Recently I was approached by BMW’s new online magazine The Ecoist for an interview about my blog Green Stilettos and how I got into sustainable fashion more generally. Needless to say, I was happy to oblige! I loved the concept of The Ecoist – a highbrow lifestyle e-zine for style-conscious yet eco-minded consumers, and of course I am excited that the BMW Group is launching its first-ever fully electric car BMW i3. Still, I must admit that the best part of the whole thing was being photographed by the talented Anoush Abrar who just got a prize for his portrait of Kofi Annan. My interview has now been published in German here, however for those of us not conversant in the language of Goethe, you can read the English version below. I hope that afterwards you will be able to say with conviction: “Ich bin ein Ecoist!”.
The Zeitgeist Wears Green: Mrs Green Stilettos
Russian-born, 30-something-year-old Xenya is the author of sustainable fashion blog Green Stilettos. She describes herself as a “proud Gen-X Girl”, part of the last generation to have learned how to use typewriters and to have witnessed the profound changes in Europe triggered by the coming down of the Berlin Wall. For Xenya, this was an opportunity to travel abroad and discover the world. Since then she has lived among others in Australia and Kenya before settling down on Lake Geneva three years ago, where she writes her blog.
Interview: Anna Kaminsky Photos: Anoush Abrar
The Ecoist: Xenya, how did a Moscow girl end up on the shores of Lake Geneva?
Xenya: For over 10 years I have worked in various communications roles with the United Nations and major international organisations on promoting greener ways of living. At the moment, I work with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world’s largest environmental organisation.
So far this has a lot to do with sustainability but not fashion. How did fashion come into the picture?
Very early on! I remember doodling fashion designs at school. At the tender age of 8 I rebelled against the Soviet school uniform – a brown dress with a black pinafore – arguing that it was stylistically unacceptable. Being the child of the Perestroika I somehow got away with it!
And when did sustainability join this passion?
For quite some time I had little idea about the impact of my purchasing decisions on our planet and the people who make my clothes. So I did a research project on sustainable fashion and, in particular, luxury because of its significant influence on the fashion industry overall.
Are luxury and sustainability compatible?
Absolutely! They can also converge in wonderful ways. I have come across some wonderful examples of designers who blend ethics and aesthetics — but we need to do much more to make sustainable fashion the rule, rather than the exception.
How does that work when fashion trends change from season to season?
As the iconic designer Yves Saint-Laurent once said, “Fashions may fade, but style is forever” I do believe that by embracing your own, unique style, rather than blindly chasing this season’s must-haves, you can take your wardrobe from season to season with minimal updating.
So green fashion also means less shopping?
Yes, ultimately it does but I must admit this has not been as easy! I have decided that, at the very least, I will only choose new clothes based on their sustainability credentials. As Dame Vivienne Westwood put it, we need to buy less and buy better.
Was that a leather skirt you were wearing?
I do wear leather, but it’s not actually the skirt but instead a vegetable tanned leather necklace by Royal Blush inspired by the Swiss Alpine knots. I am very interested in finding alternatives to leather. For example, there have been successful attempts to produce leather from fish skins or to grow vegetable leather in a lab, but unfortunately these new technologies are not yet widely available.
What do you do about clothes you don’t wear anymore?
I always try to give a new lease of life to the clothes I no longer wear. My favourite is “schwopping” (clothes swapping) parties with a few girlfriends. It is so true that one person’s trash is another one’s treasure! I also use the clothes recycling schemes offered by H&M and several other retailers. And finally, we give our children’s clothes to friends or send them to an orphanage in Kenya run by a former UN colleague.
Which addresses for green fashion can you recommend?
There are some lovely sustainable fashion boutiques in the Lake Geneva area, some of which are listed in the Ethical Shopping Guide for French-speaking Switzerland. My favourite local shop is à ma fille in Rolle, and in fact the major e-tailer zalando.ch has a decent selection of sustainable brands like Komodo and People Tree. But I do hope there will be more addresses for green fashion in Switzerland in the near future!
And how do you get to these shops? What is your mobility concept?
Because we live in a small Swiss village with no public transport, I have to rely on a car. I drive a BMW X1, which has been named as the most eco-friendly vehicle in its class earlier this year. I am also really excited to test-drive the new BMW i3. I was also pleased to learn that the BMW Group is among companies who are engaging with IUCN on a global initiative to make aluminium production and use more sustainable.
Have you already thought about changing your career to fashion?
I started my blog a year ago purely as a hobby but since then I have become more and more involved in the sustainable fashion movement. In any case, I hope that my strategic communication skills could help improve the image of green fashion and get more people to embrace it as a result.
In a nutshell, what is Green Stilettos all about?
It’s all about a quest to “put some glam into green”. The idea is to show that eco-fashion can be both stylish and desirable and that mainstream fashion can and must become more sustainable. While it is inevitable to mention the problems of the so-called “fast fashion”, I try my very best not to dwell on them but instead to focus on fresh and creative ideas that will help change the status quo.
To read the original article and see more photos visit The Ecoist website: http://www.ecoist.ch/blog/?p=1565