We sent Kristen Leo to Eco Fashion Week Australia. Here’s what happened
By Kristen Leo
When you live in a country that doesn’t have an eco fashion week, when someone invites you to one in the sunny climes of Australia, you just don’t say no! So when Chere, the Editor in Chief of Eluxe Magazine, invited me to represent Eluxe at Eco Fashion Week in Perth (she couldn’t make it because she was travelling throughout South America at the time), I couldn’t resist. I packed my bags, grabbed my passport and prepared to be a bit jet lagged. Here’s what happened at Eco Fashion Week Australia.
I arrived in Perth on the night of the 19th of November after flying across half the globe from Athens in a trip that lasted two days. Yikes! Suitcase lightly packed (leaving room for things to bring back of course) and all my outfits for EFWA already prepared with matching photos of them on my phone so I don’t forget. There was one problem, I had no dresses and no sandals fit for dressing up in the Australian summer.
My ethical summer closet consists mainly of thrifted and ethical sportswear, jean shorts and t-shirts. I’m pretty basic. With nothing really fashion-week-worthy to wear I decided to hit the thrift stores of Perth before EFWA started.
To my surprise, Freo, the town near Perth I was staying at, had thrift stores (otherwise known down under as OP shops) everywhere I looked, so without much effort at all, I found a gorgeous navy blue dress to wear for the first day of EFWA. Yay!
Me and Freya, a local fellow social media influencer with killer op shop style, headed to Middle Swan for the welcome to Australia outdoor barbecue. We were greeted with a traditional Aboriginal welcome to country dance accompanied by the ancient, deep sound of the Didjeridoo. The music continued as models started walking to the sound of this unique instrument, and we got our first small preview of a few of the designers we would get to see at the fashion shows.
After the shows, I got to meet Zuhal, designer of Green Embassy and the architect behind the ambitious idea of creating the first EFWA. She’s clearly immensely passionate about bringing positive change in the world of fashion (and she’s vegan!) and I can’t help but wonder where she finds the time and energy to get so much done. I actually think that with every woman I met this week! So far, they’ve all been driven, talented, creative and compassionate women that are using their individual skills and time selflessly, because they want to change everything that’s wrong with the fashion industry.
The shows begin! I had the pleasure to sit front row and meet two editors, Antonia and Rachael, who were sitting next to me taking photos of the show and sharing videos on their Insta stories. They flew in from Hamburg, so they could feel my struggle of still being jet lagged after 4 days. We get a preview of all the designers we’ll get to see in the next few days and then for the finale, Curtin University showcased some of their most talented designers, with Kate Hannah and her collection P’JUNK stealing the show. Everyone started cheering when all the colourful pompoms and prints started coming down the runway – it was like seeing colour for the first time!
The first collections are coming down the runway! First up was Green Embassy, below, where haute couture meets Mother Nature aesthetics. There were SO many beautiful prints and luxurious gowns I’d die to wear. During the short breaks, Jennifer and I get into talking about politics and veganism, excited we both found someone eager to chat about themes most people fend away from. We’re forming a little clique now, me Jennifer, Antonia, Rachael, Jennie, and Natalie, who has jaw dropping vintage style.
Saturday began (a little too) early for a jet lagged girl still stuck in Athens’s time zone. My outfit was clearly inspired by Shravan Kummar’s show the previous day as I paired my MATTER pants with a thrifted crop top. We started off heading to Curtin Uni to listen to lectures from huge players in the world of eco fashion (but not only). Sea Shepherd Australia gave a factual yet moving speech on why we need to protect our sea life and solutions to prevent microfibres (the pesky little fibres from fabrics that leak into the water collecting toxins and getting ingested by fish).
We also heard from Fashion Revolution Australia, a movement I’ve collaborated with here in Greece and have always been a huge fan of. Finally, one of my favourite talks was from Jane Millburn from TextileBeat who shared her personal journey with discovering the world of ethical fashion and the various projects she’s taken part in, in order to raise awareness and help make ethical and recycled fashion more accessible.
Took the morning off this time to spend some time at the beach with Antonia, Rachael and Jennie on an incredible sunny Sunday. After getting pretty toasted in the Aussie sun we headed for lunch at the Raw Kitchen and after some thrifting and a quick shower I was back at the EFWA runway for some of my favourite shows. All the designers have been incredibly talented and resourceful with using eco friendly materials, but this particular day the aesthetic from many designers was completely aligned with mine.
To start off, perhaps I was lustful for swimwear after my day at the beach, but the bikinis showcased by designer Elle Evans were absolutely stunning! The shows could have ended there and I would have been happy, but then there was Kirsten Ley and Marilyn R Wilson with the up-cycling challenge (second pic below) that blew everyone away.
Other than the first day that I thrifted my navy blue dress, I’ve struck out on finding shoes or fancy dresses. I’m a woman on a mission! Instead of going back to the same thrift stores, my Googling for op shops sends me to Subiaco, and I struck gold. I picked up dresses, shoes, skirts, even a backpack! I had a glorious outfit now for the last day of EFWA.
Before the shows started, designer Sylvia Calvo invited me to her live stream conversation with the students of Girona University to answer some of their questions on ethical fashion and social media.
The last day of Eco Fashion Week Australia was bittersweet for me! I felt so lucky to have had this wonderful experience thanks to Eluxe Magazine, and was inspired by so many talented influencers and designers. Having to say goodbye to everyone on the last day was tough. Not many (or any) people share my passion for ethical fashion – sorry for the cheesy rhyme – in Athens, so it was very refreshing to get to spend so much time with like minded people, saying goodbye though, was not. This was more than just a Fashion Week to me: it was an inspiring experience that left me motivated and full of ideas and knowledge to bring back to my city of Athens. Now I’m more ready than ever to fight for change in a fast fashion dominated city!
Main image with pink semi-permanent hair colour by another one of my favourite designers that week, Skylark Fashion.