As the first Inspiration Interview of 2019, I’m really pleased to be speaking with friend and sustainable fashion inspiration Madara Freimane.
Madara is one of the Co-Founders of sustainable fashion platform What’s Your Legacy (WYL). Her and the WYL team having been working tirelessly in the background to bring us a directory of fresh, sustainable fashion that doesn’t all look the same.
Madara is an inspiration to me because of her uncompromising style and work ethic. Having moved to London from Latvia, she set out on a course at London College of Fashion where she delved into the darker side of fashion. Some time later, she and I met at an ethical fashion preview, and I’ll be honest she struck me as pretty cool. Being interested in the same brands, we bumped into each other a few more times before we arranged a coffee date.
Sitting down for a coffee on a cold, crisp winter’s morning in central London, I got to know about the ups and downs of running her small business: working with fantastic interns who would then return to university; developing her sustainable fashion directory designed within the confines of the limited ethical fashion brands out there; and the sheer amount of research that has to be done to ensure each brand truly lives up to their claims.
So, here’s our interview – I hope you enjoy learning about WYL, and do make sure to follow them!
1. What sparked your interest in ethical fashion?
I think it was combination of several things. Moving to London made me overwhelmed with how much stuff was available here. It was like you could get any style in high-street but you would still feel like you have nothing to wear because of how trends work.
I remember assisting at London Fashion Week and seeing all these cool people so I thought asking what they are wearing and the answer was three things H&M, Zara and Topshop. This kind of ruined the dream for me. I naively thought everyone will be wearing luxury brands but of course they would have to keep up with trends themselves which isn’t cheap. For me fashion should be something unique and this wasn’t it at all.
At the same time I was studying at London College of Fashion and in one of my projects I decided to look into how clothes are produced. This led me to reading and watching everything on the topic. Of course, we all know it isn’t the prettiest picture but when you really get into that there is no way back – at least for me. So then and there I decided to start shopping ethically and sustainably, not really knowing anything much about where and how to do that.
2. What’s Your Legacy has an iconic, bold style. Do you find it hard to find ethical fashion brands that suit your brand style, and as an extension, your own style?
Maybe at first I did because I haven’t had done enough research on where to find these brands. However, now I feel like there is something for every style. Of course there are still challenges but I think that is what makes it more special when you find something cool.
Another thing is price. When you change your mindset and the amount you are buying suddenly you can afford higher quality, beautiful unique garments. But many brands within sustainable/ethical fashion can seem out of reach for the average customer. This is when I turn to vintage and second hand. Over the last year or so I have become very good at that. I particularly look for luxury brands and beautiful vintage pieces. For example, this summer I found Oscar de la Renta dress for £32. I know, call me lucky!
3. Is there an ethical fashion movement in Latvia or Eastern Europe, and what makes it different from the UK?
I think the movement is slower there since price is still an issue and high-street is something that allows people to buy into fashion trends. You can see that in the countries with higher income such as Scandinavia people are more likely to explore sustainable and ethical consumption since they have more disposable income to do that. However, after 2008 economic crises you could see that people in Latvia would increasingly start supporting local brands and that still is a thing.
More generally, Eastern Europe is where lots of sustainable brands are actually producing their garments, so they come with a lower price tag. Nevertheless, I feel like it is just a question of time for people to become more curious about ethical consumption. As a country we are very close to nature and at the moment people might be more concerned about food and beauty products but I believe that will definitely evolve.
4. Who inspires you, and who should we all be following?
Weirdly enough I find most of the inspiration outside fashion industry. I am inspired by people who build something great while doing good (not just in business but also movements). People who think out of the box and think that the way things have been done can be changed and looks for smarter and better solutions. Often ones that others have never thought of. People who are extremely hard working and aren’t looking for a balance in life but impact.
I could say that some of my favourite people are Elon Musk, Gary Vaynerchuk, Jerome Jarre, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia (from AirBnB), the guys from the Yes Theory YouTube channel but there are many more. I love to listen to podcasts about the journeys of successful people. Like Masters of Scale with Reid Hoffman or How I Built This with Guy Raz.
I am also kind of obsessed with space and inspired by how vast the universe is and how small we are. I think this puts things into perspective for me. Especially when I deal with everyday problems. One of my favourite documentaries is The Farthest or the talk Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan. I always suggest to everyone to watch that.
5. Finally, do you have anything exciting planned for the near future that you can share with us?
We recently launched our updated Sustainable Fashion Brand Directory with over 200 sustainable brands. We have been working on it for a while now. We always know that there were lots of amazing brands out there but not a place to find them all together. Even if it is just the stage one of what we really want to create I believe it’s a super useful tool to find lots of beautiful brands that do things better.