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Well Made Women: Nerida Lennon Discusses Going From Modelling For Dior To Becoming An Ethical Fashion Advocate

by: Well Made Clothes Staff | 4 years ago | Features

Image: Nerida Lennon photographed by Agnieszka Chabros.

We here at Well Made Clothes believe that becoming a more responsible brand or becoming a more responsible consumer is a journey: you need to figure out what’s important to you, wade through the complexities of the fashion industry supply chain, become armed with the information you need to be better, before going forth and doing so.

Nerida Lennon’s story to becoming a responsible participant of the fashion industry is an incredibly interesting one. Environmental and social responsibility were imbued in Nerida from childhood (in the bio on her website she says, “I grew-up in a house designed to minimise environmental impact - think rainwater tanks, stove heated hot water, a compost and a biodiesel fueled car. From an early age my father discussed environmental issues like climate change), but, being blessed with good looks, Nerida was flung into the glamour (and as anyone who has worked in the fashion industry will tell you, hard slog) of the high fashion industry; modelling for brands like Gucci and Dior. Eventually, the knowledge she had been equipped with early on made its way to the surface, and, seeing the dichotomy between her personal values, and the values of the fashion industry, she upped and quit modelling, to advocate for positive change in the fashion industry instead. Which is exactly what she does, by ‘slow travelling’ around the world, no less. Here, Nerida describes her journey to being a responsible fashion consumer, and the non-stop journey she’s literally on, right now.

Image: Nerida wears shirt by Limb.

Well Made Clothes: In a sentence can you explain a bit about who Nerida Lennon is?
Nerida Lennon: Nerida Lennon is an international model turned advocate for beautiful style that connects us to our humanity, the natural environment, and each other.

Well Made Clothes: You’ve dedicated much of your life to advocating for a more environmentally and socially responsible fashion industry. What motivated you to do this?
Nerida: Five years ago I learned that the fashion industry is responsible for human injustice and environmental degradation. Nobody in my immediate fashion industry network was talking about this ‘shadow side’ of the fashion industry and how we could transform it to actually serve humanity and the natural environment. I recognised that I was indirectly responsible as a model promoting fashion brands and their products. So I decided to start a conversation that advocates for environmental and social responsibility in the fashion industry.

Five years later the ‘shadow side’ of the fashion industry remains, so I continue to advocate for ethical fashion. My mission is to raise awareness and consciousness in the fashion industry by advocating for beautiful style that connects us to our humanity, the natural environment and each other.

Well Made Clothes: Can you tell us about any of the "aha" moments you’ve had, in which you’ve seen positive changes in the industry or in consumer behaviour?
Nerida: Recently, I’ve been excited to learn of established and influential fashion industry professionals who have recognised that the old way of creating and consuming fashion no longer serves humanity and the natural environment. Instead, they’re choosing to adopt alternative approaches which honour the beauty, integrity and art of creating. I was so inspired that I wrote an article which describes why these ‘guardians of creativity’ are emerging and their role in creating alternative approaches to fashion production and consumption.

Well Made Clothes: Your curated ethical style news magazine, Style Conscious, has gained a lot of traction. Can you explain to those maybe not in the know, what it is?
Nerida: Style Conscious magazine contains almost 1000 curated pieces of media content about the social and environmental responsibility of the fashion industry. I initially created it to keep a record of what I was reading. Then I realised that it was a valuable resource to share with others wanting to be informed about the latest news on the ethics of fashion. This evolved into a newsletter where I summarise the best articles I’ve read, plus my own blog posts and other related news into an email newsletter.

Well Made Clothes: You recently dissolved most of your belongings and have been ‘slow travelling’ for the past 10 months. How are you finding it?
Nerida: Overall I’ve enjoyed the experience of living and working transiently. Living out of a travel backpack has been both challenging and liberating! Prior to this mobile lifestyle, I already had a curated wardrobe, but this experience took it to a whole new level. I’ve simplified my wardrobe into a ‘personal uniform’, because I literally cannot fit more items into my backpack.

Although I don’t enjoy the travelling part of travel that much, I enjoy experiencing the beautiful destinations. ‘Slow travel’ means living in one location for around 3 - 6 months and fully immersing myself in the day-to-day life and culture of my surroundings. So far I’ve lived in Sydney, San Francisco, Mexico, Canada, and Guatemala, with some shorter stays in Cuba and New York City.

I’ve learnt many rewarding lessons about my perception of life, being flexible and accepting of a variety of circumstances, and my partner and I have learnt more about our relationship. It’s been a true adventure!

Well Made Clothes: Have you found people's attitudes towards sustainability in fashion different in other countries compared to your experiences in Australia?
Nerida: Not as much as you might expect. The world is becoming increasingly globalised and networked, so the conversation about sustainability in fashion is similar throughout the world. In mid 2015 I was living in New York City and San Francisco, where I met people from large and small fashion companies who are working towards sustainability in fashion in a similar way to Australia. Then in late 2015 I was living in Guatemala and met some incredible artisans that share a similar approach to the art of creating garments with designers in Australia. I believe that the values and attitudes of environmental and social responsibility of fashion - including connection, integrity, kindness, fairness, honesty and so on - are intrinsic human values that we all share no matter where we are from.

Well Made Clothes: With so many new brands and designers pursuing more responsible practices, which labels are you currently excited about?
Nerida: Two long time personal favourite for their ethical production is Scanlan Theodore and Melbourne made Nobody Denim. I used to model for Australian designer Kit Willow who has recently launched an ethical brand I admire called KITX. While I’ve always admired environmental and social responsibility pioneering brand Patagonia, I'm finding many of their garments now also align with my aesthetic preferences. I also like Vege Threads for ethical basics.

Well Made Clothes: As a seasoned conscious dresser can you give our readers some key tips to a well made wardrobe?
Nerida: For me, owning a garment is a long-term relationship, so I'm careful about what I commit to. I begin by seeing if it's going compliment my style and be friendly with garments in my wardrobe. Then I ask questions such as:
Is it designed for functionality, usefulness and longevity?
Can I create many outfits with this and how many wears will I get from it?
How do I need to care for it?
Can I eventually recycle it?

I also research whether the workers that produced it received fair living wages and conditions, and if it was produced with environmentally responsible practices. I try to be honest with myself about whether I ‘need’ or ‘want’ the garment. I put off purchasing it for a week. If I'm still thinking about it a week later, it’s likely that I’ll commit to it.

Well Made Clothes: You’re a lady with many projects happening simultaneously. How do you maintain work-life balance?
Nerida: To me, a balanced life means that despite my external life circumstances, internally I am at peace. From this balanced state my values and intention naturally align with my actions. And when I feel this balance I tend to accept my life situation and as a result, the events in my life tend to flow better. I cultivate a balanced state through a daily routine which includes practices such as yoga, meditation, being with nature and reflection writing. From this space I am able to stay organised and achieve my goals.

Well Made Clothes: Last but not least, where do you see fashion heading in the future?
Nerida: I’m not entirely sure where the industry is heading, but I believe that in order to see large-scale positive environmental and social impact, we need to use technologies and business models to disrupt the fashion industry system entirely.


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