From megaphone to microphone with fashion, climate activist Saad Amer – WWD

Today’s influential young leaders are ready to turn any platform into a stage for activism and any Instagram-worthy moment amid the negative climate. A sense of humor often helps.

“In many ways, when we talk about fashion, we’re also having a conversation about climate,” said Saad Amer, the climate activist and New York native behind the youth-focused vote advocacy organization Plus1Vote and eco- Justice Environment consultancy. “We were taught to think of these things as separate. A climate activist against a fashion activist. For me, what’s the difference? Probably just the dress,” he said to the laughter of the audience.

Amer spoke alongside Kerry Washington, Aurora James and other personalities aiming for change in fashion at a Kering and Marie Claire event last month. For the Harvard environmental science and public policy graduate — who also serves as a consultant to the United Nations and serves as expert reviewer for the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — fashion is inseparable from climate.

“While we have these conversations about how they’re related, it’s the reality that the fashion industry is expected to grow about 63 percent by 2030. Now for a company, that sounds great. However, due to the global reality of the climate crisis, the IPCC tells us that we need to halve our emissions in the same amount of time. Now, you have a conversation and now you need the company to bring real solutions to the table so we don’t undermine the reality of the climate movement.”

Global consumption of clothing and footwear is expected to increase from 62 million tonnes to 102 million tonnes in 2030, according to a 2019 report from the European Environment Agency. But, as with other activists, this reality is not one Amer is signing up for.

“Young people, consumers, even the most traditional luxury [shoppers] they’re looking for fashion companies and they’re like, “Hey, I want a better option.” I want to dress well. I want to look cute, but I’m not trying to destroy the planet,’” she added.

His quiet banter resonates well with the always-online generation. From selfies on the green carpet for iPhone, to the elegant microphone to the megaphone with the inscription “VOTE”, Amer never loses his polish or his values. Even as she attended a climate march protest in New York City, Amer’s hair looked perfectly coiffed and her (vintage) tweed blazer fitted to a T. The march was organized by Fridays for Future, founded by Greta Thunberg, together with other local organizers.

“With each march, the movement gets closer to its goals. With each gear, the science feels stronger. With every march, we get closer to climate justice,” Amer wrote on Instagram amidst a carousel of lively action shots.

But composed in a quiet setting, Amer candidly reflected, “I didn’t have to change who I am to be here,” over the phone on a rainy late afternoon in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Midtown, near where he grew up. “I’m here for who I am and what I brought to the table.”

Recap aside, who brought to the table is also relevant. Everyone from Jane Goodall, Bella Hadid, Al Gore, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and more have engaged with Amer’s work in some way (and millions of eyes across their collective following) whether it’s an Instagram filter, like in Hadid’s case, or a one-on-one interview with policy makers, like AOC for Plus1Vote.

The week WWD met Amer for lunch was also New York Fashion Week. In between, there were dozens of daily high-temperature records set up and down the East Coast for an unusually hot month.

His message to fashion companies is simple. “Whether you want to change or not, you have to. The reality of the situation is that climate change is happening. So there is the ability to prepare in advance and help communities, especially communities of color around the world, and keep them from incurring immense loss and damage.”

“Businesses need to act now,” he said in an earlier conversation. “Policies are already on the table, whether it’s the Fashion Act or the Fabric Act here in the US or the new sustainability regulations popping up from Europe. Companies will have to change. It’s either the reality that they can make it up front and be seen as leaders or struggle to catch up and become irrelevant to consumer dynamics and the new reality.

For Amer, real work begins with the dream. “You have to be able to imagine the future and execute the vision. There is something about fashion and art that catches the eye,” he added. Speaking of theories of change, Amer believes there are a few ways to get there. “I think if we can go top-down and bottom-up, we’ll also reach everyone in between and really see the world we want.”

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