Amma Aburam is the face and passionate sustainable fashion writer behind Style and Sustain. We had the pleasure of talking with Amma for our latest Creative Impact event. Her words were a breath of fresh air, and we learned so much about her passion, voice, and mission, and now we are sharing it with you.
Amma Aburam is a Ghanaian and French fashion marketing expert based in London who became a fair fashion advocate and blogger after learning about the devastating impact of fast fashion on people and the planet in 2016. Through her online space Style and Sustain, she writes, creates eco-fashion editorials and gives tips on loving fashion sustainably and ethically.
She believes “we can all create a better fashion industry, especially as consumers through our choices.” If that wasn’t enough, Amma also recently started Style & Sustain-the podcast where she has conversations with changemakers, inspiring individuals and brands in the eco-fashion industry.
It’s clear that Amma has a lot of passion for the fashion industry, but where did it all start? She has “always loved fashion, and in [my] early teens (like many) [I] fell into fast-paced, fast fashion trends.”
She admits: “I shopped frequently and thoughtlessly and found summer jobs in retail so that I could shop at a discount. Landing my first job in retail management meant I kept acquiring more clothes. I never thought about the impact of my habits until 2016 after watching The True Cost documentary by Andrew Morgan. That was a wake-up call for me.”
“I found it unsettling that something I loved and enjoyed so much could cause such damage to people and the planet, I knew I had to change. Finding spaces like Fashion Revolution helped me along the journey. It led me to start Style & Sustain as a way to hold myself accountable but also inspire fashion lovers like myself to turn to sustainable and ethical fashion practices.”
A fusion of style and sustainability
This grounding helped Amma to acknowledge a few personal truths and revelations. Style and sustainability are not mutually exclusive. “There is a general notion in popular culture that fair fashion is boring, and I wanted to debunk that. Loving fashion consciously can be stylish, fun and innovative. Removing ourselves from fast fashion trends means that we can explore personal style more authentically as we have to be more creative.” She points out how, from secondhand/vintage to swapping, renting, eco-brands, there are so many ways to ethically and sustainably have fun with fashion.” Creativity comes from consciously combining all these practices to create your own style.
Eco-fashion is about bettering lives and preserving our planet.
“Creating clothes that are not detrimental to the earth treats garment workers with dignity and pays them fair wages. Without the two combined, there is no real sustainability because one should not come without the other.”
Having sustainable and ethical fashion practices changed her outlook on life. “I believe it teaches us to move away from an individualistic/instant-gratification mindset to “how do my actions impact the world and others?”. For me, it was fashion, but we can apply this mindset to anything. I always tell people to find what they are most passionate about and practice that as sustainably and ethically possible. Because the truth is that all this is intersectional, and many of these issues are tied to social justice issues, be it the fashion industry, the food industry or the beauty industry. We can all be involved in solving problems by focusing on what drives us.”
The bigger impact of our choices
Amma reminds us that we are not just consumers but citizens whose choices have an impact far beyond what we can imagine. Amma references this quote from Anna Lappé: “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” because that’s where our power lies as consumers, in where we decide to put our money. When it comes to our clothes, we can either support fast fashion brands (who contribute to the destruction of our planet and the mistreatment of garment workers) or put our money towards brands and fashion practices that preserve the planet and uplift/support garment workers.
Beyond that, activism is not just in the big moments like going to protests or being loud on social media but rather in the choices we make every day about spending our time and money by asking: who does this benefit? That’s the bigger picture for Amma, and her mission through Style and Sustain is to help people start with those few fashion choices that make a big difference. “I also hope to empower people to hold fast fashion brands accountable for their actions by highlighting and supporting wonderful projects and NGOs on my page.”
The role of social media
From her website to social media, Amma reflects that social media is crucial and a fundamental tool for change in our generation. “The important thing for me is to remember that it doesn’t start and end on social media; it’s just a tool, so I try to be active in other ways.” Amma likes to practise what she preaches by attending real-life events like panels, supporting sustainable brands pop-ups, speaking to family and friends, donating to projects, generally living her message out in real life.
“It’s all intertwined to me; social media and real-life activities co-exist and feed off each other in putting my message out there and connecting to like-minded people.”
While scrolling online, it’s also interesting to see the effort certain brands are making in this space. Each brand has such different approaches to sustainability, and it’s very hard to champion and cover each element when it comes to producing ethically and being sustainable.
The best brands, according to Amma, are without a doubt the ones that admit that it’s a journey and commit to continual improvement. “I admire the work of Studio One Eighty-Nine, Mayamiko and Birdsong for very different reasons. The first brand uplifts local artisans in Ghana and shows that producing ethically and sustainably in Africa is essential and feasible. Mayamiko is incredible for their approach to women empowerment and the charity tied to their work, and the I love Birdsong for promoting local production and supporting local female garment workers in the UK.”
On the flipside, there is a lot of negative press around so-called “sustainable” campaigns from the likes of H&M, Urban Outfitters, Missguided, etc., at the moment in the UK and overseas.
“Greenwashing is trending, and it’s not always easy to spot which brands are at it. I also think greenwashing is a sign that the consumer mindset is shifting for the better: people are asking for more sustainable and ethical practices from brands, and brands are listening but not entirely. Greenwashing is brands trying to find the cheapest and easiest way to satisfy this consumer demand, but I love that they are being held accountable for their lies, and rightfully so!
“For me, an easy way to spot greenwashing is just by looking at production quantities; how can a brand be sustainable or ethical if they are regularly producing millions of new pieces at an incredibly fast pace? It’s most likely they are not. Also, is there a real ethical element to their production? If they are talking about pineapple leather but not garment worker rights, then it’s only half-truths. Do we need to give grace to brands trying to turn things around? Yes, but we can give them continuous feedback on how to do better, and that’s key in fighting greenwashing.”
Amma’s favourite pieces
We could not talk about brands and fashion without asking Amma Aburam about her most-loved sustainable item in her wardrobe! In the last few years, she has committed to only buying pre-loved denim simply because denim production is one of the most harmful processes for people and the planet. “Conveniently, denim items are the most traded garments in the secondhand/vintage industry. Whether it’s a denim jacket, jeans, denim overalls, you name it, you can find it somewhere secondhand or vintage, so why buy new? On that note, her favourite item is her vintage Levi’s denim jacket from the Brick Lane Vintage Market; it’s just a staple in my wardrobe that I’ve adored for so long.”
Sustainability in fashion is a new trend in itself. But what does the future hold for eco-fashion? According to Amma, “the fashion industry will have a similar path to the food industry. We saw the rise of vegetarianism, veganism, and now it is a norm (or almost!). Sustainable and ethical fashion will also slowly become a “norm”. I also see the circular fashion economy continue to boom, with the younger generation hooked to platforms like Depop or Vinted where peer-to-peer fashion and independent brands are thriving over fast fashion.”
Top accounts to follow
There are so many accounts online to inspire and encourage the eco-fashion movement, and we wanted to know who Amma Aburam loves.
- Dominique Drakeford has a holistic approach to sustainability, from food to clothes and everything in between. “She’s also one of the first black women I discovered in the sustainability space. She made me feel like I could have an impact within the space too.
- Michaela Loach is also such an inspiration; she works with Paid To Pollute to take the UK government to court for supporting and paying fossil fuel companies with public money – how badass is that?!
- I also love the work Shakaila Forbes-Bell is doing with her platform Fashion is Psychology, she’s my latest podcast guest, and the interview is worth a listen to learn how fashion and mental health are intertwined.
- I’m a huge fan of Natalie from Sustainably Chic; she inspires me as a blogger who sets healthy ethical boundaries around how to talk about sustainable fashion on social media without giving in to the pressures of selling or the algorithm.”
Taking small steps to big change
If the world of eco-fashion seems quite overwhelming, then you’re not alone. Amma Aburam shared with us her top 3 tips to be a little more sustainable every day:
- Explore your closet. Spend time with the clothes you already have, try new combos. When you see something you like, check your wardrobe first to know if you already have something similar.
- Swap or Rent. Before buying something new, check if your family or friends have what you need to lend or give to you. There are also some fabulous swap events, like those hosted on the regular by The Dress Change. Let’s not forget rental platforms that are amazing like Onloan, ByRotation, New Wardrobe, Hirestreet and more.
- Go vintage or secondhand! It’s stylish, and you won’t look like everyone else. If you must buy new, support a sustainable and ethical brand.
Ultimately, passionate bloggers and activists like Amma Aburam hope for the day when we even drop the “sustainable and ethical” label to clothing items, as these will be inherent qualities to fashion. While greenwashing is the latest trend within the space to be wary of, she similarly hopes to inspire people to educate themselves and make personal changes that will help create more significant shifts in the industry and create a more sustainable (and stylish) industry future.
If you are keen to learn more about style and sustainability, you can have a look at Amma’s website or take a look at her Instagram. Or, to listen to Amma Aburam and her inspiring interviews, check out her podcast.
Or, for more articles on sustainability, take a look at our archives here.
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Amy is a plant-based food blogger, recipe developer and content creator behind Nourishing Amy. She focuses on food, health and happiness to promote a nourishing lifestyle and regularly shares her positive vibes, inspirational affirmations and food creations on her social media channels and her website.