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Catching up with Brana Dane

Brana Dane is a notable fashion model, TV Host at FNL Network and sustainability activist. With over 80,000 followers across multiple platforms, Brana has led numerous social media campaigns to raise awareness for workers’ rights and the environment. For example, she collaborated with Lonely Whale to reduce single use plastic and again with Rainforest Alliance to help get the plastic bag banned in NYC. Furthermore, she was honored to speak about the importance of sustainability in fashion at the 2019 NYC public Earth Day rally in Union Square.

As a model, Brana has worked for brands such as Maison Margiela, L’Oreal, Milly and many more. She has even been seen walking the runway in Harper’s Bazaar and was featured in a Porter Magazine cover story for her work as a model and activist. Instead of being content with the fast-paced life of a runway model, Brana chooses to pair her work with deeper meaning. She advocates for a kinder and more humane industry. In fact, she has helped organize members of the fashion community during many environmental marches and several public events. During one of her most recent projects, Brana created and led NYFW rallies for the climate strike that went viral on social media and were even reposted in Vogue Brasil.

Take a look through Brana’s lens on fashion and media:

  1. How did you first get involved in fashion?

I was scouted at the age of 14 in Canada by the top agent in the country, but I decided to focus on my schooling instead. It was only later that I thought again about modeling and moving to NYC.

  1. What brought you to the world of sustainability?

After attending the premiere of “The True Cost” with the lovely Eileen Fisher and Zosia Mamet, my eyes were opened to the cost of fast fashion. I got my first peek inside a very hidden aspect of the industry. Learning about the Rana Plaza collapse and the 1000 plus workers that didn’t make it out alive was shocking. It was a pivotal moment for me.

From there, I searched for ways to make a change and eventually became one of the first members of the “Model Mafia”, an organization that promotes fairness within the industry for models and garment workers.

  1. What are the causes you have most recently advocated for?

During the most recent NYFW, I collaborated with several different groups in protesting the use of Uyghur forced labor to make garments. The story ended up in Marie Claire and I was so happy for it! It is abhorrent to think that a lot of the clothing we currently wear is made with forced labor.

Prior to this, I collaborated with the head of the Freelancers Union, Rafael Espinal, to leverage my contacts as an activist, model and influencer to advocate for including gig-workers in the CARES Act. Gratefully, it was a success!

  1. What do you see as the biggest threat to the environment right now?

Overproduction and waste are the two biggest threats to the environment today. As a society, we need to reevaluate antiquated systems that could be more efficient. I don’t believe we as consumers need to spend more money in order to be less wasteful. It’s simply not common sense; something has gone wrong when this is the case.

When you start to analyze things from a conservational standpoint you actually discover that not only are we polluting and ruining our eco-systems around the globe, we are wasting immense amounts of resources and ultimately money in doing so.

For example, around 40% of the food produced is completely wasted in our supply chain. This is enough to feed every hungry individual. We need smart strategies and not politically motivated maneuvers to address real problems. As a model and activist, I can only add to the conversation, it’s up to the public to demand smart leadership.

In fashion, brands such as Chanel actually burn unsold garments. Instead of overproducing and then burning to establish the illusion of exclusivity, why don’t brands think creatively to create actual value?

  1. How do you combine these two worlds of modeling and social responsibility?

Social responsibility sounds like an abstract or complex concept, but it’s actually quite simple. It simply means doing your best to address the problems that pop-up in everyday life. I am lucky to be in the position to publicly talk about the issues that matter to me, but everyone has the power to make a difference and question the status quo. All it takes is the courage to speak up and ask questions.

Alone, I only have the ability to reach around 80 thousand people, but by collaborating with others the effects become exponential. In this way I can leverage my influence. As a model I often have access to media and the opportunity to collaborate with large organizations, who also have their own networks.

  1. What does it mean to be a model?

Being a model is not a 9 to 5 job. It means that you are constantly learning and being put into new situations with new people. It’s one of the best aspects of my career. It also means thinking of your appearance as your business card and having to represent yourself in a professional way 24/7. It often means having people look up to you, which can be overwhelming at times. I try to use whatever influence I have to be a positive force in the world.

  1. How is social media changing the industry?

Now more than ever, a model is a brand and not just a blank slate or a “face”. It’s an added level of responsibility but also an opportunity to show a different side of oneself. I always try to share the less glamorous and more vulnerable aspects of working in the industry. It’s important for me to bring a fresh perspective and to be authentic on my social media while promoting self-awareness and positivity. I love to do it in a fun uplifting way!

Social media is also a great tool to raise awareness for worthy causes and to advocate for specific changes on a local or global level. For example, I recently collaborated with the NY Governor’s office to spread awareness about safety measures for those most vulnerable during the height of the pandemic.

  1. How can we better use social media?

Social media is what you make of it. If you want to use it as an educational tool, that’s what it will be. If you want to use it as entertainment and an escape that’s also possible. There’s no right or wrong way, but it’s great to know that you’re ultimately the one who gets to decide.

It’s easy to get into the habit of de-humanizing people that are on a screen, but it’s not the reality of the situation. I think it’s important to realize that models and influencers are real people with real feelings, just the same as it is important for me to realize that my fans on social media are real, living, breathing people with their own life and viewpoints. For this reason, kindness is always my policy.

I challenge you to be bolder on social media where it counts! It’s okay to make mistakes or learn more information and later change your mind. Life is about constant change and hopefully we learn along the way, so don’t be afraid to speak about the things that matter to you most.

  1. Who are some peers in fashion and social media that you feel are getting it right?

Model and influencer, Laura Arumugam (@lauraarumugam) has one of the most impressive accounts on Instagram for travel and lifestyle. Model Ali Tate Cutler (@ali_tate_cutler) has a great account focusing on body-positivity. Finally, @ecowarriorprincess is a great smaller account for tips on how to live a life of less waste. As far as personal development and growth, I can recommend the account of bestselling author Mo Gawdat (@mo_gawdat) who just recently had me on his podcast.

My account, @branadane, is primarily a reflection on personal development with an eco-friendly focus and beautiful visuals. It represents not only my career as a model and thoughts as a woman, but also includes campaigns for the causes that I care about.

  1. Do you enjoy being a TV Host for FNL Network or a model more?

I couldn’t choose if I wanted to. Definitely hosting gives you more freedom to express your personality but working in fashion gives you a specific set of tools that I love to use now that I’ve developed them. It took years to learn the creative language of fashion and to train my eyes to recognize stylistic differences in lighting, photography and styling. It’s a very specific set of skills!

  1. What drives you to become involved in so many different projects?

I care about so many different things and I see everything as interconnected and interrelating so for me it’s about intuitive leaps and less about sticking to a specific path. The more I learn about one field or subject, the deeper my understanding of my previous experiences. How can I pass up on that?

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