Some people come into our lives like magic. This was certainly the case with my friend Ariane Leondaridis. Tapped on the shoulder at a busy Bondi bar, I turned to see a gorgeous, tall, elfin woman with a huge smile saying hi - we got chatting and I suppose, never stopped. She’d just moved to Bronte’s sun kissed sands from New York with her family, leaving her post as Ulla Johnson’s head designer for a dream of providing her children a laid back Aussie childhood.
Coming from a Greek and French background , she has that infectious energy and loudness of Hellenic people coupled with Parisian refinement and a keen interest in culture. With a common passion for the arts and sustainability I spent many a night talking to Ariane about different mediums of artistic expression and ethical production. She is, I must add, annoyingly modest about her talents – I asked to see her live drawing class sketches once and she refused saying that they just weren’t very good yet . After much begging , she was made to relent and dear reader, the sketches were so brilliant , I asked to put one on my wall. When she said she wanted to get into making ceramics and sculptures, I got excited because I really need some for my house and I love her aesthetic. No matter how many mediums she dipped into and experimented with, fashion wouldn't stop niggling in the back of her mind.
Fast forward nearly 3 years and Ariane is starting her own ethical, artesian label Ilio Nema with her old coworker from Ulla, Katia Kelso. The label’s name derives from the word Ilio, meaning Sun, or mythical sun god Helio riding across the sky in his chariot and Nema: meaning thread under Athena’s weaving wisdom or a special tool central to Theseus’ safe return from the centre of the labyrinth.
Effortlessly bohemian with a tomboy edge, handcrafted, seasonless and authentically sustainable, the brand exudes principles of quality over quantity and understated luxury coupled with intricate details. It’s the sort of clothes one looks after for a lifetime then passes on– as far away from fast fashion as possible. One garment sometimes takes days to make by hand by Moroccan weavers - a far cry from the churning machine of mass production. In this world of rampant consumerism and mindless pollution , Ilio Nema stands with few other peers. Making a label sustainable is one thing, making it interesting and original is another.
But, I'm not a model! - Ariane exclaimed when I demanded to shoot her in her own clothes. I think these photos prove, it's just another thing she is modest about.
Did you know that the Great Barrier Reef is the largest living thing on Earth? Visible from space, it is home to over 600 types of soft and hard coral. Facts like these drive home the incredible value of the landmark and the blessing we have lying on our front porch, yet for me, the reef seemed like an abstract idea until I flew over to Heron Island to experience it for myself.
Home to countless nesting wild birds and two types of turtles, this coral cay has had a chequered past. Thankfully, the island has now been transformed into an eco-resort with a reef research facility and a thriving population of wildlife—when I say thriving, picture diving into the water straight from the shore and getting lost among many types of reef sharks, sting rays, fish and colourful coral.
My 11-year old-daughter tagged along for the ride and she quickly disappeared into the ocean, not returning until she was hungry. The incredible variety and richness of life on and around this island was spectacular, yet the news that north of here up to two thirds of the reef had gone through a massive bleaching event was dishearteningly sombre.
Global warming may be just a concept to many, but it is a growing reality for the reef whose sensitivity to temperature changes makes it an easy victim. The threat became painful as I imagined Heron Island barren of all the beauty that makes it so special, so I wanted to create a story that celebrates sustainable labels leading the way for a new paradigm in the way we approach the business of fashion.
Exclusive to Australia, this Tiffany & Co wave necklace is part of a limited edition collection that uses 100 per cent of profits to support the conservation of the Great Barrier Reef. A Grecian inspired Jacinta James dress and Maria Farro sandals complete this timeless holiday outfit.
It was all yellow
Vibrant and comfortable, this Nagnata look utilises upcycled and sustainable fabrics and would look equally good in the gym paired with fair-trade French label Veja’s sneakers, or dressed up with heels. My KitX bag was created with organic cotton and natural dyes for longevity and practicality–I use it religiously.
Traditionally, swimwear was one of the worst offenders in fashion as its use of plastic and oil throughout the course of production made for a damaging business model—but times are changing. Labels are attempting to recycle materials or use recycled plastics instead, and this Tigerlily swimsuit is a part of said change. Tigerlily is on its way to making its brand 100 per cent sustainable and is taking great strides in not just transparency and ethical sourcing, but reducing toxic chemicals used in their production.
While Kit X’s organic linen keeps your body cool, the brand's environmental policies will keep your heart warm with the glow of one of the most stringent policies around renewable fabrics, eco-production and transparency. The company’s designer Kit Willow is an inspiration who doesn’t compromise on design, quality or eco-credentials.
Easy does it
Relaxing by the beach has never felt better than in Kow Tow’s range of timeless, sustainable basics and swimwear. Pair with an Avenue the Label vegan leather, 100 per cent recyclable scrunchie.
I am obsessed with Maggie Marylin tailoring and the label’s clean yet detailed lines. Nomadic State of Mind have been making their rope sandals from upcycled sail cloth and hemp, and Avenue the Label’s silk scrunchie is just as eco as it is fancy.
Assisted by: Coco Pavlovic
With thanks to Heron Island resort and the Gladstone tourism board
Sustainability is a new buzz word in fashion and for good reason – turns out the clothes business is the second biggest polluter in the world, just behind oil. Yep, I winced too but the facts remain- fast fashion is costing the planet. It turns out a humble t-shirt requires 3 years worth of drinking water to produce the cotton needed for it’s production alongside heavy pesticides. Not only does la mode guzzle water, creating environmental disasters where it’s produced but it also pollutes it – it is estimated that 20% of water pollution comes from the treatment and dying of textiles with harsh chemicals.
The carbon footprint isn’t pretty either- 10% of global carbon emissions can be attributed to clothes production’s long supply chains and cheap synthetic fibers emit gasses like N20 which is 300 times more damaging than CO2. An average Australian buys 27kg of new textiles every year and then discards 23kgs into landfills, mostly cheap fabrics made from petroleum that further pollute the environment when incinerated. And if all this makes you feel like you never wish to shop again, here is the silver lining; brands are hopping aboard the sustainability train at record speeds since 66% of millennials have said that they would pay more for sustainable fashion. And it’s not just staple basic brands such as Everlane or Allbirds that boast eco credentials- sustainability is getting sexy across the board. Prepare to feel optimistic as we look at some designers that exist in this exciting new sphere of fashion with our gorgeous model Rae, herself a marine biologist in training.
(Above)This bustier is made by Wynn Hamlyn who stress local, ethical manufacturing and utilize a variety of natural fibers. thus minimizing environmental impact. Susan Driver hand makes jewellery in Brisbane using sustainably sourced metals and stones whilst the bumbag is by St Xavier who practice fair trade and invest in underprivileged communities - products are handmade in Northern India generating sustainable income for 500 men and women.
KowTow is a NZ label that prides itself on utilizing organic cotton whilst being environmentally conscious and providing certified workers’ rights and safety, not to mention creating cool jumpsuits. Lingerie is by Lonely, another NZ label that has been accredited child labour free whilst protecting the environment with the safe disposal of waste materials and Jewellery is from Tiffany & Co who use sustainably and ethically sourced metals for their pieces.
The Conscious Collection is a label by the giant H&M who created this dress and earrings. They have pledged to use 100% renewable or recycled materials by 2030, are using 59% sustainably sourced cotton now and recycled nearly 18 tonnes of textiles in 2017. The coat is by Arnsdorf who rebooted after 5 years with impeccable eco credentials- the label not only has full transparency on fabric sourcing which includes organic cotton and indigo dyed denim but also on manufacturing costs and wages. The pieces are meant to be timeless- the brand offers in house fittings and lifetime repairs too. The bag is by St Xavier( as mentioned before )
Kit X is a label that has been at the helm of this movement and it’s founder Kit Willow is passionate about ethically sourced materials, developing eco fabrics and fair treatment of workers whilst creating pieces that look amazing like this dress. Temple of The Sun jewellery uses sustainably produced silver and gold plating which has either been recycled or sourced from a certified mine and produced in a boutique, ethical fashion.
Maggie Marilyn creates luxurious, modern and quirky clothes that are sustainably and ethically produced and this gorgeous dress is no exception. Byfar is a Bulgarian shoe label produced in a small Italian family factory that utilizes sustainable dead stock leather rescued from luxury Italian factories
Matches Fashion is jumping on board the sustainability movement by promoting many new designers and this dress by Kalita sees the designers utilizing sustainable materials whilst hand dying fabrics
Fashion practices are shifting but as consumers we are the ultimate creators of change so let’s choose with our wallets by supporting labels leading the way in creating a cleaner future that doesn’t give up on the fashionable factor.
This story appeared on Vogue.com.au here!
Photography: Alice Wesley-Smith
Model: Rae Rodriguez from IMG
H&M: Claire Thomson
Styling & words : Tanja Gacic