Where did your value for sustainability come from?
I was privileged enough to grow up in an environment embodying sustainable practices far before their importance became globally acknowledged. In saying that, my value for sustainability came from where most of our values are derived, my mother.
My mum is an admirer of all art forms. In the late ’70s, she became a qualified seamstress and began her own journey in fashion. This meant that as a young child, any dress-up occasion would see the majority of the other kids in cheap synthetic costumes while I paraded around in tailored Jedi robes made from old blankets looking like a straight padawan on the set of the Phantom Menace.
She has instilled such an innate appreciation for the complex intricacy and work it takes to make a quality garment. As she watched the standards of fashion manufacturing drop with the rise of fast fashion, her commitment to conscious practices developed and ultimately rubbed off on me. She’s now an ambassador for the fashion revolution movement and runs her own made-to-measure business based on the principles of refashioning and up-cycling. From a young age, she taught me how to look after all the clothes I owned, how to mend all the destruction, and how to correctly wash them for longevity. Buying from op-shops or ethical brands was a non-negotiable.
Tell us about the Journey of exxy
In spring 2019, inspired by the uprising of independent fashion designers on Instagram, I started exxy – a project birthed out of pure fun and curiosity for design. The first thing I ever painted was ‘Lisa Simpson’ on a plain white T-shirt. I had completely lost love for the shirt, but after it was painted it became my favourite item of clothing. I guess this was what you’d call the “aha” moment – I turned something that was so overlooked in the back of my closet to one of the centre art pieces of my life. Since then, the identity of exxy has shifted and evolved through many design mediums, from pattern making and screen printing to graphic design, video directing, photography and 3D digital environment creation, all the while retaining a core theme of airbrushing and fashion.
What makes exxy sustainable?
At this point in our environmental state, I would argue that the only truly sustainable practice would be not to create at all. But, to deny any avenues of creativity would be equally as damaging to society, so that’s why it’s vital in the process of creation to recycle and repurpose wherever we can. My primary formula for creation is sourcing clothes from op-shops, doing alterations and then painting them. In my subjective opinion, this is pretty sustainable. The only new thing being produced to make my art is the paint in my airbrush and the cotton thread in my sewing machine.
exxy has always been about the art, I’ve never created anything with profit in mind. The few items I have sold to the public have really only covered the cost of materials and maybe paid me the minimum wage of a 14-year-old. And recently I haven’t been selling anything, I’ve just been gifting pieces to my musically talented friends to wear onstage. The joy harvested during the exchange of me giving them a material item, and in return seeing my art being worn in environments of high energy by people I am so inspired by, is so much more satisfying than any increase of numbers in my bank account. This is not to say I don’t want to make money from exxy forever – I’m currently in the process of getting garments made by Australian pattern makers using recycled materials.
What is your personal philosophy on sustainability as a consumer?
Western society is inherently capitalistic, the primary goal being to increase and expand, so it makes sense why most brands would look for the cheapest and fastest way to turn their investments into profit. It’s what we’ve been taught to value and view as success. But when I’m purchasing something with ethical and sustainable consideration, it gives me peace of mind in the transaction and I’m willing to spend more to feel this way. I know a portion of the profits are supplying factories in developing countries with fair work conditions, using eco-friendly dyes that don’t pollute rivers and supporting brands who are doing all they can to avoid contributing to further degradation of the environment.
Why should designers and brands be reconsidering their approach if it’s not in their best financial interest?
Let’s be real, capitalism is gross. All brands and designers should be investing in the move towards a sustainable model because what makes a brand cool today is not what it used to be. It’s not just the design, but the movement behind it. Take a brand like adidas, for example, which have relaunched the iconic Stan Smiths using vegan material alternatives and upcycled materials. Sustainability is such a key selling point when looking at consumer behaviour in a younger demographic because the practices they are (or aren’t) supporting are directly impacting their future and quality of life. People want to be a part of a movement and feel connected to something with meaning. What does it say about your movement if the foundations don’t consider the greater good of humanity and the environment?
What do you want to tell people who feel like they “can’t justify” the extra spend?
When Japanese organising consultant Marie Kondo helps her clients choose which of their clothes to throw away she asks them to hold each item and see if it ‘sparks joy’. If you go to your closet now, I bet most of the clothes that spark joy will be of higher quality. When I do this, as I touch each item of clothing, I imagine its whole journey; starting with the cotton bud being picked, the person who processed it, the tailor who sewed the panels together, and if I bought it second hand, the people who’ve worn it before me. Every time, the items that spark joy for me are made with a classic but thoughtful design and, above all, intention. That’s why the main garments I wear are made by myself or my mum.
Justifying why purchasing clothes made with intention is worth the extra spend is really up to who that person is. It’s proven that the fashion industry has an immense impact on the environment. I would just ask them, “how much impact do you want to have?”
Photography by Noah Gallagher