Inside Undress Runways 2015
Undress Runways will celebrate its fifth year of sustainable runway fashion shows in October. From it’s humble beginning on the rooftop of the China Town Carpark, Undress Runways will hold its sustainable fashion shows across three of Australia’s capitals – Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne for the first time ever.
I attended my first Undress Runways event early last year, and have been amazed at how much it has flourished since. Mixing a strong party vibe with a positive message, it is no wonder that Undress Runways has become so popular, with 22 local and international designers showing this year. I recently got to catch up with The Undress Runways director, Edda Hamar and chat about her inspiration to establish the event.
“Undress Runways is about celebrating sustainable designers who are doing the right thing. We are about connecting consumers to designers, raising the profile of sustainability and also changing the reputation of sustainable fashion. Sustainable fashion is not at aesthetic and it’s not necessarily a style. It is more of a process- from how to create a garment to how to treat a garment. It can still look good and be sustainable. We really want to break down that barrier.”
Edda also explained that when she was younger, she actually sailed with her family from her hometown in Iceland to Australia. Spending a large portion of her younger years living on the boat and travelling to different nations meant that Edda was exposed to people from all walks of life, giving her a strong drive for this project.
“I grew up surrounded by a lot of diversity and had an unconventional upbringing. Your priorities in the middle of a boat are very far away from consumerism and materialism and are very much focused on nature and the world around you. I remember docking at the marina’s at different Islands and going on shore. I would have to go out, make friends and find things to do. There was really no judgment in terms of building connections or relationships in those three years and I have grown a lot of respect for people that are living in developing countries.
In the context of the fashion industry, I think that has definitely given me a perspective of what is really important. Our priorities should be to be kind to the workers that are producing our fashion and to ensure we take care of the environment. We do get caught up in materialist values in the modern world and we forget that we are privileged. We should do all that we can to respect what they do and the product that they produce.”
Edda is passionate about celebrating the small steps and big leaps that fashion designers take towards sustainability. Becoming 100% sustainable overnight is impossible to achieve and she considers the process an ongoing journey. She was recently shocked to hear that a highly regarded Australian designer recently stopped promoting that they utilised sustainable practices. The designer’s vision to promote sustainable practices was whittled away after she received extensive backlash for not being “purely” sustainable. The question arises, how will we ever move forward if we expect change overnight?
“Undress Runways is very firm on celebrating the small steps and the big leaps. I think this is really important so that we do make progress in this industry. Even for a store to just have a map on their website that shows transparency, that’s really awesome. Even if maybe they haven’t got some sort of accreditation on each factory, at least we are getting there. We are becoming more transparent and more sustainable. At least we are making some sort of positive movement.”
“For designers, it’s such a huge cost to go out and be 100% sustainable and be ticking all the boxes. We should celebrate people who have the right mindset and have their mind in the right place. It’s really important to support them on a journey to be more and more sustainable as you go and not penalise them. Because it is hard… It is hard to find sustainable fabrics and produce ethically, and to only use natural dyes and only do made to order. It is so hard to tick all the boxes so we definitely need to celebrate the small steps and be patient.”
Edda also shared some of her own tips for taking small steps towards sustainability in our personal lives. Her quickest tips are to borrow clothes, recycle, op shop and reconsider what you buy. Accessorise, switch it up and try to be creative.
“It is not always about going out and buying something new, and justifying a purchase just because it is made of organic cotton. It’s really about going back and rethinking your wardrobe and forcing you to be a bit more creative in how you put things together. Whether you upcycle or borrow something for a friend, it is that whole concept of reducing your consumption.”
“There is also something to be done about wearing the same thing twice. I think there is a bit of a stigma attached to that. I think that is should be a cool thing that you wore something twice, because it shows that you are thinking about it.”
She also pointed out some easy to access, mainstream sustainable and ethical clothing providers.
“My go to typically is Kookai. It is quite affordable and is produced in Fiji ethically. They don’t seem to promote it, however there are a couple of articles on line where they have done case studies on the factory.”
Edda also recommends Cue for Ethical Clothing Australia accredited work wear, Scanlan and Theodore for beautiful garments, Nudie Jeans for organic cotton jeans as well as visiting the ECA website and the Shop Ethical website.
Edda is always looking at new ways to contribute to sustainable fashion and to increase our connection to the garment workers overseas. New additions to Undress Runways this year also include Naked Magazine which provides a behind the scenes look at the fashion industry and the supply chain, as well new clothing label VIHN, which is produced in an ethical clothing work space in Cambodia, called Lotus Silk.
“We have called the new label VIHN, which means friend in Icelandic. If we would treat the garment workers as friends, which we easily would if they lived close to us; we would be campaigning. We would not be turning a blind eye to what is happening. We are all human, so it is so easy for us to all be friends. It is just distance that separates us.”
The small steps are adding up and Undress Runways is experiencing rapid growth. It is clear that taking that first step and celebrating each leg of the journey are essential driving forces to any project.
Hope to see you at this years Undress Runways events! If you would like to purchase tickets you can click here.
Also stay tuned to Sundholm Style, as I will be catching all the behind the scenes action from the Brisbane runway show!