“I think we’re getting to a really crucial point in fashion and beauty where we can’t afford to not talk about environmentalism and climate change and the lifespan of fashion,” says 20-year-old Savannah Bradley, winner of YOOX NET-A-PORTER’s Incredible Girls competition. The initiative was launched in May 2019 to encourage and empower female tech entrepreneurship, by inviting women between the ages of 19 and 25 to submit an idea for a fashion app with positive societal change at the heart of its idea.
The quality of the entries was inspirational and humbling; but there was something about Bradley’s entry, Ecologie, that tipped the balance. Her sustainably focused app is a learning platform to discover more about sustainability and how to upcycle garments, connecting users to places where they can donate unwanted clothing or set up a storefront to sell used or upcycled fashion.
“When we launched Incredible Girls, we were looking for a young female entrepreneur ready to take on the world of fash-tech with an innovative, sustainable idea,” says Federico Marchetti, Chairman and CEO of YOOX NET-A-PORTER. “We absolutely found this talent in Savannah Bradley. Her creative spirit and passion for sustainable solutions, all backed up by data analysis, impressed the entire judging panel. Moreover, Bradley’s entry lined up with everything I believe as an entrepreneur in this sector – that there is power at the intersection of fashion and innovation.”
A student at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, where she is double majoring in Comparative Literature and Media and Journalism, Bradley is already a prolific writer, creative and founder with an entrepreneurial bent. Growing up in “a really artistic household” (her mother was a radio producer in the early ’90s and her brother is a musician), Bradley began writing music criticism for the likes of Rookie, Guided and Things magazine from the age of 14. At 17, she founded Haloscope, a print magazine created entirely by Generation Z contributors from around the globe. “We’ve grown into a digital platform creating digital media and we have a really international team,” she explains. “We have reporters in London and Los Angeles and Kazakhstan and Puerto Rico – a really wide, wide breadth of different locations – and that really influences the stories we are able to tell.”
When I caught up with her for this interview, Bradley was putting the finishing touches to Haloscope’s latest quarterly edition, Heat, the sustainable issue she publishes every June. But as a result of the pandemic and considerations for the difficulty of distribution, this issue will be download-only on the Gumroad platform, with all profits going to the Sunrise Movement (an American youth-led movement to stop the climate crisis).
Here, she speaks about the urgent need for change in the fashion sector, how to empower young women in tech, and what the pandemic has taught her…
It feels like there has never been a more important moment for a fashion ‘reset’ in terms of sustainability. Would you agree?
“As an industry, I don’t think we can afford to not talk about these issues… especially with climate change rapidly accelerating; there might not be an industry in 30 years.
“In terms of garment production, the fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries after the oil sector, which is very troubling. There has been some great work in how we are really able to track the lifespan of a garment. Dana Thomas’s Fashionopolis, which came out last year, was really wonderful. But there are these really revealing lacunas on e-commerce, when it comes to fashion and sustainability, that aren’t being accounted for. What is the history of the garment, where does it come from, where is it manufactured? Why can consumers never really find that information? It’s muddled. When you buy a piece of clothing, you are not told anything usually about where it comes from and how it was made. With my app idea, I wanted to figure out a way to fill those gaps, to use the mechanics of fashion, and the mechanics of technology, to radicalize the industry and fix what needs to be fixed.”
Give us the elevator pitch…
“Ecologie, the app that I created, is a fashion e-commerce app for independent sellers and independent designers. It allows users to list clothing and to learn about altering garments. It also enables you to search for stores in terms of sustainability – to find out what percentage of clothing has been upcycled, what percentage of clothing has been made using sustainable fabrics etc. And you are also able to round up the cost of all your purchases to give to a sustainable charity or organization. I am hoping it will be able to revolutionize e-commerce to become a tool for mass change and to reduce the amount of wholesalers who are selling clothing that has not been made ethically. I am hoping it can serve as a real sea change in what fashion and technology is able to do.”
What has the pandemic taught you?
“Well, I think this is such a crazy, stressful time, but what I have learned – and what I think a lot of my peers have learned – is that we are all a lot more resilient than we thought we were. Especially with Haloscope. We are 100 percent Gen Z, and we are all across the world. Language, time and location have never been a barrier to the work we do together. I have been incredibly inspired by the work that young creatives are doing during lockdown, for instance FaceTime photo shoots. It has taught me a lot about the barriers that we are able to break down and how we are able to come together and tell stories. I find that to be a very heartening thing.”
How have you found inner strength through these times?
“I’ve been through tough times before. I think we all have. And we will go through them again. The things that keep me positive are the ways I see people adjust thousands of miles apart. For instance, Sunrise Movement [an organization of young people working together to stop climate change] is conducting Zoom meetings every week, watching people create mutual aid documents and funds for various oppressed communities. Even in times of stress, we really come together as this panoply of strangers to comfort one another. Much like fashion, we adapt to changing times – and I find that to be a really incredible feeling. I find a lot of strength and inspiration in that.”
The landscape is uncertain for us all right now. What is your advice to young women who are just embarking on their lives and careers?
“I think we’ve always put a modicum of pressure on young women to be perfect in and out of the workspace, the classroom, the boardroom etc. And my advice to young women is to accept road blocks, to make peace with the fact that some things can and will splinter. I don’t think success or creativity or innovation can exist without self-love or empathy. So be yourself, not an idealized version of who you think you ought to be. You don’t have to cut parts of yourself off to make other people whole. And I feel like the cornerstone of success in community and collaboration has always been rooted in empathy. I think we raise women to see each other as competitors, and for jobs that can be a good thing; but I also think that we can come together on creative projects – especially when it comes to key subjects like sustainability and climate change.”
“I am working on Ecologie to take it past the prototype stage, into a livable, working app. Part of that is finding young women – especially in engineering. With Haloscope, collaboration has always been a really great part of what I’ve done; so I want to be finding and working with other young women who are committed to radically transforming the industry as we know it.”
Find out more about NET-A-PORTER’s sustainable initiative, NET SUSTAIN