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Amber Valletta: Encouraging sustainable fashion

Amber Valletta at a photo shooting
© Photo: Jon-Paul Douglass
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Model, actress, and activist Amber Valletta shares her vision for how small changes can bring about a sustainable (and fashionable) future.

If you knew about fashion in the 1990s, you knew about Amber Valletta. The sixteen-time American Vogue cover star and international supermodel made a name for herself doing the biggest and best campaigns of the decade in both high fashion and ready-to-wear alike. In recent years, Valletta has shifted her focus: advocating sustainable fashion.

She created 'Master & Muse' – an online shop that accomplished the difficult goal of showcasing items that were responsibly made and fashionable at the same time.

She’s Mercedes caught up with Amber Valletta to learn more about her vision of how shifting our strategies and making small changes in our own lives can bring about the sustainable and fashionable future we want.

Amber Valletta holding a mobile phone
© Photo: Jon-Paul Douglass

What motivated you to become a fashion sustainability activist?

My mom was an activist. She was part of a group of people that stopped a nuclear power plant from being built outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I’m from. When I grew up, I spent a lot of time in nature and I learned the value of the world around me. And I saw my mom fighting for what she believed in. That kind of instilled in me that desire of speaking out. I later started feeling a disconnect between my work and my values and began thinking about waste and chemical by-products.

At the me Convention, you spoke about the consequences of fast fashion. Are you optimistic about the potential for fashion to be non-exploitative and sustainable?

I think right now we’re in the learning curve. This is the time of everyone realizing that the way we’re making things and doing things is not working. It’s a very old system and it’s hard to change something overnight, especially something so systemic. We’re on a really great trajectory because everybody is waking up. I think it’s going to take some time, but things are happening and they’re happening fast.

Amber Valletta's speech at the me Convention

Do you feel that the industry welcomes this kind of dialogue or have you encountered resistance?

Nobody wants to be shamed. It’s more diplomatic to say: these are the things you’ve been doing right, these are the things that are not helpful, let’s try to do it differently, how can we help you do it differently—rather than punishing and calling people out.

In the past, you’ve spoken extensively about your responsibility as an influencer. How can social media encourage people to reduce consumption?

You can use these platforms to promote talking about waste. Encouraging recycling, encouraging give-back programmes, encouraging vintage, encouraging swapping.

Amber Valletta modelling
© Photo: Jon-Paul Douglass

What are the sustainability standards for your Master & Muse designers?

Master & Muse isn’t active at the moment but we do have a list of core values. The products had to be fashionable—something we would want to buy. But also, they need to be made with transparency, the supply chain needs to be easy to track.

How does sustainability manifest itself in your personal life?

I live the way I talk. Everything I say I’m going to do out in the world, I do at home. I have solar panels, I use an electric car, I try to cut back on my carbon footprint. I’m just mindful of the way I live my life. I’m not out buying tons of stuff. I try to keep it really simple. I live well. I don’t restrain myself from having things but I’m very mindful of what I buy.

Amber Valletta is featured in Chapter Three of the #mbcollective Fashion Story. For more information, read the whole story here and watch the video below: