A Lesson on Fashion Sustainability by Madara Freimane
Can you tell us a bit about yourself: who are you and what do you do?
I am the co-founder of What’s Your Legacy , an online platform looking at sustainable fashion and innovation. My background is in creative direction, videography and photography but in regards to What’s Your Legacy I always tell people that I can do anything that needs to be done. Currently we are especially exploring circular economy and different technologies that can help to make fashion more transparent, sustainable and ethical.
What's Your Legacy is now older than 2 years. Tell us a bit about its birth and consequential growth in the past years.
Yes, you are right we launched 2 years and 5 months ago to be precise. At the time both me and Anna were studying at university and through one of my projects I decided to explore fashion production. We all kind of know that the behind the scenes of fashion are not the most beautiful but when you dig into that you can’t really go back - at least I couldn’t.
We started What’s Your Legacy as a project to really explore what sustainable fashion is and to have an excuse to reach out to the brands and designers that we though make beautiful garments better. We wanted to connect these brands with people who were also interested in better consumption but weren’t ready to sacrifice the aesthetics for it. By talking to these brands and researching where fashion could be heading we have learned so much and we at What’s Your Legacy definitely have much more innovative outlook on the industry than we had those 2 years ago.
We still learn new things every day and always stay curios. I think you have to spend some time in the industry to really grasp what is the problem and how to solve it and always go into it with an open mind. The way we have always been doing things might not be the best way so always need to grow and innovate.
We know What's Your Legacy is all about sustainability: was this a topic you were passionate about beforehand or did it develop with the making of the company?
I have always loved nature and have understood that we have to take care of our planet. I grew up doing Orienteering sport which meant that I spent large proportion of my time in forest. However, at the time I wasn’t aware of all the problems that our environment faces. When I started to explore fashion production during my studies at London College of Fashion I knew that the way things have been done won’t be the future so I decided that I want to be a part of building more sustainable and innovative fashion future. The more I learn about the possibilities within this field the more excited I get about the sustainability and future of fashion. In addition, I would call myself an optimist.
Sustainability has become a widely discussed topic in the last few years: climate change, fast fashion,... How do you integrate the ethics of your company in your daily lifestyle?
The easiest thing for me is veganism and that is where I started my journey. But since I have been vegan for years for me it is very easy thing to do while others find it challenging. I also shop fashion sustainably - which is quite an obvious thing. Slowly garment by garment my wardrobe is becoming fully sustainable. But it is a process as I wouldn’t get rid of something just because it is not from a sustainable brand.
I think the major thing is that I don’t get things that I don’t need. I see people spending so much money on things they won't actually use and in this way creating waste. I am a little bit of a minimalist in that way. I take my time when deciding whether I should let another thing in my life. I am a big fan of sharing economy and experience culture so I spoil myself by staying in beautiful Airbnb's and going to amazing places but I don’t necessary have to own all of that. Also not owning much gives me a sense of freedom to move and do things.
We are finally seeing a wider crowd growing its interest in the world around us and our society's impact onto it. Some have stated this is a passing trend: where do you see it going so far?
I think lots of big changes starts as trend but now how do we make it last. As you are saying the interest is there and if you would ask around most people would tell you that sustainability is a great idea but they will probably struggle with how to implement it in their busy lives. Therefore, I think that our role as the industry is making sustainability accessible and convenient so when the buzz calms down it is still the most reasonable and easy thing to do. I think we can do it by creating desirable products that people would want even if they wouldn’t be sustainable. We also need to make them accessible which can be done with the help of social media and internet.
Art direction is a great core and fun part of the company's success. How do collaborations with external brands or companies happen?
To retain our visual identity at What’s Your Legacy we always reach directly out to the brands and create original content around them. But usually it is a lot of emailing, DM's and networking. Sometimes brands reach out to us and sometimes we reach out to them. Lots of my friends send me brand suggestions because they know I am interested in it. If possible we always try to meet the designers over a coffee and hear their stories or talk to them via Skype.
We love connecting with people and establish friendship we want it to feel personal not something official that ticks of a box for a brands marketing person. It might be slower way to approach it but we would rather do it in that way.
We've seen the company starting with fashion and now expanding to beauty. Do you have plans for What's Your Legacy to expand onto a third area as well?
For now we stay with fashion and beauty but hopefully in the future we can help people to have all around sustainable lifestyle and brands to have all around sustainable business. We are spending a lot of time researching because we want to offer cool, innovative and easy way to do it.
How do you spend your day as founder of the company?
There is always something to do and tons of other things on the list so it is about managing your time, focusing and not stressing out. I am a person that loves working late and I get an extra boost of energy in the evenings. My schedule usually depends on whether I have shoots, meetings or just general work/edits.
I usually try to set the meetings in the morning if possible near me and start day with a cup of coffee and a conversation, after that I try to update social media. If I work on editing a video I need to avoid distraction so I try to put my phone away and quit my mail - I am not always great at it though. Email and messages is something that takes surprising amount of time as now everyone can reach you at any time this is why I try to go through a long sets of replaying emails and then leave it to rest otherwise that will be all I do. I also weirdly love responding to emails on weekends because then I don’t get immediate response.
I usually meet up with Anna, my co-founder, 2-3 times a week or if one of us is traveling we update each other over messages and calls. Lastly, I love running and I tend to go for runs late in the evening when Hyde Park is empty and have a me time. That me time is very important.
We can all agree there are plenty of people out there wanting to make a change and contribute to a better environment. Do you have any advice for any "starter"?
Find what you are most passionate about and start from there. Don’t try to change everything at once it can get overwhelming and you might stop trying all together. Even if helping environmental is a very pressing issue - baby steps is the key. And whenever you feel like you can take on more do that. It is about longevity and ability to sustain the positive changes you are making.
Within fashion I would suggest to just look for sustainable alternatives with every new purchase you are making and really considering what you already have. You can start with little things like lingerie and basics that you can easily find sustainable alternatives to and then also with investment pieces that you are ready to spend more money on anyways. Lastly don't forget to feel good about every positive change you make because you did good and that is awesome!