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Iranian-American Climate Activist Sophia Kianni’s Fossil Fuel Fashion Campaign Is Starting a Social Media Revolution

What happens when young leaders and creatives partner for change? Meet the team starting the Fossil Fuel Fashion campaign and social media revolution

Photo: Bright Colors

It all started with Sophia Kianni, the powerhouse Iranian-American climate activist, who is also the founder of Climate Cardinals, a youth-led non-profit focused on making the climate movement more accessible to those who do not speak English, as well as digital fashion platform Phia, which recently launched a collaboration with Stella McCartney. She is also the youngest member of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’s Youth Advisory Council on Climate Change.

If you ask her what her goal is, she will always tell you it’s to empower her peers. “We can make young people understand that they are part of the solution by giving them the tools they need to understand what difference they specifically can make,” Kianni says. “This is why we must use fashion and social media to affect change. One of the biggest problems today is that we consume so much and so fast – and fast fashion is killing our planet. The fast fashion industry has become part of the fossil fuel industry. We are all literally wearing oil. Fossil fuels – coal, oil, and gas – are by far the largest contributor to the climate crisis. There is a direct correlation between the growth of synthetic fibers and the fast fashion industry. How do we discuss transitioning away from fossil fuels when this industry is producing clothes made with oil and gas at an absolutely horrific rate?”

Fast fashion has become one of the biggest challenges for a generation like Kianni’s, which in many parts of the Global North is accustomed to consuming voraciously and digitally. “But here’s the turning point,” she says. “Every time we choose to rewear an outfit, every moment we decide to buy mindfully, we’re casting a vote for the world we want to live in. Choosing quality over quantity, natural over synthetic, second-hand over new – these aren’t just fashion choices, they’re declarations of our commitment to the planet.”

Photo: Bright Colors

Being part of the social media generation is what makes her so effective at mobilizing change – but Kianni alone wouldn’t have achieved the #WeWearOil campaign – she needed an epic creative team to help put her vision into action. Enter Harry Bernstein and Lucy Sumner, co-founders of Bright Colors. “In our agency we believe in breaking down – but not diluting – complicated topics, making them easier to understand so that more people are empowered to participate in solving today’s biggest challenges. This project is a pure example of that, and our team is honored to do work like this,” the team says. Jack Coyne, who also came on board with his media company and studio Public Opinion, says, “The climate crisis is the defining issue of our times, and the best way we know to contribute is true storytelling. We’re thrilled to be a part of this project – and mostly happy we didn’t mess up the shot, because we only had one take!”

Kianni wore a dress from her wardrobe and the entire team worked pro bono. If this is not the future of organizing, tell me what is…


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Originally published in the December 2023 issue of Vogue Arabia

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