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Model activist Liyanna B talks sustainability and influencer culture in 2020

by | Jul 3, 2020

Black and Brown folks have always been sustainable, it’s not a foreign concept, if anything it’s been a way of life from the beginning of time for many of us. This is what South African model and activist Nomfundo Liyanna Basini says.

On social media the Swazi-born is known as Liyanna B. When she is not shooting covers, she chairs the Liyanna B Foundation aimed at spreading awareness and helping survivors of gender-based violence, and she manages the online platform The Sustainable Fashion Runway (TSR) where she shares advice on building a sustainable wardrobe without breaking the bank.

Her family has been the biggest influence on her life and it is through them that she has learnt thrifting, patching, mending, and swapping. Twyg caught up with Liyanna B on email:

Tell us a bit about you and your sustainability journey?

When I was born, Gwen Basini, became a mother was very young and still in college. She couldn’t afford to buy me clothes so she would cut out pictures from magazines of dresses, dungarees, and tunics and recreate the patterns to sew stunning replicas for me. And if a friend had bought a new dress, she would borrow the dress to cut out the pattern and then give it back to her friend.

My grandfather was a military preacher and believed in wearing clothes until you couldn’t wear them anymore. He was the king of patching our clothes when we tore them while riding a bicycle, or climbing a tree. When our clothes became too small, we passed them down to your cousins or siblings.

My aunt Lindelwa Basini was the queen of thrifting. She believed that one should only buy new clothes when you really needed to. She was stylish and had a knack for finding gems.

How did you fall into fashion?

When I entered beauty pageants, I would see beautiful gowns worn by fellow models. I would tell my mother not to buy or hire my gowns: it was too expensive. We sewed them instead. This inspired me to launch TSR where I share personal guides on how to start a sustainable, stylish wardrobe without breaking your bank account!

I didn’t know this was sustainable fashion, this seemed normal to me, my way of life. For my matric dance my grandfather and my mother sewed my dress. The ball gown looked amazing, I looked amazing, and still I didn’t know this was called ‘sustainability’. It was only a few years back that I discovered the word ‘sustainable fashion’ and I was like, oh, snap! So that’s what people call this. Which made me think how many people need to be educated about this concept.

Tell us more about The Sustainable Runway?

TSR is a platform that shares information on how and where find fashionable, couture clothing without breaking the bank and while practicing a sustainability. My motivation is to demonstrate that a sustainable lifestyle is not only an investment, but also a choice. The way we shop has everything to do with our way of life and our health. It is a habit that needs to be nurtured, and we need to be committed to ecology-based justice.

Do you think the definition of an influencer has changed in 2020?

This year has made influencers realise that you can’t post or share for the sake of sharing – you need to understand the culture, the history, and the style of what you are sharing with your consumers. Is it all ‘shits and giggles’ or are you as an influencer really doing the research? Are you working with brands that align with your brand values? Or are you just there for the money?

The year 2020 has definitely made consumers want influencers to spark conversations and influence real, long-term change and not influencers who want to be popular, gain momentum, and secure the bag.

Any sustainability tips?

  1. I follow these apps to help the world: @ecosia @Goodonyou_app @wfpfreerice
  2. As far as you can, replace your single-use plastic items with reusable hand-made ones.
  3. To wrap food without using plastic wrap, opt for beeswax paper to wrap and store food. It is super easy to clean!

Top 3 books you are loving right now?

The three books I’m loving right now:

  • As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock by an Indigenous author Dina Gilio-Whitaker explores the fight for environmental justice through an indigenous lens. It explores how people of colour have always been environmentalists, ‘the Originals’, and not because of the fancy movement. It has always been a way of life. Capitalism wrecked how Black and Indigenous people cared for the earth.
  • Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor. This book reminds us that people who are affected by climate change are often the most vulnerable. Okorafor’s novel, set in post-apocalypse Africa, is a mix of politics and poetry, and fantasy.
  • Mindfulness for Compassionate Living: Mindful Ways to Less Stress and More Kindness by Dr. Patrizia Collard. This book explores the way we should think to explore self compassion and how it is rooted in being mindful. It explores chronic pain, how to improve relationships along the way while connecting with people authentically and keeping our values in mind.

Top 3 eco-brands?

Three eco-brands I’m loving right now:

@econestnatural is an online store that explores and distributes eco-friendly, natural body products, beauty products, and cleaning products.
@ecoessentials_sa Premium hair care inspired by nature and science. Their hair care products are formulated to promote healthy hair growth by treating common hair concerns
@ecologicskincare their products are crafted and made from vegan products that replenish the mind and body. Holistic , one-of-a-kind cosmetics targeting all parts of your body.

Top 3 thrift stores?

Right now I’m loving these Black-owned thrift stores: @thesanctuary @vintagekottin @denimpalace

Top 3 Instagram accounts?

@poppinplants
@justyourluck_cpt
@lilly.label

Images: 

Photographer : @svenkristianstudio
DOA : @charlotte.gindreau
MUA: @dominique_makeupartist
@nataalmedia

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