Jennifer Nini is a writer, activist and the founding editor of Eco Warrior Princess – an online platform discussing all things concerning eco-fashion and a green lifestyle. Her journey to sustainable and ethical fashion is one where intention meets mindfulness. As action creates impact, Jennifer and her partner decided to move from city to farm to start an organic food venture while cultivating a permaculture farm and food forest. From what she wears to how she lives – Jennifer Nini makes a conscious decision to actively be a part of the solution.
What is your intention behind what you wear and what you buy?
Process and material are just as important as style. I seek first clothes that are well designed, and made sustainably and ethically. The main motivation is that I want the clothes I wear to be biodegradable, not just because it feels better on my skin but because of its impact. What this means for me is that I usually buy natural and organic fabrics, like organic cotton, lyocell, tencel, hemp, and bamboo – plant based materials that are built to last and transeasonal. Of course, bamboo isn’t as eco-friendly because of the way it’s spun but I trust that over time, it will be improved.
When I’m adding pieces, I know what my non-negotiables are. It has to be sustainable and ethical – from process to product. Living on an organic farm, I’m committed to wearing fabrics that are sustainable because I see first hand what the impact is from that – and so I’ll steer away from anything synthetically made and created with chemicals. Aside from sustainability, I’m also passionate about the ethical aspects of fashion – it’s important to me that the garment workers, farmers, and people involved in the supply chain and production are paid and treated fairly.
I tend not to buy very frequently, when I need an item I try instead to look for secondhand options first. Where a brand gets me is the story, if they practice what they preach and value their positive impact in the community and the environment – then I’m more inclined to support them.
WHEN I SAY THAT IT’S SOMETHING I’M PASSIONATE ABOUT, IT’S NOT JUST A SUPERFICIAL STATEMENT. THIS REALLY IS MY LIFE AND PURPOSE.
Tell us more about your journey to ethical fashion, was it a change that happened over time? How did this come about?
Like many modern women, I grew up in a time of fast fashion. This generation is the first where fast fashion has completely taken a hold of the industry, before that I would say that conscious fashion and respect of the garment and trade was more important. I did a Fashion Business course and in that time my business partner and I went to China in 2008 on a mission to start our own fashion brand. In our time there, we learned about the background of fashion – everything behind the scenes, beyond the glory and beauty of aesthetics and advertisements. We travelled around South China, in cities like Shenzhen and Guangzhou to look at the different factories and got a glimpse of the industry that one rarely gets to see. We never did get the fashion brand off the ground, but it was still a significant trip for us. It was the key changing point for me where I really thought about my clothes, who made them, the factories involved, and the way the workers were treated – this was the catalyst to my journey with ethical fashion.
Growing up, I had always been politically active – my parents fled from the Philippines because they felt that the government was corrupted and the President ended up stealing millions of dollars. I learned from a young age that it was vital to stand for social justice. I had always been going to protest marches, but I never thought about fashion in that same light. To come back from that trip in China was an awakening for me, and I started talking to anyone who would listen. My partner encouraged me to start a blog and so I did – that’s how Eco Warrior Princess came to be.
The name Eco Warrior Princess is a tribute to the fact that I was living in cosmopolitan Melbourne and about to make my move to a rural area of 300 people where I would live in a tent for 4 months. I left Melbourne because I wanted to start producing my own organic foods. The farm runs 100% on solar power, it’s sustainable, self-sufficient, and we recently received our organic certification – our life has completely shifted to a more primitive sort of lifestyle but I love it because of its low impact. There’s 40 odd varieties of things that I grow – from mangoes to nuts. It’s a cross of two worlds, cocktail parties and organic farms. I moved to the country to live off the land and be one with nature, and it’s taken me several years after to learn more about what this lifestyle really means. When I say that it’s something I’m passionate about, it’s not just a superficial statement. This really is my life and purpose.
VINTAGE PIECES ARE MY WEAKNESS WHEN IT COMES TO CURATING MY CLOSET – IT’S LIKE A COLLECTIBLE FOR ME. I HAVE HIGH RESPECT FOR THE CONSTRUCTION AND UNIQUENESS OF THE GARMENT, THEY’RE ONE OF A KIND TREASURES THAT YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO FIND ANYWHERE ELSE.
What are some of the items currently in your closet?
Actually, I don’t really have a closet – not in the conventional sense anyways. 3 years ago, my partner and I bought a farm and we’ve since yet to build one. What I use instead is just a tall boy – a set of drawers to hold my clothes. I figured since I don’t really have many clothes, I don’t exactly need a closet. I have a highly curated selection of clothes, it’s completely minimal with only the necessities. Most of them are pieces that I can wear easily with others, secondhand pieces, and gifts that I’ve received through Eco Warrior Princess.
What would your ideal wardrobe look like?
Most people might not agree, but I would say my ideal wardrobe is the one I have now. When I look at it, there’s nothing that I would consider adding. The only thing I can see myself needing would be a pair of gum boots for the farm. Every 6 months, I sort through what I own and make sure it’s curated properly so that I’m not holding onto anything that I don’t need.
Vintage pieces are my weakness when it comes to curating my closet – it’s like a collectible for me. I have high respect for the construction and uniqueness of the garment, they’re one of a kind treasures that you won’t be able to find anywhere else. I tend not to buy multiples of anything, I’m not looking to buy repeats – I prefer pieces that are unique in look and history.
WHAT DO MY CLOTHES SAY ABOUT ME AS A HUMAN BEING AND THE IDENTITY I CREATED FOR MYSELF TODAY?
What statement do you want to make with the clothes you wear?
Clothes, for me, are a sense of expression and an artistic endeavor. Everything I own is highly functional and versatile – it’s an expression of who I am first and foremost, then what I stand for. Because of the industry I’m in and the values that I’m passionate about, what I choose to wear goes beyond the surface of how it looks on my body. That might be the first conversation shared, but the more important one to consider is – what do my clothes say about me as a human being and the identity I created for myself today?
If your house is on fire, what are the five pieces you would save – even if it meant running back into a burning house?
Definitely my vintage dress, it was an old 1960s style dress that I found in a shop in Melbourne. I brought it to a tailor to get the sleeves cut off and it’s one of my go to pieces. I’d also grab my leather skirt, a secondhand vintage piece I bought 10-15 years ago (before I made the decision to go vegan) and it still fits me perfectly. My engagement dress would be another to take along, the year I got engaged I didn’t want to buy anything new – even for my wedding, and so I found a vintage dress from the 1950s and got it secondhand. I was lucky to score it and till now, I still wear it on other occasions. There’s a pair of skinny jeans that I got as hand me downs from my niece, she was going to get rid of them but I saw it before she did and grabbed it. I was on the lookout for a pair of black skinny jeans and since then they’ve been a staple. The final thing I would grab is an old hoodie that I’ve had since I was 16, it was my first boyfriend’s basketball hoodie – it’s a sentimental piece to me because he’s since passed away and it’s something of his that I have to hold on to.
SUSTAINABILITY ISN’T JUST ABOUT CONSUMING WHAT’S THERE, IT’S ALSO MAKING SURE THAT YOU’RE CONSUMING SOMEONE ELSE’S WASTE.
What advice do you have for those who want to build a more sustainable closet?
Sustainability is such a broad topic. I think the first step is to focus on what’s important to you. What is important to you – veganism, locally produced, natural fabrics, workers’ rights? What are the key factors and values that matter most to you? If you’re able to define what that is first, then it’ll be easier to break it down into something that’s easier to tackle later on.
Do your own research! Some people find it difficult, but there’s a lot of apps and platforms available like Project Just where you can check up on certain brands. Research before you make a purchase.
Always look for secondhand stuff before making a brand new purchase. Sustainability isn’t just about consuming what’s there, it’s also making sure that you’re consuming someone else’s waste. It’s a part of sustainable fashion to shop secondhand – to reduce waste that goes into the landfill. Try first to purchase something secondhand, and only when you can’t then buy something new.
All photos were taken by Ben McGuire.
We began with the intention to inspire consciousness in our everyday, to cultivate a culture that encourages others to uncover where and why something is made. The Connected Clothing series spotlights on different individuals in the fashion industry – why they wear what they wear and the significance behind their choices.
Read the rest of the series here.