Interview With The New Fashion Initiative's Lauren Fay

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Just as it is easy to follow your News Year’s Resolution (NYR) on January 1st, it is easy to perform a basic level of environmental consciousness on Earth Day. However, unlike your average NYR, the current state of our climate demands that with follow through on sentiments expressed on April 22nd.

Enter: Brown Alum Lauren Fay. Responsible for the ideation of The New Fashion Initiative, a non-profit which integrates education, art, and research to hold the fashion industry accountable for its (massive) carbon footprint, Lauren’s accomplishments speak for themselves. She is a sustainability consultant for many top fashion brands, and in 2018 she expanded her portfolio to include the establishment of Fashion Revolution in the US, where she developed creative marketing campaigns and planned over 100 events, reaching over 5,000 people nationwide. This work inspired her to start her own non-profit: The New Fashion Initiative.

Somewhere in her increasingly-busy schedule, Lauren was able to answer questions about her work on this new project and offer some fresh advice on how to keep Earth Day Resolutions all year long.

After graduating from Brown, Lauren worked in the fashion industry intermittently before returning to fix the issues she had with the industry’s impact. In her newfound role as sustainability consultant, Lauren engaged with brands on how to improve their production methods, including finding manufacturers, sourcing materials, and factories. This passion for environmental reform and education served as an excellent platform for her newest endeavor: The New Fashion Initiative(TNFI).

TFNI’s mission covers three areas of engagement: Communications, Education, and Policy. The first piece of the communications strategy is the TNFI blog. Fay also alluded to a video release coming this fall. When discussing TNFI Education section with Lauren, the most important goal I sensed was that of having research and information about fashion and the environment readily available for public consumption. In order to do this, TNFI has partnered with multiple non-profits that will aid in providing this information to all age groups, from elementary level summer camps to university level seminars. In line with this school of thought is Lauren’s attitude toward policy, which is that implementing environmental policy will come through informed local action. Referring to New York’s recent passing of the Green New Deal, Fay emphasized that the shift for alleviating climate change will come from localized grassroots movements.

Fay’s organic approach to policy reform mirrors her approach to personal style. Never one to call herself “trendy”, Fay challenged herself to go an entire year without making any clothing purchases. Doing so “changed [her] idea of ownership” and taught her the value of smart investment pieces. As such, Fay tries to avoid impulse purchases at all costs, likening them to sugar, “These purchases hit quickly, they’re addictive, and they’re not good for you. Some pieces leave you feeling hollow, just some wasted calories…or money in this case.” She tends to opt for second-hand clothing from sites like The RealReal and ThredUp, minimizing environmental impact.

When Fay does purchase clothing, she chooses brands like Studio One Eighty Nine, Maria Cornejo, and Mara Hoffman. These are female-owned brands that are conscious of their footprint and value diversity. Fay cites Mara Hoffman’s journey as “impressive” because of the brand’s transparent transition into being eco-friendly. While many brands are unwilling to be up-front about their ongoing efforts to transition, for fear of being called out for what they still aren’t doing, Mara Hoffman left her brand vulnerable to critics, and ultimately thrived on that.

Fay last comments were on the fast fashion industry. The statement that sticks with me now is “If it’s cheap for you, someone else is paying for it”. Fay elaborated on this, citing poor labor practices and toxic dye leaking into waterways as just some of the ways that others suffer for cheap, poorly made clothing.

Fay’s attitude toward individual efforts to abate climate change is refreshing because she not only has industry experience to inform her opinions, she uses her knowledge to leverage for change with some of the biggest players in the game. Despite her immense efforts for this cause, Fay is very uplifting of those who are just beginning their own journey. She emphasizes that “…it’s all about small changes to redirect [one’s] own ship”. Visit The New Fashion Initiative’s website for more information and inspiration to keep your Earth Day Resolutions effective for the rest of the year, and hopefully we can all make a collective difference in improving the current climate!