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Name: Chris Burt-Allan
Occupation: Content Creator & Sustainability Advocate
Where were you born? What is your heritage?
I was born in Perth. My dad’s family immigrated from Scotland and my mum’s family is Australian as far back as 1861.
Tell us a little bit about what you do?
I’m a sustainability advocate and reformed management consultant. I work with luxury brands on a wide range of projects from photography to commentary to hosting events.
What does the Fashion Revolution movement mean to you personally?
To me, the fashion revolution movement means reclaiming awareness of apparel supply chains and returning to more conscious consumption. In the old days, things were produced slowly and locally; as we became more connected globally, we started outsourcing to countries with cheaper labour and cheaper methods, and it became a global race to the bottom. In order to compete, corners were cut and the burden fell on the environment. This global race to the bottom also created a major barrier to visibility, so the increasing environmental burden and the decreasing transparency have continued, hand in hand.
This year’s Fashion Revolution theme is all about a healthy planet being a human right – what action are you taking in the fight to keep our planet healthy?
The most important action I’m taking in the fight to keep the planet healthy is fostering meaningful conversations to create change. I have a relatively large audience on social media but the best conversations are in-person, often with people I don’t know. A lot of my friends have told me I’ve inspired them to change and adopt better habits; I really believe we are most compelling in real life. If we put effort into having meaningful conversations with the people we trust and those people become inclined to have the same conversation with others, then the impact grows exponentially. On the basis that we are all connected through six degrees of separation, we can really make a difference to the world, starting in our own little circles.
What inspired you to move from luxury fashion to a fashion sustainability advocate?
I have always been into sustainability, even before I was aware of the philosophy. I grew up in a pretty pristine environment and was always very connected to nature; I didn’t have a lot of friends and would spend a lot of time wandering, exploring and thinking. I was always sensitive to the suffering of animals and would get upset over cruelty, including fishing for sport. I always felt like the odd one out in this regard and people would refer to me as ‘sensitive’, which I loathed. That attitude still bothers me: it’s condescending and arrogant, where we all need to be questioning our own assumptions and beliefs to make changes for the better. The sustainability movement as we know it has only crystallised fairly recently and I basically latched on immediately. Learning about sustainability raised questions in my mind, and I quickly spiralled into the movement.
Getting into environmental advocacy wasn’t exactly a move from fashion to sustainability, but a broadening of scope. I always felt luxury fashion was inherently more sustainable due to the higher price point and smaller quantities; the whole idea of luxury fashion is that it’s the best in terms of design, concept and fabrication, and that’s reflected in the pricing. Consumers have to value those products sufficiently and will therefore look after them better. Furthermore, luxury pieces usually stay in the second-hand market. I was always intrigued by the value proposition of those traditional luxury brands and I’m now applying the sustainability lens to find the most sustainable practices from anywhere in the apparel industry, often from ethical brands such as Asket, Everlane, Pangaia and Sheep Inc.
Sustainability is much bigger than just fashion. It often becomes a blame game of which industry is doing the damage – there’s a popular but misguided belief that the fashion industry is the biggest polluter in the world – but the simple truth is that all industries ultimately cater to our consumption. It’s our culture, behaviour and decisions that pull products through the supply chain. By buying things, we basically commission more of them. That’s a very powerful realisation and is pivotal to the idea of voting with your money. We need to embrace simplicity and take pride in doing things the slow way, because that will underpin changes across all facets of our life, from food to fashion to travel to transport to homewares. There is so much beauty and happiness to be found in simplicity and minimalism, but I think we’ve deviated dangerously far in the other direction of consumerism and freneticism.
What’s the one thing you’d like to change in the fashion industry?
The one thing I’d like to change is the lack of originality and individuality; our obsession with buying into new trends in order to feel relevant and accepted is a huge problem. The whole fast fashion model of plagiarism is just so sad, because you lose all the meaning; it’s a disservice to the original designer and the fashion house that it was designed for. I think we have developed a dangerous expectation that we can have it all. There are people who dedicate their lives to things such as fashion, travel, food and cars, but then you have the conventional mass market who expect to have access to those products and experiences, without really understanding or honouring them.
Do you have a favourite place in nature? If so, where is it?
My favourite place in nature is definitely the beach. It’s the convergence of the major elements – land, air and water – and the proverbial watering hole that we tend to gravitate towards. I tend to avoid the beach in the middle of the day because it’s just too intense; sunrise and sunset is when the magic happens. The hour around sunset just carries the most beautiful energy. The colours change, the sun stops burning, the wind dies down, wildlife is more active, the lighting evens out, people are winding down and relaxing… it’s transcendent. I constantly refer to it as my favourite show because it’s so spectacular and always has a different storyline. Now that I’m actively trying to soak it up, I notice so many people doing the same thing: chilling, stretching, meditating, bathing and absorbing. We really need to lean into nature to centre ourselves and understand what’s at stake.
What do you normally wear every day?
I walk barefoot to the beach every morning, for a run and a swim, wearing speedos and comfortable basics. When I get home, I usually just relax until I have a meeting or work. When I head out, I get more dressed up: usually a mix of designer, vintage and classic basics.
What is your favourite piece in your wardrobe?
Tough question. I guess it depends how you quantify it! The thing I wear most often would be my Birkenstocks or my Prada cross-body bag. The piece I like the most right now would be a wool vest from Samsøe Samsøe, because it’s a great design and beautifully fabricated in 100% wool. It’s extremely comfortable but also looks pretty edgy. I also really love my vintage collection for sentimental reasons.
Do you have any favourite sustainable brands, or favourite second hand shops?
Both! There are a bunch of brands doing great things. Patagonia, Asket, Pangaia, Cariuma, Veja and Outerknown spring to mind. A lot of the Italian luxury fashion houses are doing great things – especially Gucci and Prada. Kering – Gucci’s parent company – recently came in at number seven on the Knight Global 100: a list of the most sustainable corporations in the world.
Do you have a style icon?
No I don’t. I am not particularly referential when it comes to dressing. I am a little more abstract and conceptual in my inspiration. I will get inspired by things such as self-expression, eras, colours, fabrics, proportions, mood and vibe.
What is your favourite style of Mighty Good Basics?
Definitely the brief in classic colours: white, grey and black. No question.