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Fashion

Shanghai and the Future of Fur Free Fashion

A few months back, something very special arrived in my inbox. It was an email from a lady named Kylie, and she was reaching out to me on behalf of an organisation called ACTAsia. As I investigated, I discovered that they are a not-for-profit who run education programmes focusing on animal welfare, aimed at children, consumers, and professionals. My interest was instantly sparked as I read about the work they were doing in the sustainable fashion space, and how they were putting so much heart and energy into promoting fur free fashion in China.

They weren’t just educators, but also activists and researchers. They’d already had major success in their veterinary teaching programs and the work they had done with children in rural parts of China was inspiring. They were now organising a fashion event in Shanghai, bringing together speakers from all over the globe to participate in a forum and talk about the future of sustainable fashion and why we should all be going fur free.

And I was invited.

There was something in my gut that told me I needed to be part of this, even though I had sworn off any more travel this year (I was still recovering from my time studying in Milan and flouncing around Europe over Christmas). So, rather impulsively, I booked two tickets to Shanghai – one for me and one for my fiancé Jamie. The forum fell smack bang in the middle of my uni holidays, and I took this as yet another sign that this trip was destined to happen.

One bumpy 10 hour flight later and we’d arrived. The fashion forum took place in a bright and open venue called Coco Space, and thanks to Jamie’s navigating we arrived fashionably early. There was a media wall, where I was photographed and asked to sign my signature beneath my printed logo. As I wrote, I instantly dreaded sticking to my scribbled running writing autograph that I’d come up with in grade 9 and had never improved upon since.

There were packs of media teams buzzing around, and at one point I was pulled aside and interviewed about my journey as a sustainable and ethical fashion blogger. I won’t lie, I was having a lot of fun, and it felt so good to speak to such a receptive audience. Being so connected to the Slow Fashion community in Australia, it can sometimes feel like I’m preaching to the converted, but meeting new people in situations like this reminded me that there is still so much educating to do. There currently isn’t a strong culture of shopping second hand in China, and the interviewers were really intrigued as I talked to them about hosting clothes swapping parties and how I buy most of my clothing from markets.

I also had teamed up with a handful of local designers before I left, so that I could be dressed head to toe in Aussie made goodies. My dress was from Melbourne label Seagrass Design, shoes by ethical/sustainable designer Felicity Cooney and earrings by Teagan Watts.

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Jamie and I were seated front and center, and were soon joined by a young lady dressed like a bohemian Chinese fairy and holding the cutest (and probably only) baby fox I’d ever seen! She had rescued it from certain death, and affectionately named it Tofu. Her hair was somewhere between lilac and silver, and her beautiful cheeks sparkled with glitter underneath the stage lights. She sported a floor length powder puff pink skirt made up of endless layers of soft tulle (one of her own designs).

She looked so. damn. cool. I couldn’t work out if I wanted to be best friends with her, or actually be her. She introduced herself as Tiffany Pattinson, a fellow sustainable and ethical fashion blogger with her own label. It was so exciting to meet a person with such similar passions to mine, except living in a totally different country. I could have talked to her for hours.

 

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I was one of 10 guests giving presentations on the day, and was pretty thrilled to be amongst such influential and significant speakers. This included John Lau, Associate Dean of the School of Design & Technology and Jessica Saunders, Programme Director of Fashion – both from London College of Fashion. They each spoke so passionately about how a focus on sustainable fashion is an integral part of their teaching practice, and this basically sold me on applying for their Fashion Futures Masters programme in London next year.

It was clear as I listened to ACTAsia’s founder Pei su talk, that she was a true activist. She spoke with such calm conviction and knowledge, she had been fighting this fight for some time and it was amazing how far she and her team had come. Other speakers who greatly inspired me included Mr Carlo Imo (president of Kering), Jerri Ng (Editor of InStyle China who announced that they are officially going fur free) and Grace Chen (famous Chinese couture designer). I couldn’t believe I was able to share a stage with such influential fashion people, and it’s safe to say I was pretty nervous by the time I was handed the mic. But from what I could tell – it went well! I didn’t forget anything, my slides worked, and I didn’t fall on my face – job well done.

 

 

I learned a lot of shocking things about the fur industry, including some pretty eye opening facts about the issue of mis-labelling (dog fur is often labeled as ‘Asian Wolf’ and cat fur can also be called ‘Rabbit fur’.) By the end of the event, I was both completely elated and exhausted. A highlight for me was actually the networking event at the end, where I was able to connect with a lot of Chinese teenage girls who had endless questions about sustainable fashion, and they were so excited and passionate that their energy was contagious.

I may have to write about my Shanghai adventures in installements, there’s just too much to write! Stay tuned for my next post, where I’ll take you along with me on an afternoon at the fashion house of couture designer Grace Chen, and behind the scenes of our impromptu fashion shoot where I was able to try on some of the most amazing clothes I have seen in my life.

 

 

 

Fashion

The Big 10K!

Friday, on my way to work, I hit a milestone that I’ve been aiming at reaching for more than 2 and a half years – I hit the big 10 thousand followers on Instagram!!! This may seem like a fickle goal to some, but Instagram has literally changed my life. It’s connected me with people from all over the world, allowed me to travel and basically create a living resume of all of my creative work in the realm of sustainable and ethical fashion. It has opened up countless doors for me, and helped me connect with so many fascinating people – it’s an endless source of inspiration!

Hitting this goal has made me reflect on how far I’ve come since I started this blog almost 3 years ago. It has helped me learn so much about myself, and I have nothing but gratitude for all the opportunities and fun things I’ve got to do along the way. I also couldn’t have done it without the constant support and photo skills of my fiance Jamie – he’s really a big part of The Unmaterial Girl and he needs extra props!

Here’s to the next 10k!

P.s I realise these balloons aren’t the most environmentally friendly way to celebrate, so I made sure I bought ones that can be recycled, but I actually plan on cutting them up and making gift bags.

 

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Fashion

The Upcycled Salon

Years ago, Mikki would come over to my tiny apartment and dye my hair whilst we’d chat about our dreams and drink tea. Today, she’s putting the finishing touches on her very own light filled salon, bursting with beautiful plants and upcycled furniture. It’s so inspiring to watch people grow, especially when they’ve found that thing that makes them tick.

Thanks to my fairly recent history as a business owner myself, I am super passionate about supporting small and local businesses – especially when they have an ethical/sustainable edge. Mikki is SO close to having a completely vegan salon (just waiting on Mr Smith to launch their own colour range). The space itself was originally a stable in the 1920’s, neighbouring a dispensary and is rich with historical vibes.

Mikki has organised the salon to create a sense of community within the first moment you walk through the door. The aesthetic is clean, green and homely – dotted with gorgeous crystals from Mikki’s personal collection. I was paying a visit to have my hair coloured by Mikki’s super talented sidekick, Annie. My hair was foiled at a round table, directly next to another client. It was so easy for the four of us to indulge in some girly chat, and there was a distinct nostalgic sleepover club vibe that I instantly loved. We were all swapping Instagram handles in no time.

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I sipped on my own freshly made coffee served in beautiful ceramic wares from Mas & Miek, and snacked on the most moorish nut cluster bites I’ve ever come across. Abstract line artwork by local talent/musician/creative Jazz Di Prima perfectly fills the walls, and there is an envious abundance of healthy plants sourced from Mappins (one of my faves) and the Oxley Nursery. The large mirrors in the main salon room started their life as wardrobe doors and have since been transformed into wooden framed wonders. Much of the furniture was hand made with the help of Mikki’s trusty Dad (how good are Dads for shop fitting, amiright?) and partner Andrew, and the chairs have been found through Gumtree and lovingly restored.

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A personal favourite up-cycling project was the stunning light box, originally found at Reverse Garbage for a laughable $13! The sneaky sound system in the corner was actually a car radio, now hidden inside some simple pallet tray timber (this one was Andrews pride and joy). Little splashes of creativity are everywhere in this space, and it’s a testimony to the talent and drive of Mikki and her little crew.

lightbox musicThe end result? Spiced up locks and that perfect “blogger girl wave” – Annie nailed it! I highly recommend booking a visit for a cut, colour or both as soon as possible. With Mikki already being voted one of Brisbane’s Best Hairdressers for Blondes AND Best Hairdresser by Style Magazine, her appointment list is going to fill up fast. This is one of those really good things that is only accessible now, before everyone knows about it, but soon will be hard to get a visit – so build that client/hairdresser relationship quick!

Mikki and I also discussed renting out the space for other creative projects and events in the future – art exhibits, pop up markets, music sessions – she’s open! Send her an email at mikkiauld@gmail.com to pitch your collaborative idea.

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Fashion, Review

More than just a piece of clothing…

The Magic of Ayurganic

Clothes are amazingly powerful creations. They have the ability to provide you with a boost of confidence, a shield of armour, or in this case – a total sense of calm and peace. Wrapped up in GOTS certified cotton feels good regardless, but this is more than just a beautiful hooded bathrobe. Ayurganic has created a collection of clothing like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

They’ve blended traditional Ayurvedic principles and rituals into their textile creation process, the fabric is literally treated with hand picked herbs collected by local tribal communities. Spirituality, philosophy and fashion swirl seamlessly together, and this is such an interesting concept for me. “Wearing Ayurganic is an act of responsibility, sustainability and consciousness” – couldn’t have said it better myself. Honestly, take a look at their website. Such a beautiful melding of creativity and spirituality.

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