You have been involved in the better garment industry for at least 15 years. A lot has happened within your field since you started. What are the most encouraging changes for the better that you’ve observed over the past one and a half decade?
– There are so many more sustainable and stylish brands and stores now, which is great. When I started, it wasn’t that easy to answer the question ‘Where can I buy ethical fashion?’ (my most-asked inquiry), but now there really isn’t much reason to not choose it. There is something for everyone, from everyday streetwear to classic, timeless collections and high fashion design, and of course great second hand and vintage.
You aspire to make sustainable living tangible. What are your three best advice on simple things we all can do today, to make our lives more sustainable?
– A sustainable lifestyle isn’t just good for other people and environment, but for you too: it opens more doors, makes you healthier, gives more value for money… There are many things you can do (I managed to write 280 pages about it ;)), but here are a few:
- Always get the best deal, using very easy math. A shirt that’s 10 euros, but of low quality, meaning you will only be able to wear a couple of times before it’ll not look great anymore, is actually more expensive per wear than one of 50 euros that you will shine in for years. The same goes for items that are trendy, or actually not exactly your size or colour, but on sale. Think long-term instead of short-term, and sustainable living can even be less expensive than the way we often thoughtlessly spend money now.
- Eat less meat. Proven again by an article in newspaper The Guardian again this week: ‘Avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on earth. This headline includes dairy too, but I’d be very happy if you’d start by consuming less meat (and who knows how good it will make you feel, and which further steps you might take). The combined impact of the water and land/animal feed needed to produce meat; the rainforests cut to make room for growing the feed; the greenhouse gasses the animals emit; the transport and of course the animal welfare is just huge. There are so many amazing alternatives, as shown by fab books and blogs such as the wonderful Swedish Green Kitchen Stories – it’s an honour to interview Luise in my book, and launching it together with them and Filippa K.
- Waste less. It’s a no-brainer, it saves money, resources and your mood. When in the shops, go for the fruit or milk with the shortest expiry date instead of the longest, as we are programmed to do. You get exactly the same value for your money, and do a really good deed. Fruit will taste better, and who in the world makes a carton of milk last three weeks? You don’t need that long, but yet it feels like a victory when you find one with a further date than the others. But it isn’t, it’s a loss: if you don’t buy the ‘shorter’ item, it will get thrown away, as is a third of all the food we produce.
Who inspires you when it comes to leading a “good life”?
– So many amazing people! Influential forerunners, such as Green Carpet Challenge-inventor Livia Firth, and fearless fashion activist Katharine Hamnett (I’m very lucky to interview both heroes of mine in my book). But also people from outside the sustainable fashion and lifestyle world, such as former astronaut Chris Hadfield – he has seen the earth from a distance, which really makes you appreciate the uniqueness of it, but becoming an astronaut (which I always dreamt of) also teaches you about dedicating yourself and developing into the smartest, most contributing and humble human being you can. Also I can be very inspired by people who show that in spite of everyone saying it is not possible, it actually is: from leaders such as Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Mae Jemison, to magicians such as Dynamo and Chris Tyler. If we really want it, everything can happen. And we want a better world, right?
« Former astronaut Chris Hadfield inspires me – he has seen the earth from a distance »
Your top three most inspiring innovations that will help us make fashion more sustainable in the future?
- Online fitting rooms. One of the most frustrating things about online shopping is that everything is shown on supermodel-sized, perfectly (in the eyes of the industry) proportioned people (and also mostly white and young: the fashion industry should urgently become more diverse too). So it’ll never look the same on you, and you can only guess if it might fit or suit. Resulting in disappointment, frequent returning/environmental pressure (also because of buying in multiple sizes, as you just don’t know!) as well as insecurity about our bodies. What would really help, and what I’d love, is if webshops would show models with different body types and sizes alongside each item, so you can see it in size 36 or 44. That would be the first step towards online fitting rooms and 3D virtual fitting, ensuring that what you order will make you look and feel great.
- Bespoke shopping. If we can choose our own colours, fabrics and designs, it fits better, and we get exactly what we want. 3D printing creates clothes to order, before your very eyes: tailor-made, no travel, no emissions or waste material. Isn’t it a weird idea to just produce as much as possible and throw that into the world?
- Self-cleaning, self-repairing, energy-generating, air-purifying fabrics. Fabrics from food waste such as orange skins, but also garments that create no waste at all because of their clever design. We can be so smart, it is so exciting if we actually use those brains.
What’s your outsider view on Sweden and it’s sustainable fashion scene?
– You really excel in modern, inspiring alternatives to the old-fashioned fashion industry. In Sweden you can see what the fashion scene of the future will look like: you have fashion libraries where you can borrow clothes instead of always having to own them (Sabina & Friends, Klädoteket), brands that also sell used versions of their clothes (Filippa K second hand) or repair them (Nudie Jeans repair shop). And of course fab ethical fashion stores, such as Ecosphere, Stil & Ansvar, The Replik, Thrive Store and innovative brands such as Anekdot, Dedicated, Houdini, Klättermusen, Maska, Mini Rodini, Röhnisch, Swedish Stockings and many more.
Get This is a Good Guide – for a Sustainable Lifestyle here.