After a past as a ballet dancer and a TV presenter, a career in fashion working for brands such as Chanel and YSL, a stint as the owner of the biggest private art gallery in New Zealand, Theresa Grantham became a social entrepreneur seeking to start a sustainable fashion revolution.
Theresa was one of the first to understand that if we really want to change the fashion industry, it has to be done from the inside, and through education. That is why she started Seed to Self, an organisation aimed at shaping the future of sustainable fashion through three main programs – a flagship product range, a fashion design institute programme (Seed to Self Matatika) and a professional learning journey (Seed to Self Journey) – addressed at all players of the value chain.
This includes raw material suppliers, weavers, fashion and textile designers, students, buyers and retailers, but also manufacturers, retailers and end users.
Seed to Self Matatika encourages fashion and textile students to investigate the social and environmental impact of the global fashion industry. This encompasses a deep dive into the whole supply chain to understand sourcing of materials, ethical and environmentally friendly alternatives, as well as the learning process of designing and producing organic and ethically-sourced fabrics. This programme is shaping the future leaders of the industry to use their role to make fashion a force for powerful positive change.
On the other side, Seed to Self Journey, follows a “Learning by Doing” philosophy and gives fashion industry players the chance to touch with hand the impact of the supply chain, by meeting organic farmers, artisans and other workers behind the scenes. We had a conversation with Theresa to find out more about her organisation and how it sets out to change fashion.
What was the need behind Seed to Self and why is this organisation unconventional in the fashion industry?
The need behind Seed to Self is that all of us are part of a dysfunctional system – ie anyone that buys clothes is responsible for the current situation in the fashion industry which is one of the most polluting industries in the world.
What makes us different is that we include inner change as well as outer change. This means a transformation at a personal level not just in terms of what we do but who we are.
What is the social and environmental impact Seed to Self is trying to achieve?
The impact we foresee is a shift from competition to cooperation and from exploitation to care. We know that we are on the right track when the interest in our programmes Seed to Self Journey and Seed to Self Matatika increases.
What does ethical and sustainable fashion mean to you?
It means using the creativity that comes with designing, producing and trading for social good. It means less consumption, sharing and treasuring, cultivating heritage crafts and crafts people and honouring all those across the value chain. It means as little impact on the environment as possible.
My mantra is People, Planet, Purpose, Passion, basically in that order, with Profit being the last of the P’s.
Any advise you would give to Fashion Social Entrepreneurs willing to change the world of fashion?
What comes to mind is my co-founder, Gijs Spoor new book “Yatra” which he shares 5 insights. These insights consolidates both our reason for being and doing. Fashion designers can incorporate these into their working environment or their businesses.
1. Humans have amazing potential to do good, so be good and do good!
2. The problems in our economic system has been created by us so they can be solved by us. So let’s do it!
3. Learn from nature. Humans are only one species on this planet. The planet is full of innovation and wisdom. Slow down. Watch listen and learn from nature.
4. Work with the invisible. Once we start manifesting that which needs to happen the universe will conspire to help you become successful at creating the change we wish for.
5. Work in tribes. If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
Express through fashion the changes that are needed in the world. Fashion can be powerful force for good. Fashion can be an expression of who you are, what you stand for and beautiful story of conscious humanity and social enterprise.
Learn more about Seed to Self and its work to change the fashion industry here.
Image by Babiche Martens