Lights, Camera, Activism: A CEO Who Blends Hollywood with Sustainability

"When it comes to financing the things required to help us shift sustainability into the stratosphere, we're really moving sluggishly."

Samata

CEO—Red Carpet Green Dress

British-born Ghanaian fashion entrepreneur Samata brings a passion for sustainability and global sensibilities to her fashion leadership. She evangelizes about the environmental impact of fashion. She encourages women (and herself) to consider the sustainability of their work-life balance. She goes to the Oscars. Samata is a force of nature.

Show notes

“We need to feel an urgency, not desperation—but an urgency in the knowledge that we need to act quickly and we need to act with purpose,” Samata tells Means & Matters podcast host and founder of the Intersectional Environmentalist Leah Thomas.

When Samata was tapped to lead sustainable fashion nonprofit Red Carpet Green Dress, she approached that urgent, purposeful action in a new way—across systems and around the world.

“I felt lucky because I know many Black women in sustainability who do not have that kind of amplification,” she says. “And with the shifting focus on manufacturing in Kenya and parts of Africa, many of them will be African women. I feel that kind of pit in my stomach sometimes of thinking I need to make sure that these broken systems that we see in parts of Asia, Bangladesh, etcetera, are not being replicated across the continent of Africa, too.”

Red Carpet Green Dress’s goals for next year’s Oscar fashion will still be high glam, but also, more inclusive and provocative.

“For 2022, we want to reintroduce a bit of excitement, a bit of hope, a bit of positivity, but also go deeper into the conversation about what sustainability means,” Samata says, emphasizing that traditionally, couture is monolithic. “We want to make sure we represent cultures, ages, sizes. … The spotlight will be on global cultural sustainability.”

Meet Samata

CEO—Red Carpet Green Dress

As CEO of Red Carpet Green Dress, Samata partners with the Academy Awards (no big deal), hosts a global sustainable design contest (that she once won), and amplifies the conversation around fashion’s environmental and social impact worldwide.

  1. What advice would you give to your younger self?

    Be kinder to yourself and less of a perfectionist.

  2. What's one thing that you do to take care of yourself?

    I drink water and talk to my friends.

  3. What's the best piece of advice you've ever received from a mentor?

    To surround myself with people who know more than I do.

  4. What book is on your nightstand, or what's the book that you just love to read?

    Oh my goodness. I love Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie. I love Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe as well. I can't choose one.

“There’s been such a focus on measuring environmental impact. But what about the impact on people? We know loads about greenhouse gases and metal emissions and waste, but we don’t really measure diversity or opportunity or women in leadership or child labor rates. We don’t measure these things that give us a massive indication about the state of a company.”

— Samata

Transcript

[Music]

Samata: [00:00:07] I always try and find like an interest point with the people I’m speaking to, whether it’s politics and human rights or whether somebody is like a mad scientist and they love chemistry. And I’m trying to show them that all the innovations and progress we’re making in fashion have an impact with you somehow. There’s something you can learn, whether it’s about a new material or just a new way of running your business.

Leah Thomas [00:00:30] Hi and welcome to the Means and Matters podcast, presented by Bank of the West. I’m Leah Thomas, environmental justice advocate, educator, creative, founder of Intersectional Environmentalist, Bank of the West ambassador and your host.

My guest today is Samata, a British-born Ghanian fashion designer. She is CEO of Red Carpet Green Dress, an organization that is using the Oscars red carpet, celebrities, and couture to transform the fashion industry by showcasing environmentally responsible fashion. Launched in 2009 by Suzy Amis Cameron, Red Carpet Green Dress is known for its annual design competition.

I love how Samata thinks about fashion, not just as an end product– the clothes that we wear, but holistically. From the materials that are used and how they are produced or repurposed, to the fair and humane treatment of manufacturers, to who gets to be included when we talk about fashion. Her broad view on sustainability has made her a leading voice in an industry that faces criticism for its impacts on the environment. An estimated 10% of global carbon emissions and nearly 20% of wastewater produced each year.

It’s one of the reasons that I’ve chosen to wear natural materials like hemp and try to be intentional about my fashion decisions. I was excited to speak with Samata because she’s an inspiration in the sustainable fashion space and someone I look up to very much

Samata spoke to me while she was on a business trip. She was in a hotel room with her young son, so you might hear him from time to time.

[Music]

Leah: [00:02:18] Hi Samata – Thank you so much for joining me today. So, we are a few months away from the 2022 Oscars, what is the red carpet green dress campaign planning for the Oscars? And could you share the impact the campaign has had so far?

Samata: [00:02:33] Definitely. So you’re right. I mean, it feels like this Oscars has come around really quickly again. I think for us, because the 2021 Oscars was such a kind of diversion from how it usually is, it was so greatly, kind of, overshadowed by. and rightfully so, covid and a lot of anxiety around how things would be with a real live event. For us, we enjoyed it and we delivered an amazing gown with Marlee Matlin and Vivienne Westwood, and it was a great experience for everybody. But we recognize that the atmosphere around it was just different. And, you know, it was right that it was.

So for 2022 we want to kind of reintroduce a bit of excitement, a bit of hope, a bit of positivity. But also just go deeper into the conversation about what sustainability means, because I keep saying if last year didn’t make people really reevaluate what they were doing, how they were doing it and why, I just don’t know what it would take. So for us, a big focus will be on this topic of global cultural sustainability, which means a lot to us. This idea of how can we make sure that the fashion industry we’re projecting looks like the world we live in? You know, you don’t leave the fashion industry and go into this world where it’s full of different hues and sizes and ages and races and then go into fashion and it’s so monotonous. So we want to make sure we represent cultures, ages, sizes. Really look at putting a spotlight on how sustainability looks, depending on where you’re from and what culture you grew up in and what you did when you were growing up and things like that. So, the spotlight will be on global cultural sustainability. And as always, we’ll be working with emerging and established designers and talent to try and reach as many kinds of people as possible. So I am looking forward to it.

Leah: [00:04:18] I love that. So for some real tea, RCGD has a competition which you won. Can you talk to me more about this competition and share your story from winning it over a decade ago, and then becoming CEO of Red Carpet, Green Dress and a leading voice for change in the fashion industry?

Samata: [00:04:37] Yeah, absolutely. So, when I kind of interacted with Red Carpet Green Dress, it was purely an accidental journey. I had been designing as a designer myself. I had my own clothing line, which was really self financed, completely. Didn’t study fashion, I studied economics, finance and management at uni, so I just fell into kind of designing. It was an expression of creativity for me, which is I guess why I always think when people say they don’t have anything to do with fashion, I always just feel like, yes, you do, because your clothing is totally an expression of identity.

So, I had my label and I’ve been kind of puttering away trying to make something of that. And I took a break from designing for a year, and felt like it kind of burnt me out. And at the end of that pause, I kind of went onto a website and I saw a contest advertisement that said ‘can you design for the red carpet with a sustainable twist?’ And I think because I had never, ever heard the word sustainable and fashion in the same sentence, I was intrigued. I didn’t think there was in any way a meeting of those two things. And all I really saw was, can you design for the red carpet? And it just said, you know, submit a sketch, tell us how you’d make this sustainably. So I was like Googling sustainable fashion and I think I suggested some fabrics I would use and I put the entry in. And then a week later, I got a phone call from Suzy Amis Cameron, and she said, you know, congratulations, you’ve won Red Carpet Green Dress. And it turned out to be this contest. So she brought me over to Los Angeles. I met her. I met her husband, James Cameron. And that was literally my introduction to sustainability.

And she had started the competition because the year before she’d been going to the Oscars with her husband for Avatar. And, you know, they just felt like we’re going to be on this carpet. People are going to be asking us, what are you wearing? And there’s such a huge relationship between fashion and impact on the environment and on people that we have to help people we like connect those dots. And so that’s why it started. And I was so grateful because it’s not very often you will get a relatively unknown designer given the opportunity to design for red carpet. So when I started on that journey, I was grateful for that opportunity for the access, but also grateful to be introduced to a space where what we made, how we made it, who we made it for and who made it by mattered. Before that, I’d only thought, you know, it needs to look good. And that’s the main thing. So it just shifted the way I thought about things.

Leah: [00:06:56] You’ve said that Red Carpet Green Dress’ biggest challenge has been getting brands to really invest in sustainability. I think a lot of people in the sustainability fight feel your pain. You’re the head of such a powerful campaign. Do you have any words of inspiration for the rest of us?

Samata: [00:07:13] For me, part of this is when we talk about investing in sustainability, I think it does come down to like almost a shortfall in leadership. And I say that because when it comes to finance and the things that are required to help us shift sustainability into the stratosphere, because we’re really moving sluggishly, like when it comes to any of our goals, whether it’s decarbonization, impact on biodiversity, even when it comes to just the protection of workers around the world, like progress is not quick enough. And for me, I feel like a lot of that comes down to leadership and having people that can ignite a fire and passion within their organizations, within their businesses to say we can make a difference, but we need to really accelerate this. We need to feel an urgency, not desperation, but just an urgency in the knowledge that we need to act quickly and we need to act with purpose.

And I think the work I’ve been doing with Red Carpet, Green Dress, I have been lucky enough to meet lots of leaders like that. I know they exist. I know that there are people within organizations that go to sleep literally thinking about what they need to do the next day to try and have some sort of an impact on the people in the organization, on the environment that they walk out into, like even to people who they’ll never get to meet that they know exist across the world and are waking up to really kind of staggeringly unfair, disproportionate conditions.

So I feel inspired because I know these leaders exist, but I also know that we have a lot to do. And so my inspiration is purely, I wouldn’t be working in sustainability if I didn’t think that something could change. And I think if we can just remember and reconnect with the fact that we’re working in this space because we know that there’s a better location we’re trying to get to and we are the vehicles to get there. That’s what I try and think about because it’s really hard getting people to invest in sustainability and not to see it as like an add on like an additional thing they can just tag on for publicity purposes or to look good, but really see it as like the foundation for their businesses to do well and be profitable and have a positive impact and all of the good stuff we know it can be. I am inspired. But I know we’ve got much more to do.

Leah: [00:09:25] That was a beautiful answer. You know what, I love a success story. So, Are there any brands that have really made breakthroughs and are doing it right and have championed the message of sustainability?

Samata: [00:09:37] So with Red Carpet, Green Dress, it’s such a good question. You know, we have worked with talent and designers from over 21 or 22 countries and counting, and that’s everything from like Priyanka Bose, who represented the Indian community, or Camila Alves McConaughey, who’s an American Brazilian, across to Michael Badger, who’s a Ghanaian designer, and Valentino, who’s from Venezuela.

And with all of these different interactions with emerging talent or established talent, I always love the fact that when we work with them, they teach me something about how their culture perceives sustainability. Whether its techniques or fabrics that they’ve always handed down, they’ve always used, or cultural sayings that are literally woven into fabric through symbolism. And so it’s always deeply inspiring to me because we talk about sustainability and a lot of that conversation can be centered on like the global north, it doesn’t always acknowledge the role that the global south has played. And with Red Carpet Green Dress, I feel super lucky because I get to interact with people like Michael or even Tingting Chen, who is this incredible Chinese designer who worked on a suit for us in 2015. And she is now the founder of an international fashion studio in Guangxi Province in China. And she’s leading this new generation of designers into sustainability from the very beginning.

And when we met her, she was talking about how in parts of her community when she grew up, there were people who would go around and collect garments and mend them. And it was so fascinating because she’s grown up with this practice. But she didn’t connect it with sustainability because they just didn’t use that word. So I feel so lucky because I honestly do get to meet some really amazing people through the work we do.

Another person we’re working with for one of our campaigns that’s launching really soon, is Abrima who is part of Studio 189 with Rosario Dawson, who’s also a dear friend. And I kind of love what they’re doing with challenging the way that we see empowerment in fashion. I think sometimes when you say a women’s collective, it always seems to be tacked on with like it’s almost like oh these poor women. Let’s give them a hand. And I like that Abrima and Rosario are kind of repositioning these women and saying, like, these are entrepreneurs, they’re artisans, they’re couturiers, they’re highly skilled. And just even the language they use is massively inspiring to me because, you know, my parents were from Ghana and I love seeing these places talked about in a different way, and I think that they’re doing it in a really refreshing way as well.

[Music]

Leah: After a short break, Samata and I discuss how we bring our whole identity into the work we do, compromising and what other industries can learn from fashion. Stay with us.

[Music]

Leah: [00:12:44] So we’ve spoken about how few black women are represented in the sustainability space, however we are there. Can you talk about what brought you to environmentalism and how your upbringing and identity influenced that lens?

Samata: [00:12:57] Yeah, definitely. So it’s really strange because I grew up around sustainability, but I didn’t have any idea that it was a word I needed to ever use. I think about my dad and my mom who were both working in sustainability. My mom worked with an organization called BirdLife International, which protects endangered species of birds. My dad has always worked in NGOs and grant making, women’s empowerment, girls rights to education, protection of northern land in Ghana, protection of indigenous men and chiefs. So I have a family who’ve always basically just gone about things in a way that is sustainable, but we never use that language.

And I grew up with a mom who was working but would always kind of not always, but would frequently make matching outfits for myself and my sisters when we would go to discos and every single one would be slightly different. Like one would have a short right arm, one would have a short left arm. And it was just we always felt really unique. And she did it because she knew we wanted to have our own personality. But now we talk about kind of sewing and tailoring, and that’s part of sustainability, too. But she just did it because she liked it and she enjoyed it.

And I love that the way she’s made me think about sustainability is, not everyone connects sustainability with the reasons why I’m doing it. Some people aren’t sewing their clothes because they want to kind of consume less or they want to reduce their footprint or they want to be more responsible with that consumption. Some people are sewing because they like making things and they like to be creative. And her doing those things helped me find different ways to talk to people about sustainability and not always go in so heavy with the impact, but almost find out their why first.

And I think as a black woman, I’m a British born Ghanaian, so I have like a slightly different kind of perspective, too, because I’m kind of second generation. My family moved up to the UK and I was always keen to try and connect with my Ghanian culture, but also be part of like Western society and then black women, too.

So working with Red Carpet Green Dress and experiencing America’s kind of black existence and facing what I need to be a British black existence was just so massively overwhelming in the beginning. And I would definitely go into rooms where I was with Suzy Amis Cameron. And it’s like everyone wants to talk to James Cameron’s wife and they wouldn’t even acknowledge that I was in the room, not Suzy, but the other people. And they would always take Suzy to say, I don’t even know why you’re asking me this question, this is Samata’s remet. And she would always kind of focus the lens back on me and make them recognize what they’ve done. And I always appreciated that. And I felt lucky because I know many black women in sustainability or in positions who do not have that kind of amplification.

And with the shifting focus on manufacturing in Kenya and parts of Africa, many of them will be African women. I feel that kind of pit in my stomach sometimes, of thinking, I need to make sure that these broken systems that we see in parts of Asia, Bangladesh, etc, are not being replicated across the continent of Africa, too. So it’s a mixed existence.

Leah: [00:15:57] Do you have any advice for other black women in the sustainability space that are really wanting to take up space?

Samata: [00:16:04] A few things I would say, first of all, don’t let anyone conflate your expertise with your experience. And I say that because a lot of the time when you’re a black person or a black woman in a space and you’re often one of the only black women in that space, there’s something that happens whereby people feel they can draw on you to share your expertise and your experience and they’re different.

I think we saw it a great deal with when George Floyd happened and everything kicked off around then. All of a sudden kind of the one or two black people within organizations were being pulled in to kind of lead DNI teams and to kind of give talks to the company about how the company could better create a more representative and peaceful black existence within that company. And I thought that was fundamentally wrong. My experience as a black person and your experience as a black person, is your experience. However, that doesn’t mean the pressure should then be on you to come forward with all the expertise and solutions for why and how companies need to do better. I feel that there are literally trained experts in this and they should be pulled on for that. So you draw your lines and your boundaries and you let people know when they’re overstepping it and when they’re fetishizing your experience as well, because that happened a lot.

And I think another thing I would say just for yourself is never shy away from exactly where you came from and what your story is and what your culture is. Because I think the black community for such a long time has been made to feel ashamed of the different practices we have, whether it’s thrifting, wearing second hand, hand me downs, mending things. And I think that’s why it’s so important for us to kind of stick our flags not in the sand, but stick our flags in the mud, in the concrete and be clear about the contributions we know we have added to the bigger sustainable picture. Because what you’ll find is the very things you were hiding or feeling slightly embarrassed or ashamed about because you’ve been conditioned to be made to feel that way, are the very things that will become commoditized and celebrated in the sustainable space without you.

Leah: [00:18:13] I love that. And yeah, I just I try to remind myself when I’m in those spaces that my blackness is the blueprint for my sustainability practice. And like so many things that my family taught me, whether or not it’s in a textbook, it’s just as valid. And I love what you’re doing and what you said because we shouldn’t shy away from those cultural practices that have informed our sustainability practice, and we should always remember that. So snap’s to that, and a mic dropped to that beautiful, beautiful piece of advice.

So let’s expand beyond the fashion industry. Are there lessons from the fashion industry that might inform and inspire other sustainably minded business people in other industries?

Samata: [00:18:56] Definitely, so I think about the fashion industry and that thing people say, which I’m sure they say potentially to you as well, Leah, which is, “Oh, I mean, you know, you work around fashion, you work in fashion. That must be so exciting. I take myself too seriously to do stuff like that.” There’s always a distancing language between them and you when you say I work in the design world, but then I always try and bring it back to them. I’m thinking, OK, say so if you are somebody who is passionate about kind of rainforest conservation, then the fact that we do rely quite heavily on kind of materials derived from wood should be something you’re interested in.

I always try and find like an interest point with the people I’m speaking to, whether it’s politics and human rights or whether somebody is like a mad scientist and they love chemistry. And I try and show them that all the innovations and progress we’re making in fashion have an impact with you somehow. There’s something you can learn, whether it’s about a new material or just a new way of running your business. You know, there’s a great deal of conversation right now about KPI’s, which are not purely environmental, right, because there’s been such a focus on measuring environmental impact. But what about kind of the impact on people? We know loads about greenhouse gases and metal emissions and waste to landfill, but we don’t really measure that kind of diversity, right. Even though we don’t love the word diversity or opportunity or women in leadership positions or child labor rates, or we don’t measure these things that give us a massive indication about the state of a company.

And so I think that there’s all of this opportunity to learn from fashion’s models, but I don’t think that people respect the fashion industry sometimes enough to see that there’s really viable business lessons that they could learn. One quick example I’ll give is I was asked to chair the report where we really dived into fashion’s relationship with climate and it really took it apart from the raw material extraction to the textile processing all the way to like how citizens buy clothes and what they do with them. And it linked all of these different stages to environmental impact and where that could be felt. And the big thing that came out of that was the idea that even when you were looking at the machines and the technology used in the factories making clothing, there’s a huge opportunity there to decarbonize. And that technology is the same technology that can be used in a factory that’s making bottled drinks and so on and so forth. So industries can learn from each other and they can learn about ways to move to a more sustainable future. But, I think for that to happen we need to put a little bit of respect on fashion’s name.

Leah: [00:21:34] I’m curious, in the pursuit of your career, is there anything that you’ve compromised on or what are things that you’ve not been willing to give up?

Samata: [00:21:42] I would say that at certain points I’ve compromised on my own health. And it’s weird because I work in sustainability and I love everything about it. I love the people I get to meet like you. I just think I meet some incredible people who give you goosebumps when they talk about what the work they do means to them who have tied themselves to trees and who have gone into the most toxic landfills and who make me feel just so inadequate, but in a kind of an inspiring way, if that’s possible.

But, you know, one of the things that I compromised on is my work. I’m just sometimes I know I work past what’s sustainable and we can talk about sustaining the planet and we can talk about sustaining communities and people. But I still think sometimes we ignore that we need to sustain ourselves. And I know that I’ve compromised on my health and I’ve worked some crazy hours and just push myself to the like the limits of what’s physically good, just because I want to keep going. And I think that’s a bit dangerous sometimes. So that’s something I am aware of and I’m trying to work hard on it.

And then I would say another thing is sometimes you have to go within or work with big organizations to change the direction of those ships. Collaborating with kind of big, big organizations, can to other people seem like you’re compromising. But to me, I think it’s so important to get on the inside of these organizations because if there’s a lacking in leadership, then you’ll see it and you can call it out and you can try and push it in a better direction. But I don’t think you can do that from the outside.

[Music]

Leah: [00:23:18] When you’ve had those moments of compromise, what are the strengths that you leaned into?

Samata: [00:23:24] The strength of leaned into is probably this idea that, we’re all the same. Not in a we’re all the same, I’m black and she’s white, but we one in the same. I mean that we all have like the same fears and anxieties and things that we battle with just to get to where we need to go. And it manifests in all of these different ways. And because I’ve been in so many different rooms with the work I do, I’ve been with grassroot NGOs who have like five different phones for the different countries they’re in. And they’re some of the most archaic handsets I’ve ever seen. And these guys are just of a different time and place. Or I’ve been with kind of business leaders who are trying to invest millions in shaping the landscape of sustainable investment all the way to designers who stay up all night just to perfect a technique. And I just think we have this resilience in us as human beings that can be unwavering if we get to connect with the things we’re passionate about.

And I think for me, the strength I’ve leaned into is like I know what I’m passionate about and that is literally enough. It’s enough to keep me going when it’s really kind of crap, if that makes sense. I know what I’m passionate about. I know that I care about this space and I know that there are things that we can do that are better. So I don’t know if it’s a strength, but I just feel like there’s a knowledge in me of what I enjoy and where I want to fill a space. And I just try and connect to that. And I look for the same thing in other people and I try and find that with them as much as I can. And I’m not good at it all the time. And I’m sure that I fail and lots of the experiences I have. But when I do connect with someone and I can see like what they’re passionate about just gives me more fuel as well. So maybe that’s what it is. It’s kind of, I don’t need someone else to be less for me to be more.

Leah: [00:25:21] Absolutely. So, that leads well into my next question. You founded a movement called The Tribe. Could you talk about that effort and where this idea came from?

Samata: [00:25:33] The Tribe is a pretty emotional one for me, because I would say that with Red Carpet Green Dress, we’ve built something that’s so much bigger than a design competition. We have like educational platforms and digital workshops. We do collaborations, provide sustainable design solutions. We’ve innovated our own materials. And right now we’re working on thought leadership stuff and reports. And we have a contest which is about to launch. And there’s all of these things going on.

And I remember that was a year when I was so busy and I got back from delivering these two gowns at the Oscars. One of them was Sophie Turner from Game of Thrones, and she was in a signature Galván piece, like locally made incredible small British brand. So small brand. And then there was Lily Cole, who was in a recycled plastic gown. And we wanted to talk about the role of recycled plastic and design. We weren’t saying we’re pro plastic. We were saying, what do we do with all this plastic? And I got off the plane and literally my phone rang. It was a friend who was calling me by chance. And I said, oh, you know, I’ve just got back from the Oscars. I’m so tired, you know? And I said, but I’m really happy. It went really well. And the first thing she asked me after saying, Oh, that’s so cool is like, what’s next?

And I found that such a deflating question because we don’t really take enough time sometimes to celebrate the things that we have achieved for long enough. It feels like there’s a constant request for what’s next, what’s next, what’s next. And I don’t want to get this confused with pace, which is what I was talking about earlier. I think we need to move with pace in a sustainable fashion space. When brands tell me that their goal is by 2050, we want to do this, I’m like, OK, if we’re all still here, like, OK. That’s ages away. So I know that pace is a big thing, but I’m talking about when you’ve achieved something, where is the space to celebrate and appreciate the thing that you’ve achieved, because that is sustainability too. If you don’t get the chance to slow down and actually sit in the stuff you’ve done, you don’t get to notice things properly. It’s like that whole thing of rushing and getting somewhere really quickly versus allowing yourself more time and getting to appreciate the walk, the breeze, the trees, the sky, the people that smile at you when you’re going. It’s a different experience of a thing. Right?

And so The Tribe for me was I just wanted to put something positive out there where I’m encouraging people to say I am enough. And even if everything I have bookmarked in my diary to happen next week or next month doesn’t happen, I’m still enough. I’m still great. And I think in sustainability, loads of people need to do that more because we have a lot of people who are just punishing themselves because they haven’t managed to save the world yet. But in society, I think we still have loads of people who get that job promotion. And then it’s like, oh, when are you getting the other regions or who gets engaged and when are you getting married or have a kid? And then when are you having another kid? And I’ve experienced these things and I just think it’s part of just changing people’s mindsets. And I wonder if people change their mindsets more and they appreciate the “I am enough” in the things now. We wouldn’t have these rampant conversations about consumption and mass consumerism, because to me that’s linked to searching or wanting to buy our way into filling voids and buy our way into feeling a certain way, which we might already have if we just cleared all the noise away.

So, in the most succinct way I can put it, The Tribe is really just a space for people to share the things that help them realize that they are enough and that they don’t have to try and be like hamsters on a wheel trying to keep up with this idea of perfect, which doesn’t even really exist.

Leah: [00:28:58] OK, I have one last big picture question. This is being described as the decade to reverse climate change. Looking forward to 2030. What do you hope to accomplish?

Samata: [00:29:10] I hope to create, I literally have my eyes closed because I feel like it’s such a nice question to ask. I hope to be part of creating a sustainable space where if you imagine, like the globe of the earth, like laid out flat as a sheet, and you imagine that right now in the states or in Europe, you have these kind of skyscrapers coming up off the sheet and they are like literally reaching the sky. And to me, that represents the weight that we apply to certain parts of the world in the conversation about sustainability. And also just the accolades and honors that we give to certain parts of the world. Whereas at the same time, in other parts of the world where literally we’re talking about severe impact of climate change –  flooding, droughts, starvation, mass migration – you almost have like a deficit like that piece of paper is going down is not even it’s like it’s literally a kind of almost a negative imprint.

And what I’m trying to see is being part of a conversation where we fill out the globe with a more equitable distribution of platform, of respect, of vantage points, where we have global climate summits held in Kenya, where the leaders of the world are coming to different parts of the world to sit down and to have conversations with these particular communities who will be feeling this the most. And not coming there to kind of say this is how we’re going to save you, but coming back to connect with their NGOs, their kind of indigenous leaders, their young climate activists who are literally there to listen and take direction. And that’s kind of what I want to see in 2030, just this kind of redrawing of the map in a way that is just so much more accurate, because right now it feels a little bit skewed.

[Music]

Leah: [00:31:21] And now for The Lightning Round, so I’m going to ask you five questions, which you can answer in lightning speed. So what advice would you give to your younger self?

Samata: [00:31:432] Be kinder to yourself and less of a perfectionist.

Leah: [00:31:35] One thing that you do to take care of yourself?

Samata: [00:31:38] Drink water and talk to my friends.

Leah: [00:31:42] What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received from a mentor?

Samata: [00:31:46] To surround myself with people who know more than I do.

Leah: [00:31:52] What book is on your nightstand table or what’s the book that you just love to read?

Samata: [00:31:59] Oh my goodness. You know, I love Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie. But I also. Yeah, I would say that I love Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe as well. Yeah, those. I can’t choose one. Sorry.

Leah: [00:32:11] What’s a gadget or a device you can’t live without?

Samata: [00:32:15] I don’t have one. Oh wait. Someone’s going to call me a liar for that. I was trying to be like I transcend technology, not really. Probably my MacBook. I just, I need to have it. I can’t work on small screens.

Leah: [00:32:31] Samata, thank you so much for taking the time with me today. I really enjoyed our conversation.

Samata: [00:32:36]Thanks for having me on it.

[Music]

Leah: You can learn more about Red Carpet Green Dress by visiting their website rcgdglobal.com, or follow Samata on Instagram @iam_samata where she beautifully continues the conversation of sustainability in fashion with a global view.

To find out more about Samata and the other women that we are profiling on our show, visit meansandmatters.com/podcast

Means & Matters is presented by Bank of the West. It is a production of Duct Tape Then Beer and Backbone Media, in collaboration with me, Leah Thomas.

From Bank of the West: Leslie Nuccio, Lily Ruiz and Jim Cole are Executive producers. From Duct Tape Then Beer: Becca Cahall is the Executive producer. Elizabeth Nakano is the senior producer. Anya Miller Berg and Fitz Cahall are consulting producers. Editing and mixing by Jacob Bain. Original composition by Brendan O’Connell. Transcriptions by Ani Miller-Yahzid.

From Backbone Media, Mercedes Brown and Becca Hollard are producers.

Thanks for listening.

Hosted By —

Leah Thomas

Leah Thomas is an eco-communicator, aka an environmentalist with a love for writing and creativity, based in Ventura, CA. She's passionate about advocating for and exploring the relationship between social justice and environmentalism.

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