Luxury Sustainable Fashion Inspired by the Vibrancy and Colours of India: Introducing the Women Behind Leo Strange The Label

Emily and Melissa started their journey towards Leo Strange in very different places and were brought together by truly serendipitous experiences in India. After hearing their story and seeing their samples, its hard to believe they only met a few months ago.

Emily © 2017 Zev Weinstein

Emily has over 10 years experience in the fashion industry, predominately in High Street fashion. During this time she began to realise the serious social and environmental impacts of the fashion industry and started identifying potential areas for change. While in Northeastern India Emily volunteered with a friend’s grassroots educational Charity, the One Love Project, based in Pushkar. Here she met a family that had lost their factory in a fire, and started producing kimonos with them from Sari waste. In this experience Emily saw potential to effect change and became motivated by a desire to work closely with villages in India.

Melissa’s journey with fashion begins at a young age but pauses when her sewing machine catches fire at around the age of sixteen. Following this she spends some time travelling the world and arrived in India, where she opened up a cafe. While running the cafe Melissa worked closely with women in the local community and saw potential for supporting their empowerment through providing employment. This experience of working and living in India inspired her to impact change in these communities through social enterprise. It is also here, surrounded by the amazing textiles traditions of India, that her passion for creating garments was reborn.

Melissa © 2017 Zev Weinstein

While their experiences in India were quite different, both Emily and Melissa arrived at a similar place. They are both troubled by the negative social and environmental impacts of the fashion industry and are motivated by a passion to address issues of womens’ empowerment and poverty alleviation in communities in India.

From their combined passion for change and a love of fashion and textiles, Leo Strange was born.

Below is an interview I did with Emily and Melissa about Leo Strange, the interesting fabrics they use and their experiences in the sustainable fashion world.

Leo Strange is launching in August. What should we expect from your luxury sustainable fashion label?

“We want it to be a positive experience for the consumer. We will worry about the sustainability and equality aspects and you can enjoy the expertly tailored cuts and high quality fabrics. Our classic pieces allow the fabrics to speak for themselves and will become a timeless addition to your wardrobe, a piece that will tell a story and have longevity. Ultimately get ready to feel good about the clothes you’re wearing.”

Banana Fabric © 2017 Zev Weinstein


What is Banana Fabric?

“Banana Fabric is a non-conventional fabric used for a very long time in India, Japan and Asia. What is great about Banana fabric is how sustainable it can be. The fabric is made from the banana stalk. There are no chemicals or toxins used in the production. Traditionally, villagers will weave this fabric together, with the older generation passing on the knowledge to the youth. There is an array of fibres, which can be woven from the banana plant. The finer fibre is traditionally used for clothing, which has a silk satin-like feel. Amazingly, banana fabric is also durable, moisture-absorbent and completely biodegradable. A superstar sustainable fabric!”



Khadi Fabric © 2017 Zev Weinstein


What is Khadi Fabric? 

“Khadi fabric has a huge connection to ancient Indian culture; “Khadi” meaning all those fabrics which have been hand-spun and hand-woven. This culture of weaving began to decline during the rise of industrialisation but it was Ghandi who revived the ancient craft. The yarn is spun on Charkha wheels, which became the symbol of Ghandi’s non-violent movement for independence. This fabric has a low eco footprint, maintains traditional methods and empowers communities. Moreover, this fabric is completely unique, has a beautiful character and speaks volumes of the communities that helped to create it.”

Why have you decided to use these fabrics?

“We decided to uses these fabrics because of the profound affect the people of India had on us. It is developing countries that suffer most of the negative environmental effects of the fashion industry. The fabrics we use have low eco footprints. We work with natural dyes in an effort to ensure that no chemicals have been used in the production of our garments. India has been at the centre of the textile industry for thousands of years. We hope to reignite the passion and reverence around these fabrics so that we can reignite a passion and reverence around the clothes we wear.”

© 2017 Zev Weinstein

What are some of the challenges you face working in sustainable fashion? 
“There are two main challenges that we face and we believe will continue to face working sustainably and ethically, these are transparency in the production of fabric and the reliability of its source.

Sadly few brands publish the suppliers of their raw materials, so there is no way of knowing where their cotton, wool or other fibres come from or who produces them. We want to change this as we feel as a sustainable company this information is key to the consumer and for the welfare of the workers and environment. We know the facilities where our clothes are being made, and have access to the workshops and farms where they are sourcing the fabrics. This means we can encourage good practices.

The reliability of the production of the fabric is a test. We source materials from small villages where the production of that particular fabric is traditional to that place. This means the construction of it can be sporadic. Being more of aware of your supply chain means you can understand the challenges they face more clearly and impact the lives of workers and the environment with confidence.”

Tell me a bit about your experience as a social entrepreneur. What keeps you going when the going gets tough? What are some highlights?

© 2017 Zev Weinstein

“Since we’ve begun this process we have come to realise the enormousness of the problems created by the fashion industry. That in itself has been both a highlight and a challenge. The more daunting and enormous the issues seem, the more driven and focused we become. Yet. like everyone, we have our good days and our bad days.”


“Sometimes the issues seem greater than us, and then we turn around and see that the world is changing. People are trying to be better and to do better. That is a highlight. Ultimately the biggest highlight for us has been the realisation that we do have to potential to be catalysts of change. That is our inspiration.” 

Leo Strange collaborates with Indigenous Industries in the production of their garments. Indigenous Industries have been working with labels and fashion designers to manufacture fabrics, and focus on exploring textile crafts that promote humane and sustainable fashion.

You can meet Emily and Melissa in August when they fly with me, from our shared home based in Fremantle, to Melbourne for this years Moral Fairground Fair Trade Fortnight to present a “Leo Strange Sustainable Fashion Production Workshop”

Details of the event can be found here

Stay connected with the Leo Strange journey at their Facebook, Instagram.

A special thank you to Zev Weinstein for his beautiful photo’s of Emily and Melissa in their home studio! Follow his Instagram for more of his exciting projects.

On August 24 Leo Strange is launching their first luxury sustainable fashion range. To stay up to date with their kick starter launch and go into the draw to win $600 worth of beautiful Leo Strange garments follow this link to their website!





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