Welcome to The Sustainable Shopper. Each week, Stylist will talk to the people focused on creating a more conscious shopping space for all. This week, Aditi Mayer – sustainable photojournalist, public speaker and content creator – talks to fashion editor Harriet Davey about the moment that catalysed her passion for sustainability and how she expressed this through social platforms.
Whether you’re consciously making small tweaks to the way you shop – buying less and buying better – or you want to know more about the global impact of fashion, the Sustainable Shopper is here to help us all listen and learn. Each week, we speak to someone who is having a positive impact within the industry and so far we have had the pleasure of interviewing some pretty incredible women. From environmental campaigners to designers and podcasters, this time we’re talking to Aditi Mayer.
As a sustainable fashion blogger at adimay.com, photojournalist, labor rights activist and public speaker, Aditi uses her platforms to not only show her love for fashion but also to educate the audience she has grown about issues – focusing on labor and workers’ rights – within the industry.
Here, Aditi will delve into the devastating world event that became the catalyst to her involvement with sustainability, how to get the most out of your existing wardrobe and an exciting upcoming opportunity within her motherland of India.
Aditi: The first time I truly became aware of sustainability was in 2013 as I was just about to start my undergraduate career. Designs and aesthetics had always been a powerful medium for me to explore my South Asian heritage and fashion was quickly becoming a realm to explore artistic expression. A few months later, the Rana Plaza Factory collapse happened.
Rana Plaza was an eight story garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh that was producing apparel for household name fashion brands. On 23 April 2013, structural cracks were identified in the building however due to pressure from upper management, workers were called in to work to finish orders for brands including Zara, Walmart, Benetton and Mango. The next day, Rana Plaza framed one of the biggest industrial disasters of human history – an eight-story factory collapse that killed more than 1,132 workers and injured over 2,500.
This is what catalysed a new understanding of fashion for me; no longer was fashion just about a pretty dress, it was about the politics of labor and the industry’s disproportionate burden upon communities of colour worldwide.
When I think about my relationship with sustainability, though, I’ve come to realise that it has actually been embedded in my lifestyle since the beginning – both as a cultural norm and economic necessity. From reusing all of our food containers to saving plastic bags for prolonged use, or hand-me-downs to tailoring and mending skills, sustainability wasn’t just a consumer choice, it was a lifestyle for me growing up.
Now, every few months I do a closet cleanse to reacquaint myself with what I have and see new ways I can style my clothes. If I don’t think I’ll wear it anymore, I often so a clothing swap with friends, sell it online or I upcycle or downcycle items with small tweaks – whether that’s dying it with avocado pits, changing up the buttons or changing the tailoring.
I also love exploring my parents’ closets for their older pieces – some of my favourite sweaters, shawls, and jewellery have been found through these ‘heirlooms’ of sorts. When I do shop, I go for brands that are showcasing, preserving and creating culture in a very intentional way – Raw Mango and Torani are a couple of my favourites.
The project of ‘fast fashion’ has been to reduce our relationship with clothing to just buying trends, buying what is ‘in’ at low prices for them to only fall apart a few months later. Instead, we should be buying less, extending the life of what you have, shopping secondhand and supporting small, BIPOC owned businesses.
For me, it’s a seamless intersection for me to use style as a vehicle to explore topics of sustainability and social justice. It’s about using the attention economy, or the common denominator of clothing (we all need to get dressed right?) as a way to understand our position in the larger positions of power and oppression. It’s subverting the notion of fashion in many ways – which is often written off as frivolous – while injecting ideas and discourse. It’s like ‘look at my pretty dress’ and now let’s talk about the politics of labour, culture, the environmental impact of fashion and more.
I’ve always been interested in the creative industries, my love affair with photography and creative direction began at around 8, by the time I pursued Journalism in University it was a key tool in storytelling for both journalistic pursuits and documenting my own personal style. Visual storytelling is core to my work; whether that’s documenting stories of labor resistance in Los Angeles, matriarchal farming communities in Nepal, to shooting editorials for the brands that I work with.
Aditi’s Sustainable Shopper edit
Ode to Odd blouse
Made from handwoven silk, wear it as a blouse or a jacket and switch it up by turning it inside out – it’s basically a two-for-one buy.
Kira The Label earrings
Indian jewellery brand Kira The Label makes 80% of its jewels from recycled brass. These statement earrings will hold a special place in your jewellery from here on out.
Australian brand Sakora aims to make sustainable fashion more inclusive. Eliminating fabric and stock waste, each item is given the personal touch with hand sewn finishes.
Little Things Studio dress
Each dress is hand screen printed with the ocean print. Its already available in sizes XS-4XL but you can also get it custom made to adjust the size, length and neckline so it’ll be the dream fit.
Say it as it is with this ‘Sustainable Shit Only’ vintage necklace. It’ll end up being part of your everyday jewellery edit layered with simple gold chains.
Roopa Pemmaraju mask
Face masks have become an accessory so we might as well get a fancy one. This silk, embroidered style is made in India supporting skilled artisans through a tricky time. With each mask sold, a percentage goes to the artisan and their families.
This dress is made from reclaimed textiles using Tonlé’s zero-waste process. Each dress is handwoven so will be slightly different but all equally as pretty.
Opening image: Aditi Mayer/Grant BLVD
Other images: Simrah Farrukh/courtesy of brands