The latest in our "Ask the Experts" Series sees us talk shop about sustainable fashion with one of our favorite writers in the industry, Victoria Onken from StyleMe.Green
Ask The Experts Series -
Sustainable Fashion Blogger Victoria Onken from Style Me Green Talks Shop With Us
This week in our “Ask the Experts Series” we spoke to Victoria Onken, Sustainable Fashion Blogger, about her motivations for being a leading voice in the sustainable fashion movement, how she got started in the industry, what her vision is for the future of fashion, her inspiration for her writing and her passion for sustainability in her life.
1. Hi Victoria, could you tell us who you are and what your profession is?
I am a fashion blogger based in Amsterdam. My blog, www.styleme.green focuses on sustainable fashion, vintage, new technologies and the social aspect of fashion.
2. What drives your motivation for artistic motion and design?
Sustainability became an important part of my life after giving birth to my daughter. To be honest, I hadn’t really given it much thought before that. Fashion has always been an important part of my life but sustainability…. well, not so much. With the arrival of my daughter, I got to think more and more about the origins of my clothes, the ecology and the toxic impact of fashion on our planet. For the first time ever I was worried about the kind of world we were leaving behind for my little girl. I knew the only way I could start to make a difference was to live differently and make conscious choices about the impact of the products that I bought on the environment.
Never having been known for doing things half-heartedly, I embarked on a project - www.365dayswithoutshopping.com, a journey of trying not to buy anything for a year. During that time, I learned how to recycle old clothes and make them into new outfits. This was where my passion for Eco fashion began. I discovered that somewhat unfairly, sustainable fashion was often misunderstood and associated with hippies and hipsters. In fact, I discovered that there are numerous designers making sustainable clothes to suit all tastes.
This was perfect for me as sustainability is important but as a woman in her mid-thirties who is style conscious, it was also critical that I could experiment with different styles without being forced into dressing a certain way due to lack of choice. This is when I couldn’t wait any longer and embarked on a new adventure, the sustainable fashion blog.
3. How would you categorize/explain your personal and professional relationships with to sustainability and consciousness?
Although on my blog I am fully focused on the fashion side of sustainability, in my personal life I can’t help but gain a lot of sustainable and mindful habits. From valuing quality over quantity; collecting experiences and not things, to eating less meat or getting involved in socially conscious projects. I don’t think you can just isolate one subject without it slowly seeping into other aspects of your life. I do not, however, think that you must be a vegan yogi to appreciate sustainable fashion. I think it’s one of the biggest misconceptions people have about sustainable fashion enthusiasts: it’s all or nothing.
4. Why have you chosen this path – This path of sustainability and fashion? Is there a specific reason?
With the birth of my daughter not only my values have slowly changed, but even my Facebook feed was peppered with scary articles about pollution, pesticides and the impending doom. The more I’ve learned about environmental and social issues, the more it became clear to me that I wanted to combine my love for fashion with sustainability.
5. Where do you usually get your inspirations?
Street fashion, music, and random Instagram feeds. I’m forever searching for new sustainable fashion designers that I can write about.
6. Do your views on society and social behaviors reflect on your work?
I think they do. I will not wear designer whose views and values are a polar opposite to mine. I love it when designers pay attention to the social aspect of fashion and create a community around themselves and their brand.
7. What are your goals (short and long-term)?
I would love to change the current image of sustainable fashion and to show that it can be as versatile as a mainstream fashion. I want to take sustainability away from aggressive activism (not that there's anything wrong with that, it’s just not my thing) and to focus on the beauty and craftsmanship of the garments.
My long-term dream is that we’ll live in a world where there is no such a thing as sustainable and unsustainable fashion: all the clothes will be produced ethically and sustainably.
8. During your everyday life, are there any personal aspects you focus on in regards to sustainability, self-consciousness, and making our world a better place?
I believe that there’s a direct relationship between our inner-world, our environment, and our appearance. I don’t think you can be happy if these three are not aligned: there’s no point to blindly follow trends if they don’t match your personality. A minimalist will never be happy in a messy house. To me, living sustainably is living honestly, with yourself and others. I help people around me to reach this balance not only by giving them style advice but by showing them how every item of their clothing has a story or an emotional value.
9. The slow movement, self-consciousness, and sustainability have been in trend for the past few years and still are developing. Would you say that most people are affected and more aware of the aspects purely because of the trend? Or, society really has changed in regards to our attitudes towards the environments?
Sustainability as a concept has indeed become more popular in the recent years. And so, with it, the talk about “greenwashing” and large brands that are hiding behind these “green” actions as a marketing stunt. Although I don’t, in any way, support fast fashion I find even these actions a positive development. Let me explain why: For the right reasons or not, they still raise the public’s awareness of sustainability. And that’s a good thing.
Just 7 years ago biological food used to be this strange concept that most people didn’t know or care about. These days biological food is a common sight in the most supermarkets in The Netherlands. People need time to get used to new ideas. Awareness takes time. As long as sustainable fashion is visible to the public, it’s a good thing.
10. How would you say blogging/bloggers have an influence on the market and the awareness for fashion sustainability and consciousness?
When making overall purchase decisions, consumers rely more and more on bloggers and influencers. The days of a beautiful thin 18-year-old model convincing masses to buy a product is a thing of the past. People are much more affected by their peers that they look up to and feel that they can imitate easier than this mythical young model.
Readers want to be a part of the community where they not only looking at products but feel like they belong to ideologically and emotionally. Popular authentic blogs provide that sense of community and the information that consumers seek.
11. Sustainable fashion can be described in many ways depending on the person. For you, personally, what relates to the outcome and input of your sustainability?
I don’t believe that these days there can be a product that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg that is fully sustainable. We are talking sustainable fabric (recycled or bio), ethical working conditions, sustainable packaging and “green shipping”. I think if the designer focuses just on a few of these aspects it’s worth my support. Awareness is good. Awareness is what is needed to help to change people’s minds, to inform them about the dangers to the environment, pollution or unethical working conditions.
Awareness takes time. I see it as my job to showcase the most beautiful designs in a most interesting and attractive way to inspire people who know nothing about sustainability to learn more about the designer and the garment. And THEN I tell them about all the great things that the designer does. Not the other way around. The beautiful design is still the most important point. Without it, sustainability is pointless.
12. How would you recommend/influence consumers to be more sustainable in consumption?
This has been said many times before me: buy less; buy quality over quantity; only buy things that make your heart “sparkle”. These statements are all true. On the other hand, we need to be honest: we have been living in a world where fashion changes every season, we got used to playing with trends and silhouettes. Fashion became a sort of creative game, a way of expressing ourselves. Fast fashion gave us the ability to have many different styles and to shed them as we see fit.
How do we keep these creative experiments going and avoid over consumption? My solution is to invest in a very few high-quality pieces and the rest to borrow from a fashion library or swap with friends. I’m a big advocate of the Amsterdam fashion library, LENA and I do hope that this phenomenon will become more popular and wider used all over the country and the world.
13. How does the technology developments affect your values and ethics on sustainability, and how does it affect you? As blogging and many more effective tools, we utilize now is based around technology, do you think it contradicts to sustainability and consciousness?
On the contrary, I believe that technology IS the future of sustainability. We need to learn so much: how to recycle better, how to produce without such an impact on the environment. Robotics will substitute unethical labor. 3D printed garments & smart fabrics that change color and shape are already in development. I truly believe that if we invest in technological development now, we’ll benefit later.
14. What are your trend forecasts for 30 years from now?
I think technology will have a more prominent place in fashion. Hopefully, the fabric recycling techniques will be so advanced that we’ll be able to recycle our fabrics indefinitely. It feels like high-tech fashion is on the verge of being more than just a gimmick. In the not-too-distant future, you could even be 3D printing your own shoes or clothes at home. Instead of going to a store, you'll buy designs straight from the designer.
Who knows what the future will hold in 30 years’ time. Will we all become designers capable of completely producing garments without leaving our homes? I can’t wait to find out.
Zoonibo would like to thank Victoria for her passion and commitment to making fashion and the wider world a better place. If you are passionate about sustainable and ethical fashion and would like to tell your story please get in touch via our Feature With Us Page