We can’t create a fair fashion world without a lot of passionate people working in the industry. In ‘Fair Fashion Pioneers’ we will interview brand owners, agents, designers and other inspiring people about what thrives them to do this work and how they try to contribute to a better world.
This week we meet up with fair and sustainable fashion blogger Sara Dubbeldam. She is a brand strategist, but also runs the blog whensarasmiles.nl where she is not only sharing conscious fashion outfits, but also shares new brands, and writes about her broader thoughts considering sustainability and fashion. We met Sara at her home in Amsterdam and had nice chat about her blog, her goals and how she sees the fair fashion future.
You started your blog about fair and sustainable fashion in 2015, how did that start?
I already had a fashion blog and a web-shop. On the web-shop, I sold very cheap accessories, which I bought from China. I began to think how weird this system was, but I didn’t know exactly what was wrong with it. Then the Rana Plaza disaster happened in 2013 and my eyes were opened. Two years later in 2015, I started a challenge with my co-worker to only buy fair and sustainable fashion for one month, and that is where it started. In that month I learned so much about the fashion world and the fair fashion world in particular. I couldn’t find any fair fashion bloggers who I could identify with in terms of style and that is why I started blogging myself.
You work as a brand strategist. How do you use your branding mindset on your blog?
I think I know the power of branding very well. So I understand that something has to be attractive in order for people to want it. On the other hand, I write about the psychological side of marketing: Why do we buy so much? How do brands try to influence our behavior? Or about the complexity of greenwashing for example. I like to use my marketing knowledge to explain these complex mechanisms.
What was the nicest moment or accomplishment so far with whensarasmiles.nl?
That’s a hard question, but there was a certain shift when bigger media like television and the fashion magazine Grazia picked up my blog. This is not about me, but I think this says a lot about the growing need for sustainable fashion. The fact that I could use these bigger platforms to spread my message was very cool.
On your blog, you share your own fair fashion journey, together with the struggles that come along, like not being able to find the perfect sustainable boots. Why is it so important for you to share these struggles on your blog?
I want people to know that taking small steps is okay too; it doesn’t have to be perfect. I hope that by sharing my own struggles with fair and sustainable fashion, people can identify with it more and taking that step becomes more achievable.
Do you think a platform like thegreenlabels.com could help with this search for how to shop consciously?
Definitely. What I really like about thegreenlabels.com is the inspiring look and images that make it attractive. I think that is very important in order to also reach a group that is not yet in fair and sustainable fashion. Besides that, the shop sells a couple of brands that are not available in a lot of places, and that is very nice.
You do not only share conscious outfits and new brands, but you are also writing a lot on broader topics like “being satisfied with what you have" and your own “sustainable dilemmas” What is the most important thing you have learned since starting to shop more consciously?
Previously I almost tried to find my identity in the type of clothes I wore; ‘the cooler I look, the cooler I am. Now I still find style very important, but I have learned that it doesn’t define who I am. The value of fashion in my life changed a lot. I learned not to search for my happiness in materialistic things anymore. To be able to contribute to a better world is what makes me happy now, and not the materialistic side of clothing. I do still see the beauty in fashion and style, but beauty is not the only value of clothing for me anymore.
What do you hope to see in the future of the fashion industry?
A lot! I think my dream is probably very naïve, but I hope everyone will take their responsibility. The government in the first place. On the other hand, I hope that brands will open their eyes and take responsibility for what they have done. With my blog, I hope to educate the consumer side more because I think that could have a big impact too.
What would you want to accomplish with your blog in the future?
I would love to give brands a bigger platform. Right now I focus on the consumer, but I am also a branding strategist working on increasing their impact. So, I would love to help small brands to grow and wake up bigger actors in the industry to become more sustainable.