Photo courtesy of Refinery 29

Rachel Van Metre Kibbe: “I’ve been waving the flag to mainstream media since 2012”

When will mainstream media stop reporting so lightly on sustainable fashion, and start treating it as something truly desirable?
Rachel Van Metre Kibbe has been trying to get their attention for years, knowing that it is not just Stella McCartney who designs with a conscious mind.

The thing with the fashion industry, including fashion media, is that it is surprisingly cautious and conservative. It only really engages in things after they have been given significant approval. To get to that point, celebrities need to take interest. And to get there, lots of people have generally been involved behind the scenes for many, many years, working towards change. I have been waving the flag to mainstream media since 2012, to little significant mainstream media coverage.

When celebrities finally sort of appropriate the cause, for better or worse, they are the ones who get ‘heard’. It takes their voices, matched with the history of all our work, before the mainstream media suddenly takes a real interest—an annoyingly predictable game. However, as in all things, you have to work within the system to a certain extent.

Right now, every day, I see more and more celebrities advocating for sustainable fashion. Therefore we also see more mainstream media coverage. I remember back in 2012, when I was writing for a few places about fashion in general, none of them would touch the stories I pitched on sustainable fashion. The editors said that while personally, as good humans, they were interested in the subject there were just not enough clicks on these types of stories. So this is why I started my own company Helpsy, which was originally just a place where I wrote about cool ethical fashion.

« The thing with the fashion industry, including fashion media, is that it is surprisingly cautious and conservative »

A few great editors did eventually let me write about the topic, and I covered it for Refinery29, The Guardian, Business of Fashion and more. Interesting story—Business of Fashion surprisingly approached me to cover the topic after I launched a guerrilla Instagram campaign against them. It was called #itsnotjuststella, criticizing them for only giving credit to companies in the sustainable fashion movement like Stella McCartney, because of their already established name, and therefore not helping to promote other smaller companies with less advertising dollars. This really keeps the public unaware of their existence.

The campaign gained significant following with tons of independent sustainable designers posting #itsnotjuststella posts on Instagram. In the end, Business of Fashion invited me to write a story for their Voices section on the significance of smaller companies in the sustainable fashion movement. They were good sports. I would like to think of these small victories that my colleagues and I have been accomplishing—often scrappy and involving tactics with no dollars behind them—as the creation of a growing movement that is finally getting more mainstream coverage.”

Rachel Van Metre Kibbe is the founder of Helpsy and an ethical fashion activist. Check out her blog here.

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