Baccini‘s film, she asked me to dress her up for the movie. After learning about the theme of the film and the story, I decided to go for it because it could be a wonderful opportunity to bring sustainable fashion to the cinema world. Nobody talks about what happens behind a movie’s production, nobody thinks about the environmental impact of the heaps of costumes used, creating the setups, the makeup, the gadgets used for the promotion, the meals, and so on. Could you imagine a zero-impact film production? How wonderful it would be.

To me, my ‘masterpiece’ was the elegant long dress that Shari wore at the Venice Film Festival in 2019. I made it using certified organic undyed linen with my mom’s help who collaborates with me in our knitwear atelier. Can you believe that I had it in my mind before starting to make it?

So, all in all, my dream slowly came true as I got the opportunity to show the world that another kind of fashion is possible; a fashion with zero negative impact on the environment, a fashion that has elegant and simple designs that reflect the symbol of my atelier thanks to the small roses on it.

What were your inspirations for designing costumes for “The Last Fighter”?

Photo of of a scene from the Italian movie "The Last Fighter" featuring Actress Shari Fontani looking at the night sky
Scene from the movie “The Last Fighter” featuring Shari Fontani

To design and make the costumes of Shari Fontani in ‘The Last Fighter’ film, I was inspired by her character. She plays a young beautiful woman, who is a doctor and later becomes a mother-to-be. She wore clothes with simple timeless designs to spread an important message, which is – don’t follow trends, be your own trend. Be yourself and take care of your clothes. 

I think wearing clothes with simple designs is easier to match and re-wear. And choosing colors we love and not following trends help us to make the best use of our clothes, giving them longer lifespans.

What challenge(s) did you face while designing these costumes to bring sustainable fashion in the film industry?

The ‘challenge’ was to use fibers with the lowest environmental impact and make sure that no workers were exploited in the process. We made the costumes in the same place with our own hands, with the highest transparency. But being able to support the local handcrafting culture is a dreamy opportunity and I’m deeply grateful for this.

What inspired you to become a member of the Slow Fashion Movement Italia?

I’ve been a member of Slow Fashion Italia since November 2022, so very recently. I decided to join them because I love collaborating to educate people and being a part of a group that does that too was something exceptionally wonderful, especially because I had the opportunity to exchange ideas, opinions, and experiences with other members.

There are so many people in the world who are still either unaware or don’t want to believe in climate change – people who don’t take any interest in knowing who made their clothes and in what conditions, or anything about the fashion industry’s impact. So I think educating them about those things is important. And doing so with the help of a community can really make a difference.

Related: Conversation with Lena Hartog On Her Journey With Slow Fashion Movement

Tell us how you feel about working as a part of the team of award-winning filmmakers and producers like Alessandro Baccini and Domenico Costanzo?

To me, collaborating with Alessandro Baccini, the award-winning filmmaker and producer Domenico Costanzo along with actress Shari Fontani was a dreamy opportunity. I always loved movies and always hoped to be part of new projects in them in the future.

When I met them, the best thing I noticed about them was how much passion they put in their work. I couldn’t be more proud of this collaboration and a special thanks goes to all of the members of the movie cast.

Your friend, actress Shari Fontani rocked your beautiful pieces on the red carpets. Tell us how she feels about your work and slow fashion. 

When I met Shari for the very first time, she was really attracted to my work. She is someone who really understands the importance of slow fashion with a low impact on our planet. Since then, she has always been a great supporter and a beautiful model for my dresses. 

I think finding someone in the ‘stars system’ who pays so much attention to the environment is very important. There are lots of young people looking up to them as icons. So, I think when someone is popular, it’s their duty to set a good example. And Shari is doing a wonderful job at that.

Tell us about Atelier Biologico. How do you practice and promote slow fashion through your brand?

Atelier Biologico is my soul. It brings in its collections everything I learned and everything that I am. Every single piece is designed and thought to represent a message for future generations. Every single piece is born from a dream, an idea that later became real, slowly through the hands of two generations with the creativity and manuality of more.

Atelier Biologico was born almost 2 years ago after a long journey of spending a terrible time during the pandemic when I finally found the courage to start it off. My work started with deep research focused on yarn and how to work with it by having the lowest impact on the environment; humans and all creatures who live on our beautiful planet.

Atelier Biologico is a representative member of Florentine culture. In the past, we had so many people who worked with the loom, especially in Prato. Nowadays we are risking losing most of the authentic artisanal works in the name of profit. 

With my knitwear brand, I want to make clothes to measure, repair or modify yours. I usually make small capsule collections or unique pieces. I love sharing my work on socials, collaborating with organizations and schools, and participating in events because these are great opportunities for educating, ideas exchange and meeting other beautiful artists or conscious living promoters.

As a fashion designer and entrepreneur, how do you envision the future of the fashion industry?

I learned to live in the present so I don’t know what the future of the fashion industry will be. But I know what we can do today. We need to find a way to push strict laws about factors like ensuring workers’ rights, ethical supply chain processes for fibers, and the chemical dyes used in our clothing. But above all, we must start asking ourselves questions; and we need to stop thinking that someone else will save us. We are our own superheroes. If we all start taking small steps every day, I’m pretty sure we’ll see a big change in the world in a short time.

We just need to believe it.

What are your future plans?

I do and always will live in the present and follow my fate doing what I love and I’m glad for all the unexpected opportunities that life has given me so far.

Debora’s work of promoting sustainable fashion in the film industry surely adds a stepping stone towards a more sustainable world because it will not only encourage viewers to make more conscious fashion choices but also inspire aspiring designers, filmmakers, and consumers alike to consider the impact of their choices on the planet and take steps towards a more sustainable future.

Photographers: Danilo Cappabanca, Suyen Tommasi, Paolo Catucci and Francesco Pianigiani.

Find Debora Frosini and learn more about her work at Atelier Biologico here.

Conversation with Natalie on Dr Sylvia Earle Antarctic Climate Expedition 2023

Conversation with Natalie on Dr Sylvia Earle Antarctic Climate Expedition 2023

Natalie Chung, a young social entrepreneur, environmentalist, and sustainability leader from Hong Kong has been selected to represent her country at the Dr Sylvia Earle Antarctic Climate Expedition 2023. At only 18, Natalie co-founded her social enterprise, “V’air” back in 2015 to promote low-carbon local tourism, i.e. ecotourism as a means to mitigate climate change. As a remarkably impactful sustainability leader in Asia Pacific, she has been awarded the Tatler Gen.T List, Eco-Business Youth A-List, and was recognized by The Japan Times as a female climate activist driving change in Asia.

Now, as she prepares to represent her country at the Dr Sylvia Earle Antarctic Climate Expedition 2023, let’s take a closer look at how she practices sustainability in her regular lifestyle and how she plans on creating a long-term impact through the upcoming expedition.

Tell us about the expedition.

I will be going on the Dr Sylvia Earle Antarctic Climate Expedition in February 2023. The mission of the expedition is to formulate 23 net zero solutions to accelerate carbon neutrality by the year 2035. This is currently our ambitious goal and our central message is actually to highlight the role of the Ocean in climate change mitigation, adaptation, and resilience because we think the ocean is a big missing piece in the puzzle and a lot of people only focus on land-based solutions when it comes to climate change while in a lot of countries in Asia, we’re actually very vulnerable to sea level rise and ocean acidification, which are accelerated by climate change. So, hopefully this expedition will shed light on some of the ocean-based solutions and how the communities can develop solutions that are both innovative and able to help us transition to net zero.

On the expedition, there will be a mix of crew members and ambassadors from various backgrounds and disciplines. We’re hoping to generate some interdisciplinary discussions and solutions. I’m a climate activist myself, from Hong Kong and there are people from the UN Network, IUCN, professors, and researchers from different fields. There are also writers, artists, and of course, underwater photographers. We have two National Geographic underwater photographers, Jennifer Hayes and David Doubilet, who will be capturing some of the photographs that will be used later for our exhibition around the world.

So the expedition itself would be a nine-day voyage and for the first two days we will have a small conference at Ushuaia, Argentina to formulate the resolutions. And then the final day, we will also have a day in Punta Arenas, Chile to post a conference on the resolution and how to carry them out to action steps on the ground, and how all the participants in the expedition can bring back these solutions, back to their home countries to spread the news and see how to implement them in the community.

How does it feel to be a part of the expedition team of Dr Sylvia Earle, who was recognized as the First Hero of the Planet by Time Magazine?

I feel very star-struck because Dr Sylvia Earle was always a role model for me. What she’s done for ocean conservation and as one of the pioneers in space, and we call her “Her Deepness” instead of Her Highness, for how deep she has traveled down the sea. So I think it’s a very precious opportunity.  We did have some air time before, at virtual conferences. So, I once spoke with her and listened to her remark, which is absolutely inspiring.

And this time, what’s even more exciting is that the ship that we are boarding is also named after Dr Sylvia Earle. It is a new cruise ship for the expedition that is carbon-neutral. We will also be celebrating Dr Sylvia Earle’s work. So it’s very interesting. This ship will be on its first mission. But it will probably be Dr Sylvia Earle’s last expedition because she’s getting old.

So I think it will be a great platform and opportunity for a lot of youth and older generations to come together to form intergenerational climate solutions that will be inclusive and equitable for all. Because – I think the youngest on board would be eleven years old and the oldest would be like 90. So it’s a huge range and I’m very excited to be there.

But at the same time, I think, there is a huge responsibility for me to make full use of this, for example, by forming partnerships with different media outlets and especially with a focus on Asia, because most of the people on board, I would say, come from the Global North. And we need to make sure that the solutions are centered around the needs of indigenous people, and the underprivileged communities in global South and Southeast Asia as well. So, hopefully our discussion will be more inclusive by bringing in perspectives from Asia and the rest of the world.

How do you plan to add value to the expedition with your expertise in the areas of public education, corporate training, and media and communication?

My role in the expedition is the Key Opinion Ambassador. There are a total of around 30 of us and I think what differentiates us from the rest of the expeditions is that we are already doing monthly meetings on the resolution. So we’re kind of forming the backbone for the 23 goals that we will finalize on the expedition. Now we’re using the Delphi method. It’s like a social science methodology based on expert elicitation and literature review to try to find a consensus on what direction of solutions we are coming towards. So we’re having monthly meetings on these to formulate the expedition goals.

And then for me, I’m the only Hong Kong representative for this entire expedition. So I think I will play the role of bringing in some of the localized knowledge and also solutions back to Hong Kong, given that we have quite rich financial resources that we could mobilize and some of the corporate partners in Hong Kong that would be able to do something at scale. So hopefully after the expedition, I could use the findings to convince some of the major business leaders and political leaders here to implement solutions. That could not just benefit Hong Kong but also the rest of the world. For example, Hong Kong has a climate-resilient infrastructure, and how we can export these technologies and skills to the rest of the world and showcase our best practices. So I think I would ask this bridge throughout this expedition to amplify the impact. 

How can media play an important role to raise awareness and help overcome the climate crisis by reaching the Net Zero Target by 2035?

I think the media can take a role in the whole communication strategy of the expedition. We want to focus on people who are very alarmed and concerned about climate change, people who already have some knowledge and want to act against climate change but they don’t know how or don’t know the full set of solutions yet. So I think for us as our focus is on Ocean, and the role of the Ocean, I think the media could help shape the narrative for – why is it so important to represent Ocean, the media can help to create the whole momentum around ocean which is so crucial for climate action, adaptations, resilient and livelihood, and how we can tie in the Antarctic narratives with some of the phenomena, we see in Asia. Because I think the Antarctic is at the forefront of climate change, they are warming at an alarming speed. They’ve already warmed three degrees celsius since I think they’re like pre-industrial age. So I think we can create/ consider the Antarctic as a model of what the future would look like if we continue this warming truck and then use the power of the media to paint that scenario. So that we can all feel the sense of urgency, at the same time the power to act. Because we know that the ocean is immense and there are so many potential solutions in the ocean that we have not yet fully explored. 

You’re the co-founder of V’air. Tell us about the platform.

So we started up V’air back in 2015 as an organization to promote low-carbon, local tourism. The reason is just that, we figured that almost 20% of Hong Kong people’s per capita carbon emissions come from flying overseas. So, during pre-covid times, we used to fly a lot of short trips to Japan, Korea, Taiwan just for for weekend getaways. This issue was kind of not that elevated back in 2015 like now when most people are focusing on some of the energy-saving measures for climate change. So, I wanted to bring this back to the table, like – if there was an elephant in the room, when people said, “Oh I’m not using a plastic bottle but I’m flying like 10 times a year.” So I want to correct this by showing people the potential of local tourism – it’s actually eco-tourism and geological tourism. That’s how we started. And we have a web platform to showcase these attractions in Hong Kong. We also published a book showcasing 39 roots in rural and urban areas, so the book is like a guide to travel around locally. We also organized eco-tours for schools and corporations – introducing them to different tree species, special endemic insects, and mammal species in Hong Kong as a form of nature education. We realized that quite a lot of people enjoy hiking a lot, but they wouldn’t pay attention to the trees or they would not pay attention to the story behind the trail. So we think there’s immense value in doing that – kind of sparking that interest and curiosity in their surroundings so that they don’t always need to go abroad in order to find excitement or find a thrill.

How are you expecting to integrate your work at V’air into this Expedition?

I was actually planning, after the expedition, we would create more tours around marine protected areas. Because one of the preliminary resolutions that we have touched on in our current discussions, one of the goals would be enhancing marine protected areas globally. In Hong Kong at least 3% of the ocean is protected but we want to raise that to 10% which is the global standard. We could also be hosting more ocean-themed eco-tours. Because currently, we have a lot of land-based tours like terrestrial country parks, and some of the rock formations but not so much in the sea or near the shore. So that’s what I’m planning to do.

Also, another way to integrate is, how we’re training the next generation of young leaders. So in Hong Kong, we have our internship and fellowship program. So, in the past few years, we have already trained over 100 youths and sparked an interest in sustainability and climate advocacy. I’m hoping through the expedition, I will be able to learn from some of the other famous educators on board and see how we can make or copy our existing model elsewhere, like in other Asian countries or how we can collaborate with different partners to extend our impact.

Another thing I would like to try is to expand to other regions. We tried to expand to Singapore before but there was a bit of difficulty and also Covid restrictions. So now we’re looking into mainland China opportunities so that our target group could be bigger. I guess it’s not enough for the Hong Kong people to stay in Hong Kong. Maybe we need to give them more options, for example, taking high-speed trains from China to Russia, which is also a low-carbon mode of tourism. There’s this Siberian train track, so maybe that could be an option, also low-carbon. Because it feels very restrictive to have everyone stay here. We want to keep the experience educational but also entertaining. So we’re looking at some of the high-speed rails as travel options. And then, you can also apply to other places like India. I guess in India, there are lots of ecological hotspots that local people may not pay much attention to. So simply encouraging more people to travel, from South India to North India, could reduce outbound travel and harm to the planet.

You promote eco-tourism through V’air. How is this expedition aiming to promote eco-tourism?

I have actually had a lot of self-reflection on whether I should join the expedition because I was wondering if what I’m doing – like joining the expedition, could cover my carbon footprint. So, first of all, we will be offsetting the whole expedition ensuring all the operations are as low carbon as possible, for example, we have vegan meals on this ship and we’re ditching single-use plastic, etc. Another important thing is, how we are shaping the narrative to ensure that it’s not promoting exploitative tourism to the Antarctic. Because people have previously treated it as a leisure option and not just for research purposes, a lot of people go there just to see the penguins, like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So, we actually do not especially encourage that, but then we don’t want to be too ironic about how we have the privilege to go but other people don’t. So I think we are planning to work on a more immersive educational experience, such as, we are introducing VR so that we can take some VR video clips for people in different places to experience it without having to travel there. And I guess the future of tourism, even eco-tourism would be more of a hybrid reality experience – like how we are integrating some tech elements into the tourist experience and using different senses to feel like having meditation and wellness integrated. Therefore I think, it is important to have that narrative or have that note in mind that we are a very privileged group of people who are able to go there firsthand. And how we are translating these first-hand experiences into something valuable for people to experience second-hand would be the key and the goal for us. 

Why do you think raising awareness, especially among young people is necessary?

I think young people play a crucial role in shaping the future because eventually, we are the ones who will be the steward of the planet in the future. So what we are deciding now and what we are proposing now will potentially shape how we live and how habitable the planet becomes. So I think it is definitely important to hear and listen and use voice in policy making and have a system that can institutionalize our thoughts into actual policy and decision-making processes instead of a tokenized form of youth participation.

And in this case, I think for the expedition we are hoping to come up with the 23 high-level goals, but eventually, we want to come up with action steps beneath the goals. So, for example, one of the goals could be promoting less consumption of seafood. Because it promotes sustainable fisheries and also protects ocean resources.

And then on action steps, we can translate it to youth by organizing some youth campaigns, or incorporating this into part of the syllabus so that they can understand at a young age what’s the issue with consuming too much seafood and how we can select wisely what to eat. I think incorporating that into the educational curriculum is the best way to ensure that we know from a young age, what is the right action to take for a planet that we would like to see in the future. Also, another thing is how culture and values are created and are kind of formulated at a young age – like once you are structuring your value system, it’s important to have that intervention on what’s the most ideal or sustainable way of living. So I think that’s also why I really think it’s important to focus on nature education. Because when you bring people up to nature, they get to understand why it’s so important to conserve it rather than educate them afterward to pick up their trash, to not do this and not do that. So I think building that kind of intrinsic human nature relationship from a young age is crucial as part of our youth development training for climate action.

We’ve noticed that you’re a keen follower of sustainable fashion. How did that journey start? 

Actually, I haven’t really purchased clothes since I was young. Because my mother works as a fashion manufacturer and she always has a lot of samples and some of the defective items that she would just bring home and we’d just wear them. I guess her job experience shows me how disruptive the fashion industry is, given that they’re throwing away so many clothes she tries to bring as many as possible back home, but then the rest will still be thrown away. And so, from a young age, I realized this problem of fast fashion and what we can do as individuals to counter it. I was lucky enough that I didn’t have to buy anything because my mother would give it to me. But now, as I grow older, I still need to shop on my own. So, then I will opt for thrifting second-hand clothes. I think I kind of started to experience the joy of thrifting when I was in the United States for exchange studies and saw a lot of thrift shops. In Hong Kong, it’s not as common to find these thrift shops, as most of the thrift shops are relatively low-end – very, very cheap fashion or fake items. So, it wasn’t very encouraging to go there. But then, a few years ago, I came across a new foundation in Hong Kong called Redress and I really appreciate their work. It’s run by 3 to 5 people – a small team but they’re collecting a lot of relatively higher quality secondhand clothes, and then they sell them. They rent a space in an A-grade office building and host a Second-hand Gala for everyone to buy these clothes at a cheaper price. I’ve become a fan of that Gala and I really appreciate how this is becoming a trendy thing to do – to wear secondhand items. I hope this will continue in the future. 

I guess the most important thing is to destigmatize wearing second-hand. Because when I go to more high-end places and I tell people that I’m wearing second-hand, they might still think lowly of me. I think we just need to detach the idea of wearing second-hand from being cheap because it’s actually regenerative and positive for the planet. So I’m actively trying to shape this narrative by being proud of wearing second-hand and also encouraging more of my friends to change into this new lifestyle.

Do you go through eco-anxiety? If you do, how do you deal with it?

I guess for me, I haven’t really experienced true eco-anxiety, unlike some of my friends. I guess it’s because I’m living in a relatively privileged city, so I don’t feel the immediate impact of climate change on our community. I do feel sad seeing all these negative things happening around the world. We need to be even stronger and even more confident in trying to solve it from the perspective of mitigation to adaptation. I think seeing all these extreme events, my attention is shifting more from the mitigation side to the adaptation side, because I think, for mitigation, it kind of seems like some of the solutions are natural because there are financial benefits to do so, like people are investing in renewables because it just makes sense. But for adaptation, it’s always about loss and damage, it’s always about compensation. There’s no natural motivation to push adaptation projects to be realized. So, personally, although I haven’t felt eco-anxiety, I just feel a stronger urge to work on climate adaptation and see what we can do to make these impoverished communities live better and even for resilience – like how do we build resilience in that infrastructure in community networks. So that we can prevent damage to them when future events hit. 

Tell us about a practice(s) in your culture that’s actually very sustainable and good for the planet. 

I guess it’s the rice dumplings, like, for Dragon Boat Festival, we will wrap rice with banana leaves and then we tie it with a string made from seagrass. So it’s a natural way of making our delicacies. 

How do you practice sustainability in your regular lifestyle?

I think I’m very cautious of what I do and what I admit, for example, for travel, I would try to aggregate my tours as far as possible. Then I wouldn’t need to travel too many times a year, even for important events. Then, of course, I don’t use any single-use plastic, so I never buy drinks outside. I would always only drink water most of the time. Or, maybe if I really need, I get aluminum canned drinks so we can recycle the cans. For fashion, as I mentioned before, I always follow slow fashion, and I even buy my furniture and other items from second-hand marketplaces. For makeup, I use vegan and cruelty-free brands. I’m a pescetarian and I’m moving toward becoming a vegetarian or vegan, but I’m still struggling with some of the nutritional requirements for myself. So I guess, my advice would be to do what you’re best at and to pursue that. 

I’ve also learned over the years to not stigmatize people. Like, I used to discriminate against everyone who used plastic bottled water but then when you think about it, maybe they never take a flight, or maybe they’re very sustainable with their diets. So I think everyone can play that part and support others because everyone doing things, even if it’s something little – would mean a lot to the whole world.

What do you do for fun?

I love hiking because it is a good way to connect with nature and also with the local villages, especially going to the snack shops selling local food, like tea cakes along hiking trails. 

Who is your idol?

I was actually inspired back in primary school when I did a project on climate change and we interviewed a polar explorer called Dr Rebecca Lee. She’s the first woman in the world who has traveled to the North Pole, the South Pole, and Mount Everest. So she’s my absolute idol. 

And now I am very honored to be able to go on this expedition and hopefully I can bring as much impact to the world as she did because she inspired me just by having one interview. And I hope that I can also speak to someone and inspire them to be an advocate for the climate.

What’s your mantra for life?

I think it’s that – change starts with ordinary people doing extraordinary things. I always think that change doesn’t need to start with something very grand but just as my idea would evolve into something that is material if you work hard enough and there’ll be people supporting you along the way. So when I first started V’air, it was completely out of the blue – we had just joined a competition and had this idea and then we decided to continue it – just because we really believed in the mission. And then we met quite a few important mentors along the way, who advised us to keep going and introduced us to business partners so that we could grow and scale up till today. So, I think, we need to believe in ourselves and our capability to do something bigger than ourselves. 

How can people join you in the climate movement? 

I think the best way is to just reach out to me if you’re interested in starting a regional chapter of Vair, like just the same idea of promoting local tourism in your locality. And we can share some resources with you to start the organization in your country or city and even with some startup funding that we’re able to raise here in Hong Kong. So if you want to do something in Bangladesh, for instance, and you’re looking for somewhere to start, we can potentially give you some grants to start it locally so that we can expand our impact. 

For other things, you can stay tuned with my social media and I’ll be posting some of the channels through which other people can participate in the Antarctic Climate Expedition. Because I think during and after the expedition, we’re planning some idea co-creation rounds where we’ll be doing virtual webinars and brainstorming sessions that everyone can join in forming part of the resolutions for Net Zero and potentially some of the submissions we make to the UN and National governments.

Your Guide to a Career in Sustainable Fashion

Your Guide to a Career in Sustainable Fashion

It is evident with the rising climate crisis that we are slowly and inevitably turning to sustainability and greener practices. Businesses are certainly aware of this, but when it comes to the fashion industry, (one of the largest polluters in the world), there is a growing demand for environmental protection and conservation, a movement that has now reached a fever pitch.

Basically, it is no longer enough for fashion designers to just make beautiful outfits. With the increasing number of conscious consumers around the world, the industry is grappling with questions about sustainability. This has enabled sustainable fashion brands to finally get the exposure they deserve and also led other brands to start practicing sustainability (those that are not still greenwashing us, of course). Basically, new green career opportunities are now on the rise within the fashion industry, providing us the opportunity to make actual impacts while focusing on our careers in fashion.

Fernanda Lopes Lima, Ethical Fashion Designer at TUAessence says, “Aiming for a Sustainable Fashion is the only way to make Fashion today if we want to think of a future. Therefore, the possibilities are endless. Those brands not focusing on social and environmental matters are doomed to fail very quickly, I believe.”

So what does it take to start a career in Sustainable Fashion? Let’s get started:

1. Identify your sector: 

Start with identifying what you want to do. Knowing exactly which areas you want to work with will surely make your journey easier because then you can just focus on the knowledge, academic degrees, and skillset required for your preferred role.  

Not sure what’s in store?

When it comes to sustainable and ethical jobs, there are a plethora of options available, some of which are linked to the fabric materials and design, others to supply chain management and ethical sourcing, and others are connected to the corporate social responsibility aspect of these businesses. Here are some examples for you (only some because there is so much more!).

As I mentioned before, these are just a very few examples. There are so many more exciting roles that the sustainable fashion industry can offer. By the end of this article, you will have plenty of resources to help you find out more about roles within the industry and relevant opportunities.

2. Educate Yourself:

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

To be able to thrive in the sustainable fashion industry, you will need to take out some time to educate yourself on topics like climate change, sustainability, renewable energy, circular economy, climate justice, sustainable fashion, worker health and safety, gender equity, etc.

For those wanting to start now, my advice is: EDUCATION! Be curious, wonder, ask questions, study, dig deeper and learn from brands who are truly committed to doing a Conscious Fashion.

Fernanda Lopes Lima, Ethical Fashion Designer at TUAessence

Now, of course, for each field of work, you will need a specific set of skills along with theoretical and practical knowledge. Note that if you already have a degree but you don’t think it is relevant to the sustainable fashion sector, you might be wrong. The industry offers all sorts of roles and your degree in Business, Computer science, Engineering, Arts, Development, or even Social Sciences can still help. Yes, your degree is not wasted – well, unless you don’t intend to work within the field anymore. 

So basically, if you already have a degree that you want to utilize, you only have to make the effort to educate yourself and sharpen your knowledge around the sustainable fashion industry, climate change, sustainability in general, renewable energy, circular economy, climate justice, worker health and safety, gender equity, etc (if your degree did not already cover these sectors). For this, you don’t necessarily need to spend a fortune. There are plenty of free resources out there for you. 

FutureLearn provides amazing courses on pretty much everything from Sustainable Fashion to the SDGs to help you get a solid concept idea. Apart from being super flexible, their courses are delivered by experts in these fields from world-class universities and organizations. You can access these certified courses on FutureLearn

And if you are looking for some free resources to learn about fashion and sustainability, you should definitely check out the list below:

If you’re looking to invest in a degree instead, there are a plethora of options out there for you. As for specific degrees or courses to take to pursue a career in sustainable fashion, there’s no “one size fits all” formula. Academic institutions around the world offer various programs that can help you not only get your knowledge and skills sharpened but also enable you to create a strong network of people within your area of passion. 

3. Get Involved: 

Photo by Anna Shvets

Get yourself out there, talk about your passion, meet like-minded people, and make friends who share similar beliefs with you – all while carving your way into a smooth career in sustainability. Here’s what I mean by getting involved: 

Join local or online events: You can also join relevant workshops, seminars, and other relevant events happening around you or online. There are gazillions of these happening right now, so why not join one? Not only it’s an easy way to learn more about your sector from experts but also an incredible networking opportunity. Who knows? Maybe you will find a mentor or might even make some really cool friends who share your passion. You can follow these useful platforms that regularly organize workshops, campaigns, and relevant events that you can participate in :

Volunteer your time: Get involved in sustainable activities around you. You can start by looking for volunteer opportunities in the sustainability sector within and outside your community. These can include activities like plogging, planting trees, marine conservation, beach cleanups, community gardening, wildlife rescue and so much more!

Here are some useful links where you can find out more about volunteering opportunities locally and abroad:

  • The United Nations Volunteers – UNV program offers a plethora of volunteerism programs worldwide.
  • Idealist.org is a non-profit organization with plenty of volunteer opportunities to choose from based on your location and interests.
  • Volunteer World is one of the most trusted platforms for people around the world looking for opportunities to volunteer abroad.
  • Volunteer FDIP is another great volunteer abroad organization program that offers volunteer opportunities in over 16 countries around the world.
  • Fuze Ecoteer also offers to connect you with various kinds of sustainable volunteer opportunities around the world.
  • Habitat for Humanity offers many green building-related projects in various countries around the world. 
  • Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is a wonderful space for you if you want to trade your time and work for rooms and boards in one of many countries around the world under the WWOOF network.
  • The Student Conservation Association is a great platform if you live in the United States and are looking for local volunteering opportunities, an internship, or even a seasonal job in a national park around you.
  • Friends of the Urban Forest is also based in the United States in San Fransico and they seek local volunteers to help with tree plantation projects. 

Get some field experience: Many of these platforms above also offer wonderful internship programs around sustainability that might interest you. By joining an internship program relevant to your sector, you get some actual field experience before you apply for your dream job. Subscribe to our green opportunities newsletter to get updates on relevant internship opportunities in the sustainable fashion industry. You can also follow Green Jobs Board founded by Brown Girl Green as she and her team share green opportunities regularly. LinkedIn is also a great and easy way to find opportunities like these.

Pro tip: If you’re already involved in a company that does not really practice sustainability, you can take that opportunity to build sustainable initiatives within your company or organization. This really adds as an experience if you can manage your supervisors to get on board. This could be something as simple as organizing and leading a community gardening project or maybe a weekly/monthly plogging or beach clean-up activity with your co-workers.

4. Connect and engage: 

Start talking about your passion with like-minded people, remember, the goal is to build relationships, not just connections. Get active on your social media, and share your experiences, learnings, and thoughts about all these volunteer events, workshops, and seminars. Talk about why you care about sustainability in fashion so much and share relevant studies to back yourself up. 

Follow and interact: There are so many prominent communities and organizations working hard to bring sustainability in fashion in various ways from advocating for the rights of garment workers around the world to promoting awareness on the environmental impacts of fashion. Follow them on Instagram to learn and interact with them. Many of these platforms like the Slow Fashion Movement and Remake also offer ambassador programs where they encourage inspired individuals who are passionate about sustainability in fashion to become one of them enabling them to actively participate in and organize relevant campaigns and events. Here are some of the best online platforms and communities that you can follow:

Gear up: Now is the time for you to start getting active on LinkedIn. Establish your credibility by updating your experiences, educational background, and relevant courses on your profile, and make an effort to really brush it up to make it professional. Remember, you have got one chance to make a good impression, so you need to make it count by crafting a relevant compelling story about who you are and what you do and incorporating that into your LinkedIn profile. Once that’s done, find relevant peers, industry experts, and professionals to follow. Start connecting and actively engaging with people and communities who can introduce you to opportunities in the industry. Make sure to utilize the networks you have built through all those workshops, seminars, and volunteer programs.

5. Find job opportunities and start applying: 

Photo by Marten Newhall

Now that you have the knowledge, experience, and network, you’re ready to apply for your dream job. Start with making a great resume that stands out. Here’s how:

  • Highlight your skills and experiences, along with your degree of expertise in a visual and easy-to-read style.
  • Keep it simple and relevant, not too cluttered
  • Make sure to focus on your extracurricular activities. Yes, these play a huge role.
  • Ensure that your resume/CV visually stands out, or is nice to look at. 

Once that’s ready, you are set to apply for your dream job. You can find ethical companies with relevant opportunities on LinkedIn just by putting your keywords on the job board. As you’re already following your dream platforms on social media and LinkedIn, you will automatically know when there are new opportunities. Apart from that, you can also keep an eye on our green opportunities section to stay updated on current and upcoming relevant opportunities in sustainability.

6. Be patient and persistent:

It might take some time for you to hear back from employers, especially in the current times. Know that it’s completely okay and do not let that discourage you. Feel confident to follow up with the hiring managers with your specific queries like what the timeline is like for the position. Remember to always maintain a humble and positive attitude.

Bonus: Some extra useful resources for you:

1. Newsletters you can sign up to: 

To help you learn and stay updated:

To help you find career opportunities:

2. Podcasts you can listen to:

3. Eco advocates, greenfluencers, and journalists to follow:

4. Books to read:

  • Loved Clothes Last by Orsola de Castro
  • Wardrobe Crisis: How We Went From Sunday Best To Fast Fashion by Clare Press
  • The Conscious Closet: The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good  by Elizabeth Cline
  • How To Break Up With Fast Fashion Notebook: A Guilt-Free Guide to Changing the Way You Shop, for Good  by Lauren Bravo
  • Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion by Tansy Hoskins
  • Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale by Adam Minter

Got more questions? Just reach out to us on Instagram or send us an email.

Wishing you good luck on your journey, cheers!

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