Summer Dean is the founder and creator of her climate and slow fashion blog, Climate Diva. She creates online educational content about sustainability in fashion, climate change, and day-to-day lifestyle content navigating ways to live life a little bit slower and more sustainably.
1. How did your passion for slow fashion and sustainability come to be?
I started working in the fashion industry as a model when I was 16 years old, and fashion has always been my favorite form of self-expression. But, when I went to university for environmental studies, I quickly realized that fashion isn’t just about expressing yourself aesthetically; it’s also about expressing your values, morals, and the kind of world you want to live in. A $5 fast fashion top might look cute, but you are putting something on your body that causes very direct harm to garment workers and ecosystems. So for me now, fashion is about so much more than looking stylish, trendy, or having the perfect wardrobe. It’s about changing an industry that has quickly become one of the most polluting industries on the planet and learning to love our clothing in a much slower way, without all of the overproduction and overconsumption.
2. What are your top sustainability tips?
My biggest tip is to start engaging with sustainability in something that you’re already interested in or passionate about. If you like fashion, there’s so much to learn about sustainable fashion and ways that you can take action, like reducing consumption, advocating for regulations, and supporting slow fashion designers. If you’re passionate about food, there’s a huge movement right now toward supporting local farmers and regenerative agriculture that you can engage with. If you’re passionate about tech and AI, there are so many ways you can help create tech to reduce carbon emissions as well. So, start somewhere that you already have an interest in, and learn as much as you can. We can’t have a sustainable world unless we create a culture that values sustainability, and we can’t do that unless we have everyone contributing their own unique interests and talents toward building a more sustainable world.
3. In the midst of summer when many vacations are happening, how can we travel more sustainably?
There’s a concept I’ve been seeing lately called “slow travel”, and it’s about going to a place for a longer period of time instead of bouncing around from city to city just to see as much as you can in a short period of time. When you do this, there's more time to experience and support the local culture and community, and it’s obviously much less carbon-intensive. I’ve been trying to incorporate this into my travels. Supporting local businesses wherever you are instead of multinational corporations, taking trains and public transit, taking nonstop flights and reducing the number of trips you take each year are all things that we (people from the global north) can do to make our travel more sustainable.
4. What does fashion mean to you?
Fashion is of course art and self-expression, but it’s also an expression of our values and an expression of the kind of future that we want to live in. When we engage in slow fashion, it really is about love. Loving our clothing to the point of re-wearing and repairing it constantly, loving it too much to throw away. loving the people who made our clothes, and loving the complex ecosystems from which the fabrics were grown.
5. What’s the next step for you in supporting slow fashion?
I started my vintage shop, Gaia Vintage, and the second drop will be announced very soon. Vintage sourcing truly makes me so happy, so this is really a passion project for me - I’ve always felt that vintage clothing has a certain magic that makes it so special.
I love the feeling of finding a beautiful piece from a different decade and being able to extend its life into a new era. I want to make it easier for people to find stylish vintage pieces without them being too overpriced and inaccessible. I truly believe there is enough clothing that already exists on this planet to supply every person on Earth for the next several generations. If we want a sustainable future, we have to limit the overproduction of virgin clothing and give old clothing and fabrics a new life.
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