When two friends Stephanie Dickson and Paula Miquelis met over a mutual passion to empower change through creativity and fun, engaging stories, Green Is The New Black was born – the organization behind the buzzy Conscious Festival that took place for the first time in Hong Kong last year. A week before the Festival’s second reiteration in the city at the Kerry Hotel, we met with Paula and Stephanie to chat about their recent campaign, how they split responsibilities at their company, top tips on how to adopt a sustainable lifestyle, and of course, what to expect at the upcoming Conscious Festival!
What are each of your backgrounds prior to starting Green is the New Black?
Steph: I have been organizing events and experiences for as long as I can remember. Previously I spent four years working for an international events and marketing agency, planning luxury events and fashion weeks around the region, until I had an awakening and realised that fashion was one of the most polluting and socially corrupt industries. I honestly felt completely blindsided. I wanted to use my skill set to build something that could be part of the solution not the problem.
As a third culture kid, being Australian Scottish and having spent most of my life in Asia, I am fascinated by other people and always seeking new experiences. Human interaction and connection is what drives me and the business.
Paula: Having previously worked as a consultant in sustainability doing projects for multi-national corporations across Asia – mostly in remote areas such as Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Nepal, I am skilled at creating impactful partnerships between social enterprises and large corporations. I have also been trained as a storyteller who uses videography and photography to create stories for change.
I was born and raised in Nice, France, and my curiosity and passion for traveling led me to study in Paris, Hong Kong, Singapore. Asia has become my home and playground. My dream is to empower people to care about our planet through inspiring, engaging and fun stories.
How did you guys meet and what inspired the idea for GITNB?
Paula: We met for the first time at an event I was organising in Singapore called “At the CROSSROADS of art, music and sustainability”. The event was supposed to start at 5pm until late, and Steph showed on-time and nothing was ready. Ha ha… My goal was to organise a big music party, featuring my DJ boyfriend from a Parisian crew La Mamie’s, celebrating sustainability with the inclusion of a mini marketplace of conscious brands.
Steph had a similar kind of idea in mind, which then became the 1st Conscious Festival Singapore – so she came to check out how our event was doing. We ended up having a full-house until 5am but Steph missed that part. I had no idea at the time that she would become my partner in crime, friend and soulmate!
A few months later, I showed up at one of her events and got attracted to her energy immediately. Although we are very different, there was something which obviously united us.
How do you guys divide tasks among you two?
Steph: I’m the editor in chief and Paula is our Branding and Partnerships Director. I oversee the written content creation, copies and Paula makes sure our branding is coherent.
We always laugh describing ourselves as #bitchandasshole. I’m the anal one, getting into the nitty gritty details of our festivals, events flow, liaison with speakers, contributors… Paula is really good at igniting long term partnerships and creative ideas which then require me to make it happen. She is the creative one, I am the one making sure our ideas can be and are executed.
This recent campaign you guys did, what’s the concept behind it? Are there particular reasons for choosing the models and photographer featured?
Paula: Our goal is to #makesustainabilitysexy. We want to step away from traditional branding associated with sustainability which tends to be either activisty or too hippie. We love working with creatives who can help us to take a spin on what sustainability is. For example, for the last two years, for our Green Warriors campaign we worked with fashion photographers Flavien Prioreau.
For our recent campaign, we wanted to shoot a green cool and chic girls’ day – from waking up, cooking, grocery shopping, tiding her flat… while featuring the products of our conscious brands joining us at our upcoming Conscious Festival Hong Kong April 13-14th at Kerry Hotel
We chose to work with Nicoline Aagesen as I had been following her work for months on instagram and had dreamt to work with her for a very spontaneous and rock’n’roll style which is exactly opposite to standards in terms of sustainability branding.
Working with Gloria Yu as a model was the best decision we could ever make. Not only she is hot, but sweet and is a huge sustainability advocate in Hong Kong.
Tell us about the upcoming Conscious Festival. What should people expect from it?
Steph: The 2019 edition of the Conscious Festival Hong Kong is back for another year, bigger, greener and more vegan than ever – the only Festival with a 360 degree look at conscious living.
With a market featuring over 80 mindful brands, transformative talks, delicious vegan eats, organic booze, interactive art, and games – this is one festival not to be missed. The festival will be held at Kerry Hotel – a garden hotel facing the bay. We are very lucky and excited to have created 3 spaces for our guests, including a marketplace, music stage, eateries and workshops which are entirely free to enter.
Some people might say that it’s hard for them to adopt sustainable lifestyle habits such as wearing sustainable clothing and using eco products as they can’t afford it. What suggestions would you make to them, or what do you think needs to change so that an eco lifestyle is more accessible?
Paula: There is a big myth to burst that a conscious lifestyle is a more expensive one. This is not true. We are both social entrepreneurs, growing our companies, hence very humble with our means and manage to reduce our footprint by simple, yet efficient and impactful daily habits. First one and the easiest one is by reducing our meat consumption (even becoming vegetarians and vegans). The agriculture business is one of the largest polluters in the world and mainly grows foods which feed our livestock – this ratio does not make sense. Grazing land and cropland dedicated to the production of feed represent almost 80% of all agricultural land.
Then, in terms of clothing, buy second hand! Let’s not even talking about sustainable fabrics, let’s just give a second life to pre-loved pieces which are long lasting and in perfect condition anyways. It’s said we only wear 20% of our clothes, 80% of the time… This teaches us that first we do not need that many clothes and second, we can swap or sell our clothes to give them a second chance.
I could go on and on but will give a last example in Hong Kong regarding food. Yes, imported organic food is more expensive. But luckily enough, we do have local farms here which grow a large range of products including seeds and vegetables and in an organic way.
What do you guys think needs to happen for sustainable lifestyle habits GITNB promote to get more widely adopted?
Steph: Our approach is a global one. We want to make sustainability cool and sexy, using the codes of pop culture to convert the masses to adopt more sustainable lifestyles. In terms of brands we work with, we are massively supporting small social entrepreneurs and brands across 8 cities, but also believe that working with big brands to influence them to make their operations and products more sustainable is the way to go to have a big impact! We also need people to realise that sustainability is the future, we are catapulting towards climate catastrophe and all of us need to play a part. Being green can be easy, convenient and fun – you just need to continue to take little green steps forward.
If someone wants to start being more sustainable in their fashion habits, what should they do?
01 Buy second hand! And also…
02 Buy long-lasting clothing that you know you’ll be able to pass on to your grand-grand daughters
03 Know your body, your sizes and your style
04 Wait until the day after to purchase a new item you just saw
05 Avoid clothes made out of blended materials because those are not recyclable
06 Wash your clothes less
We actually wrote an article based on the book written by Christina Dean and Hannah Lane from REDRESS mentioning HULA!
To you, what are a few of the most innovative sustainable product inventions you’ve seen?
Steph: Green Is The New Black was recently incubated at the MILLS fabrica – which is a Hong Kong-based incubator promoting the future of sustainable fashion and “Techstyle”. Through this amazing program, we get to meet the founders of technologies which will change fashion, one of the most polluting industries in the world. And we recently came across Stacy Flynn who co-founded EVERNU, a technology capable of turning chemicals waste along the fashion industry chain in fabric. How cool is that. They will be launching their first lines of products with Stella McCartney and Levi’s in the coming months. Or companies like Mango Materials taking methane gas emissions and turning them into materials. We’re also really excited about the large shift we are seeing in circular solutions for consumer products like The Loop Store in the US or Revolve and BarePack locally here in Asia tackling single use take-away and disposables.
What’s the best piece of news regarding the sustainability movement you’ve heard recently?
Paula: The fact that countries are banning plastic completely. Plastic is such an interesting issue in many ways but what most fascinates me most is the big consensus around its reduction. No matter your background, your age, social status… you know it’s a scourge.
If there is one thing you could magically change about the world what would it be?
Steph: Elevate consciousness and compassion among everyone so as we can collaborate in order to protect and maintain our planet, people around us and animals. For this, Matthieu Ricard, the French monk and writer is a big inspiration.
What’s next for GITNB?
Paula: We currently partner with 120 conscious brands in fashion, beauty, lifestyle and F&B across 8 cities. Our goal is to reach a thousand of them and to gather 10,000s of attendees during our festivals! We might also bring the Conscious Festival to Paris in 2020… This will be the occasion to attract European and American brands to Asia. Click below for more information.
Follow Green Is The New Black @greenisthenewblackcom
Photographer: Nicoline Aagesen @mycameramyrules