Today's Woman Wednesday is Sophia Yang, Chinese name 杨雅程. Sophia is a proud Chinese-Canadian, who immigrated from China when she was 8. She is a Climate activist, Fashion Justice and Equity Consultant, anti-racism community organizer, aspiring techno DJ, and public speaker.
In October 2020 she launched Threading Change (play-on-word of Spreading Change), a BIPOC youth-led ethical fashion and circular economy organization envisioning a future where fashion is ethical and circular, rooted in justice with climate, gender, and racial justice at the forefront. Threading Change works at the intersections of consumer education and industry transformation through their tri-impact model through education, policy, research, and storytelling. They know the problems in the industry don’t work in silos, and neither should the solutions. Threading Change believes in ethical fashion for people, and for the planet. They are working tirelessly to advance the 6 F’s: a Feminist, Fossil-Fuel Free Fashion Future.
Check out her blog post that details her journey into launching Threading Change, and the Rising Youth podcast where she was featured recently sharing why she decided to start Threading Change.You can also follow her on socials @threadingchange and @kaleidosophia.
Here's our chat with her
1. Where’d you grow up and where do you live now?
I was born in Northern China, in a city called 大庆, which directly translates to 'Big celebration', since this is where they discovered copious amounts of oil in china. Coming from an oil and gas family and region, my parents immigrated to Calgary, Alberta when I was 8 because that's where it was the easiest for them to find work in Canada. When I was 17, I moved to Vancouver to attend UBC in their Natural Resources Conservation program. From 2014-2017, I spent my summers working in Calgary and Edmonton. I worked at Natural Resources Canada for a full year in 2017 in Edmonton, which I loved! From January 2018 until now, I've been living in Vancouver full time.
2. What is your definition of strength?
To me, strength is about perseverance, getting back up, and continuing to push even when things get hard. Running your own venture is definitely not easy, especially when there are so many moving pieces. There have been so many times when I've wanted to give up or felt uneasy about the direction that I'm going, but I always try my absolute best to keep going. I really do think life is about progress and not perfection. life is about the journey, not the end destination.
I also define strength as one's ability to be selfless and look out for others. We are stronger as collective communities, and being able to work hard and help those in marginalized communities who don't have a voice thrive, and also giving them the opportunities to flourish and shine by being selfless, is an example of strength to me.
3. What is something that’s important to you now that never used to be?
Self-care and learning how to say no is really important to me. As I get older I realized that, if you don't want to do something, say it. If you would don't think you have the time for something, be honest and communicate it. I used to be that person that would have a really hard time saying no to things, sometimes even taking on things even though I really didn't want to because I couldn't say no. And now, I really respect my energy, my time, and my aura by learning how to respectfully say no, set boundaries, and also take on projects and other commitments in a way that is beneficial for me and others. It hasn't been the easiest skill to learn for someone like me, but I know that it's incredibly important.
4. How would you describe your style?
I would describe my style as colourful, eclectic, and secondhand. I also asked my roommate this question, and he confirmed these exact words.
I'm very proud to say that my clothes are 90% thrifted, vintage, second-hand finds, clothing swaps finds, or gifted. The other 10% are outdoor wear that I purchased new, or some pieces from fast fashion brands that I've kept over the years. You can usually find me wearing something colourful that's interestingly textured, mixed with colourful Hawaiian or Versace-like colour-blocking shirts, skater pants or mom jeans, and definitely lots of green. I have about 10 shades of green in my closet since it's my favourite colour, and I'm very proud! You can see pictures of my style at @kaleidosophia.
5. Favourite food to cook at home?
I love Korean food. I love how it incorporates flavourful meat with lots of veggies! I love making Korean beef lettuce wraps, kimchi fried rice, Soondubu Jjigae (which is Soft Tofu Stew). It's really easy to take extra vegetables you have, and put them all in a pot and make a delicious meal.
6. What’re 3 books on your bookshelf?
Growing up I read a ton of fiction books, my favourite authors are Haruki Murakami, Donna Tartt, and Roald Dahl. As I got older, I started to read more non-fiction, nature, and self-help books. Currently, the 3 books on my bookshelf that I've flipped through are Cradle to Cradle, a book about remaking the way we make things, which is a book that I first started reading in 2015, not realizing that I would be working in the circular economy one day, so this book is special to me.
The second book is The Secret History by Donna Tartt, an amazing book to read if you're in university, and also after you graduate to reflect back on your mischievous days studying within an institution, imploring one to think differently.
The third book is David Suzuki: The Autobiography. I got this book for free when I was a youth panelist speaker at a Suzuki Elders event. This book is very special to me because it's signed by David Suzuki, the environmental leader that really inspired me to join the climate movement when I was 11, and pursue a career in sustainability when I applied to university. At the Suzuki Elders event, I also got connected to some amazing elders, whom I'm still friends with to this day, collaborating on climate justice work together.
7. What’s something you want to accomplish in the next year?
Threading Change is now approaching its 6 months mark since we officially incorporated, so it's a very exciting, but also the particular time as we update our strategic plan and think about the direction we want to take the organization. In this next year, we hope to work more closely with ethical brand owners, hearing their stories, successes, failures--whilst really driving home our mission of furthering the interconnections between consumer education and industry transformation in the fashion industry. Because it truly takes both sides of that coin to drive tangible impact! I hope that in this next year, more people will find ways to 'thread change' in their lives, doing it with us in joyous and effective ways embedding art, justice, and action.
8. Tell us something people would find surprising about you.
I am a techno head. I am obsessed with techno music! I really got into it after visiting Berlin in 2018, and have been hooked since. Although, I have loved electronic music and the festival scene for years before that. I currently am a techno DJ, my stage name is THIS IS: KALEIDO, and I'm also looking into music and event production as well. If you know me, this maybe isn't too surprising. But, I also love being in the music scene because you meet so many creative and talented people--that you can jam with and talk about various other issues as well. Throughout my DJ journey, I've been able to talk about climate justice, ethical fashion, and anti-racism with a number of people, which has been amazing, and furthers my love for intersectionality!
9. Favourite movie?
My favourite movie is Shake Hands With the Devil with Roy Dupuis. Dark, I know! But it's such a fantastic film. I love it because when I first watched it in 9th-grade French class in 2009, I could not stop thinking about the mass genocide depicted in that movie and the erasure of an entire culture. It's a very sobering feeling to remember that, what's depicted in that movie happening in Rwanda in the 1990s isn't far off from what happened in Canada with Indigenous folks and residential schools, and what continues to happen today in many areas of the world with ethnic cleansing and colonialism. I oftentimes wonder if this movie really sparked my interest in social justice and human rights organizing work, I definitely think so. If you have not seen it yet, I definitely recommend watching it. But be prepared to cry, grieve, and feel just a little bit strange afterward with how history repeats itself.
For a lighter favourite movie, Ponyo by Studio Ghibli is the cutest movie I've ever seen, and always will be!
10. How do you want people to remember you?
I want people to remember me as a creative and caring soul who's made a difference in the world. I think I'm already doing so, but I know that there's still much more to be done! Music makes me so happy, while impact and social change drive me, and fashion and connection invigorate me. If I can make an impact in all 3 of those areas and be remembered, I think that's pretty good!