Grass is greener in Singapore… Or is it? Interviewing Laura François

Laura Francois WOMB blog sustainability TEDx speaker.jpeg

Grass is always greener on the other side... Or is it? This week, instead of WOMB’s weekly “Take 5 with…”, we bring to you a longer interview with a conscious personality from overseas, aiming to find out whether the grass really is greener on the other side.
Without further due, we introduce to you Laura François.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself, where are you from, where did you study, and why did you choose to be based in Singapore (at least for now)?

My name is Laura, I’m 27 years old and I’m originally from Montreal, Canada. I studied Human Relations and Sustainability in Canada and in both Singapore and New Delhi during my undergrad and post-undergrad studies. I later decided to move to Penang, Malaysia - I’ve always felt at home in the region and wanted to be strategically closer to the fashion production sites. I had been focused on better understanding the issues plaguing the fashion industry from a firsthand perspective. This later led to a move to Singapore, a fantastic hub for connectivity and a city with a fabulous airport to facilitate my work in other cities like Phnom Penh. 
I’m the director of Clothing The Loop, Country Coordinator of Fashion Revolution Singapore and founder of social impact studio, ANEWKIND. I’m about to complete my executer program in Social Impact Strategy at the University of Pennsylvania. 

2. What's important to you, and how do these values affect your professional choices? 

As cheesy as it sounds, my biggest and greatest motivation for everything I do is human connection. I believe it’s our superpower and the key to solving some of the world’s biggest and most pressing problems. I’ve made it my mission to humanize issues around ethics and sustainability, to foster empathy that can inspire action and innovation. Issues around sustainability are not a planetary problem, they are human problems created by human behaviour, and will require our collective understanding to co-design solutions. 

3. Singapore is the birth place of Green Is The New Black festival and home to many conscious brands, how would you describe the general eco-awareness of people in Singapore?

Singapore is a small country with a lot going for it. In recent years there has been a stronger push towards sustainability and ‘green’ initiatives. However, it’s not yet top of mind. And more importantly, it’s not yet seen as an indispensable part of doing business. What I love about Singapore is it’s desire for innovation and it’s general supportive nature towards it. But there is a long way to go. If sustainable initiatives are still considered ‘green’ and ‘eco’, then it’s still not enough. There is still a great discrepancy between which brands, companies and groups are sustainable, and those that are not. This goes beyond awareness building, this is based in building a new status quo. 

4. What about diet: do you reckon that people in Singapore make dietary choices based on environmental awareness?

Food in Singapore is sacred. Dietary choices based on environmental reasoning is far from being a ‘thing’. The most incredible food comes out of Singapore with rich Malay, Chinese and Indian culture and heritage. Until we’ve found a ‘meatless’ substitute that tastes that same as the ‘aunties’ at the hawker stalls make it, I doubt Singapore will be changing its mind any time soon. 

5. What's your personal battle? What do you do to live more consciously on daily basis?

My personal battle is in continuously questioning the status quo. I’m a retired ‘zero-waster’, and ‘eco’ skeptic. I’ve advocated for sustainability my entire adult life, studied it and practiced it as best I could. But I believe we can do so much better, and I believe this requires sustainability to be so central to our way of living that we no longer consider it ’sustainability’. It just becomes life. To do this, we need to appeal to the masses and let’s face it… humans are very lazy and we won’t change much unless it’s the easier alternative. 
I bring my own mug and cutlery wherever I go, I sneeze in a washable handkerchief, I use a cup instead of pads and tampons and I typically only buy secondhand clothing. But I don’t believe it’s easy for everyone to do. I think we need to continue questioning why and how we do things, and truly assess what a fully sustainable and inclusive culture means. This includes the single mother of 4 who probably has no time and can’t afford to buy sustainable toothpaste for her kids, or dress them in organic cotton. 

6. What’s next for you?

I’m focused on designing strategic ways of integrating sustainability, that connects the creative industry (because let’s face it, nobody gets a message across quite like art and creativity!) and social impact. I’m excited to facilitate others in thinking beyond ‘green’.


Oh, oh, did you know Laura is a TEDx speaker?
Now you do!
Watch her talk