“Fashion is a means to social equality when everyone is given access to it”
Zinnia Kumar thinks it’s time to democratize sustainable fashion
Environmental advocate, ecologist and published scientist, ready to change the future of fashion. Zinnia Kumar is not your average fashion model (if there ever was such a thing).
“I was five years old when I decided that conservation, animals and the environment were areas I wanted to work in,” she says. “I was addicted to David Attenborough documentaries at a very early age, and I loved learning about Jane Goodall.”
WHAT WAS THE SPARK THAT ALSO MADE YOU INTERESTED IN FASHION?
“I have always been creative. Growing up, I used to paint, draw and create sculptures. Fashion for me is a creative outlet where I become the form, the art piece, the blank slate for collaborative art. I am excited by every photographer and designer that I get to work with. I love the unknown element to it; you never quite know what the finished outcome will look like.”
IS FASHION IMPORTANT?
“Yes. And no. The most wonderful story I ever read was about a man called Abdul Sattar Edhi. He was born in Gujarat, India, in 1928, and he only ever owned two outfits at a time. Yet he rescued over 20,000 abandoned infants, rehabilitated over 50,000 orphans, and trained over 40,000 nurses. Fashion for some is just a way to remain clothed.
However, in our externally judgmental world, fashion needs to remain democratized. If it doesn't, we will revert back to when people's social class could be revealed by what they wore. I think fashion is a means to social equality when everyone is given access to it.”
H&M IS AIMING TO DEMOCRATIZE SUSTAINABLE FASHION. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?
“I think democratizing sustainable fashion is absolutely crucial. Traditionally, sustainable fashion has been expensive and available to very few. The vast majority have been forced to make other choices — not because they didn’t want sustainable garments, but because they were routinely priced out of the market.
But now that the big players within the fashion industry are seriously joining the sustainability movement, there is potential to make sustainable fashion available to all. Investments in innovation and technology will ultimately benefit the whole industry by helping to reduce the price and increase the supply of sustainably manufactured clothes. Fashion, which has been linear for over half a century, can finally become circular.”
THIS YEAR'S SPRING COLLECTION IS MADE ENTIRELY FROM RECYCLED, ORGANIC OR IN OTHER WAYS MORE SUSTAINABLY SOURCED MATERIALS. YOU'RE PART OF THE CAMPAIGN. HOW DID YOU LIKE IT?
“First of all, it was a new experience to shoot a spring campaign right in the middle of Swedish winter, haha. But the pandemic has really made us all look for new possibilities, and the photos turned out great. I love wearing and working with sustainable materials. The technology behind them, the innovation, is fascinating. The Agraloop™ process, for example, transforms food-crop waste like leftovers from oilseed hemp agriculture into new fibers and fabrics while at the same time reducing water usage and the carbon footprint. It’s absolutely astonishing and something we couldn’t even imagine just a few years back.”