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Grown Ups Have Failed Us

This Bali-based 12-year-old travels the world educating older people on the dangers of fast fashion. We should listen.

Hanalei, we know you’ve been active in many areas over the last few weeks. Where have you been and what are the messages you’ve heard on your travels?

Over the last three weeks we have been in the United States for the winter X-Games styling the Olympic gold medalist in snowboarding, London for Fashion Week, Paris and Scotland. The message that I’ve been discussing is about the effects our choices have on the planet and how fast fashion is the #2 contributor to waste next to oil. More and more people are becoming aware of what we are doing and say they want to make change, but honestly most of them are not doing much about it yet.

What is fast fashion and why is it so important to you?

Fast fashion is when mass retail brands produce clothing at an ultra-fast pace, using low quality materials, low pay and poor working conditions for workers. I care about educating people on the damage of fast fashion because it’s contributing to the destruction of our planet, and if we don’t do something about it the future of our children and planet is going to be compromised. Fast fashion brands like Zara, Forever 21 and H&M are leading contributors. All on-purchased and on-used clothing is dumped into our landfills, and the dye they use goes into our water supply.

Do think it is incumbent on today’s youth to get involved in climate change and why?

Yes. If today’s youth don’t get involved we won’t have fresh drinking water. Today only three percent of the water on our planet is available for drinking and when these clothes are dumped into our landfills the dyes eventually contaminate it. Many of the under-developed countries don’t have adequate cleaning systems for the water. People are being harmed every day just by drinking it.

What are you personally doing to get the message out about what’s going on our planet?

I am sharing my message every day using the biggest platforms available, educating the world about our harmful actions. I travel the world speaking on stages in front of educated people and teach them about fast fashion and its harm. The more people learn that it takes over 700 gallons of water just to make a single cotton T-shirt and that we will run out of drinking water if we continue at this pace the better chance we have at solving the problem. My company, HS STYLES, uses eco-friendly and life conscious materials like modal cotton, peace silk and bamboo to produce our clothing. We use a limited amount of dyes and recycle our materials. Our workers are treated like humans, not machines. We pay them quality wages, cover their food and accommodation so they work in a safe and happy environment. Happy workers create happy clothing.

What can other young people do to get involved and change practices in the fashion industry?

By understanding what they buy and the brands they buy from. Reading the labels and asking themselves first, “do I need this?” or “do I only want this?”

How do you deal with people who say ‘you are just a child, you don’t know anything’.

I just keep researching and educating myself. Knowledge is power and the more I know the less I care about what people say. I don’t care if I sell a lot of clothing. I just want people to make smarter choices.

In what other areas can the fashion industry improve its reputation do you think?

Through changing the standard for beautiful. We see all the models in the beauty standard as thin, tall, blonde hair, blue eyes. But what if we all could feel beautiful and the fashion industry showcased women and girls with different bodies that were all looked at as being beautiful?

If you could address a roomful of the world’s leaders what would say to them?

I would ask them how do they feel that the youth of this world is educating them on our future? I would tell them to look at their children and tell them what their planet will be like if we continue at this pace. That if they don’t take responsibility for the planet we live on and for the future of our families, then they will not have a planet to enjoy.

Hanalei, thanks for your time.