Monday 4 May 2020

Áine Rose Campbell - Campaigning to make the global fashion industry more sustainable

Áine Rose Campbell - Model and activist

Áine Rose Campbell is a model and activist, and co-founder of the Model Mafia – a group of models who use their collective influence to campaign for a more sustainable fashion industry.

Her work has strong links to UN Sustainable Development Goal 12: to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. She told us more about why a sustainable fashion industry is so important.

How is your role linked to sustainability?

I have worked as a fashion model pushing sustainability within the fashion industry for the last 10 years. In 2011, I modelled the winning design at the Red Carpet, Green Dress Academy Awards competition.

I am a community organiser, and organise my fellow models in a group called the Model Mafia. We are a global community of hundreds of models who take collective action to raise awareness for a number of causes. A sustainable fashion industry and future for all is particularly important to us, and we have attended a number of different climate strikes and marches around the world over the last four years. We represent the faces of fashion, and demand a cleaner and more just fashion industry. We've also organized book-groups and educational events to make sure our community understands the systemic issues we’re facing, whilst developing the skills we need to make change happen. We’ve begun to build solidarity across the supply chain by building camaraderie with women in garment factories, we’ve raised tens of thousands of dollars for frontline activists, and we've modelled in a number of different sustainable fashion shows across the UN.

How did studying at Leeds help preparing you for where you are today?

During my studies I organised the RAG week fashion show. It was 2008, and we took the show to a new level that year. We took on a bigger venue which we sold out, sought higher level sponsorship, and engaged with an ambitious media campaign. Leading this show gave me a lot of important skills, such as understanding how to execute a vision, working with others, and how to optimise the use of resources in order to raise as much money as we could for charity.

“It isn’t just about the planet, it’s about people too”

Áine Rose Campbell (Music 2008)
Activist, Model, Co-Founder and Co-Organizer of the Model Mafia

What does sustainability mean to you?

For me, sustainability is about taking a holistic approach and learning to live in harmony with nature. I believe we could learn a lot from the indigenous first peoples of the Americas, who believed in a connection to the land, in taking only what you need, and in giving back to the earth through stewardship. These principals should form the basis of how to live today. We are currently governed by an individualistic capitalism model that favours growth above all else, even at the cost of our planet and its people.

In contrast, a sustainable society is accountable, and it doesn't harm the Earth's precious and complex ecosystems. It isn’t just about the planet, it’s about people too, and ensuring that everyone is able to access the resources they need to sustain themselves. It does not waste, and it does not exploit cheap labour.

What sort of actions do you think individuals need to take in the next five years to create a sustainable future?

The decarbonisation of the economy is absolutely the number one thing that needs to be done, but we also need to ensure that we are building social cohesion. To achieve this, I think every country needs a Green New Deal that will create jobs, foster communities, address inequality and clean up the environment. A Green New Deal would have the power to create a livable future for us all.

On an individual level there is so much you can do to help create a more sustainable future:

  •  Educate yourself. Try to read something about the climate crisis every day.
  • Break up with your bank. Taking our money away from banks that invest in dirty industries and reinvesting into ethical banks is a small but powerful way to make a difference.
  • Buy fairtrade wherever possible. This helps to guarantee that the workers helping to produce your products are paid a living wage.
  • Buy less, and buy second-hand wherever possible. We have so many unnecessary material possessions, and most of it wastefully ends up in landfill at the end of its life cycle.
  • Go plastic free wherever possible, and share the message. Look for local shops where you can buy refills for food and household items, and send feedback to companies who aren't offering sustainable options like non-biodegradable packaging. They are often easy to reach on social media!


In 2019, UN updates outlined that the worldwide expansion of material consumption was jeopardizing the attainment of goal 12. They advocate urgent action to improve resource efficiency and reduce waste. With the fashion industry, and particularly fast fashion, contributing heavily to pollution and carbon emissions, the work of Áine Rose in campaigning for change is vital in helping to create a future in which resources are used sustainably.