Published in Treadlie Issue 7, June 2012
“I like pretty things to the extent that they’re practical. Beyond that it just doesn’t make any sense to me,” says Lara McPherson. “Like, I’ll wear high heels if I can ride in them. If they make it harder, what’s the point. I’ll just wear flats.”
As a sustainable fashion advocate, McPherson loves nothing more than hopping on a bike in a cute outfit. “Bikes go so well with all the things I love. Bikes and food – goes perfectly together. Bikes and fashion – perfect together.” She became a full-time bike commuter in 2011 after racking up a few too many parking fines in the city. She got rid of her car and started riding everywhere, every day. “Now I love it and I miss it if I don’t ride every day. I think I vastly underestimated how positive an impact it would have on my physical and mental health. Having a ride in to work every day puts you in the best mood, and then you get to ride home.”
Project-wise, McPherson wears a lot of very stylish hats. She runs the Melbourne Tweed Rides in collaboration with the Vintage Cycle Club of Victoria, and hosts the Melbourne chapter of fashion swap event the Clothing Exchange. She produced an event called The Bike Runway for Melbourne Bike Fest as part of the 2012 L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival. She writes frequently about fashion, bikes and the environment, and in July will launch Sustainable Fashion Australia, a think tank focusing on industry engagement.
“My feeling is that people will do things that have a lower environmental impact if they’re easy, if it’s practical, if it’s cheaper,” she says. And riding a bike is one of the simplest things people can do. “I think for the most part people don’t ride bikes because they’re so racked with yuppie guilt from all the carbon emissions that they’re putting out, they’re doing it because it’s easy and because they get a workout on their ride to work and it’s cheap.”
McPherson loves to bust all the bike myths about helmet hair and having to wear lycra. “I’m really surprised by the fact that most people who ride on dedicated bike paths don’t wear normal clothes,” she says. For the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival event she set out to celebrate fashion on bikes by inviting punters onto the runway to show off their bicycle style. “We asked people to come wearing what they usually like to ride their bike in and we had a runway set up for people to ride,” she says. “Everyone was Instagramming so it was kind of a crowd sourced runway with crowd sourced photographers.” Some couture designers were also involved, but the main focus was on everyday fashion. “We see so many cool people riding around but you don’t need to style a runway because you see it on the street every day.”
At the same time, McPherson is passionate about educating consumers on sustainability issues in the fashion world. While most discussions revolve around the environmental impact of different fibres, she says the bigger problems are the quantity of garments produced, what happens to them during their life cycle, and their ultimate disposal, usually in landfill. “We buy far too much stuff. We have far too much stuff. We spend far too much money on stuff that we don’t need. It’s obscene.”
A former “absolute shopaholic”, McPherson now buys sparingly, locally and only garments that will go the distance. She’s currently studying a double Master’s degree in Commerce and Sustainability, and is interested in the learning process that goes into reducing one’s environmental impact.
“I think we underestimate the personal sustainability journey for people. That’s really important. I think the more self-driven it is, the more powerful it is. You’ve got your own reasons, your own motivation for it. Or you can just get on your bike, you don’t need to know anything about it!”