An ever-green heart: meet the Singapore green heart-ers making a conscious difference

Many of you may or may not know, but Singapore has been a second home to us for many years. It is where our founder, Mahima, studied Fashion Business at Lasalle college of the arts, met her now husband, and where the ideating of SUI began in 2017 - it’s where it essentially was born! Over the past few years, though a lot of SUI was worked on in Singapore, we hadn’t introduced the brand locally as we waited for the right opportunity. With 2020, came that window to delve deeper into our connection with our community there and looking back, we’re so grateful for that opportunity which helped SUI meet many more conscious clothing enthusiasts.

The past year, we have had the opportunity to explore Singapore’s flora and fauna, work on growing our platform and, most importantly, had the chance to connect with other green minds who work day to day to help build a better world.

This National Day, we wanted to share more than just our Singapore story - we wanted to share the stories of those who are making a difference in Singapore and worldwide - by taking forward the conversation on sustainability in their fields further.

We have so many who we adore from our community but for now, here are 4 green heart-ers who truly inspire us with their green hearts.

Susannah

Founder of ZERRIN, Asia's sustainable fashion and beauty platform, Susannah is a former style and beauty writer who learned of the downfalls of the industries she wrote about and set out to make a change. She healed her own toxic relationship with her own wardrobe, became inspired by under-the-radar sustainable alternatives, and then set out to build a platform that connects Asia's growing community of ethical designers, brands and change makers with everyday women just like her — and so ZERRIN was born in 2017.

What pivotal moment(s) made you realise you needed to change your fashion choices?

I think the main one was moving to Singapore and working within fashion as a magazine editor. That kind of role gives you a different perspective on how the industry runs, and how clothes are made and marketed.

Over time, I began to feel at odds with and jaded by the continual cycle of fashion and the role I played as a writer in perpetuating the consumption of brands I didn’t really believe in or found questionable. Simultaneously, I was learning more about the impact of the industry, from human rights abuses to the impact of synthetic materials, which solidified my desire to make a change. 

What drove you to start ZERRIN?

While on this journey, I was discovering a plethora of regional fashion labels that were far more connected to their design process, makers and transparent about the journey. Back in 2016, while I wasn’t actively using the word ‘sustainable’, I was struck by this connection and how it enriched my experience as a consumer. Becoming a customer to many of these labels, I came to learn that many of them struggled with marketing, content creation and finding good retail channels.

Coming from a media background, I was also genuinely interested in sharing people’s stories, journeys and information; and had a gut feeling that would make a difference in how consumers engaged with them. There was a real education gap around sustainability in fashion/beauty/retail at the time, so I saw that as a space we could help to demystify and make more accessible.

That’s really where the idea of ZERRIN came about and what we’ve grown into today: a content-driven retail and media platform connecting citizens with independent brands and resources that help them choose better; for wardrobe, body and planet. These days, I work at the intersection of consumers, brands and fashion and sustainability advocacy, and I’m driven to find ways to put conscious creativity and consumption at the forefront of retail & media.

Why was Singapore the best place to launch your platform?

I can’t say for sure it was the best place. Actually, it was probably the most challenging place in terms of where sentiment was around sustainable products, especially when it came to clothing. Where I’m from in the UK and in other developed markets, an awareness around ethical fashion and its nuances was already well accepted. But growing a startup here made sense because 1) I’ve lived my whole adult life here and Singapore is really all I know and 2) I was genuinely passionate about empowering independent local/regional brands here + consumer education; there was a real gap.

What do you want ZERRIN to ultimately accomplish?

That’s a big one! I’d like ZERRIN to be at the forefront of connecting independent, ethical brands from Asia with consumers from around the world, and to continue to be a space that makes everyday citizens feel like there’s a way they can make sustainability a part of their lives. That would mean growing a global community, a larger ecosystem and our impact on both sides of the industry.

What daily greens do you practice as much as possible?

In general, I’m more thoughtful about whatever I’m bringing into my life; be it wardrobe or home. When it comes to home furnishings, I try and find what I’m looking for secondhand over new and we reduce single-use plastic when we can. When it comes to fashion, I take time to think (from a few days to a few weeks) on a purchase, and swap or buy second hand too. 

How do you personally motivate yourself to stay green every day?

I try not to beat myself up about the small things and believe in progress over perfection. Being more green or sustainable about your daily habits comes down to mindset; something that needs cultivating over time. I stay motivated by following like-minded individuals who believe in the same thing and generally keeping up to date with what’s going on around the world too. 

Jacinda

After living with a myriad of health difficulties frequently including acne, eczema, and alopecia a few years ago and trying countless doctor prescribed pills that eventually stopped working, Jacinda started to do her own research. Through it, she discovered healing with food and began the diet immediately, which, after just a month, remedied her illnesses completely. She began sharing her experience and knowledge, eventually leading her to begin The Breakfast Club to encourage others to choose a toxic-free diet.

Personally, what inspired your own green journey to make the choice to switch to a toxic-free, vegan diet?

5 years ago, I decided almost overnight to become vegan after watching an environmental documentary, “Cowspiracy”. Contrary to popular belief, this change of diet didn’t help my health (acne, eczema, UTI) cos I was still eating lots of processed albeit vegan food. For years, I have been on western medication for my health issues, but over time it stopped being effective for me. Out of sheer desperation, I decided to try out a natural, unprocessed vegan diet and within a month, I was completely healed and, a bonus for me, looked younger than ever before.

What does toxic-free food mean?

To me, it means natural over processed, pesticide free and chemical preservatives free.

What sparked the idea to create The Breakfast Club?

After I healed myself with food, friends and family started asking if I could make some of my healing food for them as well. Like me, they too felt the amazing effects of toxic free food. They asked me if I could set up a “business” page so they could recommend me to their friends and family. Back then, I was only making breakfasts and so I decided on the name “The Breakfast Club”. Also, I loved that the movie was about being painfully honest with yourself, authentic and having fun at the same time - which is what I wanted to invoke in our “eat clean” movement among the community!

For someone just beginning their toxic free journey, what initial steps would you recommend?

I’d say start with basic but essential ingredients that we use daily - switch white commercial rice to organic brown rice, white sugar to organic raw sugar, table salt to sea salt, MSG filled soy sauce to organic soy sauce and commercial cooking oil to organic vegetable oil. They can all be found easily in the organic section of a well stocked supermarket!

What daily greens do you practice as much as possible?

As much as I can, I try to eat more salad greens. Raw greens are filled with chlorophyll that has the power to boost your immunity and heal issues deep within your body. 

How do you personally motivate yourself to stay green every day?

Health wise - The feeling of being free from bloatedness, indigestion and headaches really motivates me to keep me going! 

Environment wise- going animal-free is being guilt free for me, and choosing organic means I’m not supporting dumping of large amounts of pesticides into the earth and rivers! 

Xingyun

Seeking to address the importance of intersectionality when analysing fashion sustainability, Xingyun runs @noordinaryprotest as a platform to call for a shift in mindset. Through her work, she reimagines a more equitable fashion industry, one that centres the planet and its people at the core of its intentions and operations. She currently works with The Fashion Pulpit, Singapore’s first clothing swap retail space, on research and education projects to promote greater sustainable fashion literacy and re-introduce new mindset and language around the way we speak about our clothes.

How would you describe your relationship with your clothes before you began focusing on advocating for slow fashion and now? 

Growing up, my relationship with my clothes had always been non-committal and unstable. My purchases were fuelled by impulse, boredom and the illusion of “needing” an item. Though I never dressed to fit in, I was easily influenced by trends and bought most of my clothing out of a pursuit for novelty. 

When I learnt about fashion's broken systems, my relationship with my clothes began to shift. I realised that continuous wear and care for our clothing is a form of resistance and defiance against overproduction and trend-led consumption. I have come a long way from impulse buying to putting thought into every garment I invite into my wardrobe (and life). I am privileged to have my clothes signal my values and embody my sense of self. I intend to keep it this way 

This relationship isn't perfect. For instance, I still have so much to learn about retiring my unworn clothes kindly, refining my mending techniques and paying closer attention to the way I wash my clothing. 

Can you tell us about a key experience that urged you to think more critically about the fashion world? 

The shift happened when I did extensive research on the negative impacts of fashion for a university project. I think being critical is how I have come to relate and think about fashion. The mainstream fashion industry looks like a maze of disconnected chains, that are unregulated and unaccounted for.

Being fashionable is subjective, but no one can avoid wearing clothes. This makes all clothing wearers a part of the system, and we should all be discerning when it comes to understanding what's sold and marketed to us—which brands are making genuine ripples of change and which are just in it for their own short-term interests? 

Is there an issue linked to fashion that you would want more people to know or talk about more? 

Besides being critical about the fashion industry, I think it is equally important to be perceptive when approaching its intersecting issues. Clothing is designed, made and created by humans, for humans. It is vital to recognise the direct impact extraction and industrialisation processes have on human and non-human lives. These processes are deeply rooted in our history with colonialism and the over-fixation on capital prosperity. As we dress up and have fun with fashion, we have to be aware that clothes are inextricably connected to the work of humans. 

Additionally, we have to acknowledge that clothing is political. Our access to style and fashion is subjected to our degrees of privilege. It is essential to hold space for individuals who might not have equal access to time, money, mobility and a wide variety of clothing when critiquing the mainstream (fast) fashion industry. 

Who inspires you most in keeping on your journey? 

Ah, I can’t pick just one person. Everyone in my support system, and whom I’ve had the pleasure to connect with on various platforms inspires me. Folks like Chu Wong, Raye Padit, Tammy Gan and Weiqi Yap keep me grounded. They remind me that being critical of my own anger towards systems helps move the needle. 

And my mum, the OG of keeping good care of her clothing. Many of the pieces I now own are passed down from her. I wear them proudly, and I love them for all the memories they carry. Loved clothes truly last!

What daily greens do you practice as much as possible? 

I slip up all the time when it comes to practising green habits. I am not excusing my slip-ups, but I remind myself to not villainise my less-than-perfect actions. There’s no honorary checklist when it comes to practising green and sustainable habits. I do what works best for me, like continuing my advocacy in my everyday work, choosing to wear all my clothes for a prolonged time, avoiding disposables if possible, and dedicating my energy to resisting the current system. 

How do you personally motivate yourself to stay green every day? 

I actively seek green and communal spaces and experiences in public and within myself. I find this helpful at replenishing my emotional and mental wellbeing. It keeps me in check of holding space for nuance in every thought and action. In my opinion, nuance is essential to acknowledge when expecting and communicating a more compassionate world.

Nithiya

A culinary anthropologist and TV host of Edible Wild, a ChannelNewsAsia series centred on exploring an array of unique ingredients that are indigenous to Singapore and the region, Nithiya dedicates her work to seeking and celebrating the beauty of native edible plants. Her personal project, a conceptual dining club called Brunch Bandits, aims to bring community around a table and share knowledge of flavours of the global south using ingredients grown locally, expanding the fluid notion of what it means to be Singaporean - that we are more similar than different. She wants everyone to explore it themselves and cook more!

What food/plant do you think has the power to change the world in a significant way if we used it more prominently and how?

Anything edible you grow! If it thrives in your home environment, it’s probably both culturally and geographically sustainable. I don’t believe in any kind of one plant holding court - that creates monocropping and and trendset imbalance in the food ecosystem, especially for the developing world. Eat a diverse and varied whole foods diet as your time allows. I love moringa though for everything it is nutritionally and what it represents for the region!

What sort of questions should we ask ourselves when making our food choices?

Food should nourish you, so that’s the first question I would ask. If you can trace the growers, farmers and producers of your ingredients, then you also nourish the pathways of food production. And whenever you can, choose quality over quantity. This is not an option for everybody so if you have that privilege to do so, then please exercise it to make it more accessible for everyone.

How do you personally motivate yourself to stay green every day?

Being green in big cosmopolitan cities is not easy - we are hotbeds of fast action, convenience, consumerism and efficiency. Being green takes time, from slow food to sustainable fashion. I try to establish systems that allow me to do so - farmers I work with, grocers I shop from, to cook more for myself and my community. It’s usually that first step and if you aim for perfection, you might never start. So do the small steps.


We hope introducing these green heart-ers inspires you as much as it does us! Conscious minds truly will change the world and learning from those who are actively doing their part is a great way to start becoming green in your own way - awareness and education are truly vital steps.

Stay tuned, we’ll be talking to even more green heart-ers very soon!