Edda Hamar, Undress Runways

If you do the right things in the right order, you’ll get there ...

Sometimes the most important questions are the overlooked. How many times in your life have you pulled on a t-shirt, slipped into a pair of undies or zipped up a pair of jeans? And how many times have you paused in that moment and considered where the piece might have come from and what materials it’s made from? Probably not nearly enough. Few of us do, which is why local changemaker Edda Hamar stepped up to the plate and co-founded Australia’s largest sustainable fashion runway show back in 2011. Undress Runways aims to support and showcase emerging and established sustainable designers, while also inspiring us to shift our mindsets and take action to reduce the high volumes of clothing that end up in landfill each year. Ahead of a clothing swap tomorrow and a special sunset runway event as part of Surfers Paradise Festival on Saturday April 26, The Weekend Edition caught up with Edda to chat vintage shopping, local labels and rubbing shoulders with Richard Branson.

If we armed you with a megaphone to broadcast one key message about sustainability across Brisbane, what would it be?
‘What are you wearing? If you don’t know where it was made, what it’s made from or where it will end up, take it off!’

How do you define sustainable fashion?
It’s about looking good, responsibly. Sustainable fashion is clothing that’s socially and environmentally conscious.

What’s the biggest myth about sustainable fashion?
That it isn’t trendy and only hippies wear it. Sustainable fashion can be beautiful and on trend; you just need to know where to look.

What led to the conception of Undress Runways?
We saw local designers doing great things with very little support. We wanted to shed light on sustainable fashion – an important concept that’s largely covered up by the fashion industry.

What are your long-term goals for the organisation?
In the next five to ten years, Undress Runways will be an international runway series for sustainable fashion designers. We’re also on the way to becoming a leading online network for sustainable fashion information, resources and online shopping. Our goal is to shift the way society thinks about fashion.

What’s been the greatest challenge in getting it off the ground?
Funding it. Events are a tricky business, full of very fine margins.

You’ve ticked off some incredible achievements at the helm of Undress Runways; what are you most proud of?
My team. They’re the best. We have anywhere between 15 and 20 on the team and many have been there from the start. They’re an incredible bunch and I hope they’ll join me in taking Undress around the world.

What’s been the best piece of advice you received along the way?
My brain is overflowing with advice! I have a habit of seeking advice wherever I go. One piece that stands out is something Holly Branson said: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ That resonates with me.

You’ve met many famous faces in your quest to educate the public about sustainable fashion. Who has inspired you the most and why?
The Young Social Pioneers. I’m part of a program for young people creating social change in Australia. It’s run by the Foundation for Young Australians and brings together 18 social entrepreneurs from around the country. They’re brilliant.

What can you tell us about the Bowtie for Branson campaign?
I ran a campaign to get Richard Branson to wear one of our Undress bowties. I did a Branson-inspired task every day for 30 days – everything from painting myself in Virgin-red paint, doing his favourite sport of kite surfing and cutting off a stranger’s tie and replacing it with a bowtie. It was a hectic month! Eventually, Virgin made contact and I had a 15-minute appointment with Branson himself. It was the best.

You’re holding Brisbane’s biggest clothing swap on Queens Wharf Road this Friday March 28. How can locals get involved?
Bring along up to eight items of clothing and swap them for up to eight new ones. For free! The clothing swap takes place at Queens Wharf in the city under the Victoria Bridge. Come along between 4:00–6:00 pm with your clothes and grab some swapping dollars, and then the Swap Shop is open from 6:00–9:00 pm. It’ll be a great night of live music, food and clothes swapping!

Undress Runways will also be working its magic at the upcoming Surfers Paradise Festival in April. What can we expect from this event?
This will be our first Undress Gold Coast event – and will be a little different than usual. We’re doing a sunset runway show at Surfers Paradise Festival, which will take place on a carpark rooftop. With more than 200,000 people expected to attend the festival this year, it should be a pretty explosive event!

Can you share some tips for how readers can boost the sustainability of their wardrobes?
Buy vintage, borrow from friends and, as Vivienne Westwood said, ‘buy less, choose well and make it last’.

What local, sustainable fashion labels should we be supporting?
Lots! Harriette HillOne ColourMadonna BainNicoDe Lore CoutureFabled and True and many more can be found on our website.

What’s your greatest fear?
I think fear is a form of stress and stress is unproductive. There’s no point being scared. Plus, there are way more scary things out there – like being stuck in a cage with a lion. That’s scary.

Have you found a big shift in awareness in recent years? Do you have an optimistic view for the future?
Absolutely! When we started four years ago, you could barely find any information on sustainable fashion, let alone fashion shows. The future is bright and we’re very excited to see Undress grow from city to city around the world.

What do you want your legacy to be?
A world where sustainable fashion is default.

How do you define ‘success’?
Success will be seeing sustainable fashion become mainstream fashion. Where the mass market demands sustainable clothing, major brands shift to sustainable design and manufacturing, and supply chains become transparent. Success will see the fashion industry transform into an honest and responsible industry.

What are your words of wisdom?
If you do the right things in the right order, you’ll get there.

Perk up … A run along the river, New Farm.
Relax … On my verandah, at home.
Dine … Avocado smash from Vroom, New Farm.
Indulge … The Brunswick Social $1 dumplings!
Shop … Vintage shops in West End.
Catch up … Chowhouse, New Farm.
Be inspired … Walking around Brisbane.


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