To bring awareness to the poaching crisis, with a particular focus on African elephants, Fashion for Conservation (FFC) got in touch with twenty-one designers from across the world, to create a collaborative collection based on each designers interpretation of ‘the elephant’.

We spoke to one designer, Melissa Hillas to find out more about her design and what it’s like working alongside FFC. With elephants poached at the rate of one every fifteen minutes, it is a very real and very devastating possibility that these beautiful animals will be extinct in the wild by the year 2038. Melissa confessed-

“I’ve always been into sustainability and I’ve always known about the poaching crisis, so any way that I can help anything like that, I would definitely do it. So they contacted me; they’d seen my instagram and asked me to design an illustration to be judged to be put in the show and I did and they loved it. So I’m super excited, and flattered and honoured to be able to do this.” 

From New York, Melissa describes herself as “a pretty decisive person”, so when talking about how her initial ideas changed she said “it actually didn’t really change. I know what I wanted to do pretty much from the get-go. I knew the silks I wanted to use, I knew what I wanted it to look like. I had the vision of the big shoulders with the ears, the skin and the silk.”

Her design was inspired by the elephant as a whole, rather than a specific feature of the elephant:

“I used a dark grey silk to represent the skin and the sleeves I created as ears, that hang down and I use a sheer silk, a chiffon and a crinkled silk also in that. I also left the edges of the sleeves raw to represent the wild.”

Compared to the other pieces, Melissa wanted to create a more ‘ready-to-wear’ garment, as she wanted it “to be something really sellable and something that you could wear on the street. A portion of the proceeds go towards funding for Fashion for Conservation, so I really wanted to make it something that had real potential so that people would want to buy it and wear it, to ultimtely help the elephants.”

When talking about her experience working on the ‘Elephantasia’ project with Fashion for Conservation she summed it up as-

“extraordinary and beautiful. It’s so nice to be around such amazing, creative, thoughtful and caring people, who aren’t putting so much of a price tag for themselves on their designs, but a price tag that’s going to benefit something bigger and greater than themselves.”

In what she referred to as “typically quite a shallow industry”, Melissa hopes that this project will “bring more of an interest and awareness, so I hope, want and expect it to open people’s eyes and feel motivated to help.” This honest and inspiring perspective reinforces how responsible each of us are within the fashion industry to use the platform we have access to, for a good cause.




Words by Zoe Bennetts

Photography by Stefan Jabowski