“Call it ‘eco-fashion’ if you like, but I think it’s just common sense.” – Livia Firth
Naz&Court, Ethical Fashion
I’m an artist in constant search of beginnings. My journey has taken me around the globe to destinations and cultures unknown to me, and provoked me to seek out innovations and technologies new to mankind. When I moved to Los Angeles in the spring of 2011, I found a city teeming with possibilities and overwhelming unexplored spaces. My first week of seeking out a new place to live brought to me to the Dutch urbanite environmentalist and community builder Rosa Max, who was just forming her dream to create something unknown in Los Angeles, an urban farm in Silver Lake.
At the time I was working for Environment California as a canvasser and penning my first published novel NightBook – a magical realist short story anthology about a patient with amnesia who revisits her past in dreams and tells the story through a dream journal. Rosa invited me to finish my novel at her funky abode – complete with honey bees and chickens, surrounded by Mexican blankets, hammocks, chili pepper lights, and so much sushi we could feed the city. We spent the summer and fall discovering a shared vision for the future, bonding over Battlestar Galactica and Virgin Galactic, and accepting all of the weirdness that comes with being a dreamer.
Our paths split for a few years when I pursued my passions independently, writing another book and seeking out new territories in Southeast Asia. In India I saw beauty that transcends boundaries in a land where their poverty is as plentiful as their spices. Gorgeous rural landscapes without the puncture of telephone poles bled crimson and blue from textile factory run-off. Cow and lamb skins stretched across riverbeds where carcinogens dripped into the water sources used by families to bathe, cook and drink. I was seeing ground zero of fast-fashion for the first time. And it changed me.
Every time I seek to create, be it writing, painting, or designing, I see a means to make change, to make new. And when given the opportunity to start a fashion line with my best friend Naz Harounian, we chose to look toward the future. We formed Naz&Court, sustainable, ethical, made in LA fashions in 2015 and have since been on the path towards advocacy and education on the harms of fast-fashion. Naz and I believe that the best way to fight fast-fashion is to provide alternative products that are environmentally safe and cruelty-free to offset the demand for cheap throw-away designs. Naz&Court is a means to revolutionize the industry.
Soon after launching, my path brought me back to Rosa only to discover that she had spent her time away developing her dreams as well. On an adjoining empty lot, half an acre belonging to a community minded developer, Rosa placed a herd of sheep. Encouraged by Silver Lake Neighborhood Council Green Committee for Weed Abatement around the Silver Lake Reservoir.
I started spending my creative time with Rosa again, only this time, along with writing another novel, I am designing an eco-ethical clothing line with my partner Naz from open-faced wood cabins with an exceptional view of the Downtown LA skyline over grazing sheep. In the evenings we take a break from design work to do the dusty job of throwing fresh feed into the corral, sometimes herding the flock (complete with a staff) into the pens to protect them from the local urbanized coyotes.
Becoming an urban shepherd taught me that farm animals connect to you just as much as domesticated animals, only we have created distance from the cities and farms so much so that we forget the chicken when we buy a pack of eggs from the grocery. We advocate for abused dogs and cats with laws for breeding and selling in California and we forget that all animals, animals bred for consumption included, deserve to have a good life. There is little to no chance that the entire world will decide to become vegetarian in the future, so the best thing we can do is ensure the animals have space to roam, quality feed, and no physiological tampering (hormones). This is one of the reasons Naz&Court chooses free range lambs without hormone therapy – animals deserve a good life.
With sustainability and ethical urban farming on the mind, Rosa Max and I are creating a non-profit to buy the empty lot in Silver Lake from the neighbor and develop a community incubator. Urban Sustainable Initiatives (USI) is a platform for innovative farming, technology and business with an intended headquarters that will be open to the community. We aim to create a sustainability hub where emerging ideas can be displayed and taught to the public, raising awareness of practicing clean lifestyles to save the planet.
The shoot was special because it combined two new efforts in my life. BlackChalk Magazine editor Justin Howard and photographer Cliff Lipson arrived early to scout the location, Rosa gave them a tour and told them about USI. I had the pleasure of witnessing everyone’s reaction to seeing the farm for the first time – shock and awe that something like this is hidden away in the hills. Our models became rebels with a cause by joining the slow-fashion movement and were excited to work with animals, which is no small feat. The chickens were saved for Naz and me where we shot in our office, very much a day-in-the-life for us.
I walked away from the creation of the day with a full heart, grateful for the love and support from our team for my new business Naz&Court and the non-profit in formation USI. In seeing someone else take up my cause, I see beginnings happen every day.