“When I discovered sustainable, ethical fashion and the rich stories behind the brands, that hooked the storyteller in me and I’ve not looked back.”
Alice Wilby is a leading sustainable fashion consultant and part of Novel Beings and the Extinction Rebellion Boycott Fashion group. At our Summer Funday Sunday event with by CHLOE. this month, Alice discussed what a more compassionate, and less resource-intensive fashion future could look like. It was such a pleasure to have such a pro in the sustainability world come along to one of our events!
What came first, your interest in sustainability or fashion?
Good question! I’ve been into clothes and dressing up since I was little. My mum used to make things for us and herself, so I grew up with an understanding of the skill and process involved, but also of how much fun you could have authoring your own style. My Mum has always been very stylish and loved fashion. And she’s kept loads of her clothes, so when I was a teenager I used to wear all her 70’s flares and dresses. That progressed to me searching charity shops and vintage shops to find more of the same style stuff and a whole world of vintage fashion opened up to me.
I fell into fashion styling through my love of clothing as a means of storytelling and self expression, rather than an obsession with brands and trends. So when I discovered sustainable, ethical fashion and the rich stories behind the brands, that hooked the storyteller in me and I’ve not looked back. Of course, second hand has come full circle to being the most sustainable way you can shop fashion. So even without initially releasing, I guess the two have always gone hand in hand for me.
Could you tell us a bit about A Novel Approach, and how it came about?
Absolutely. Novel was born out of necessity as we couldn’t find an agency working like us. After I’d been Editor at Eco Age, I was looking for my next challenge and I met my now business partner on a shoot. Khandiz is a make-up artist working with clean, green beauty and she had a great idea to start an agency to represent artists, who only worked with sustainable, ethical brands or green, clean make-up. So in 2014 Novel was born. We had 11 artists on our books including fashion, food and props stylists and hair and make-up artists and worked for clients as diverse as The BBC, Hunger Magazine and Ogilvy.
Khandiz and I now work together doing creative direction, concepting and producing look books, campaigns and visual identity for sustainable fashion, beauty and lifestyle brands. And we offer consultancy for brands who want to become more sustainable. Everything is produced in line with our clients ethos.
Was it difficult to find clients when you first started up in 2014?
Yes and no. We both had established contact books, so getting work wasn’t hard. Of course the sustainable brands instantly understood what we were offering, what was more difficult was selling ourselves in as ‘sustainable’ to our mainstream client. We had to do a little educating as to how we could add value to their brand via our ethical practice and why that might be important for their customers.
“The most sustainable item of clothing is the one already in your wardrobe.”
What advice would you give someone that wants to make their wardrobe more sustainable, but doesn’t know how or where to begin?
Stop shopping and come hire me to help you do a wardrobe edit! So many of us have masses of clothes completely un utilised in our wardrobes. And as the saying goes, the most sustainable item of clothing is the one already in your wardrobe. So the key to fashioning a sustainable wardrobe is in understanding what we already have. From making sure we don’t repeat the same buying mistakes through to restyling, upcycling or simply mending what we already have, we can set a solid template to build on. Never go out shopping for more stuff until you understand what you already have and why. And then when you are ready to shop again, educate yourselves on the issues that are most important to you. Like Vegan products or organic cotton. Get to grips with the most sustainable and ethical way to shop your key issues and build up your knowledge about other areas as you go along.
How do you promote/educate on sustainable fashion to people that don’t want to listen?
I have no agenda to try and force people to get ‘on board’ with a sustainable lifestyle if they really aren’t interested! But more and more people are becoming aware of the negative impact fashion has on people, animals and planet and once they enter this space it’s a great time for dialogue.
Sustainable fashion can seem really daunting when it’s viewed as a whole. Often people don’t know where to start or think it’s pretentious, so they want to argue with you about it, or act like they don’t care. So it’s all about friendly communication. I try and do as many talks as I can and discuss and debate topics on my insta and twitter and that engages people really well. Once you’ve done that, they usually go and spread the message!
How do you shop sustainably when it comes to tricky items like underwear/socks etc. which you can’t buy second hand?
Yeah this is a tricky one because people often assume sustainable underwear is quite expensive and many people feel like it’s out of reach. But when you buy socks from brands like Maik or Thought, they are so well made they last forever! And they are crazy comfy, so you might pay twice the price but they will last you years. We have been conditioned to buy things in cheap multi packs, so spending what a pack would cost on a single pair seems counter intuitive, until you weigh up the cost-per-wear and realise the cheap pack is a false economy. It’s the same with underwear.
“Vevolution is a massive source of inspiration for me.”
Lastly, will this be your first Vevolution event? And are you looking forward to it?
Yes and Yes!! Very much looking forward to it. Vevolution is a massive source of inspiration for me. And I’ve heard amazing things about Eat By Chloe’s food, so I’m double excited!