We had a lovely conversation with Eline Rey about sustainability and conscious consumerism. She shared her experience with us and gave tips on how you can consume more sustainably.
1) Tell us something about yourself and what impact you want to make with your blog/IG?
I’m a 28 year old nature wanderer, small things enjoyer, chocolate addict and someone who purposely wants to make her fellow human beings smile. In my daily life I am a full-time digital marketeer at a Belgian energy supplier and I am a self- employed storyteller and copywriter. In my spare time you can find me on a tennis court or (again!) behind my computer... writing for my blog and Instagram @elinerey. With these online channels, I would like to inform people on the impact of clothing and conscious consumerism. To counterbalance the current throw-away mentality and to fight the unhealthy working conditions in the textile and fashion industry. I try my best to be a source of inspiration in regards to these domains and I have one golden rule: no finger-pointing.
2) How did you get involved in environmental awareness?
I’m afraid I have quite a story to tell about that. Nine years ago, I created an Instagram account because I simply love photography and visual storytelling. A little bit later, for my education at the time, I started a blog to improve my writing skills. Very organically, it evolved into a lifestyle blog, after which I spontaneously entered the world of public relations and brand storytelling. For years, I was sent products and clothing - often without question or knowledge - of many many brands. And I wrote and posted about some of them. In 2017, however, something broke. I no longer wanted to be part of that, in my perception, superficial world. Since that simply didn't fit with who I am and the values I want to convey.
Around that tipping point, I watched the documentary The True Cost with my boyfriend. It showed the ugly behind the scenes of the fashion industry and its impact on people and the environment. The fact that human exploitation and child labour still exist today and that countless farmers commit suicide every year because of the war on price and because of oppression... I really didn't want to contribute to that. And so my decision was quite easily made end of 2017: from that moment on, I would never buy fast fashion again and only support environmentally and/or ethically made labels.
3) What is sustainable fashion for you?
Splendid question :-)! Although it’s not easy for me either, I try to use the word 'sustainable' as little as possible since it is a catch-all term and has a different meaning for everyone. In recent years, it has also been used very frequently, across all sectors, and not always in the right way. Sustainable fashion actually consists out of so many aspects: it can be timeless or season-less clothing, it can be environmentally friendly, it can be vegan, it can be ethically produced... Or all of the above. Or a mix of some.
To me, personally, sustainable fashion is clothing that has a reduced impact on both people and the environment. I’d rather support a brand of which I know that the people were treated and paid right than a massive brand that says they use ‘sustainable materials’ for a tiny part of their worldwide collection and say nothing about labour. I could now name lots of huge fast fashion brands doing this, but I prefer not to start calling names. (haha)
4) How can consumers be more informed about sustainable alternatives? What responsibility do retailers have? Do you notice a positive evolution here?
Through the world wide web, an immense heap of information lies at our feet. You can ask Mister Google any question in regards to planet and people friendly clothing and get an answer in the blink of an eye. That’s how I took my first steps and tackled my pressing questions. Social media is also a great source of information and inspiration. Think of Fashion Revolution or other like-minded people, experts and activists (across the world!) who expose the problems behind the fashion industry through their own channels and stories. I like those independent sources.
But, there’s a big BUT! For the average consumer, it’s far from easy to separate the good from the bad. I mean: the sincere sustainable collections from the greenwashing ones. Here, retailers do have a huge responsibility. It all starts with a brutally transparant communication. Although in Marketing it might feel interesting for them to shout green words: they shouldn’t be doing it before they make a real positive difference. That is an attention point I would like to call out for those who want to make more conscious choices in the future. Do some research when you want to buy more ethically or eco-friendly. I’m sure you can always spontaneously reach out to Lena and me with your doubts and questions.
At least I consider it positive that way more brands, also the big ones that have a huge target audience, talk about sustainability. This could put the first seed into the mind of the consumers that are not yet conscious on their impact.
5) I think for many consumers it is a big switch in mindset to see sustainable/timeless/qualitative clothing as an investment and therefore pay a more expensive price than the price of fast fashion. How did you achieve this switch in mindset? Do you have advice for other consumers?
I was never a shopping addict wanting to constantly buy new pieces or feel triggered when new collections where launched or trends were set. So at least I had one lucky advantage when I decided to stop buying fast fashion in 2017. But indeed, one of the most asked questions or mentioned remarks is the fact that the price of conscious clothing is higher.
It is only perceived as ‘very expensive' because the average consumer is used to the rock-bottom prices of fast fashion chains. And use them as a reference, which is not okay at all, but somehow understandable since they don’t know any better. You can wrap it up this way: with clothing from the fast fashion industry, someone else pays the price (think oppression, human or child exploitation, water pollution, chemical processes bad for the health ...). With fair clothing, the price of the clothing is paid by the customer, since bad impact is purposely limited here.
The big problem is that the last 20-30 years, people have started to see clothing as a disposable product. Low prices and trends have only contributed to this. They therefore do not find it difficult to throw away a garment or buy impulsively. This has a massive impact on our people and planet, which to many consumers is something that doesn’t keep them busy since it happens far from their home.
6) What is your advice to consume more consciously?
As your previous question already revealed: mindset is everything. The first step towards a conscious wardrobe is to tune your brain into it. Wanting to consume less. Constantly asking yourself: do I really need this item? Do I already have a similar piece hanging in my closet? Am I going to wear it for a long time - preferably years? And so on.
As soon as you really need an item or replace an old one, look at Belgian or European brands who produce ethically, sustainably, timelessly... Or the value that fits YOU best. For me, ethics prevail over ecology, but preferably I choose a brand that values (and takes action on) both.
Thank you Eline for sharing your tips with us. Want to know more about Eline and her great platform? Visit her website www.elinerey.be or follow her on instagram @elinerey