— EVELYN MORA
''We aim for 100 per cent sustainability and we think it's possible. It's still too expensive… there's still work to do but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel'' — Evelyn Mora, Founder, Helsinki Fashion Week.
Fashion is preparing for a sustainable future and we now have fashion weeks dedicated solely to ethical fashion. Helsinki Fashion Week, the first- ever sustainable fashion week on the world fashion map, stands for innovation, development and excellence in design; above all, circular economy, zero waste, animal rights and transparency. In conversation with Evelyn Mora who founded Helsinki Fashion Week set in an Eco-Village, at the age of twenty- two.
Evelyn, you have a background in art and photography. What inspired you to advocate sustainable fashion? Was there a moment or incident when you began reflecting on it? Do take us through your personal journey.
Focusing solely on sustainability was a strategic decision for me back in 2015. We needed an 'identity' for Helsinki Fashion Week and back in the day sustainability was a hippie thing to do. We adapted the values and scaled them into an international platform in order to have a larger ethical impact worldwide and inspire others to follow. Helsinki Fashion Week is an experimental platform where we test theories in practice, we measure and analyse them; it's all about collaboration. We apply research and we gather information. All this, to share and scale sustainability and our results to the public — with focus on young generations as well as public and private sectors. We help sustainable companies and initiatives to grow and scale. That's why we never wanted to label ourselves as 'sustainable' — it's not about owning a title; that is not how we measure success. Impact matters. Therefore we share all our content and information with everybody, including platforms like fashion weeks and initiatives around the world; in the Nordics, Stockholm or Copenhagen, for example. We're not limited geographically and our vision is to get everybody to start acting on sustainable goals. The designers, as individuals, must be curious and have an innovative mindset. It's inspiring to give these people a platform because they present something extraordinary. People from different cultural backgrounds share this mindset but have different techniques of applying it to their body of work.
Addressing the environmental impact of Fashion industry is a gargantuan task that addresses sustainable practices. Evelyn, as someone who spearheads a sustainable fashion week, what advice would you share with both design students and fashion designers on decreasing waste with mindful design?
My advice is to dream, fantasise, imagine. Plan something extraordinary, something positive and impactful, something that would solve a problem or two. Always try to bring something better to the game. Because the fashion industry, as we know it, is dying. It's a new time and an open global playground so make the most of it. Also, only work for and with people with integrity, people you can trust and people who inspire. Don't forget that mutual respect and honesty are non-negotiable qualities.
What is the easiest route to go from the linear 'take-make-waste' to circular ‘take-make-take-make’?
Choose your materials wisely and keep in mind that you have to focus on the end of life process of the supply-chain. Remember that circular fashion is a concept; if you have better methods and ways, then don't be afraid to test them and share information with others. It's about trial and error. Maybe your way could be a better solution. Have faith in your own power and ability.
Many believe that it is up to the next generation of designers to create fashion in a more sustainable way. But do students have role models at the moment? If so, who are the key players in sustainable Fashion?
Great question. I'm personally against idolisation. I have few role models but they are outside of the fashion industry. The best role model for you is actually yourself. You should live and act to impress yourself, not others. So, again, I would say that we have so much power as individuals, we are all unique. It is time we recognise that and stop looking for an others to help us be the best version of ourselves. We can find our best selves from within us; we don't need others for that. BUT collaboration is vital with likeminded people. Inspire and get inspired.
For many, investing in ethical Fashion and avoiding the more affordable fast fashion isn't financially viable. Is that a fair argument?
Yes, it is fair; unfortunately our economic system is dying. We have valued our products wrongly and that has lead to over- consumption. We can be conscious about it and come up with alternatives. We can swap with friends, for example. This could be something that could work in India. I know that culturally secondhand can seem 'scary' but Gen Z will begin changing that, and if not, the Alpha generation will eventually do it. Social media has made our younger generations speak the same 'social language'. They understand the philosophy behind secondhand and will begin using it because it makes sense. I think it will start between friends and smaller groups before it scales peer to peer.
What would be your advice to those of us who want to shop more responsibly or build a ethical wardrobe?
Plan in advance, do your research, ask a lot of questions, be creative and treat your clothes with care and respect.
In your perspective, what is Fashion media's role in advocating the global sustainability dialogue? Are they celebrating the movement that is transforming Fashion DNA or are they still in a time warp of 'trends'?
I think media has a VITAL role in tackling the climate change. It informs the masses so the information has to be true and not compromised for commercial success. Unfortunately, we give too much power to editors because there are some who simply don't see that with their power comes incredible responsibility. And, sometimes, it's compromised for light reasons. So, don't believe everything you read and do your own Research. We need more gadgets that will tell us the quality of news, and if it's true or not. There are interesting start-ups using AI to identify the truth of the content.
Lastly, what is the revolution you are hoping for in Fashion?
I think the true fashion revolution is one where we put a stop to the snob, hate, greed, jealousy and competition culture and instead aim to be GOOD PEOPLE. HONEST, FAIR, GOOD. Respect one another and our environment.