Living your passion is an incredible feeling. For me, it’s been the opportunity over the last year to start a social business, UNA Fashion, with a mission to “fashion the change”.
(Above: One Young World Ambassador, Megan Doepker)
Let’s back up a few years. I finished high school with an above average curiosity to see the world, learn from other cultures and experience the unknown. I did just that. Alongside travels and working abroad, I studied finance at the University of Saskatchewan, with an emphasis on sustainable business, entrepreneurship and economics of developing countries. A professor introduced me to The Story of Stuff Project and the marketing term “planned obsolescence”. I read everything by Professor Muhammad Yunus, and the spark for social business ignited. With studies, travels and knowledge I gained, it was impossible to ignore the interconnectedness of our world. How our habits, policies, and consumption affect people and our planet, somewhere.
I’m incredibly excited that it’s up to us whether this impact is negative or positive, through business and as consumers. As Alan Mak highlighted in his blog post a couple weeks ago, for our generation, it’s clear the business of business is not just business. Furthermore, we’re beginning to take responsibility as proactive consumers in shaping the world for the better with our purchasing power.
This time last year I left for India, hoping to start UNA Fashion, and probably the most scared I’ve been in my life. Over the course of five months I sought out eco-friendly materials, artisans and organisations that align with the values of my mission. Big change has been needed in the fashion industry ever since disposable, fast fashion took over. The average person’s wardrobe demands are now four times larger than 20 years ago, and many brands unethically mass-produce low quality, toxic garments. Last year more than 80 billion garments were produced using a myriad of over 8,000 chemicals. In 2010, Americans added over 11 million tons of textiles to landfills alone.
We heard from Professor Yunus and Jessica Jackley at the One Young World Summit in Pittsburgh. They encouraged us to act on our ideas, and to learn along the way. This has certainly been the case for me. Looking back, it allowed me to be flexible, adaptive, and to steer clear of the status quo in the large polluting fashion industry. I was led by the mission to “fashion the change” and create a sustainable fashion label where a purchase has a direct and positive impact on both people and the planet. A label that follows the principles of the slow fashion movement inspires conscious consumerism and allows one to have a deeper connection to fashion, valuing the story behind each item.
I’m still learning every single day. I try my best to turn challenges into opportunities. The small victories motivate me, such as sponsoring a child at an orphanage in India. I know I’m on the right path and I’m humbled to have the support and network of the One Young World family. Professor Yunus challenged us, in Pittsburgh, to come to One Young World in Johannesburg with a social business idea. Entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and change makers, you all motivate me as you live your passions and collaborate to shape the world we want. I look forward to hearing about your social businesses at the One Young World Summit 2013!