Meet Emma Hakansson, the founder of ethical production agency, Willow Creative Co.
As an ethical fashion platform we know firsthand how challenging it can be to find agencies that help bring a unique creative vision to life, though without losing sight of its core values and intentions along the way. It’s this exact issue that caused model Emma Hakansson to stick to her morals and launch her very own ethical production agency, Willow Creative Co.
Willow Creative Co is more than just a creative powerhouse - they’re a movement in their own right, choosing to only work with ethical, sustainable and vegan brands. Why? They want to live in a world where treating people, animals and the planet with love is the norm, so they’re using their creative talents to help elevate brands that are doing just that.
We sat down with the beautiful and brainy Emma to find out the catalyst for why she started and what’s in store for Willow in the future, both near and far.
What made you start Willow Creative Co?
I was working as a model in the fashion industry. I then became vegan, and later started learning about the people who made my clothes.
This started especially when I went to Dorsu’s workshop in Cambodia and heard from the women who run it - one of whom was Australian, and the other who was from Cambodia and had first hand experience of the human rights violations involved in so much of the fashion industry. Slowly I learnt, and slowly I became more uncomfortable with what I was endorsing and putting my face to - animal products, and clothes made by people paid next to nothing and shown disrespect.
At the start of last year I stopped working with fashion agencies because it had been really difficult for some time before then, trying to enforce my own ethical ‘rules’ around who I would work for, if someone else was representing me.
When freelancing in the ethical sphere started really working for me, I started producing as well, and I realised there were actually so many ethical and kind brands, but not ethically aligned people to be creating content for them. So many brands wanted to be more ethical - brands interested in vegan products and in better supply chains, but that didn’t know how to go about it all.
What is your big vision for Willow Creative Co?
Right now Willow essentially does the two things: creating for ethical brands and organisations to create greater awareness of them and what they do, and helping brands become more ethical. I would love to see big fashion companies coming to Willow for help in making them more sustainable, more ethical. I’d love to have Willow creating huge campaigns, huge billboards with huge reach to new audiences, addressing serious issues and promoting things that combat them. I’d love to see more brands commit to ending their use of animal products and swapping to vegan designs. Way down the track I envision a workshop where Willow can actually ethically produce clothing for brands, that way brands know exactly how it’s all done. I see a lot of things, and I plan on making them all happen!
What or who inspires you to do what you do on a daily basis?
I think two things. The first is Willow. She’s the namesake of everything I’m doing (you can read about her on the website). She’s the first lamb I fostered. Every time I think of her I think of the billions of animals less fortunate than her and I want to fight for them. The second is probably the hardship I have faced in my life. I had some serious trauma in my childhood and it makes me want to help other people who are being treated poorly. It gave me a lot of empathy and I think that’s what fuels it all: empathy.
Best piece of advice you have ever received?
It is never wrong to be kind. My Mama taught me that.
Do you have a morning routine? If so, what is it you do to set yourself up for the day ahead?
Honestly I should have a much better one than I do! My saviours are a hot shower in the morning and moisturising my face. They make me feel excellent and ready to do things.
I’m trying to every morning say a list of affirmations I wrote for myself in the mirror. I definitely believe they’re very powerful and push any imposter syndrome feelings I have that try to scare me off of what I’m doing.
What’s your definition of success?
I don’t think I have an end point where I will feel like I’ve ‘hit’ success, I’m always going to be growing. But so long as I am making the world kinder and seeing change I have helped to create, I will feel good about what I’m doing. I’m trying to always remind myself that happiness is success too!
One book everyone should read? Why?
High school me would be shocked to know I’m saying this, but probably Macbeth. I think it encapsulates the dangers of a greed for more, especially more power. I think the world would be a lot better without that. It’s scary how easily it can flip us.
One documentary everyone should watch? Why?
I’m going to say two (sorry to break the rules!).
Dominion, because if you can’t watch it you shouldn’t support what it shows through consumption/wearing of animal products - standard practice in animal agricultural industries.
The True Cost. It opened my eyes to the suffering caused by buying unconsciously. I used to think a $2 garment was amazing, now I think it’s awful.
For those reading this who are inspired to make a change in their own world, what do you recommend they begin with? Where should they start?
Individual choices matter so much. When one person says ‘my choices don’t matter’, we have to remember there are billions of us saying the same thing. Look into the way you live and consume. Go vegan. Ask ‘who made my clothes?’. Research. It’s okay if you’re not perfect if you’re trying and learning - we never stop! Start with something you feel passionate about.
Are there any other Movers & Shakers out there in your world that you think we should all know about?
Two people I admire a lot in two areas I care about a lot are Chris Delforce (founder of Aussie Farms, creator of Dominion), Carry Somers (founder of Fashion Revolution). But I think there are so many individuals doing their bit to make the world a better place, and the collective effort is what will make a difference.