Last week, Swedish fashion giant H&M launched their 2018 Conscious Exclusive collection. Started as a red carpet collection in 2012, it has since grown to become a platform for the fashion retailer to showcase its latest advances in sustainable fabrics that it uses in its collections. With the aim of using 100% recycled or other sustainably sourced materials in its products by 2030, H&M is looking to inspire and drive conversation around sustainability in fashion and in that spirit, we talked to three influential women in Singapore on their personal approach to the topic, the individuals that inspire them, and practical tips that they have to make their lifestyle more environmentally friendly.
Let’s just start with what sustainability means to you. Why do you think it is so important now?
I think sustainability is important to me because the world is changing and people are a lot more aware of the problems that we face. We know that the way that we are consuming—buying things, using things, throwing things—is just not sustainable for the environment. Beyond that, I think if we keep doing this, it’s going to be irreversible, and the next generation is really going to suffer, so it’s important that we realize this now and actively try and do something.
Did you have a personal tipping point when you realized you had to start making a conscious effort to start saving the environment?
I think the one time I realised I had to start changing the way I consume, there was a lecture in school on the most wasteful industries in the world, and I realised that fashion always comes out on top. Recognising the impact I had on the environment just with my clothing consumption, I was appalled, it was disgusting. I wish someone had talked to be about this when I was younger, because now I do really appreciate craftsmanship. I do like the beauty that not everything is the same, and you can recycle and make things new again by changing the way it looks, changing the original purpose of the clothing, and that changes the journey of my garment. That adds value to me.
What else can people do to include more environmental consciousness into their lives?
There are a lot of very knowledgeable interesting individuals out there who make it their life goal to be sustainable, and you don’t have to adopt their lifestyle wholesale, just take some of their practices and see how they reduce their cost. People always have the impression that, oh, organic this and organic that, sustainable this, immediately makes something more expensive which is not true.
On that point, so which individuals do you look to for inspiration?
I look at people with not just sustainability, but also social impact. So Raven and Lily is one of my favourite brands, they use fair trade and they use recyclable materials. I also really like Trash is for Tossers, her name is Lauren Singer, and there’s a viral video that came out where she had four years of trash, compacted into a small little box. She has a lot of interesting projects and information on how she saves money and how she reduces things, but that is a very extreme case.
Rebecca’s favourite pieces
Hey Charlotte, what does sustainability mean to you? Why is it so important today?
I think when you hear the word sustainability, people always think it’s a far away thing that’s really unapproachable, but it’s actually a necessity. I feel like, if we can’t even take care of our basic needs on Earth—which is having clean water, unpolluted air and a land and sea that’s actually habitable—how are we actually going to continue living forward? So in short, don’t ignore it, it’s not a first world problem!
Did you have a personal tipping point when you realised you had to start making a conscious effort to start saving the environment?
In 2006, I was really lucky to attend Al Gore’s book launch for An Inconvenient Truth, and his video launch. It made me really understand climate change as a serious threat to our livelihood, and we really have to act to be able to keep our planet going. The tipping point really came from Al Gore: Watching him speak, reading the book, and watching the video, and I shared what I learned with my dad and he was really profoundly impacted by it, that he’s now in sustainable packaging, so he’s really into sustainability as well.
What do you personally do to include more environmental consciousness into your life?
Food packaging is a really big thing that I dislike. I hate seeing Styrofoam and plastic cups, so I would prefer bring my own cup if I have a cup of coffee, or just saying no to plastic bags. I always bring my own recycle bag.
Earlier, you mentioned Al Gore as a huge inspiration for your sustainability journey. Which other individuals inspire you?
Actually, a friend of mine, Beatrice Ng, she’s a Central Saint Martins alumni from London and has since started her own eponymous brand. She’s a huge advocate for sustainability, with a product-based approach. She really lives the lifestyle. She’s vegan and she genuinely lives a sustainable life—not using plastic, using her own coffee cup—and after speaking to her over coffee a few weeks ago, my perspective was completely transformed. Her own new shoe collection uses upcycled rubber, charcoal and bamboo to reduce waste and that inspired me to change the way that I sourced things in my own company as well.
Charlotte’s favourite pieces
Related article: Backstage with BAZAAR: H&M Studio Spring/Summer 2018
Model, FLY Entertainment artiste and Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme
Why do you think sustainability is so important today, Nadya?
If we just start by looking at the word ‘sustainable’, we should be able to see its origins in being able to sustain something. Currently humanity is consuming way past the Earth’s ability to provide. But we are in a time of great change and increased awareness and it’s critical that we use this time and the technology we are developing to work towards easing some of the strains this planet is facing. Education and follow up action are key.
Fashion is facing its own turning point in terms of sustainability right now—what are you excited to see more of in the coming years in the industry?
I would love to see more support of local designers from around the region and big international brands stepping up to the plate to overhaul their production and supply chain. If consumers are more educated and have more options I have no doubt that they would choose the more responsible option.
What else can people do right now to include more environmental consciousness into their lives? How do you do your part for the environment?
Really the key is to educate oneself to the realities of the world beyond our own little bubble to get a clearer understanding of the impact of our choices. As a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme, my role is to help bring more awareness to issues around pollution, clean seas and species protection. I spend at least half of my time working on these causes and will continue to find ways to bring the very clear messages of science to mainstream audiences.
Who are your favourite individuals whose values inspire you?
So many! A few of my favourites are Lewis Pugh, Albert Lin, The Bye Bye Plastic Bags Team, Jane Goodall, Ian Singleton, Dr Tammie Matson, Andy Ridley, Elora Hardy and her team of Bamboo Architects, Green School Students.