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In the Jungle with Fashion for Conservation and Hoja Nueva

Kelly Zwicker

By Elle L

The rainforest is lungs of the earth, and its energy resonates immediately. Everything intensifies here. You form bonds with people quickly, your life is in each other’s hands. There’s a sense of euphoria created by being somewhere so far away. You feel connected to nature. It’s exhilarating and beautiful. But all that glitters is not gold. The rainforest is being destroyed at a rapid rate... to destroy the Amazon is to destroy ourselves – it produces 20% of all oxygen and we need to protect it - for our own survival.

As a music artist, I find a lot of inspiration in nature. I also ambassador Fashion For Conservation - partner to Hoja Nueva a non-profit eco-retreat nestled deep in the Peruvian jungle. I wanted to visit this project to see for myself what the Amazon is really like. When I talk about sustainability and conservation or write a track, I want some experience to go by. Not just passion without intent. I had no idea what to expect, I just knew I was ready.

Elle L @hojanueva photographed by @stoyanovjones    Wearing: @wearthewalk | @marybensonworld | @calvinklein

Elle L @hojanueva photographed by @stoyanovjones

Wearing: @wearthewalk | @marybensonworld | @calvinklein

I traveled to Peru from London with DJ friend, Lara Fraser. We traveled for thirty hours straight. Over the course of eight days: two traveling, four nights in the heart of the jungle and two nights in Lima, Lara Fraser and I got to witness firsthand the raw beauty of the Peruvian landscape. We shot a music video for a track I’d only half written before leaving, a magazine editorial with a variety of emerging sustainable designers and got to see and feel a part of the great work Samantha Zwicker, founder of Hoja Nueva and her team do on a daily basis to protect the beautiful landscape and all that reside within it.

The internal flight from Lima, Cusco and final stop Puerto Maldonado was where I really got to see Peru come to life. From beach to mountains, to rainforest, the bio-diversity tickles the creative imagination with excitement. Butterflies. It’s a fiction like state. The visuals are so dynamic and immersive. As soon as you see the tall trees and orange glaze of the Amazonian rivers and streams you get the sense you are truly in a different world, another dimension. Time stands still and as you get off the plane, you’re in the fantasy. But the fantasy is so damn real. 

We traveled to Las Piedras River from the airport with guide Erik, a driver and two Shamans. Some of the creative group we were joining were getting themselves ready to do ‘Ayuhuasca’ and Shamans are spiritual guides who create this ancient vine tea. It’s one of the great Amazonian secrets – described as a medicine that produces profound and eye opening experiences for the person taking it. It’s Illegal everywhere else but here. We bounced along the off-roads in our jungle car all the way to the river, where we met Sam… She was headed into town for a night to re-stock on food supplies but we gave her a big hug before jumping on the boat for our twenty-minute hike to the eco-retreat. 

I lost all concept of fear as soon as we arrived. The Amazon is so big and I am so small. There’s greatness and vulnerability everywhere. Vibrancy interlaced with muddy waters. Worries and time melts away and you just are there, in the moment. A weird balance between adrenaline and calmness – I’d call it instinctive. It takes over. You know there are so many animals the media has taught us to view as predator. The truth is they are more scared of you. Except for the mosquito. The vampire and tiniest of the lot is by far most dangerous. A couple of our group fell sick from mosquito bites and two required hospital treatment. Both are fine now.

Elle L & Lara Fraser @hojanueva photographed by @Stoyanovjones

Elle L & Lara Fraser @hojanueva photographed by @Stoyanovjones

As soon as we arrived to Hoja Nueva we met our team and our guides, who we trusted immediately…  they live and breathe the jungle. Their senses operate on different levels of awareness and so you naturally follow their lead. There was an interesting creative collective of us – sixteen people including our models, photographer, writers, make-up artist, videographer, artist, yoga instructor, chef, myself a music artist, Lara, a DJ and Ava my good friend and founder of Fashion for Conservation. Rhonda, a journalist for The Hollywood Reporter I met a London Fashion Week was headed to the stream for a swim and invited me along. I impulsively said yes as I was hot and wanted to cool down. I kept imagining a Caiman or snake being under the muddy water as we climb down and in. They certainly could be… but there was something about Rhonda that was so calm and already in tune. I tapped into her frequency and relaxed. You pretty quickly realize we are part of nature. One. We are just pretty desensitized in the concrete jungle.

There’s no WIFI in the jungle and to be honest I barely thought about it. The entire lodge is made of reclaimed timbre and there were no windows… you really are in the great outdoors. Our room was on the first floor and beautiful, simple. Well thought out and I appreciated the attention to detail - a four posted bed with mosquito net overlooking dense jungle to inspire us and slightly scare us at night when we needed the toilet and were too chicken to go into the forest alone. Time went so quickly. There are natural triggers such as a cockerel who would wake everyone up at dawn, closely followed by Howler monkeys that sound like a Bowie-esq starship landing. It awakens your senses and then you get used to it.

Elle L in the Cacao Fields of Madre De Dios, Photographed by @Stoyanovjones

Elle L in the Cacao Fields of Madre De Dios, Photographed by @Stoyanovjones

Angel, a local photographed by @Stoyanovjones

Angel, a local photographed by @Stoyanovjones

Every day here was a new adventure. We visited the cacao fields, where we shot an editorial for Esthechoc, a chocolate brand I’m face of a new campaign for and we got to gift some chocolate to a local Peruvian girl, who had never tried chocolate, even though her family are cacao farmers. She loved it. I’d never tried the raw fruit. I loved it. You can learn so much from this simple exchange. Cacao farming is just one element of Hoja Nueva’s focus – to provide healthy revenue streams for indigenous people so they are neither tempted or forced into illegal activity such as the deforestation of their own environment and killing innocent and endangered animals. Sadly, illegal damage to the Amazon is still prevalent. We saw this all too closely. In our retreat was Max Bear; a baby Howler Monkey whose mother had been shot and Max still wore shrapnel in his shoulder. He was so innocent. We had a lot of animals staying with us at the retreat, mostly rescued dogs, puppies and a kitten that thought she was a puppy called Pepper. She was wonderful… tiny, fun and fearless. Though they all knew not to venture out further than the lodge walls and they were very protective of us... 

Orphaned Baby Ocelot, Khan as photographed by Harry Turner

Orphaned Baby Ocelot, Khan as photographed by Harry Turner

Harry Turner, one of Hoja Nueva’s directors and former British Army solider looks after Max. He is part of a new incentive to re-wild animals caught in poaching and black market conflicts. Harry and Sam recently tried to re introduce a beautiful Ocelot to the jungle but ten months into their mission, Khan still just an adolescent cub was shot. It happened on protected conservation land and was a devastating blow. Situations like this fuel the importance that more needs to be done to prevent further loss of innocent species. Right now, it happens daily. The only way to make a change is to speak up and actively support on the ground efforts that re-educate locals and offer sustainable solutions that both support their livelihoods so they are not temped or forced into illegal activity and so they protect their own habitat for their future generations and our own. Governments have a responsibility to help and we have the ability to put pressure on by being consistently vocal. Things need to be better for everyone’s sake. This is why Hoja Nueva and projects that dedicate their life and resources to ensuring a better future are really important to support.

Samantha Zwicker, Ava Holmes, Lara Fraser, Elle L, Renee Eddy

Samantha Zwicker, Ava Holmes, Lara Fraser, Elle L, Renee Eddy

There were many favourite moments from my time in the rainforest but climbing from our boat up a waterfall for some pictures with four of our team was one of them. We shot some drone footage for the music video here too. You don’t have time to be fearful, once you get to that moment where you are at the top; you feel a sense of being at one with the environment… and everything that’s in it. It was a lot of real beauty, we would have our makeup done in fifteen minutes and then hike through the jungle for twenty minutes and the humidity meant it was barely on before we would climb to a location for a few shots. It was fun to be completely natural in a world of CGI and overtaking… We were constantly adapting and using our creative intuition on how to create magic within the environment. Clayton, our drone videographer also managed to capture some never seen before Harpy Eagle footage one morning at sunrise – this Eagle is endangered and the footage is a beautiful but tragic reminder that we need to do more quickly.

Saying goodbye is never easy so instead I said see you soon. I know we will be back and I’ve taken a way a piece of the jungle with me in heart. We took a flight to Lima and stayed at Belmond Miraflores Park for two nights before heading back to London. The hotel was stunning and an oasis of chill with views of the Pacific Ocean. We enjoyed most delicious local food at Tragaluz. Ceviché and Pisco sours are specialties here and I recommend them both. We were back on the other side – the concrete jungle… still far from home but we were back in the technological bubble. 

Elle L and Lara Fraser and Belmond Miraflores Park. Photographed by @StoyanovandJones

Elle L and Lara Fraser and Belmond Miraflores Park. Photographed by @StoyanovandJones

The city is a different kind of beautiful if you chose to not be detached from the natural world. Miraflores is vibrant with art and Latino city culture. We had a deeper appreciation for everything… simple things became a luxury - a hot shower, laundry, ice cubes. I think the most important thing we can all do is to realize the greater picture and not to disconnect or forget that we have a power to effect things even from so far away. Out of sight should not be out of mind. We need to keep in tune to the environment and I want to encourage positive actions so we can make our impact a positive one. It’s important. The butterfly effect is real; it’s not too late to make things better if we are more conscious and supportive of grassroots action. I recommend everyone to get outside more to realize that we are all part of the same world. Best of both worlds is not an impossible notion if we are mindful and appreciative of how we live and where our fashion, food and lifestyle come from.

To find out more, visit and support Hoja Nueva: HojaNueva.org 

Stay tuned to Elle L’s socials for new music inspired by her trip to the Amazon:

@ellel__ | @hojanueva | @fashionforconservation

 

UK Animals Rights Activist Feature: Carla Fraser

Kelly Zwicker

By Kelly Zwicker

@kellyzphoto

This week, Fashion for Conservation (FFC) is featuring U.K actress and animal rights activist Carla Fraser, for her unique contribution to conservation efforts especially through film creation. She is passionate specifically about rhino and elephant conservation, and strives to keep creating new and fresh content that engages new people for the cause. 

Carla wrote a short film “Grey Future,” which discusses a future where rhinos and elephants don’t exist. Carla aimed to instill an urgency in the audience about the importance of saving these species. “I wanted to create a film to push people to act,” she says, and she did. She made this film on Go Fund Me donations, up to 2,000 pounds in total. 

Carla, as a young girl, grew up having toy elephants and rhinos. She grew up drawing pictures of her favorite animals, just like millions of children around the world. The film addresses the point that children growing up in the Western world see these species in books and toys, as opposed to children in Africa that can see them in their backyard. 

Stuffed animals represent something larger here; children in the future may not see another elephant or rhino in a zoo, or on the discovery channel. A stuffed animal elephant or rhino could soon represent an extinct species. How do we explain to children how we watched this happen? “They’ll be our next dinosaurs,” Carla claims. 

Carla also believes that grouping rhinos and elephants together in campaigns will aid in their conservation efforts, given people often forget that rhinos are estimated at only seven more years on this earth, and elephants are estimated at twenty. The fact of the matter is that the general population may not be aware of the urgency of the issue; that the extinction of these species’ will really be that quick. This is the mindset we need to adjust, and push for quicker action. 

A film that inspired Carla’s ongoing involvement in conservation is called “Killing for Profit,” an exposé about the brutal poaching and trafficking of rhinos. A brave journalist, Julian Rademeyer, went undercover and risked his life to show the world that wildlife trading needs to be stopped. For another example, in Vietnam, ivory is used for a variety of purposes, one of the most common being a cancer drug or a hangover cure. It has become a “trend,” like something trends in the beauty or fashion industry, and it has increased demand for ivory dramatically.  

Below are pictures from the 'Action for Elephants' protest outside parliament, London in 2017 on the day of CITES. 

Pictured: Carla Fraser with two other volunteers outside Parliament. 

Pictured: Carla Fraser with two other volunteers outside Parliament. 

A supporting argument is that ivory is not traditional to Vietnamese culture, so there is no “need” to make it such a staple in the market. And the consequences for elephants and rhinos are severe. Carla’s “Grey Future” additionally aims to stop the idea that ivory is a “sexy” or “elite” purchase, because it has evolved to be just that. These species suffer and die for the selling of ivory, simply for a trend. 

Despite how much progress needs to be done with global biodiversity, Carla remains positive for the future. “I do believe we’ll see change in our lifetime. For example, China has shut down their ivory trade. Of course there are other issues, but in terms of ivory trade, I think we’ll get there.” 

Pictured: Art for inspiration behind Fraser's Grey Future 

Pictured: Art for inspiration behind Fraser's Grey Future 

The key here is to not lose hope or assume the situation is out of our hands. We must play to our strengths and use our roles in society and in the entertainment industry to evoke change, to inspire people to participate. 

We need more individuals like Carla Fraser to use their voices in society to make a positive difference for the species on this earth. 

“One day we’ll be in our rocking chairs and be happy to know we saved these species. And it will all pay off.” 

Fraser speaking at the Royal Geographic Society 

Fraser speaking at the Royal Geographic Society 

Carla took an instant liking to Fashion for Conservation’s (FFC) initiatives and mission, and is happy to be a part of our future campaigning. FFC is constantly reaching out to individuals and organizations to help spread the message, thanks to our modern technology and resources. “That is the beauty of social media,” Carla claims, “People being passionate about the same thing, we can link up.” 

Carla received the invitation to come to London Fashion Week this past September with FFC’s show. She was immediately drawn to the idea, because of how fresh and unique the combination of fashion and conservation is, and what that combination can accomplish in the future. “People can get a bit lost in the colors and pattern of fashion,” she says, “paving new ways towards sustainable fashion is essential. Fashion for Conservation is up with the big players.” 

Events, such as London Fashion Week, can so often host a very specific type of demographic. However, in September, with more people actually engaging in the meaning behind the clothes, we can progress towards expanding the demographic we host at these International must-attend shows. The wider the demographic, the larger the reach. And we need all the reach we can get. 

Carla believes in pushing boundaries to extend our voice in sustainable fashion, and additionally educating as many people as we can on the many alternatives to fashion we can take that are environmentally friendly. When asked about the massive consumerism within the fashion industry, Carla admitted how much she has learned since reading about FFC’s sustainable design materials. “FFC has been the very thing that has educated me on fashion and open-mindedness for sustainable possibilities.” 

Pictured: Fraser posing in rhino merchandise to support rhino conservation

Pictured: Fraser posing in rhino merchandise to support rhino conservation

What if other fashion lines follow suit? What if designers start working solely with sustainable fabrics? What if sustainable fashion can really launch an international trend? This future is possible if we use our voices, as larger groups. These massive industries are capable of change. 

We are already seeing change on many platforms, especially on social media. For instance, the vegan movement has taken off. As opposed to considering being vegan a trend, it has become a dedicated lifestyle for millions of people. People are promoting the benefits of and making it ‘attractive’. Models, actors, artists, and bloggers are proudly stating their vegan diets, as doing their part to support the environment and reducing the amount of animals slaughtered for meat in the agricultural industry. “The openness will really help us, Carla says, “that’s what makes me proud of this generation.” 

There is a beauty and power in the act of unison. We can come together and evoke change.

Carla believes in the effect of a group formed first by dedicated individuals. “People power does matter. Every voice does matter. They have to listen. Change is absolutely possible.” 

 

It was an absolute pleasure speaking with Carla about her contributions to elephant and rhino  conservation, and she plans to continue using her voice to educate new people to understand the impending extinction of these species with continued inaction. As a rhino ambassador for IAPWA and film maker, Carla wishes to continue finding creatives ways to get people to listen and find compassion in this matter. 

Stay tuned for more features of incredible individuals in future posts, both domestic and international!