We loved speaking with sustainability super hero Besma Whayeb. She is the author of the Consciously Curious blog and Founder of Ethical Influencers, you guessed it, a community platform for those driving positive change. Besma is an avid supporter of the slow fashion movement and is a voice to be reckoned with.
Tell us about your slow fashion journey. How did you become aware of the fast-fashion problem?
My journey began with food - I got into French cooking after moving to Paris as part of my degree. I learned about the importance of provenance and eating seasonably, and it suddenly struck me that my clothes were also often from the ground, from plants. I took the time to research into materials and fashion practices and was shocked!
Is there increasing awareness among consumers about how the fashion industry really works?
I think there’s a lot more knowledge floating around now, and people are open to hearing about it too. It used to be an age-old joke to think milk “came from the shop” rather than from cows, but I believe we are now beginning to apply this to fashion. Everything is handmade, mainly by women of colour who are treated poorly and not given the life chances or respect that they deserve.
What is Intersectional Environmentalism? Why is it important?
This is an area I’m spending a lot of time learning about, after the recent wave of Black Lives Matter activism in relation to the police brutality in America. As Green Girl Leah puts it:
“[Intersectional Environmentalism] is an inclusive version of environmentalism that advocates for both the protection of people and the planet. It identifies the ways in which injustices happening to marginalised communities and the earth are interconnected. It brings injustices done to the most vulnerable communities, and the earth, to the forefront and does not minimise or silence social inequality. Intersectional environmentalism advocates for justice for people and the planet.”
Do you think consumers are looking for more transparency from brands on their ethical practices?
Yes, more than ever. We have got to keep asking #whomademyclothes!
Do you think brands are listening? Will we see systemic change as a result of recent social justice protests?
We see a lot of lip service with black Instagram squares, how can this movement be propagated through brands internal organisations, leadership, external communication, even product design to represent all classes and races? Brands are listening, but I do wonder how they’re acting. It’s one thing to flood fast fashion brands with questions and comments, but how do you reach the big boys sat in the boardroom? We have to take a multi-faceted approach. Ask for more regulations from our government. More money for programs like WRAP, more governance over Anti-Slavery Statements. And more boycotting until these brands clean up their acts.
What are some of your zero-waste hacks?
Ooh, I have a few handy items that come with me everywhere: a tote bag, a water bottle, a reusable coffee cup, and more generally switching to things made with natural materials. Organic cotton buds with bamboo stems, or cloth-wax-wrap instead of cling film.
The easiest eco-friendly swap you have made?
I stopped eating meat in 2014 and honestly I don’t think about it anymore.
If you want to try eating less meat, read our guide on why you should go vegan in the new year!
The most inconvenient eco-friendly swap you have made?
Bamboo toothbrushes. Nobody tells you about having to pull out the plastic fibres when you’re finished and boy they’re tough! I’m looking for a better alternative, so let me know if you have one!
Your favourite eco-friendly or plastic-free products?
My menstrual cup, it saves on so much plastic waste and so much money too.
What’s your cleaning jam?
I have to say anything by The Beegees because it’s what my mum used to play when cleaning and when I used to help her as a little girl!
Thanks for the chat, Besma. We wish you the best of luck in driving the Curiously Conscious agenda and bringing a wave of much needed positive change to the fashion industry. Check out our chat with Emily Penn - ocean clean up hero next.
More on the blog: What is fast fashion and how you can avoid it.