“This is the most inspiring work I’ve done in a long time,” the model and activist tells Vogue.
After three decades in the business, Amber Valletta is taking her next step as the Fashion Institute of Technology’s new sustainability ambassador. Though she’ll be the first to hold the position at the university, the new job is a natural progression for Valletta. Discovered as a model at just 17, she became part of the original group of ’90s Supers. For the better part of the past decade, though, she’s also become an activist for sustainable and ethical practices in the fashion industry. She’s built up her platform; now it’s time to pay it forward to the next generation. “This is the most inspiring work I’ve done in a long time,” she says. “To be able to learn something new and be on the cutting edge of innovation and education, and seeing the possibilities, and how these young people are thinking.”
Valletta started working with FIT in 2019. Along with serving as a board member, she’s hosted two Awards Galas focusing on sustainability and innovation, and delivered the keynote speech at the 2019 Innovation in Sustainability Conference. In her new role, she will raise money for the university’s Sustainability Fund, audit classes, and leverage her considerable experience and network in the industry to benefit both the students and the school. “Over the years, Amber has been deeply involved in FIT’s sustainability initiatives both on and off campus and has quickly become a close friend of the college,” said FIT president Dr. Joyce F. Brown in a statement. “She is also a dedicated and respected advocate and activist, which makes naming her our first official sustainability ambassador a natural and easy decision. We are proud to have her represent our community and help us continue to make a lasting impact on the world around us.”
The chance to take classes alongside students is a special bonus for Valletta. Last semester, she audited a class on biodesign—in other words, growing materials in labs—with Professor Evelyn Rynkiewicz. “I actually asked if I could test along with the kids and, unfortunately, I’m not enrolled in that way,” she says, laughing. “But I’m thinking maybe, if I continue to do this, maybe I’ll go back to school.” She may not get to take a test, but biodesign will be a key focus for her first few tasks as sustainability ambassador. During this October’s Sustainability Awareness Week, she will moderate a roundtable discussion with students on biotechnology and the future of fashion. She’ll also help mentor and connect students with her peers in the industry for the upcoming Biodesign Challenge.
Ultimately, Valletta wants to use her standing in the industry to nurture the next generation of talent. “I think about [success] in terms of raising awareness, building the sustainability fund so that it could build a new lab or something like that, and making deeper connections with these students and alumni,” she says. “I have 30 years experience in this industry; I know a lot of people and can make connections. Whether it’s introducing investors to a new biotechnology, or placing someone who would be great in PR, or myself working with a young student on problem solving. To me, those are the successes. And learning, too, for me. That’s how we grow and change, is by learning new things.”
This story originally appeared on: Vogue - Author:Sarah Spellings