We chatted to Isha, Outreach Support Worker for victims of modern slavery and Founder of ethical fashion brand, Made Sincere.
What is your ethnic, academic and professional background?
My ethnic background is half Indian Sikh and Pakistani. I was born in Yorkshire, England and I still live here.
I have a BSc in Psychology, and I work full time as an Outreach Support Worker for Victims of Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery. I’m the owner of the sustainably ethical fashion and home decoration brand, Made Sincere. I showcase bespoke products that are sourced and inspired by the world and nature.
What is Made Sincere? How did it come about and what are your main values as a business?
Made Sincere is a bespoke fashion and home decor brand, where items are designed and handcrafted by me using sustainable, ethical and eco-friendly measures and materials.
The development of Made Sincere has been years in the making. Initially, it started from my enjoyment of creating things and a way to make an extra bit of money. For years I have been talked out of pursuing creative and design based careers by many people, for a multitude of reasons. However, I’m just naturally a very creative person and the majority of society’s jobs today don’t cater well to artistic creative traits, even more so after COVID-19. Amidst all of these variables, I felt that this would be a great way to release my inner creativity and showcase my work for all to purchase and enjoy. The main values of Made Sincere are environmental, animal and human welfare.
This is achieved by many ways at Made Sincere, such as upcycling old materials and sourcing products from independent businesses and farmers.
What inspired you to act as a catalyst for sustainable practice? Is there a particular story you can share?
Many reasons have led me down this path of sustainability. In England, people throw trash everywhere; there are not many places where you will not see trash and fly-tipped objects. Personally, I think it’s unappealing, lazy and it’s harmful to so many ecosystems. I wanted to make a change within myself and to inspire and educate others to combat pollution and fight for rights.
A particular story which shifted up my gears in the world of sustainability was a couple of years back, when a dead whale washed up onto a shore literally filled with plastic waste. As disturbing as the image was, it will forever be engraved into my memory and it was at that point I truly understood the magnitude of plastic pollution, let alone the other types of pollution, which I was yet to discover as the years passed.
Being South Asian, did you face any backlash for your sustainable business idea from family, friends or society at large? How did you overcome it?
Luckily my mother has been very supportive of my business, she knows that I’m an activist and I impose recycling measures within the household, so I don’t think she was too surprised that I built my business upon sustainability.
As for other family members, they are impressed that I have opened a small business, but they don’t think anything much of the sustainability aspect of my business. In efforts to make conversations about climate change with my family, some don’t believe that it is real and have other theories as to why the planet is changing. My friends have been amazingly supportive throughout my business ventures and what my business stands for, as they have similar outlooks on the situation as me.
For the larger society, especially in England, sustainability is still a bit niche, as many believe that climate change and pollution is not real. I overcome this by staying positive, to continue raising awareness on the matter, making the changes I can and appreciating the small sustainable changes made politically within society.
A combination of these aspects regains small but driving faith that the world is heading in the right direction to become sustainable. I can understand the many reasons why people may not agree or change their ways, but with political acts being carried out such as plastic straw bans and carrier bag charges, we are slowly but surely making progress.
How have you actively changed your daily practice to be more sustainable?
I try to recycle all my recyclable waste and inspire the members of my household to do the same. Similar to energy and water conservation – I turn off all electrical items and lights which are left on, ensuring that I don’t let the water run as I wash my face, brush my teeth and do the dishes. Clothing wise, when I buy new garments, I ask myself ‘will I wear this item 30 times’ based off the #30wears and are the materials used sustainable.
Having an ‘upcycling-eye’ has definitely become a part of my daily practice. This is because I can create new products to sell from old items from my house, but also experimenting with random objects when I am bored – which is more than ever due to COVID-19 lockdowns! If items cannot be upcycled into anything, I will ask myself ‘will someone benefit from this?’ If so, I donate the old item to charity.
Do you feel there is a stigma or lack of understanding of the climate crisis amongst South Asian communities? What do you believe the blockers to be and how would you go about solving the issues?
Yes I do feel as there is a lack of understanding on the climate crisis, but not much stigma. Personally I have not heard anything negative from any South Asians to suggest any stigma. I believe the blockers to be lack of knowledge, no willingness to investigate or change and demographics.
With regards to lack of knowledge, I don’t feel that there are many accessible resources and enough meaningful media coverage out there to stress the urgency of the matter; this is not just for South Asians but for everyone.
As for willingness, it is a matter of ‘you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink it.’ If somebody does not have the interest to care or learn, you can’t force them to change. However, if you can stay true to yourself and your beliefs on the climate crisis, you could influence others around you. People often observe behaviour to learn, so if you stick to your sustainability-led routines, others may slowly but surely copy your behaviour. If this is the case, I would suggest praising others when you notice this behaviour change towards sustainability. Similarly, if others see how much the climate crisis means to you, your loved ones will soon follow your lead especially if you live in one household with your family members.
Demographics come with large variability, such as age, location and gender. I feel that any combination of demographics can lead to different perspectives on climate change. This fundamentally boils down to what they have been educated to learn about climate change, if they’ve even been taught anything at all.
Having open discussions, educating yourself, remaining understanding and respectful of others’ opinions, fighting for sustainability and staying calm, could be ways to solve these blockers I have mentioned. By following this combination, you will present yourself as educated, confident and graceful, which is important to gain others’ trust when fighting for a worthy cause such as climate change.
Do you find the lack of understanding makes having a sustainability-led business like yours more challenging?
Yes, this does make it challenging. However, I do enjoy a challenge. From my perspective, sustainable and ethical produce is often pricier than non-sustainable or non-ethical produce. This is for the obvious reason that sustainable and ethical products are more expensive and time consuming to create. I think that this initially puts people off, especially when money is tight, which is also understandable, as privileges play a large part in consumer behaviour.
Nonetheless, the world is shifting into a more eco-friendlier place, and with time, I know that the message will inspire and spread, which will eventually change behaviour. Using COVID-19 as an example, we are all aware of the safety measures to carry out to protect ourselves and loved ones from the virus, and how we have changed our behaviours to reduce the spread of the virus. We have all been provided with this knowledge through the media mainly. The media has the power to inform everyone about the adverse effects of our unsustainable habits and the repercussions of this behaviour, which can educate and change behaviours. This can facilitate sustainable businesses thriving in the future.
What advice would you give to younger generations in relation to sustainability and the environment?
My advice to younger generations on sustainability is to do your own research and find a way to be sustainable that speaks to you. There is no one way of being sustainable. See your sustainability as your form of expression, through your fashion, eating and waste. Don’t let the stigma of others on how you live your life sustainably affect you. At the end of the day, if you know you have made any active changes, it is probably a lot more than what somebody else is doing and that alone should fill you with pride for yourself.
Animals are becoming extinct, millions of people die from pollution poisoning and climate change yearly.
The World Health Organisation states ‘air pollution kills an estimated seven million people worldwide every year’, microplastics are now being found in unborn babies, and this is all a result of how neglectful we have been towards our planet. It’s within our hands to change it and if you’re inspired yourself, you will inspire others.
Can you share one life story which has deeply impacted you?
One life story which deeply impacted me was the picture in the news of the 3-year old boy that died after falling off a boat filled with refugees washing up on the shores of Turkey in 2015. Even still bringing tears in my eyes almost 6 years on, that poor toddler should be 9-years old boy today. This truly showed me the extent of the Syrian conflict and the way the politics dice with peoples’ lives mercilessly.
In 2015, I had to decide on a degree to study; I knew I wanted to pursue a career in helping people, either through psychology or humanity-led. Not long after graduating university, my current job role was advertised, (Outreach Support Worker for Victims of Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery), which I was hired for. My full-time job consists of supporting clients that are refugees and asylum seekers, who have babies and small children. I do love my job. I believe that this job opportunity was presented for me to support people that are in dire need of humanitarian support.
That child has inspired me to take a humanitarian career path. Although I know it’s not the most money-making career, I know that it is the most worthwhile career. This is far more valuable to me than money could ever buy.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Despite all the negativity in the world today, I just want to let you know that you can make the positive changes that you want to see in the world, no matter who you are or where you come from, change is only within you. In order to make your changes successful, you must remain persistent and consistent, which will eventually pay off.
- The World Health Organisation <https://www.who.int/health-topics/air-pollution#tab=tab_1>