Interview with fashion documentary maker Charney Magri: “Clothes need to be treasured”

Charney Magri is an award-winning ethical photographer, director and producer who has recently co-directed a short film titled ‘Catwalk to Creation’, which will be released later this year. She is also a published author, public speaker, mentor and activist. With almost 20 years experience in the fashion industry, Charney has worked alongside some of the biggest names to date: British Vogue, Nick Knight, Ralph Lauren and the Estée Lauder Group – to name but some. She is also a spokesperson for the Global Fashion Exchange (GFX) and co-founder and CEO of Fashion 4 Change. FashionUnited spoke with her about her exciting endeavours and her take on living sustainably.

Interview with fashion documentary maker Charney Magri: “Clothes need to be treasured”

FashionUnited: Charney, how did you get started with sustainability?

Charney Magri: For over 20 years, I worked in fashion, beauty and advertising. About four years ago, I hit my moral crossroads, at which I needed to re-evaluate how I could add more value to my life and be more in line with my core values. Growing up in Australia, being sustainable was a given: Water restrictions were on, so we did not waste water; we separated our trash and used food scraps for compost for the vegetable patch; recycling was normal and the normal way of living. There was sustainable fashion too but sustainability really spanned one’s whole lifestyle from fashion to all purchases, food, travel; every area of my life. Now, it’s all done on a larger scale and I really proactively look for brands and companies that work on making a positive change.

Then, a long time ago, I moved from Australia to the UK. I had two jobs, working in magazines like the British Vogue during the day and shooting in the evening, which was my passion. I had the good fortune to assist famous fashion photographer Nick Knight full time and was able to build my portfolio that way.

Interview with fashion documentary maker Charney Magri: “Clothes need to be treasured”

When did you become interested in photography?

I have been shooting since I was 13. It’s such a funny industry because you can pick up a camera and start. But when do you call yourself a photographer? I got my first commission at 19 and qualified from university when I was 21.

When did you merge your two passions, photography and sustainability?

That was four years ago when I questioned the direction I was heading in and decided to follow a more sustainable route. This was when my passion projects merged with my commercial work and I was focusing on influencing changes in behaviour and having a more positive impact globally. ‘Catwalk to Creation’ is the first big project, which will be released later this year. We will launch it on Facebook and Instagram as well as other social media channels. ‘Catwalk to Creation’ is under the umbrella of the global platform Fashion 4 Change (F4C), with the core mission to make sustainability fashionable.

Please tell us a bit about ‘Catwalk to Creation’.

The documentary shows the reverse journey of two sustainable garments, one made out of natural fibres (wool) and one being a next gen solution within the viscose family. As the title suggests, it is the reverse journey from the finished garment on the catwalk to its beginnings as a thought, an idea, following the whole production process from design to factory. It is a behind-the-scenes-look to really show everything that goes into it making a garment. It is targeted at everyday consumers as well as a B2B and B2C audience.

As a co-director, it is about the responsibility that all of us need to take on board, to say “this is my part”. We need to talk responsibility; it’s time to look behind the campaigns I used to shoot and raise awareness in the industry. As a consumer, when you make your choice and purchase a garment, we want you to be an educated consumer who can make an educated and empowered choice. Right now, the information that is needed is not readily available; you have to proactively look for it and there are often contradicting messages out there, it is easy to get confused. Right now, it’s time consuming to stay on top of it, which not everyone can do. There is a responsibility for everyone: we all need to stand up.

Interview with fashion documentary maker Charney Magri: “Clothes need to be treasured”

How did ‘Catwalk to Creation’ come about?

I had an idea a long time ago to describe the journey of a garment. Then my creative partner Ramzi Moutran and I came together and explored that idea. We edited down various ideas and then the accumulation of all thoughts was coming together and we came up with a documentary series, where each episode will talk about different topics in the industry whilst following the reverse journey of sustainable garments to prove that sustainability can be beautiful. Together, Ramzi and I travelled to India, Austria and across the UK to create the documentary series. ‘Catwalk to Creation’ is the first episode. Additionally, the film will be shown at the United Nations headquarters in New York later this month to demonstrate our commitment to helping achieve the UN’s sustainability goals. On an even broader level, it is meant to seep into everyone’s work life as well so that sustainability is not just a buzzword and trend but becomes the norm that people incorporate into their lives.

Last but not least, let’s talk about Burberry & Co. - whose problem is the destruction of perfectly good stock?

It is an industry-wide problem that also affects consumers. It is also a positive opportunity to do something about it. I understand why companies are doing what they are doing. But there are next generation solutions; fabrics that can be completely deconstructed and then reconstructed into something completely different. It is just a matter of standing up and taking responsibility.

Interview with fashion documentary maker Charney Magri: “Clothes need to be treasured”

When we recognize that we are done with previous solution, we are ready to lead the change and do something about the problems. Consumers for example need to be introduced to clothes that have been designed for a lifetime, not just a season. We are fed that we need a new outfit every time we go out. Consumers need to stand up and take responsibility, governments too. They can change the rules; passing the blame is not a solution. And consumers get inspired to ask the right questions through initiatives like Fashion Revolution, Who Made My Clothes and ‘Catwalk to Creation’. Questions are the first step and they can change supply and demand. Clothes need to be treasured; we need to buy, wear, love, mend and share.

Photos: Behind the scenes of ‘Catwalk to Creation’; courtesy Charney Magri


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