A climate activist’s perspective on Paris Fashion Week

You’d be forgiven for mistaking Xiye Bastida for a fashion week regular. Dressed in a charming indigo-dyed blouse, matching button-up skirt and chic high boots from Chloé’s spring collection, the fresh-faced 19-year-old fits the likes of Demi Moore and Gugu Mbatha perfectly- Raw at the brand. fall show in Paris last week. And yet, for this young climate activist, the front row is not a natural habitat. “There’s a part of being in spaces like this that makes me feel uncomfortable,” she tells me after the show. “But I think if there’s not that feeling of discomfort, then you’re not doing anything new.”

When it comes to challenging the status quo, Bastida certainly has a ton of experience. A member of the Otomi-Toltec people, the Mexican-Chilean activist has become a global leader in the fight against climate change, pushing to center indigenous and immigrant voices in particular. More recently, she captured the world’s attention with her rallying cry for change at COP26 in Edinburgh. “She said one thing that I strongly believe: we are supposed to leave our children better off than when we started. And that’s not something we do,” says Gabriela Hearst, artistic director of Chloe, who was part of the crowd last November. “When she said those words, I started crying.” It’s no surprise that Bastida’s powerful speech has gone viral. “All the world leaders were already out when I took the stage, so I gave my speech to an empty room,” Bastida explains. “You have to trust that when you put out messages you will eventually be heard, it just takes time.”

That sentiment isn’t lost on Hearst, a longtime advocate of sustainable fashion practices. Since the Uruguay-born, New York-based designer took over the reins at Chloé in December 2020, she’s doubled down on those values. Bastida clearly did her research before accepting Hearst’s invitation to Paris. “Did you know that Chloe is B Corp certified? says Bastida, referring to the globally recognized benchmark for social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability. The show itself was a zero-waste affair, with everything from dirt on the runway to front-row chairs earmarked for reuse.

As you’d expect, Bastida’s approach to her own closet is equally thoughtful. Two years ago, she pledged not to buy new clothes and has stuck to it ever since. “If I buy clothes, they’re thrift stores,” she says. In other words, you’re much more likely to find the New York activist browsing vintage shopping spots like the L Train in Brooklyn than strolling through a high-end fashion boutique. Still, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t appreciate craftsmanship. Woven with scenes from the natural world, the head-to-toe knitted looks in the collections were a favorite of hers. Ditto for trendy organic jewelry. (For proof, see the eye-catching shell necklace that hangs around her neck.) “I come from a culture that respects all natural resources,” says Bastida, whose first name means gentle rain.