In Conversation with Emma Håkansson

In Conversation with Emma Håkansson

Hi everyone,

I hope this finds you well.

As you may have seen in our newsletter on Friday, we are running a campaign for Green Friday (until end of day, Monday November 28th). We are donating 100% of all profits from sales over this 4 day period to Collective Fashion Justice (CFJ): a fantastic charity working for justice in the fashion industry: for animals, people and the planet.

Shop forever pieces 😍

Emma and I met in London the other month, when she was in town for the premier of SLAY: a hugely important film (and free to watch!), exploring the use of fur, leather and wool in fashion. It's not a super graphic film (don't worry). Rather it's beautiful, shocking, outraging and inspiring.

I feel a strong sense of connection with Emma and her work. We're both Aussies, we both work tirelessly for animal welfare (albeit in very different ways), and she is also involved with Australia's Animal Justice Party, with which my mother, Sheila, also works. My mum, as you might recall, is the reason I started LUXTRA.

So now, over to Emma, to tell you more….

Meet Emma: activist, writer and pillar of responsible fashion

Hi Emma, please introduce yourself.

I'm Emma Håkansson, I'm the founding director of Collective Fashion Justice, author of How Veganism Can Save Us. I spend most of my time researching, writing, consulting with brands and lobbying for industry and political level change. I also consult for the Australian Childhood Foundation. My nearly fourteen year old dog Bella is my favourite being. Despite working in fashion I spend most of my time in the same pine green tracksuit set. And my drink of choice is chocolate soy milk.

Tell us a bit about Collective Fashion Justice.

Collective Fashion Justice exists to create what I call a "total ethics fashion system": one that puts us people, our fellow animals and the planet we share before profit. We think the most effective way to work for such a system is by addressing fashion's use of animal-derived materials, as these harm all of us. We work for this system by educating citizen consumers, consulting with and pushing the industry to change, and by working for political change which impacts both of the aforementioned groups.

We were involved in the creation of SLAY – an important documentary on fashion's use of fur, leather and wool. We have produced investigations into cruelty in fashion supply chains, we lecture at, and work with, fashion schools to help shape future fashion minds, and our work on biodiversity and wildlife use in fashion has seen us go to the EU Parliament and recently, celebrate Copenhagen Fashion Week's new ban on fur.

This is Bella - Emma's cute pooch

What would surprise people about your work?

It's often assumed that all of my work is super luxurious – and certainly, there are moments of that, where I've been invited to attend or even host fashion week events, and all sorts of things – but most of the time it's nothing fancy at all! I spend some of my time dirty, with lamb poo on me (you can watch our award-winning short film Willow & Claude for more on that), most of it in front of a computer, and often pestering people in the fashion industry until they engage. My (bordering on annoying for many brands I'm sure) persistence is how we get big brands to listen to what we have to say.

What does sustainability mean to you?

For us to 'sustain' something, it needs to be possible to do so without harmful consequences. In the case of the environment, we normally think of “sustainability” as considerations around the climate crisis, or biodiversity. In these cases, we mean "can we sustain a healthy, liveable planet while using materials like leather or fossil fuel-based fabrics which emit masses of greenhouse gases?", and other questions like that. But we cannot sustain injustice, in the same way that we cannot sustain environmental degradation.

This is why I see the term “sustainability” more holistically and as inherently tied to questions of ethics. Here, I think of questions like “can we sustain a fashion industry which contributes to the slaughtering of well over a billion individuals for their skins, each year?” or “can we sustain systems which require traumatic, exploitative and harmful human work?”. To define “sustainable fashion” we first have to decide what we want to sustain – is it just a planet we can live on, or a planet that is healthy and not full of suffering, too? I'd go with the latter.

What's your biggest challenge at the moment?

People in fashion – whether or not they are taking action on it yet – are really starting to acknowledge that if we are talking about sustainability in fashion, we can't ignore human rights violations in fashion: poverty pay, exploitative and forced labour, and so on. But the same people are really resistant to extending that circle of concern to include our fellow animals, like cows, sheep, crocodiles, and ducks commodified by, and killed for, fashion. I think because we like to see ourselves as compassionate, and in many cases “animal lovers”, grappling with how we as a fashion industry treat animals is really difficult – and so the tendency is to ignore it, or justify it. I'm trying to change that, and that's a really big shift to push for.

Watch Emma's short film on why she created Willow & Claude, her vegan and truly responsible knitwear collection.

What's your favourite part of running a grassroots organisation?

I love that there are no compromises at Collective Fashion Justice. Before founding CFJ I had worked at and with some other not-for-profits and while they did fantastic work, it was less holistic and I felt limited to only working for change in a specific area (for example animal rights but not environmental protection and how they inter-relate). I love that we can take a broad approach, and that because we aren't a big, bloated organisation we can be agile and move quickly when we need to.

And the most difficult part?

Time poorness and financial poorness! Our financial support is slowly growing and that means that we can start to pay people for some of their work, but almost all of the organisation is volunteer run and operated right now. This means that livings need to be made elsewhere, which means less time for this important work. It also means fewer resources to help with the work. We need all the support we can get – so I'm very grateful for LUXTRA's support.

Biggest life lesson?

I'm not the first to say it, but the fact that you can turn pain into purpose, and that this can help reduce both personal and external pain is so important to me.

Which is your favourite LUXTRA product?

Even though they're very little and minimalistic, I love the card holders. Most of the time I don't carry a bag, I just shove cards in my pockets! I think the card holder is a much nicer way of doing that, and I particularly love the Ivy Green AppleSkin colourway – a great material, and my favourite colour.

We could not agree more - Ivy Green is IN

What are your top 3 things to eat / see / do in Melbourne?

In Melbourne, I love to get a delicious and fancy pastry along with a hearty sandwich from Smith & Deli. I also love going for walks in the beautiful Darebin Parklands – it makes you feel like you're out in the countryside and not near cars and traffic. Takeaway from Brother Bon, my local, is also a favourite after a long week.

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If you've not yet watched the documentary SLAY, I really urge you to do so. It's free for anyone to watch on the Waterbear platform.

Awareness of what is going on in the industry is a fantastic and super simple first step that anyone can take.

Be well,
Jessica
LUXTRA founder | Animal Rights Supporter | Plant Parent

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