April WAFTA Meeting Report

14th May 2024
By Heidi Sanders



On Sunday  21st April, WAFTA members were treated to an enthusiastic presentation by Dr Zuhal Kuvan-Mills, a well-known Eco fashion artist and the founder and CEO of Eco Fashion Week Australia.


It was interesting to see how different aspects of Dr Kuvan-Mills life – her early training as a vet and environmental scientist, teaching and lecturing, living and working in different countries (Turkey, Britain and Australia), studying Visual Art at Curtin University, a fascination with traditional textile techniques, raising alpacas, and volunteering in aged care – have influenced her and led her to creating Australia's first Eco Fashion event.


Dr Kuvan-Mills told us that when she graduated from Curtin University in 2010, textiles were not very welcome in the contemporary art world.  She hit upon the idea that fashion couture can be seen as textile art on the body. She started the label “Green Embassy” using her textile art to create one of a kind garments. https://www.greenembassy.com.au/


Unable to get the Perth Fashion week interested in her work,  Dr Kuvan-Mills applied to international fashion shows who were extremely receptive. Green Embassy pieces are made using traditional textile techniques including Eco-printing, felting and knitting, as well as incorporating natural or up-cycled fibres and textiles, and are all hand made. Each collection was created around a different environmental theme, such as “Empty Oceans”, Silent Rain forest, and  “Connected to the land”. 


Dr Kuvan-Mills explained that if you get your art into the fashion world, you get a huge amount of exposure in the media, so you can reach a wide audience with your art.  She was able to get her work in front of people traditionally interested in fashion as well as those attracted to her environmental message. She also spoke about being creative in the way the pieces are displayed, for example shooting a video with classical musicians modelling the clothing while playing their instruments in a dry river bed.  This multifaceted approach  reflects the theme of the art work in the garments, collection, and creates interest around the collection showcases the collection in an interesting way.


After 5 years of international exposure,  Dr Kuvan-Mills  wanted to focus on education about sustainable fashion, and decided to create a Perth event that could be a platform for textile artists and sustainable fashion creatives. In 2017, she launched Australia's first Eco Fashion event, held in Fremantle.  After a COVID induced hiatus, it is back this year, bigger than ever.


The 2024 Sustainable Fashion Festival is a month long extravaganza being held in Perth and Busselton, with a theme of Anthropocene. As well as fashion shows featuring local and international fashion designers, there will be workshops, exhibitions, seminars repair shops, popup shops and concerts.  Dr Kuvan-Mills has created a mighty community event, involving creatives of all kinds – artists, musicians, fashion designers, dancers, and people from different age groups and all walks of life.  Involving a wide cross section of people generates interest and excitement about sustainable fashion and the environmental message behind the festival.  Dr Kuvan-Mills encouraged WAFTA members to get involved, either as a participant (Applications are still open!) or come along to experience the many events on offer. https://www.ecofashionweekaustralia.com/


Dr Kuvan-Mills’ attitude of “Never take no for an answer” and her ability to think outside the square to find ways to get her art in front of the public really showed the WAFTA audience what is possible if you set your mind to it!  Her encouragement to consider fashion as a way to show textile art was also an inspiration to many. And the Eco Fashion Festival is a real example of how to involve diverse members of local and international communities to create exciting events that focus peoples attention on Dr Kuvan-Mills’ driving passions, creativity and environmental sustainability.  There was definitely ideas for all about how to get our work in the public domain, and how to think creatively in the face of obstacles.


Report by Heidi Sanders

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