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Thursday November 16th marked the first ever sustainable fashion show at the UN headquarters.

The day started with an introduction and welcome from Director of UN outreach, Maher Nasser, highlighting the importance of change within the fashion industry as a way to achieve the sustainable development goals. The DPINGO briefing prior to the fashion showcase included speakers Rebecca Van Bergen founder of Nest, Andrea Reyes founder of A Bernadette, Lilian Liu from the UN Global Compact and others, all expounding on the subject of the day, “using fashion as a vehicle for change” and moderated by founder of the GFX Patrick Duffy.

I was honored to be apart of this important movement, modeling in the show alongside other dedicated activists and model mafia members including Hartje Andresen, Aine Rose Campbell, Kaye Li Taylor, Dominyka Gajauskaite and Caroline Guzman for sustainable brand Callina. Given the opportunity to sit down with Michelle Sheppard, founder of the brand, to get her perspective on this momentous occasion and more, Michelle divulged the following:

How did this collection start? What is the inspiration for your line? Why focus on knits?

After graduating from Rhode Island School of Design, I started working at Design Within Reach (DWR), where I designed, collaborated, traveled and sourced from textile mills around the world. During my travels abroad, I noticed firsthand there was an underserved market for high quality sustainable fashion with social responsibility. When I started Callina, I wanted to find producers with sustainable missions and methods in place. Plus, I knew I wanted to give back to the communities in which I collaborated. I travelled to Peru, knowing it was a country rich in artistry and having one of the longest histories of textile production in the world.

Our inspirations come from the craftsmanship and cultural traditions abroad. Peru is a country filled with culture, color, and weaving tradition. We aim to create collections that carry a high human value while keeping cultural traditions alive. In doing so, we mainly work with small, family run shops located in the Arequipa area. We are delighted to create unique pieces while helping artisans and their families grow their business and improve their living conditions. We focus on knits currently since this is their specialty. As we go into other countries we can focus on the specialties of those artisans.

You recently debuted your knitwear collection at the UN – a show that I and other members of the model mafia were so pleased to be apart of – how do you feel about this? What does the UN represent for you and how does it tie into your line’s purpose?

You and the other members of model mafia are an inspiring group of women. As a model/activist you are the face of the brand. When models/activists interested in promoting sustainable and ethical fashion work with conscious brands, this can have a huge impact on the fashion industry. Together we can have a larger voice. Furthermore, the UN sustainable goals for 2030 are incredible. We are doing some of initiatives already but I view those goals as a guide driving our decision-making and mission as a company.

How did you become involved with the show at the UN?

The United Nations Department of Public Information approached me. They are a group at the UN whose mission is to create a “campaign for peace, human rights and environmental sustainability… a movement for change, a movement of all nations and all people, united, to advance the great causes of our day.” It is inspiring to be around a group of like-minded people. The process itself was exciting and nerve-wracking , but in the end the show was a huge success and we reached all our goals as a team.

Why is sustainable fashion so important to you personally?

Not many people realize that fashion is the 2 nd most polluting industry in the world. What we wear every single day, has huge relevance and huge consequences on humans, society and the environment. I care deeply about the impact and want to be known as a brand to trust. Sustainability and transparency is our highest mission.

How do you see the global challenges we face as a people affecting the landscape of fashion?

I think we need to continue to educate the consumer. Allowing consumers to become more intelligent and take charge. A lot of people now understand the true cost of buying so cheaply and so fast. The solution can be very simple. Buy less and get more ‘fashion mileage’ out of each piece. Buy timeless and quality pieces that will last. Become an active citizen through your wardrobe. By making choices on what we buy and supporting companies that have a transparent ethical and sustainable mission in place the landscape of fashion can and will soon change.

What do you see in the future for Callina Style?

We are starting to partner with artisans from other countries to expand our collection beyond knitwear. Of course we must do this while staying true to our mission: being committed to a fully transparent process and taking pride in how our clothes are made and by whom. We would also love to have more involvement with women like you and the model mafia to bring awareness and make positive social & environmental changes.

How do you take your coffee?

Simple! Little bit of cream.

For more information and to see footage of the DPINGO briefing and first ever sustainable fashion show at the United Nations please click HERE!

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