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Amber Valletta Thinks the Fashion Industry Can Be the Biggest Change Agent for Sustainability — Here’s Why

Amber Valletta is the epitome of the saying, “Practice what you preach.” Since she can remember, the model and activist has been fighting to protect the environment, even taking classes at New York University in the late ’90s to educate herself on the subject.

Now, decades later, Valletta is continuing to advocate for climate change action and sustainability. In addition to launching Master & Muse, a label offering responsibly made clothing, and taking on various advisory roles for the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, she has been tapped to be British Vogue‘s contributing sustainability editor.

For Valletta, who was arrested in November for protesting the climate crisis at the U.S. Capitol and Supreme Court, it’s all about using her platform to create change, specifically when it comes to sustainability in fashion.

Amber VallettaFire Drill Friday protest, Los Angeles, USA - 07 Feb 2020
Amber Valletta at the Fire Drill Friday protest in Los Angeles this past February.
CREDIT: Stewart Cook/Shutterstock

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“Yes, [fashion’s environmental impact] is a huge problem, but we have the capabilities to innovate the entire industry and supply chain,” she told FN at Rothy’s handbag line launch in New York on Tuesday night, noting that she views the eco-friendly shoe brand, along with designer Stella McCartney, as leaders in the space.

“Fashion affects everybody. We all have to get dressed, and one out of six people on the planet work in the garment industry in some capacity. It’s mostly women. And we know that women, one, push the economy, two, hold the money, and three, spend it,” she continued. “Fashion has an incredible opportunity to become a 21st-century industry that can really prove to the rest [of the world] how to do things properly. We thrive on innovation and creativity. The only way [fashion’s waste] problems can get solved is through innovation, collaboration, technology and creativity. We have so much potential. This is why I put my focus here, otherwise I’d just stop focusing on fashion and go focus on environmental activism, but I actually think we can be the biggest change agents.”

“We don’t have the same governance as other industries,” she added. “We have the capabilities to change, and if companies think about people and planet first, before profit, then the sky is the limit.”

Valletta is also taking action in her everyday life to lower her own carbon footprint. And, what’s she’s learned, she said, are several steps toward sustainability that are simpler than you may think.

For instance, when it comes to fashion, she suggests buying for the long term. Don’t throw things out — fix a piece if it’s broken, and no matter what it is, use it to its full capacity, she said. Plus, cut down on plastic in creative ways (for instance, she’s now buying toothpaste in glass containers), eat less meat, walk and take public transportation.

“Things have value. Slow down. We don’t have to buy just because we have the urge to buy,” she added, noting that she hates shopping and has always been a fan of going vintage.

“I have to question my own motives,” said Valletta. “If I’m not questioning myself and I’m out talking about this, then what is this about? I have to sleep at night.”

In addition to Valletta, models Joan Smalls and Halima Aden made appearances at Rothy’s handbag unveiling. Leandra Medine Cohen and Chloe Sevigny also attended.

Halima Aden, Joan Smalls, Amber Valletta, Chloe Sevigny
(L-R): Halima Aden, Joan Smalls, Amber Valletta and Chloe Sevigny at Rothy’s NYC handbag launch party.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Neil Rasmus/BFA.com

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