A Walk in Wilson Oryema’s Shoes (They’re Sustainable, Obviously)

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Photography by Wilson Oryema

The fashion industry’s favourite poet and artist takes on The Loop – a new style from Stella McCartney composed of recyclable parts

“If we want a better quality of life, we have to move forward together and help each other as much as possible,” muses artist, activist and model Wilson Oryema. “If we’re not doing our best by each other, then what’s the point?” Through his poetry, photography and other art practices, Oryema has used his place in the fashion world to bring conversations around environmental and sustainability issues to the fore. In doing so, he’s walking that tricky line between consumption and ethics with just the poise we’d expect from a Calvin Klein model.

Oryema’s stance beautifully echoes that of the Stella McCartney brand; and it’s little surprise he’s so taken with its Loop sneakers, which are created with entirely recyclable components. Now, you can take a closer look this innovative style, by way of The Loop Lab – an immersive new exhibition space located in Stella McCartney’s Bond Street store. In celebration of both the launch of the style and this space dedicated to it, Oryema talks to us here about what we can all do to interact with fashion in ways that are both fun and responsible; and why making eco-friendly images needn’t be all about well-worn leafy clichés.

On moving away from stereotypes in sustainability-related images in his Loop art…
“A lot of the time when people are shooting for an eco project or something sustainable they feel like they need to make it nature-based. Of course it’s good to amplify the aspect of the trainer being more beneficial to the environment than a regular one, but people are complex – they don’t need to see something in a natural framework to understand that. I wanted to show Loop as a product people can get behind, without trying to push a particular agenda on them.”

On how we can interact with fashion more ethically...
“The fashion industry gets isolated a lot in conversations around consumerism and sustainability, but it’s an issue in any industry you place yourself in. It’s always an uphill battle to improve the situation and make sure we’re not being too taxing on the planet. A wonderful way to start is Fashion Revolution, an organisation that works on initiatives that focus on understanding where everything comes from. It’s a really good way to look at who actually made your clothes – what conditions they were exposed to, where the materials come from, what effect it has on the planet. Once you start thinking about those things in relation to what you have or what you want to purchase, it becomes a personal journey around what you can tolerate.”

On how art can further conversations around the environment…
“I’m a very insular or introspective person, I think about my actions and their impact on the world and how I’ve reacted to things a lot. My book started by looking at the outside world and how we consume things, and the effect it has on ourselves and the planet. People all learn in different ways, and so they’re moved by content in different ways: I might enjoy a poem which may not appeal to you at all, but you might enjoy [the same message] by watching a film, or someone else might like a great image. It’s about finding the best way to communicate.

“I work in lots of different media, and my existence in different spaces allows me to do different things. My creative work and fashion modelling work play off each other – modelling has allowed me to be more involved in the sustainability and fashion conversations; while my writing has allowed me to go to other places and do other things.”

On what we can learn from the Loop sneakers...
“The most important thing to learn is that it’s possible: there’s been a lot of innovation to get to this point, and now people can see that you can make great trainers that look good, and are comfortable, but aren’t as taxing on the environment as other products. It’s a great time-stamp to see the effects it has, and the results that will come from other people seeing how we can move forward.”

The Loop sneaker is available now.