Wilson Oryema on fashion, sustainability and toxic chemicals.

Wilson Oryema is an artist and writer. His work primarily focuses on the theme of human consumption and the different ways it impacts human behaviour and the environment. Which he explores through various mediums including, text, image, film, exhibitions, and more. This includes his first book "WAIT", a well-received book of poetry around this theme, as well as, the recent documentary “How Toxic Are My Clothes?”. He is also a Co-Founder of the social change initiative, Regenerative Futures. 

What does sustainability mean to you?

Sacrificing short term joy, for long term successes. The necessary actions to secure our future will not be easiest.  

Who do you look up to in the sustainable world? 

I can’t say I look up to anyone. I think I’m motivated mostly by outrageous ideas. So, if anything, I’m primarily inspired by trying to do things which haven’t been done. But if I had to choose someone who consistently pushes me to do better, I would say Elon Musk. 

Do you believe in the power of business for doing good? 

Absolutely. We can look to the last few decades as an example. Hundreds of millions of humans have been brought out of poverty, gained access to robust education, food, and more, as a result of innovative businesses which fulfil a need and also have a vision to make the world better. 


Why is it that you are actively encouraging young people to have the confidence to do their bit? What is it that is motivating such a positive action?

Because everyone can do something to make this world a better or more interesting place. They just have to believe they can. I, personally, lacked confidence growing up. I didn’t believe I could do anything. So if I can help turn the tide for others I would be happy. Also, more hands ultimately means more focused on a collective goal. 

What do you find so captivating about fashion?

Fashion exists in a different world to most other industries. In the way they form and present ideas. Also, in how they respond to their customers. I’m captivated by it because I want to see where we can take it next. What does a more “sustainable” fashion industry look like? What does a more collaborative fashion industry look like? These are two questions that keep me excited about fashion. 

Do you think plastic or toxic chemicals pose more of a threat to our “way of life”?

I don’t think I can make a choice here, firstly because the threats they both pose somewhat overlay. For example, toxic chemicals are part of why plastics are regarded as a problem. Ad toxic chemicals are used to make plastics (single use or other) which cause problems for the things encased in it i.e. food. Also, it’s possible to remedy both problems at the same time. 

We cannot thank Wilson enough for the time and for answering our questions. 

Do have a look at the Regenerative Futures which can be summarised here as a collaboration between Gen Z think tank IRREGULAR LABS and WORLD FRONTIERS FORUM, an annual gathering of leaders and pioneers from the arts and sciences, REGENERATIVE FUTURES is a 4-year social change initiative that facilitates intergenerational conversation and collaboration, moving us closer to an equitable and sustainable future. Launching in September 2020 at THE UNITED NATIONS, Regenerative Futures’ goal is to measurably advance, by 2024, 10 frontier initiatives that are helping to sustain the human condition


Read next story