Good People: Kevin Harper from ‘We Are Harper’



Kevin Harper has always had a strong connection to the environment. He grew up on Sydney’s Northern Beaches listening to Midnight Oil, at a time when the issue of climate change was starting to creep into public consciousness. Kevin has taken his interest in and commitment to the world around him- and applied it to his urban menswear label ‘We Are Harper,‘ which promotes strong social, ethical and environmental practices.

Here, Kevin Harper tells his own story and shares his thoughts on ethical fashion, good government and autumn style.

I had a very active childhood centred around the surf club and swimming.

Being connected to the beach and water, I think you gain an appreciation of natural environments- the beauty and the power. My conversations about the environment started early when the beachfront properties in our area were in danger of being swept into the ocean during what we were told were ‘one in 100’ year storms. A few years later we got hit again. It was clear this was going to be something that would affect communities around the world for years to come.

The last few decades have been witness to a rise of corporate influence not seen before in Australia.

The tentacles of lobbyists and the corporate elite reach so far into the political process that their coercion has eroded the effectiveness of government (think banking, media and gambling to start with!) Where we could once rely on policy to counter balance the ever hungry profit making desires of the corporate sector, we no longer can. Government is now too often a spokesperson for the corporate sector on the falsehood that a profitable corporate sector makes for a successfully functioning community.

I’m inspired by people that look beyond themselves and have moved the world forward in positive ways.

I admire people like Anita Roddick (The Body Shop), Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Elon Musk (Tesla Motors).

Roddick was one of the first to champion fair trade with third world countries and to stop testing ingredients on animals, all while building a successful ethical business.

And we’ve all heard about Gates’ investment in health research. The potential to move the world forward in this area is incredible.

There’s a couple of things I like about Musk and it starts with thinking outside the box. Corporates like to throw this phrase around, but rarely do it. Musk built a car company by employing specialists who had never worked in the car industry. Once he build the world’s most desirable new car, he gave away the intellectual property so that competitors could use the technology to build their own electric vehicles.

I believe that if you expect a fair wage for the work you do, then you must also expect others to be paid fairly for theirs.

Let’s remember that garment workers are someone’s mother, sister or child (typically they’re women). We are global citizens. They are part of our community.

By supporting unethical manufacturing we are perpetuating a cycle of poverty for millions of workers. Women make up 90% of garments workers where they are not even paid enough to live on. Pushed to exhaustion and mistreated by managers, they send their children off to work to make up the shortfall in the household income.  These children miss out on education (and play time) and the cycle continues.

I think we’re so beguiled by the glossy image presented to us by fashion houses that we can’t imagine those expensive items being made in sweatshops by impoverished communities. Let’s think consciously when we’re shopping, ask questions of your favourite brands and dissociate the marketing message from the manufacturing reality.

‘We Are Harper’ is interested in quality apparel that you come back to season after season.

We offer value for money items that will be worn again and again. Part of the problem with fast fashion is that styles are designed to come and go, but of course, this just contributes to landfill and waste. It’s also important to us that we think about the lifecycle of the clothes we wear. This might mean upcycling items or being able to swap them with someone- or in the case of our bamboo tees, that you can compost it at the end of its life.

This autumn we’re talking about recycled – ahem, vintage – flanos. We want to continue the discussion around the use of recycled/vintage clothes alongside new items. Your wardrobe can be a cool mix of new and recycled.

We are on a mission to create a more equal and fair society in Australia.

We will rally against sexual and gender inequality, poverty and disadvantage of any kind. We’re looking for partners that can help us on our mission and spread the ethical, social and environmental message.

To connect with (and of course shop!) We Are Harper, visit their online store.



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