Interview: Edda Hamar (Undress Brisbane)

| October 10, 2012

Words by Anthony Thomas

Environmental awareness has reshaped every aspect of human life. Never before has our species seen such a rapid shift in public opinion. Think about it: our day-to-day lives, corporations, and even our education system (name one uni course that you’ve done that hasn’t touched on sustainability) have all been revolutionised. There were individuals who initially resisted and industries that thought they were untouchable, however they are the ones that underestimated the authority a shift in global thought has, case in point: the fashion industry. There was a time only recently past where the puppet-masters of the fashion world would have laughed in the face of anyone who told them “fast fashion” was becoming a thing of the past. Of course, there will always be a market for fast fashion (to think otherwise is naïve), but the ripples within the industry caused by sustainability are becoming increasingly evident. That said, change on such a large scale is not possible without the efforts of those at the local level. Back for its second year this weekend, Undress Brisbane is a runway event bringing sustainable fashion direct to the people of Brisbane. The crusader behind the event, Edda Hamar, is a local innovator with a vision, and she is throwing as many rocks into the pond (reference to ripples comment, hur hur) as she can get her hands on. I had a chat with her about Undressed and the controversial, dynamic, and infinitely fascinating debate that is sustainable fashion.

MM: Sustainability and fashion are two concepts most people wouldn’t usually group together. Is Undress Brisbane an attempt to bridge the distinction between the two?

EH: Definitely. We believe in looking good, responsibly. The fashion industry is definitely not known for its sustainable practices. We want to get people thinking about how they use fashion as not only a creative outlet but also in a socially responsible way.

MM: Every aspect of the event, down to the runaway, has the environment in mind. How do you balance integrity with cost?

EH: We’ve discovered that being sustainable in venue design and day-to-day operations can actually lower costs, which is great! We re-used everything from last year’s event (with a bit of jazzing up) and really stick to the basics of what is needed. We won’t be buying any fancy tablecloths, but you may find an old window frame being used as a coffee table. We also have a number of generous sponsors that assist us in creating an event that is sustainable through and through. For example, our printing sponsor uses recycled paper, and the stage will be built using recycled wood by a talented craftsman. 

MM: The car park venue is another one of the quirky “things” at Undress Brisbane, what symbolisation does it hold?

EH: At first you don’t think a concrete enclosure is any place for a sustainable fashion show, but we’re up-cycling a car park. Just like cutting up a pair of old jeans to make some funky new shorts, we’re jazzing up a car park to host a runway show.

MM: This year you have interior designs on board to help “transform a piece of concrete jungle into something glamorous”.  Any hints on what to expect?

EH: Pencils. Cardboard. Old books.

MM: What would you say to people that claim that it’s more difficult to consume sustainably than it is to purchase, say, fast fashion?

EH: It’s true; it is more difficult to be sustainable than to purchase fast fashion. Being sustainable requires creativity. It’s also not as accessible as your local fast fashion outlet in Queen Street Mall, but every little step we take to being more sustainable will improve the fashion industry and it’s long-term viability.

MM: Is the issue with sustainable fashion the perception that it isn’t easily accessible/affordable?

EH: Accessibility is definitely one of the issues. Many designers only have an online store so it’s also harder for them to get noticed. Another one is the “hippie” image that often hangs off the “sustainable” label. We are trying to show people that you can be sustainable and look fashionable.

MM: Are there any notable Australian brands that our readers might not realise stand by sustainable ethos?

EH: Some of the bigger labels include East of Grey, Gorman, Bassike… Cue is also Australian made.

MM: Which local designers are trying their hand at sustainable business practises?

EH: The designers in the 2012 show that are local include:

, Fabled and True
, Harriette Hill
, Bonnana
, Castro
, Alex McGuire, Can You Keep A Secret?
, My Grandma’s Wardrobe
, Tenspeed & Brownshoes
, Glory Box, East of Grey, 
Madonna Bain, 
One Colour,
 Sinerji, Ties & Whimsy
, SpiritFire Designs
Holloway Eyewear.

MM: Llewellyn Negrin has said that the rapid rate at which we adopt and discard different identities through our clothing makes us as disposable as the clothes we wear. Your thoughts on this?

EH: I think you can be free to express yourself through clothing in as many ways as you like – just make sure you’re doing it sustainably. If your creativity can help you figure out how to wear a t-shirt in ten different ways, that’s great and sustainable!

MM: Are people becoming more eco-aware with respect to fashion consumption or are we continuing to ignore the environmentalists for the sake of fashion?

EH: Awareness is spreading – there are more resources available online and there are also more fashion shows popping up that feature sustainable designers. People are realising that it doesn’t have to be one or the other (environmental or fashionable) – you can be both. I wouldn’t call myself an ‘environmentalist’. I just believe in looking good, responsibly – taking steps to minimise my impact on our resources. 

MM: Ideally, where do you see fashion consumption in ten years?

EH: That’s a tricky one. Ideally all designers would incorporate one or more sustainable techniques when designing and making their collection. Ideally consumers would only support designers that fulfil a sustainability criterion. Ideally the industry will create a culture that supports designers and consumers to act sustainably. Quality, not quantity.

MM: Do you think the reality is going to mirror your ideals?

EH: I don’t believe sustainable fashion is a phase or a trend. I believe awareness for sustainable fashion will grow, industry and designers will gain respect for it and consumers will increasingly want to support it. I don’t know if my ideals will be reached in 10 years, but I think we will continue to move in a positive direction.

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