Image: Amber (upside down) with her two cousins. “Some of my best memories are with my family playing outside,” says Amber.
I grew up in Oklahoma, which is a very rural state, and spent much time immersed in nature. Some of my most treasured memories as a young girl were spent in the natural world with friends and family.
From an early age, my mom modelled to me the importance of being active in the community and having strong values from which she lived her life. When I was in elementary school, my mother and a group of activists protested and fought to stop a nuclear power plant from being built nearby on Native American land. Having someone so close to me be an activist instilled an awareness in me that people can use their voice to make a difference.
When I left Oklahoma at 17 to model in Europe, my knowledge about the environment and climate crisis was limited. No one was really speaking about any of the grave issues we are facing today. Because of people like Al Gore and the international scientific community, word started spreading in the late 90s that the planet was in peril. With this information, I started to feel a disconnect in the beautiful life I was promoting as a supermodel and the realities of how our clothes are actually made. I could no longer ignore the negative impact of the fashion industry – everything from garment workers being treated unfairly across large supply chains to the degradation of our planet by the intense resources we use to make fashion.
In the past decade fast fashion has dominated the marketplace, pushing prices down and inventories up leading to a new attitude that clothes are disposable. The industry, beyond fast fashion, has also joined the race to sell more clothes at a pace that is unsustainable for both people and the planet. Once this awareness settled in me I felt a responsibility to connect my values and passion to my job and the industry I love.
Ten years ago I started thinking about what to do for the next chapter in my life. I wanted to combine my values with my talent and professional experience so I naturally was drawn to fashion and sustainability. I assembled a small team and we spent a fair amount of time researching, contemplating, educating and discussing what this next phase of my professional and somewhat personal life would be.
What emerged from this inquiry was launching Master & Muse in partnership with Yoox.com for five seasons between 2013-2016. Master & Muse was an online store selling responsibly-made fashion and accessories. Through our platform, we brought visibility to more than 50 responsibly-made designer brands and introduced sustainable fashion to a fashion centric audience. We were intent to prove that one could have style and substance. That one could buy better and inspire change by their purchasing decisions. We elevated what people within the industry thought of sustainable fashion – this was not a selection of hemp clothes sold at Whole Foods – though there is nothing wrong with that! Our mission was to be more fashion forward.
It’s always been important to me to speak out in the industry and use my voice to be explicit about what I believe in – and where I believe fashion must go.
Image: Amber with her mother at the Women’s March after Donald Trump was elected US President.
Some people, particularly in business, are aware of what needs to happen but are afraid to make the changes. I want to help support them. They’re afraid of being accused of greenwashing, or that because they aren’t perfect, they can’t join the conversation. That is what I like to call perfectionistic paralysis – it’s really one of the biggest hindrances – it creates an attitude that if we’re not doing something perfectly, we don’t do anything at all. No matter how small the steps are towards sustainability and responsible business practices, we must take them. And, I’m willing to have those difficult conversations.
I talk to all my fashion clients about what their business practices are and what they can do to increase their sustainability and responsibility. I often discuss how they can communicate it successfully to have a positive impact. As it is, I’m torn when I go to work because I want brands to be thoughtful and led by the progress of sustainability but I also have to support my family. It is that internal dilemma that makes it so vitally important for me to keep building awareness of sustainability in fashion. If I don’t stay in the thick of the conversation, I don’t want to go to work.
Images: (L) Amber wearing Agnona for the Green Carpet Challenge at the Green Carpet Fashion Awards, Italia 2018; (R) Amber presenting the GCFA Award for Sustainable Producer to Taroni at the Green Carpet Fashion Awards, Italia 2017.
One project I’m currently working on to build awareness on the environmental and humanitarian problems in the fashion industry is called The Changing Room. It’s a short film about fashion and sustainability that uses entertainment to engage the audience and provide a new perspective on how they relate to their clothes. I’m producing through my production company called A2 Films, with my partner, Amy Johnson and The Copenhagen Fashion Summit. We plan on release in 2020 and I can’t wait to share it with you!
Images: (L) Amber in Sedona last summer; and (R) Amber’s garden in LA.
In my day to day life, it’s important for me to live as responsibly as possible. I want to walk the walk of which I speak. When recycling became mandatory everywhere it made me cognizant of what I was buying and how it was packaged from food to clothing. I’ve been using cloth bags for years and I’m always working to cut down on plastic. I wear my clothes over and over – I have clothes in my closet that are more than 20 years old. I don’t look at look at my clothes as something disposable but rather an investment in my wardrobe.
I think a lot of people want to improve the way they live. Especially in our consuming culture, there is so much information coming toward us – influencers of all kinds selling us stuff and crowding our in-boxes with the latest must haves. I’ve found it’s important to be discerning about who I follow. For myself, I am mindful about what I am putting out in the world.. I aspire to be what I like to call a valued influencer – an influencer whose own lifestyle and values align with what she talks about, posts and sells on all her channels. I want to keep raising awareness to help people feel that even the small things they do – matter. When you know better, you do better.