Jennifer Nini, a rural-based fashion blogger is known within the industry as the pioneering Eco Warrior Princess. The young writer is a fashion guru on a mission to deliver news on ethical and sustainable garments, products and working conditions within the much-slated fashion industry, and all of her endeavours contribute to living ethically. She is the quintessential enviro-girl, and here at Fashion Industry Broadcast HQ, we were loving her ideas on sustainable fashion lifestyles. So much so, in fact, that journalist Anthea Hansen exclusively caught up with the environmental entrepreneur to chat about all things ethical style…
So you’re in rural Queensland right now?
Yeah, so I moved up from Melbourne – ’cause I’m originally from Melbourne – last year. And so I’ve just decided to live on our farm full-time now. It’s between the Sunshine Coast and the Fraser Coast. I think this area is called the Fraser Coast Interland and it is a lifestyle change… it is something that is a part of my whole value system.
What advice do you have to give for fashionistas on a budget?
Well, that’s pretty easy. That’s something I’ve been doing since high school. Shopping at op-shops, charity shops, garage sales and wardrobe sales. Because I write about sustainable fashion, one of the things I have been very adamant about is that you don’t necessarily need to buy something [because] you don’t have to buy something new.
Sustainable fashion has a whole range of concepts and one of them is that you’re reducing your impact on the environment. Buy something recycled or secondhand. It’s not always going to be necessarily impacting on our environment and ethical fashion focuses on fair-trade and the sourcing of materials. So, [do] a lot of op shopping, eBay shopping and [purchasing of] second hand materials. It’s a growing market. People can still be sustainable and not necessarily spend $200 on a top.
So what you’re saying essentially is that ethical fashion and sustainable fashion are two kind of separate entities. Buying it secondhand, you don’t necessarily know that it wasn’t ethically made but at least you’re not contributing to an industry that constantly pushes out clothes?
Absolutely, absolutely. So when you talk to people about fashion, they always think of the label. And I always get asked, you know, “what is ethical fashion? What is sustainable fashion?” Sustainable fashion is such a broad concept as there’s so many factors involved. It’s the materials used: are they organically grown? Are they organic? Are they GM (genetically modified) in terms of natural fibers? How does it impact the environment and the community?
Two-thirds of the environment impact happens when you purchase the item. How [is] that brand explaining to their customers their environmental impact? How to wash it? Obviously if an item needs to be dry-cleaned, then it’s going to have a greater impact on our environment. That kind of thing. Is it cold washed? For example, with jeans, they’re saying you don’t have to wash them after two wears because you can extend it to about to 10. Drought is a massive issue at the moment in Australia.
There’s two different ethical fashion’s, because they’re used intertangibly, so ethical fashion from my perspective is a focus on your sourcing. Has that vehicle in that whole production in the supply chain been treated well? Ethically, have they been paid a living wage [and] a fair wage? Have they got safe working conditions? And are they getting paid overtime? All those sorts of things.
How do you find out about what brands are ethical? Do you just ask the brands when they approach you?
I ask a lot of questions. A lot of people don’t. But I’ve always been the kind of person to want to know why, because I think you can only be an informed individual if you have more information – and not just information that you get from a companies marketing. See, I might get a press release and that’s how green-washing happens. Greenwashing is where they show you a blank slant of a product or a brand and your attention gets diverted.
So speaking of brands like that… What about brands like American Apparel? Do they fit into your ethical guidelines? Are the materials they use [appropriate]?
It’s sort of a hard one [to answer] because I personally don’t. I’m very selective about what I wear. I usually go with the brands that give me the most information about what I want. So, for example, some of the brands that I know and love are local. Eva Cassis is based in Sydney actually… I’ve actually known about her since she launched and she’s a designer. She sources organic materials and she’s very transparent with her production.
It’s locally based in Sydney, she produces small quantities and she is very forthcoming about all of her information. I know who is working on the phone, who is making the clothes, who is making the patterns, who is sourcing the fabrics, and all of that. So I know it is sustainable.
American Apparel is probably ‘the big thing’ but it’s not really my thing. It sort of depends on the person. But I like to wear brands that I know and I trust and that are forthcoming. I don’t know enough about them [American Apparel], and I don’t know if they’re local and about their sustainability.
On the topic of food, and fashion, you said that you stress the importance of planning ahead and that definitely obtains to peoples dietary requirements because I know that when I get home and I’m shattered I’m more likely to get take away. The thing with dinner is that you get take away and you don’t know where they got the food from. Do you have days where you kind of feel, I guess tired or stressed or naughty and eat foods that you probably shouldn’t?
Are you a vegetarian?
Yes. So, for us this is one of the reasons why I wanted to move out to the farm – because there’s so much temptation. Because people lead busy lives and we’re all so busy, trying to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’ taking up half an hour in traffic, and by the time we do all these things we’re exhausted and we just want the bad option. I used to do it. I’ve been writing for five years and you know, there’s time where if I am going to go on a long trip, I have to get nuts, biscuits, and just things that I need to eat so I pack a lot of stuff, but my downfall is probably going to be the dairy.
I can be quite naughty, if I’m driving from three hours from Brisbane here and I haven’t packed anything, coffee is my biggest downfall. Luckily I have a reusable cup that I use but with coffee, I sometimes don’t know if it’s fair-trade or not. Coming from Melbourne I just love my coffee – when you’re just driving for three hours, you know you don’t know where a coffee shop is going to be. That’s my biggest downfall.
Who are the top five brands that you think people in Sydney, people that want to get on board and source ethically, should look into? What are your top recommendations?
- Mina + Olya – A sustainable luxury fashion brand from USA.
- KowTow Clothing – A New Zealand brand full of minimalist goodness.
- Surrender Apparel – For active wear in Australia, it’s Melbourne designed and it’s ethically made in Bali.
- Lalesso – From South Africa, beautiful colourful prints for summer and to wear on holidays.
- KITX – My new favourite Australian label by Kit Willow Podgornik, who of course was fired from her first label Willow. She just launched her first collection and I can’t wait to see how it all goes for her.