Friday, September 17, 2021

Fashion and Sustainability: Interview with Anna Abyzov

Anna Abyzov
Anna Abyzov

Anna Abyzov, based in Venice, California, is an environmentalist, founder of responsible fashion change agency Destination AMA and head of sustainable fashion department for THE Home. Anna was born in Russia, in the region of Siberia, and has lived in Los Angeles for the last eight years. She has her background in law and art business. 

The day Anna realized her responsibility as a human being for every choice and action she makes on this planet was pivotal in her career and life in general. Since then, she’s been taking her first steps into sustainability as an advocate for responsible production and consumption. Anna’s area of interest and expertise includes material innovation, digital fashion, and circularity. She believes that circular economies and circular business models are the most sustainable solutions of our times if we want to build a truly sustainable world for ourselves and future generations.

To tackle the issue of waste and overconsumption, she’s currently hosting an upcycling digital contest #UpcycleForTheHome on her Instagram platform @destination.ama in collaboration with the non-profit organization THE Home. Looking forward, Anna is interested in growing her venture into a 360 full-service consulting agency and also developing a creative upcycling service in Los Angeles.

Links to the project and organizations Anna Abyzov works with:

Destination AMA is a responsible fashion change agency. Its Instagram platform is serving as an optimal fashion sustainability guidebook: https://www.instagram.com/destination.ama

THE Home is a 501c3 nonprofit organization, based in Los Angeles, CA,  is creating a network of Regenerative Farms and Permaculture Gardens that will serve as healing and educational centers for anyone in need, being focused on displaced populations. It will provide all the residents with holistic health care and necessary skills to take on future “green” job opportunities: http://uarehome.org/

THE Home IG: https://www.instagram.com/itsthehome

#UpcycleForTheHome Digital Contest is a collaborative initiative between responsible fashion change agency Destination AMA and THE Home, a non-profit organization that ignites social change and serves major ecological concerns. Through this contest, Destination AMA is raising funds for THE Home to support its mission and make an impact in the world: https://uarehome.org/importance_of_upcycling/


Q: What is the most environmentally or socially positive project you have ever worked on? 

A: #UpcycleForTheHome digital contest currently hosted on my Instagram account @destination.ama in partnership with a non-profit organization that ignites social change and serves major ecological concerns THE Home is definitely the most impactful project I’ve ever worked on. Besides helping the planet by tackling the issues of overproduction and overconsumption while supporting young fashion brands, designers, and artists, we’re also helping the displaced population meet their basic needs.

Do you think the future of apparel is sustainable? Why?

There will always be good VS bad. Fast fashion VS responsibility and ethics. But we are becoming more and more awake and aware of our impact taking small steps in the right direction. It’s hard not to notice such a shift happening in the universe, in every sector of our lives. “In the age of information, ignorance is a choice,” said multidisciplinary artist Donny Miller. And it’s up to us how we handle this challenge and who we become afterward. 

Fashion is indeed, amazing. And I’m a big believer that fashion can play a leading role in protecting the planet through its power and influence. But only if we take this very important quantum leap and transition from “sustainability” to circular business models and circular economies eventually. In my opinion, we can’t solve all of our problems related to social and environmental issues with the invention of another “sustainable brand.” The whole system must change, along with our values and priorities. Until we put profit before the planet and its inhabitants, we have no chance to sustain ourselves within given to us planetary boundaries.

Tell us about the last thing you bought which would be considered socially or environmentally sustainable. Why did you purchase it? 

At the beginning of 2020, I made a commitment not to buy any new clothes. Please note that the keyword is “new.” And I was doing pretty good actually. The only thing I bought was a 90s vintage jacket from ReFashion Week in NYC this February, which was all about slow fashion, pre-loved garments, and upcycling. So I didn’t break my commitment because the exchange of used clothes is the opposite of consumerist “crime.” 

But then the COVID hit. And after two months working from home, I realized I’m running out of my leisure clothes and becoming too repetitive (laughing). I purchased a costume from the Copenhagen brand GANNI out of curiosity. I wanted to give them my support during hard times because I appreciate sustainable practices they’re implementing and initiatives they’re taking towards circularity, including take-back programs and upcycling. My other purchase was a tracksuit from PANGAIA, and since then, I literally live in it. The PANGAIA clothes are made of recycled and organic cotton, which makes it biodegrade naturally. They use only environmentally friendly natural dyes and recycled water systems. These are the examples of the brands I’d invest my money in.

If you could make one change in the fashion industry, to make it better, what would that be? 

I’d change our collective mind, so we perceive waste as an asset. It means that anything that has ever been produced can become a resource for creating new things, instead of being buried in a landfill, incinerated, or donated to developing countries. All these “unhealthy” disposable fashion practices aren’t doing any good, but polluting our ecosystems and diminishing the natural, as well as human resources.

Are you concerned about the social, environmental, and ethical impacts the fashion industry has on the world? 

My concerns are the driving force of my work. The day I realized my responsibility as a human being for every choice and action I make on this planet was pivotal in my career and life in general. My realization and so-called “environmental awakening” brought me to space I’m right now. I was craving for meaning in life, wanting to connect to something bigger than myself. And when our basic needs are met, when we’re grateful for what we have, we want to share it with others. We want to be of service to the planet and other people. We want to help and make an impact.

How can we make fashion more sustainable?

While sustainable movement reduces the negative impacts of the fashion industry, it doesn’t drive urgency and innovation for fundamental changes to the false system that creates these problems in the first place. 

To me, sustainability means accountability. And one of the conversations we should have now is about the industry’s authenticity. We need to stay away from contributing to misleading information that creates no value and is used as a marketing tool for acquiring more customers. Instead of extracting non-renewable resources and creating even more waste at the expense of the planet, we must develop circular systems. Starting with the design and production team and taking it throughout the whole supply chain so that the end of the cycle materials are either composted back to the Earth or recycled into new raw materials of equal or even better quality. “Take, make, dispose of” model is no longer working. This is exactly what brought us into such a mess.

Circular infrastructures now are far from their industrial-scale. This is why a need to keep investing in the development of innovative technologies that will allow the industry to turn waste into high-quality fibers is crucial. Bigger fashion players can contribute to scaling such technologies by creating demand and making it more available for the rest of the industry.

What the pandemic taught us and what changes and courses of action fashion brands, big or small, might consider taking:

1. Made-to-order small batch collections offer customization options that attach more meaning to products with return rates being comparatively low;

2. Timeless pieces that go beyond any fashion trend or season will be prioritized;

3. Two-season collections are enough, while drop model proves to give more stability;

4. Creativity emerges in the times of crisis and uncertainty due to less pressure from the fast-paced fashion calendar, restraint of resources and availability of time;

5. Localized supply chain, at least local manufacturing is the key to success in the case of global catastrophes and disruptions;

6. Human resources such as handcraft and skills are diminishing the same way as natural resources are, due to the automation of the production processes. For us to move forward, we have to look back. We all come from somewhere, and preserving cultural heritage through the support of our communities is crucial for the existence of humankind;

7. Materials must be as biodegradable as possible because everything we produce is either food that belongs to the Earth or waste that goes to a landfill and emitting our ecosystems.

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