Case Study

Olga Johnston Antonova Founder of Circular Fashion Russia (Making Fashion Sustainable, Making Sustainability Fashionable)

Why did you choose to educate and train yourself?

Fashion professionals have an enormous responsibility in fixing environmental and social issues created by the industry. I strongly believe that the meaning of today’s fashion is to make sustainability fashionable and desirable by everyone who wears clothes. As a fashion professional, an art historian working as a trend forecaster and a fashion stylist, I realise that I am able to create a massive positive impact on people’s lives by spreading the ideas of sustainability through fashion and by inspiring people to look and feel better through conscious fashion related decisions and adopting simple and fun ways of creating a unique personal style and a dream wardrobe while making a positive impact on themselves and the environment.

Making this idea a reality has become my mission and led me to found Circular Fashion Russia, a non-for-profit initiative, aiming to raise awareness amongst the Russian fashion industry, educators and consumers. Thanks to SFA I was able to successfully launch this project. While enrolled in SFA’s online course, I composed the first ever lecture in Russia on sustainability in fashion, held at Moscow State University of Design, much inspired by SFA and the resources it provided. This event truly marked the launch of a sustainability in fashion movement in Russia. The lecture is now recommended by the Moscow Union of Designers and I am developing the first full time University course on sustainability in fashion in Russia as a result of the strong interest in this topic.

How did you experience your training?

SFA course gave me exactly what I needed to learn about the issues of sustainability and circularity in fashion in a comprehensive and a concise way. It provided clear, well structured, deeply researched and well presented information and professional analysis of the current issues, and the examples of the most relevant industry solutions that already exist, while pointing in the directions where the innovations are urgently required.

The course was ideal because it suited my schedule and travel plans, providing an opportunity to study at my own pace, place and time, allowing me to be extremely efficient, as I could access, start and finish each module at my own convenience from anywhere in the world. I have enjoyed the engaging way of presentation of the course materials and ideas, with many videos and live recordings that made the course lively, animated and very personal.

Another important point for me was that I got connected with industry’s leading experts on sustainability who taught and presented the course. These people are based in different countries but I can now access them directly due to the virtual introduction through SFA. This helps me bring the sustainability expertise to Russia and advance the sustainability agenda in my native country, a task I consider critical, given Russia’s high volume of fashion consumption (both luxury and mass products), a lack of waste management and recycling facilities and its crucial role in potentially affecting the ecological future of the whole planet (by covering 1/6th of the landmass and thus possessing the planetary reserve of ecological sustainability).

How important is leadership when integrating sustainability into businesses, and for transforming the industry?

Strong leadership in the current situation in sustainability is crucial. We need knowledgable and convincing leaders that can stir and influence public opinion, either by influencing the society from the top or from within, by working with as many groups of people as possible – students, consumers, mothers, business people, amongst others. I believe that we often have sufficient expertise to implement sustainable ideas that will make an immediate difference, but instead lack awareness, and in some cases we do not have a good story to communicate or we don’t use the right channels to communicate that story.

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