This week (in our very last Escape campaign ever - but more about that soon), we thought we would try something a bit different. The second last Escape was with co-founder Betony, so this time, just to complete the circle, Betony has interviewed and photographed co-founder Kelly.
After meeting on their first day of university, the pair have since been travel companions, co-workers, mentors, collaborators and most importantly friends. Kelly has in recent years, on top of running ALAS, co-founded Clean Cut - an industry body for sustainable fashion and co-founded Well Made Clothes, a meticulously curated online platform for local and international ethical fashion brands. To say she is an achiever would be an understatement! Betony went round last Sunday morning with her film camera, to take a few photos of Kelly & her cat Villi in their home environment, and asked her a few questions about fashion, the world and how she likes to escape...
Photography and interview by Betony Dircks
BD: Kelly, you're the person who got me into sustainable fashion in the first place. It was first or second year of our Fashion degree and I remember you talking about green fabric alternatives - and I was blown away - that kind of thing had not even crossed my mind. I am just one of the many hundreds, possibly thousands of people that you have positively influenced along the road in the 13 or so years since then. What is the most important message that you feel compelled to communicate to folks who know nothing about sustainable and ethical fashion?
KE: Aw shucks, you are too kind, and have always been too kind! I am not completely sure how many people I have influenced but hopefully some do think about where their clothes come from! I think the first thing to consider if you are new to the concept of sustainable and ethical fashion is to question your impact. Before purchasing anything just ask a few questions.... Who made it? Where was it made? What is it made of? If you are even considering buying a new item of clothing, you are in the privileged position to make a choice, and you can make that choice and negative one, or a positive one. You have the choice to support the exploitation of workers and our environment, or empower those who made it and minimise damage to the environment. For fear of overwhelming (but you did ask for the important message)....Fashion is not basic, it is a trillion dollar industry that supports modern day slavery and human trafficking, not to mention being the 2nd most polluting industry in the world responsible for one of the largest man made environmental disasters (the Aral Sea). So if we have the power to purchase positively we should do so!
BD: There has been increasing attention on sustainability and ethics in our industry over the years. How do you think this has affected your work as both a designer and sustainability advocate?
KE: It has been really exciting to watch the growth in awareness! I remember when we first started and no-one knew what organic cotton was or why it is even remotely important! Fair trade was confused with Free trade and as ethical fashion brand we knew never to mention the 'ethic's' behind our brand before they saw the clothes! The stigma was very real and very 'uncool’', however as the awareness has grown we have been able to really push our ethos just as much as our aesthetic!
BD: How do you think the work you do impacts the world at large, do you think it makes a difference? (I think at does, of course, but it's good to remind ourselves occasionally!)
KE: I think as a small business owner, you have to be honest that you cant necessarily create wide spread change, but you can be a a part of it. I think one of the most direct impacts that ALAS has had is supporting fair work, whether it is supporting artisanal workers in Guatemala or traditional weavers in India or supporting women run businesses, we are treating people with respect and therefore having a positive impact!
BD: You have always been really good at getting to work early in the morning (unlike me - lol!) - what motivates you to get up in the morning?
KE: Haha it's weird cos when I was a kid I was always late. I think as I got older I always felt there were never enough hours in the day, as cheesy as it sounds... I like to feel organised and I love the idea of starting early in hope to finish early... however that hardly ever happens!
BD: You must need some down-time every now and then! How do you like to escape?
KE: After so many years of being so determined to spend every moment on my businesses, I burnt out! I had to learn to live a more balanced life, to slow down... I love doing exercise and getting out into the fresh air and going back to the country. When I'm in the city I like spending my time doing aerial yoga, barre and pilates, I like trying (and failing) at making ceramics, I find it super therapeutic. I also enjoy cooking and pickling, not to mention having a spritz on a balmy night with friends is the best too!