Julia-Maria Blesin, Founder of Fair Fashion OOTD and Nicetohave Mag
Interviewe by Cherie Birkner
"It was the responsible thing to do, to not only question the products promises (good looks, good quality, smooth skin…) but also to make sure that we could stand in for the way they were produced."
As a blogger at Nicetohave Mag you focus on presenting sustainable brands, how did you end up doing this?
I studied PR and communication management. During various internships I got to work with bloggers. I liked it! Even though or maybe therefore I thought it would be interesting to work on the other side, to be a blogger, really understand the business and its requirements. I actually got to know Agnes Pauline, Nicetohave Mag Co-Founder, through blogger relations. We became friends and in 2014, we started Nicetohave Mag as a „regular“ lifestyle blogzine featuring organic cosmetics but also high street fashion labels. It’s not like we didn’t care about sustainability. We just didn’t care enough. Soon though, we realized that we actually influence people who end up craving the things we promote - we do testimonials. We don't just recommend products but also a lifestyle. We felt like it was the responsible thing to do, to not only question the products 'promises' (good looks, good quality, smooth skin…) but also to make sure that we could stand in for the way they were produced (we wrote a little manifesto in 2015 here). You can imagine: we were pretty disappointed.
The more we got to know about the textile industry the less we worked with brands we had been building relationships with before. To round this up, there wasn’t a big bang for us. We take our followers with us on our journey of learning how to to make better consumption choices.
What role does your work play for your personal life? Are your friends and family involved with ethical & eco topics as well?
For now, Nicetohave Mag can not (yet) pay the bills. But becoming weary of sustainability issues though Nicetohave Mag led me to take a job as a research assistant. The project I work for questions if and in what way bioplastics are a sustainable alternative for petro-based plastics. My job focusses on researching the public opinion about biobased and biodegradable plastics. Doing research I naturally read a lot of studies about life circle assessment and sustainability transformation processes. Also, I interview national and international consumer companies and organizations. It definitely helps me to understand the bigger picture of this vague and multi-dimensional construct called sustainability.
Of course my job doesn't only influences my blogging on Nicetohave Mag. Sustainability is an omni-present issue for me and it influences my personal consuming decisions and lifestyle as well. I am very enthusiastic and open talking about sustainable lifestyle with friends and family – without missionizing or pointing fingers. Through blogging I've met so many wonderful people who are involved in ethical and eco issues as well. I also sense a certain influence on close family. Most of my friends however work in totally different fields, they might be aware of the term sustainability – because who isn’t, right? But it is not such a highly prioritized issue for them as it is for me. Making this observation is very grounding and makes me realize how much more awareness needs to be raised to change behaviour on a larger scale.
Does being a mother play a role in your choice to follow a sustainable lifestyle?
Absolutely! Becoming a parent is a huge opportunity to make changes towards a sustainable lifestyle. Preserving resources, nature and climate all of a sudden concerns people for a longer period than just the next couple of decades. And it’s not only a future issue, we want our kid(s) to be healthy now. I started using organic cosmetics when I was pregnant, I buy organic food and I don’t want my daughter to wear clothing that is full of pesticides and other chemicals. Supporting a sustainable lifestyle isn’t just a question of pure altruism, egoistic benefits like personal health and wellbeing are a great motivation and good reasons for people to live and consume more sustainably.
What is a MUST for emerging brands that want to work with you?
Transparency. I’m always asking for information about the ecological and social impact of their goods’ production. Memberships and certificates are great because they make research much easier for me – especially if a brand produces outside of the EU. I like to work with emerging brands that started their business with sustainability as a core value, but I am also open to established, conventional brands which try to improve their production chain in terms of sustainability.
On your Instagram account fairfashionOOTD you offer a platform for sustainable advocates and brands to be presented to a large number of viewers, how do you choose who gets featured?
I started fairfashionOOTD on Instagram about a year ago featuring street styles of other bloggers and Instagram influencers. My vision: Showing how fashionable fair and eco fashion can actually be and connecting brands with consumers and other bloggers. On fairfashionOOTD.com I am displaying key pieces of current collections of fair and eco producing brands. Being featured is partially a question of my personal taste. But I am also trying to anticipate what people would find interesting when looking for sustainable fashion alternatives. Of course I do my research on the brands: How is their commitment towards ethical production expressed? Where do they produce? Do they use textile standards, e.g. GOTS, fairtrade, fairmined…? Are they going "an extra mile“ by being a B Corporation for example? The core criteria for being featured on fairfashionOOTD can be summed up in one sentence: No suppressing, endangering and harming people along the value chain – from the (raw) material basis to end of life.
May awareness be raised and sustainable brands leap out the niche!