I am Lisette van der Maarel, Dutch, born and raised in Belgium and now living inLugano for nearly 7 years. In my previous life I was a Business Controller for a large fashion group until I changed my life around and now focus on Sustainability and Circular Economy in the Fashion industry and beyond.
How did you discover that there was an alternative to fast fashion? Was it linked to a particular event or trigger?
To be honest, I have never really be in to fast fashion. I hated shopping at H&M because I could never find anything and it was all too overwhelming. On top of that, it wasn’t very original and you risked walking around in the same clothes your friends had. My parents always had the principle of quality over quantity, which clearly stuck with me. Having said that, I have bought items at the fast fashion stores in the past, but now I don’t anymore because I simply feel that the quality is very low and when I buy an item of clothing I like, I want it to last. Also, the values and practices these companies practice are not in line with mine.
What does ethical fashion mean to you? How do you express it with your clothes?
Ethical fashion to me means respecting people and planet in the entire supply chain of a product. Paying people a living wage or more, providing workers safe working conditions, no exploitation and also think about nature when it comes to your material choices, dyeing processes, shipping, etc. When I buy clothes, I always think long and hard if I really love, if I will wear it often and treasure it for a long time, if not, I simply don’t buy it. I refuse to buy items at fast fashion stores nowadays as I don’t feel they honor these values up to a level I am comfortable with.
Which values do you believe should be put into practice by this industry? How do you integrate them into your clothes?
Respect. Respect again for people and planet. We need to respect our clothes again for the hard work they require in the process of making them, of the resources nature provides us with without squandering them, respect for the finished product by giving it the love it deserves and treating it accordingly when you want to “dispose” of it.
I have gotten to a stage where I buy very few clothes, the ones I do buy are well thought through and get worn a LOT! And again not buying at the fast fashion stores. I also mend clothes when possible and have fun doing it! If they are items you love, you will make the effort to make them last even longer.
The theme of this year’s Fashion Revolution Week is transparency. How do you express it in your work or in your daily life?
Transparency for me is the start of everything. If a company is not willing to show what is behind their processes, it should make alarm bells go off. Clearly it means they have something to hide. There are more ways nowadays that will help us create visibility and transparency in the complicated processes behind the fashion industry because it is true that the supply chain has gotten so complex over time that many have lost the overview. In my work I try to be open, honest and transparent in the way I write, the way I approach (potential) customers, in my communication in general.
What are the biggest obstacles you face in putting a more ethical fashion into practice?
The price is often challenging. Even though you know that in the long run, you will get so much more out of the item, paying a large sum at once is not always easy to do.
What should a consumer pay more attention to?
I would say as a start, a consumer should pay more attention to the quantity of items they buy. Ask yourself if you really need all this “stuff”. How will these items make you feel? Often people go shopping to fill an emptiness inside themselves, yet buying things will only fill that gap for a brief moment. I would ask consumers to become more critical of themselves and have the courage to say no!
I would also urge consumer to realize they have more power than they think. We can all vote with our wallets and support the companies and brand we think are doing a good job and send a signal to those who are not. And talk about it with friends, family, colleagues, etc…
An advice that anybody can apply immediately if they want to opt for a more responsible fashion?
Use what you already own and buy less, think about a purchase and ask yourself: am I going to wear this at least 30 times. If the answer is no, don’t buy it. You will save a lot of money and get more creative in the ways you use your clothes.