Wednesday 28 June 2017

thala beach getaway

Last week I escaped the winter for some much-needed R&R with my beautiful hubby. We decided to head to lovely Tropical North Queensland, a favourite region of ours. In fact, this was our fifth visit since moving to Australia 13 years ago.

This was meant to be a relaxing holiday - no action and adventure for us this time around - and so I was delighted when I came across Thala Beach Nature Reserve and Lodge. Eco-certified for Advanced Ecotourism and recognised by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, the lodge and bungalows set amongst the trees offered the perfect site for our winter escape. Just 15 minutes south of Port Douglas, I don't know how I'd missed this gem on previous visits.

Driving onto the Reserve we wound through a stunning coconut grove that the owners planted when they bought the land in the 1970s.

The owners of Thala have worked tirelessly to replenish the grounds after about two-thirds of the 145 hectare property was transformed from a definite sugar plantation into the natural wonderland it is today. I am in awe of the dedication of the owners who lovingly restored the land to the point that local plants and native wildlife now thrive on their property. We were spoiled by multiple nature walks on-site (they offer complementary guided walks, too, which we didn't take advantage of), as well as a stargazing evening where I saw the longest shooting star I have ever seen in my life, plus the rings of Saturn and the red stripes of Jupiter through their telescope.  I was truly in nature and science heaven.

We got lucky and were upgraded to a one of their Coral Sea bungalows, and honestly this was the view of my dreams. A charming bay surrounded by a eucalyptus forest, and perfectly positioned to enjoy afternoon sun and the beautiful colours of dusk. The lodge was built using sustainable building practices and materials, and designed specifically to fit into the environment. Apparently the space was approved for 6,000+ hotel rooms! They settled on less than 100. It's no wonder this resort was awarded the highest possible Eco-tourism certification.

Now that I'm back home I sure am missing the sound of the lapping waves while I fall asleep...

Many days we walked through the lovely forest trails to Oak Beach, a long stretch of natural beach with white sands and a stunning backdrop of green headlands. There are fallen coconuts scattered throughout, and a few hammocks strung in the shade of the coconut trees, and I was content to simply stare out at the beautiful surrounding for hours.

That's me! And the closet bikini shot you'll get of me on a public website.
If you were able to see it, I'm wearing an adorable suit by ethical, surfer-chic,
California-made label The Seea.

Looking down the beautiful coastline - the drive from Cairns to Thala is
incredibly beautiful as it hugs the coastline on the beautiful turquoise sea.

I was surprised how little "beach reading" I did, actually. I'm an avid reader, but I found myself just staring and daydreaming more than anything. I truly found my bliss spot at Thala Beach Nature Reserve and Lodge, and I hope to return in the coming years.

Despite the pristine nature of the beach, there was still some nasty plastic bits that made it to the beach - here's our little collection.

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Enjoying some forest bathing in the Daintree.

We did spend one day in the rainforest exploring Mossman Gorge, but otherwise this was a super-chilled break. Out of character for the two of us, but so appreciated!

This tiny snail was probably 1/4 cm, and a delightful reminder of the
importance of slowing down and observing the wonders of nature.

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We did not spend a day on the Great Barrier Reef this time around, though I have had the pleasure of swimming and snorkelling the Reef a number of times on previous trips.  A couple of years ago I wrote about the Great Barrier Reef. The situation is even more dire today, particularly in light of the Federal and Queensland governmental support of the Adani Coal Mine. This mega mine poses direct physical threats to the Reef as coal is transported out of Australia, but the biggest threat to the Reef is rising global temperatures. The latest reports suggest the Reef is officially dying. Warmer waters are to blame for the past two years' coral bleaching on the Reef, and we have lost 50% of the Great Barrier Reef over the past 30 years due to pollution and warming. However, I'd urge you not to think this means the region is not worth a visit. The Reef is still spectacular, and once you are amongst it personally the value of this magnificent World Heritage Area really become apparent. Besides, between the Reef and the other World Heritage site - the Daintree Rainforest - you are truly amongst some of the world's most beautiful natural sites.

If you're as frustrated as I am about the Adani project, head over to the Stop Adani website and learn how you can get more involved. You'll be armed with further information about just how problematic this mine is - it's taking more than it's giving to Australia, and will undoubtedly steer us away from our climate targets.

Until next time~

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P.S. - I know some bloggers accept free holidays to destinations in return for articles, but this holiday was completely organised and paid for by yours truly. My opinions above are an unbiased, honest reflection of how much I loved our stay, and I hope some of you get the opportunity to stay in this magical place.

The views from the bar and restaurant were spectacular!

Wednesday 14 June 2017

future of fashion manifesto

A few weeks ago I was asked to participate in a fabulous conference titled Hacking the Anthropocene*.

The structure of the conference meant that many short "hacks" were presented to the group - creative and outside-the-square thoughts to help us work toward productive environmental actions/solutions/ideas.

I was invited to present a hack on the topic of fashion and "weathering" - how do we weather the impending climate crisis? What role does fashion play during uncertain times?

I decided my 7 minute hack would be a manifesto for the future of fashion. There are plenty of other fashion manifestos, (see for example Mistra's Future Fashion Manifesto, Li Edelkoort's Anti-Fashion Manifesto, and Greenpeace's Detox Fashion Manifesto) So why write another one? I was influenced by all of these, but also wanted to consider my own research with the Australian sustainable fashion movement and spell out more clearly what I felt were the truly revolutionary ideas. I also wanted to think about what is productive about fashion - I don't want to change it entirely, but instead consider the best elements of fashion that we can use to our advantage. Below I've included excerpts from my presentation, including the key points of my manifesto.

This manifesto is by no means complete. In fact, I'd love your input. I don't think that one person, or even one organisation, can write an effective manifesto for the future of fashion. So consider this a starting point and an invitation - read it, ponder it, and share your thoughts with me. I think we can create something really powerful if we all put our heads together.

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 What to Wear to Weather the End of the World as We Know It
In 2015 trend forecaster Li Edelkoort declared “fashion is dead” in her Anti-Fashion Manifesto. She suggested the industry has become too insular, students are only taught to be individualistic catwalk designers, the pace has accelerated too rapidly, textile design skills have been lost, sweatshops plague the industry, and fashion bloggers have taken over true fashion critique.

I agree with many of her grumblings about the industry, but I disagree with Edelkoort’s conclusion that we should distance ourselves from "fashion" and focus on "clothing". I don’t think fashion will ever be dead, and I don’t think we should want it to be, either. It is far more productive to consider the creativity and innovation that are hallmarks of fashion as invaluable skills for solving the many shortcomings of the industry, particularly the social and environmental devastation it causes.

These productive traits of fashion are also useful for weathering the end of the world as we know it – which itself is an ideal time to change the way things are done.  Depending on where one lives, weathering the future storms will include adjustments to warmer or colder, wetter or dryer climates, as well as socio-political upheaval. Future fashion solutions may be able to offer both physical and social comfort as we adjust to uncertain times.

Future of Fashion : A Manifesto
  1. (Re)Create
    Rethinking waste is one of the most impactful means of weathering a future with overflowing landfills. Experimental label Maison Briz Vegas was influenced in part by Gay Hawkins’ Ethics of Waste and actively work with waste to overcome the guilt associated with it and work towards an enchantment with waste. As Carla Binotto, one half of the duo explains, “A constant motivation for the two designers is transforming the humble and discarded into something rich and beautiful.” The pieces are created with secondhand clothing that are broken down, block printed by hand, and recreated into new pieces, often embellished with other waste including plastic bags and milk cartons.

    Other examples of (re)creating with waste include labels that use excess, deadstock or offcut fabric, like Sheila Forever (pictured below), and the recycling of waste into new fibers, including brands like Patagonia, Teeki, and Adidas in using recycled plastic bottles and ocean waste in their polyester fibers.

  2. Collaborative Kinship
    Weathering an unstable future will be made possible by forming strong social bonds – in the fashion industry this can be seen through collaborative kinship - viewing others as partners in a way forward, not strictly as competitors.

    Patagonia has broken tradition when it comes to dealing with the competition. When the organisation engineered new wetsuit material using a natural rubber called Yulex, which is made from tapping trees in sustainably managed forests, they shared the technology via open-source so their competitors. This way any brand that wanted could make a wetsuit with a significantly smaller footprint when compared with the usual neoprene.

    In my research with the sustainable fashion industry in Australia I have found collaboration to be a hallmark of the movement.  Sometimes this is at the top of the market, but primarily amongst entrepreneurs who work together in a range of activities to further the cause of sustainable fashion. This is also represented by the generosity of the labels sharing time and samples with me – an activist researcher – as we all pull together to create change.
  3. Clothes for Living
    Creating clothes for living and designing outside of trends is a powerful tool, including designing and constructing quality garments meant to last. Engendering a sense of pride in quality pieces and a confident, stable style is a revolutionary act to counter the endless changes of style from today’s fast fashion market.

    Australian label Pure Pod operates in this way, creating high quality pieces designed to outlast seasonal trends that make the wearer feel great about themselves.

  4. Clear Connections
    “Transparency” has become a buzzword as fashion brands start to uncover their deep, global and complex supply chains. But a truly sustainable future of fashion means not only knowing who and where your suppliers are, but forming connections with them.

    Carlie Ballard's eponymous label demonstrates the potential of creating connections with her producers. Through regular visits and frequent communication with the team on the ground her pieces created to the standard she needs and she also has learned how the team prefers to work and has adjusted accordingly. Since there is regular and clear communication, the team in India also feel comfortable sharing their knowledge with Ballard regarding technical aspects of weaving, dyeing, or tailoring that may add cost and/or time to her production. The mutual respect between designer and producer offers a connection on a deeper than merely having traceable supplier lists.

  5. Challenge & Provoke
    The creativity of fashion can be used to provoke new ways of thinking about the world. Maison Briz Vegas offers an ideal example of this through their poetics of waste, which provokes the viewer of the garments and challenges her notions of waste. Feathers made of plastic bags, sequins and embellishments made of trash, and secondhand clothing block printed all provoke new thinking not only about the way we view fashion, but the way we view waste – provoking fashion leads to provoking thoughts about life.

In closing – fashion is part of life. To claim it is “dead” and should be forgotten neglects the magic it offers and its impact on how we view the world. Let’s not toss it all away, calling it frivolous, wasteful or self-serving.  Tapping into creativity is essential for weathering the climate crisis. Inspiration for responses to the Anthropocene can and must come from all aspects of social life, and fashion offers a prime opportunity to provoke new ways of thinking through its ability to attract, bewilder and inspire.

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So, what do you think? What would you add or change? Share your ideas and together we can create a more complete manifesto.

I also want to say another big thank you to the labels who generously provided samples for me to have on hand at the conference - it made all the difference for the attendees to see up close the possibilities and beauty of sustainable fashion.

Pure Pod, Patagonia, Carlie Ballard, Sheila Forever, and Maison Briz Vegas.


*In case you haven't heard of the term, 'Anthropocene' is what we are calling this current geological and climate age - the era during which human activity has had the greatest impact on the earth and climate.