Following in the footsteps of sustainability champion, Livia Firth, MOJEH meets the eco-entrepreneurs changing the UAE for the better
It’s a key focus of her business now. But 36-year-old fashion designer Deborah Henning is the first to admit she wasn’t always so conscientious when it came to matters of sustainability and environmental awareness.
“I really wasn’t eco-conscious at all,” says Deborah, who launched her eponymous label in Dubai in 2014. “I think I’m like everybody else when it comes to this subject. It’s only in the past few years, both in my personal and professional life, that I’ve become more and more aware of sustainability, and the effects that our individual actions have on our planet.”
Working with manufacturers committed to detail and beautiful craftsmanship, Deborah’s edgy, contemporary aesthetic, mixed with minimal Scandinavian-inspired cuts using carefully- sourced fabrics, results in garments that are built for longevity.
“As I’ve grown older and I see the world changing I have realised that everybody has the capacity to make a change,” explains Deborah of her passion for creating a life and a business that is not only sustainable, but ethically-minded too.
“It started with adjustments in my domestic existence – recycling, being aware of single use plastics and the amount of waste produced at home. But naturally, since my business is an extension of me and what I believe in, slowly but surely, I began to implement better practices at work. Because I am the owner of my business, I have the control to implement changes, so I make those changes – changes that I would like to see all businesses making.”
Always looking to further the sustainability aspect of her brand, as well as maintain high ethical standards, Deborah works hard to raise awareness about the causes she champions.
“I’m always looking for ways to improve what I’m already doing,” she explains. “It’s great to be able to implement my ideas in my business and learn more about the subject of sustainability as a whole, but I would like to be able to pioneer some bigger changes – not just here, but in the fashion industry in general. It’s such a toxic and polluting industry. With the advancement in technology we have, there are some really cool ways we can push the use of sustainability in fashion, and I want to be a part of that.”
While the fashion industry is improving with regards to being more environmentally and ethically aware in the western world, regional improvements seem to be taking their time.
“Seeing those advancements is ongoing, and it’s a slow burn,” says Deborah. “As an example, I’m very aware of factory worker’s conditions in the UAE. I have clients asking me to make products for a certain price for one-off projects, which I know would put pressure on the workers, so I have to refuse.”
“It’s a choice I make to try to implement some sort of standard of practice in the industry. The fact is that it’s not always easy to find suppliers close by that have the ethics and products that are required to run a fashion label, but we’re constantly evolving.”
Indeed, the social responsibility she holds as an entrepreneur in the fashion industry is something Deborah is acutely aware of. Next year focusing on setting standards for social and environmental sustainability in production, including a completely paper-free workspace, Deborah is collaborating with a women’s foundation in an effort to reduce pollution, and uphold the working standards of factory employees, as well as her label running a completely transparent supply chain.
“As designers, we have to be responsible. It part of our job as creators to be mindful of what we are putting out into the world,” she explains. “It’s the same for any industry, celebrity or influencer. If people are using your products or listening to your advice, you have to be mindful of the content.”
Find the latest Deborah Henning collections at IF Boutique Dubai; +971 4 394 7260
- Words by Lucy Wildman
- Photography: Ausra Osipavicite
- With thanks to The Green Planet by Meraas and Queens Beauty Salon