#WeAreTesting: Artisanal Apothecary by Evolve Beauty

Artisanal producer of green cosmetics, Evolve Beauty from Hertfordshire, UK, shares their expertise on the benefits of hand-crafted, natural beauty blends. Their organic apothecary range so far consists of facial, body and hair products. All their products are vegan, cruelty-free and produced in small batches, to ensure the freshness of superfood based ingredients. 

  Hyaluronic Serum 200, Evolve Beauty UK. 

Hyaluronic Serum 200, Evolve Beauty UK. 

Savant tested their most popular products — Hyaluronic Serum 200 and Daily Renew Facial Cream with Argan oil for a week. The delicate pomegranate-infused serum with rose petal scent gave our skin a nice healthy glow and repaired the skin’s uneven surfaces when applied overnight. The Daily Renew cream, scented with delicate coconut aroma, offers 24-hour protection against irritation and is perfect for preparing the skin for winter, when it is more receptive to dryness and eczema.

What are the benefits of organic facial oils and serums?

Using Organic skincare is highly recommended. Not only are organic products better for the environment, containing no nasty ingredients or synthetic fragrances, but they are more earth-friendly and truly repairing your skin texture. Synthetic ingredients can cause irritation and, ultimately, ageing of the skin (inflamm-ageing). 

What's the most popular product out of your own range?

Our most popular facial product is the Hyaluronic Serum 200. It contains 200mg of low molecular weight Hyaluronic Acid which has the ability to retain 1000 times its weight in water. It also contains Organic Pomegranate extract, which softens and protects. It has been delicately fragranced with organic rosewater. 

What could be the reason behind our beauty counters turning more organic and fuss-free? Why do we now care about what we put on our faces as much as we care about what goes into our bodies? 

Same as above really — fuss-free cosmetics give therapeutic and more effective results. Customers are becoming more and more aware of the effect of synthetic ingredients in they beauty products and are therefore turning to organic en masse

"Plants that survive in very harsh environments have developed special coping mechanisms — think about the rainforest, where it’s very hot and humid… perfect place for bacteria to grow! Some rainforest plants have the ability to fight off bacteria when applied to the skin."

Name your other organic go-to products and brands that deserve a shoutout. 

This is slightly biased, but I’ll say S5 Skincare! S5 is a range of organic cosmeceutical products based on ingredients sourced from the 5 most extreme ecosystems. Plants that survive in very harsh environments have developed special coping mechanisms — think about the rainforest, where it’s very hot and humid… perfect place for bacteria to grow! Some rainforest plants have the ability to fight off bacteria when applied to the skin. Fascinating!

Besides beauty, what other  'green lifestyle' principles are represented in your everyday life?

100% organic food! Also, cleansing products that are as natural as possible.

  Daily Renew Facial Cream, Evolve Beauty UK. 

Daily Renew Facial Cream, Evolve Beauty UK. 

How did you do the testing and find out which combinations would actually work together? 

We work in very close collaboration with our ingredient suppliers, who advise us on formulation. Our little lab is also excellent at coming up with trump formulations! We are also running customer surveys to ask our customers, what they feel is missing from the range, and what they would like to see launched. 

Who is the target audience for green beauty?

Anyone and everyone. I see more people, who were accustomed to using only conventional skincare, now slowly turning to natural and organic, so we see everyone as a potential customer.

The beauty of the healing effect of organic beauty is that, in order to see the difference, you need to religiously apply the products every day, but after noticing the visible, lasting results that help us feel good in our own skin, this becomes a second nature.

http://www.evolvebeauty.co.uk

MUD Jeans: The First 'Circular Economy' Based Denim Label

The Dutch denim brand MUD Jeans has gained fame beyond making jeans — the foreseeing, conscious denim maker operates on a ‘circular economy’ based brand model, aiming to shift the perspective of completely guilt-free consumption as a mere utopia. This means you are not just blindly buying a comfy pair of everyday jeans, but renting them with a bonus of swapping your most cherished ones against a new pair every year. Never letting go of your favourite jeans forever whilst doing good for the environment… sounds like a fair enough trade! 

Savant spoke to Danique Gunning, Marketing Manager at MUD Jeans.

 MUD Jeans Campaign 2016

MUD Jeans Campaign 2016

MUD Jeans operates on the model of circular economy. What does it mean, to put simply? 

We live in a linear ‘take, make and dispose’ system, although we know our resources aren’t infinite. [The reality is], in the textile industry, we throw away a lot of clothing. We even burn it. Burning clothing accounts for 10% of the CO emission worldwide. So we have to change the way we do business. In a circular economy, there is no waste. We use old jeans — the ‘waste’ — as the resource for new denim products. We have made the circular economy practical by introducing the ‘Lease A Jeans’ concept. Customers pay a membership fee of 20€ and after that the pay only 7.5€ a month. After a year, they receive an email from us, asking whether they want to continue wearing the jeans or if they would like to switch to a new pair. Around 80% decides to switch to a new pair. Doing business in the circular economy thus means that, above all, you build long-term relationships with your customers. 

“Doing business in the circular economy thus means that, above all, you build long-term relationships with your customers.”

 MUD Jeans: Circular Economy Model. 

MUD Jeans: Circular Economy Model. 

Why do you think many brands reject taking that responsibility of being completely transparent in what they do? 

I think brands should be transparent in what they’re doing because people expect this nowadays. Even though a brand makes mistakes, they should at least be honest about it and explain that they’re striving for the better. 

Can consumption ever be entirely guilt-free?

It can for sure. It all starts with not buying things you don’t need. But if you purchase a circular product, you know that the materials will be reused. Also, doing business in the circular economy creates a lot of jobs in the recycling sector. But above all, you’re giving the resources back to the Earth at the end of use. This is our understanding of entirely guilt-free. 

 MUD Jeans Campaign 2016

MUD Jeans Campaign 2016

What are the general attitudes towards fashion and sustainability among the Dutch? 

People talk about it a lot and only very few of them actually act accordingly. But things are changing at their own pace. More and more people have become aware of the damaging effects of the fashion industry on our planet. I think people just lack the relevant education on the topic, and they have to learn that alternatives can be as fashionable. 

“Our own jeans are first sold as vintage, if they still look great. Worn-in jeans can be very fashionable, especially if you give them a redesign.”

What is the most difficult aspect in terms of educating the customer about environmental responsibility? To what extent does the education aspect of marketing matter?

Nowadays, people are so overwhelmed with information already. So it is important that the information we give about sustainability and about circular economy is fun, above all. In May 2016, we brought 3,000 returned lease jeans to our recycle factory in Valencia. Have a look at the Recycle Tour Video (link to YouTube). Through this trip, we showed that practicing in the circular economy can be a source of creative ideas and incorporate a lot of fun, too. 

What can we all do to fight against the harm caused by the increasingly polluting fashion industry?

We can make sure our products are designed in such a way that they can be recycled after use. For example, we have already instructed the designers in the production process to make a difference. We are also thinking about how to reuse the products after being worn, for that we have introduced several waste streams — for returned jeans from other brands and for returned MUD Jeans. Our own jeans are first sold as vintage, if they still look great. Worn-in jeans can be very fashionable, especially if you give them a redesign. That’s what we do — we redesign the jeans on demand. 

http://www.mudjeans.eu 

Les Sublimes: Pairing the 'Ethics' with Parisian Chic

Apparently, organic has been a thing in French women’s grocery lists for years, but what does it take to introduce the word ‘organic’ into their everyday fashion choices? Sometimes the answer lies in an accidental research trip to the Himalayas in Nepal, during which long-term friends Kachen Hong and Alexis Assoignon experienced their own Eureka! moment, leading them a step closer to revolutionising the world of wardrobe staples in France. Les Sublimes surely serves as a complement filling in the gaps in the quintessential, timeless 'Parisian chic' style directory…in a delicately sublime way. 

 Les Sublimes A/W16 Campaign

Les Sublimes A/W16 Campaign

What does Les Sublimes represent?

Co-founder Alexis Assoignon: Les Sublimes is France’s first sustainable luxury brand sold exclusively online. Les Sublimes is a brand that doesn’t make you compromise on your needs, while also making you look and feel good on the inside and out. That is what we define as being Sublimes: the combination of inner and outer beauty.

What are the ethical principles you have incorporated into your brand?

[When creating Les Sublimes] we were driven by a desire to improve environmental and social conditions around the world, as well as a desire to create sustainable wardrobe alternatives that we wanted and couldn’t find in the marketplace. In fact, no one in France is making the everyday clothing pieces — those items that make up 80% of our wardrobes — in a socially-fair and eco-friendly way. We were sick of having to choose between style, affordability, comfort, quality and ethics.

As a responsible company, we integrate ethics and transparency into every element of our business, from design and production, to corporate culture and customer service.

What’s the personal story that links together the creation of Les Sublimes?

My co-founder Kachen Hong and I have been good friends for over 10 years (we met while studying at Sciences Po Paris). In 2014 we both quit our jobs and met in Nepal for 2 weeks. We had both been thinking about starting something of our own in our respective fields (Kachen, a Consultant in sustainable consumption and Alexis, a fashion Account Executive), but we weren’t sure where to start. 

 Les Sublimes: Alexis Assoignon and Kachen Hong

Les Sublimes: Alexis Assoignon and Kachen Hong

In Nepal everything started falling into place. There were long, scenic treks with lots of time to talk and share ideas. We also went to visit a group of Tibetan refugees spinning yarn for weaving and a small group knitters making sweaters in a remote village. We saw the women working so hard, for so many hours, and earning so little. Less than a $1 per day! We could see firsthand the immense need for better quality jobs and living wages. Speaking with the women, they felt hopeless about their employment situation. We quickly discovered that by marrying our own skills in fashion and sustainability, we could create a solution for these women in underprivileged communities, and also solve a personal problem — the lack of desirable and ethical, yet affordable fashion in the marketplace. So, in the misty landscapes of the Himalayas, Les Sublimes, a lifestyle brand for worldly women with big hearts, was born.

 View of the Himalayas

View of the Himalayas

 Tibetan refugee spinning yarn

Tibetan refugee spinning yarn

I see every new startup as a collective effort, no single person can change the world alone. Bring an example of the power of teamwork. 

I couldn’t agree more. Within the Les Sublimes team itself we choose to hire based on personality and purpose rather than a fancy resume or a corporate background. Because everyone on board is motivated by something bigger than themselves, the dynamics of the team are totally different. The work will always be rewarding because we share a common goal of making a difference. We also recognise that every person on the team has value. 

“We quickly discovered that by marrying our own skills in fashion and sustainability, we could create a solution for these women in underprivileged communities…[…]. So, in the misty landscapes of the Himalayas, Les Sublimes, a lifestyle brand for worldly women with big hearts, was born.”

We also believe that there is enough room on this planet for all of our [like-minded] businesses to thrive. So if we can work with our fellow entrepreneurs to reach our collective goals, then we are all better off. That’s one of the reasons why we choose to be fully transparent as a brand.

Describe your personal style. How is sustainability represented in your personal wardrobe choices?

My style is a mix of modern West Coast staples and effortless Parisian classics. I love to dress in something easy and comfortable, but still look chic and presentable in the city. Influenced by French dressing, I’ve always taken a position of quality over quantity, investing in well-made classics and essentials that I can easily mix and match with other items in my wardrobe. My mom always took me along to second-hand stores growing up, showing me how to find hidden gems at bargain prices. Nowadays I have taken my values a step further by actively seeking out products and brands that are environmentally fair. But the options are still limited, which is one of the motivating factors behind creating Les Sublimes.

“For me personally, living sustainably is about taking baby steps and slowly shifting to a more conscious lifestyle. I don’t try to be militant about it, because it can be overwhelming.”

What would you say about a typical French woman’s style in that respect — are they into sustainable choices, or it's only now that this mindset is starting to ingrain?

We were surprised to discover that France is definitely behind other markets, such as Canada, the U.S., Germany and Scandinavia, when it comes to shopping consciously. The French care a lot about the quality of their foods, and eating organic has quickly become a trend here. But as far as that expands into fashion, they are still learning. On the flip side, however, French women naturally shop with a philosophy of quality over quantity. So in terms of consuming less, they trump North Americans any day. They prefer to invest in high quality pieces from brands they trust, and take care of those items, so that they will last for years to come. The bulk of her wardrobe is very thoughtfully curated.

How does Paris as a city inspire your work?

Paris is an inspiring city - there are so many incredible museums, exhibits, shops, restaurants and monuments; it’s almost hard to stay focused on any single aesthetic! One trip to the Louvre and you want to introduce Roman inspirited jewellery, the next day you’re dreaming about empire waist dresses.

 Les Sublimes A/W16 Campaign

Les Sublimes A/W16 Campaign

 What are the 100% natural gems on your beauty counter? Reveal us a secret conscious brand we all should know about.

I learned a lot about natural beauty products when I spent 2 months travelling through India a few years ago. I discovered great oils that can be used on the hair, skin, face, eyelashes — and they work better than any fancy cream. My favourite is almond oil. It’s the same stuff you cook with. You can buy a large bottle for a few dollars in any Indian supermarket, or for a bit more at your local grocery store. Nothing keeps my legs moisturised during those dry winter months like almond oil, and it even keeps me warmer, preventing a chill.

What's your attitude towards negative connotations linked to ethical fashion? Do you feel that ethical fashion still sustains the absence of glamour? 

I do think that ethical fashion is still perceived by many people as being unglamorous – I call it folk festival chic. The public perception is that ethical fashion is unattractive, avant-garde, hippie-esque, or super ethnic. Products are rough, poorly packaged and overpriced because they are labeled ‘organic’. But this is definitely shifting. There are so many incredible brands emerging that are disrupting this old attitude towards sustainable products. And we are here to help the movement along.

“One trip to the Louvre and you want to introduce Roman inspirited jewellery, the next day you’re dreaming about empire waist dresses.”

What are the widely circulating attitudes about ethical fashion in France now?

Honestly, there isn’t much of a discussion at all yet. It’s still fairly new in France. The food industry has become a hot topic these past few years. Recently supermarkets have banned plastic bags, and the government has just put a stop to disposable cups and plates. There are so many organic grocery stores popping up everywhere and the supermarkets now offer a great assortment of organic foods. The bus system in Paris is going completely electric as well. So I think ethical fashion will be the next big thing.

 Les Sublimes A/W16 Campaign

Les Sublimes A/W16 Campaign

What's the hardest part in this process of promoting sustainable fashion? 

One of our biggest challenges is educating the consumer that doesn’t already actively pursue a sustainable lifestyle. She may not have ever thought about shopping differently or doesn’t realise the impact of her conventional purchases. But once she understands, there is a permanent, albeit slow, shift in her buying habits. 

We realised early on that most shoppers see ethics as a bonus, not as a driving force behind their purchasing decisions. That’s why we are focused on developing this concept of no compromise consumption — so that she doesn’t have to choose between integrity and everything else.

 Les Sublimes A/W16 Campaign

Les Sublimes A/W16 Campaign

How are sustainability principles incorporated into your own everyday?

For me personally, living sustainably is about taking baby steps and slowly shifting to a more conscious lifestyle. I don’t try to be militant about it, because it can be overwhelming. I choose to live simply, in a small apartment, with less — which incidentally also means I save money and have less stuff to clean, manage and store. I recycle, reduce my energy consumption, walk or bike when I go out, buy organic at the supermarket, eat less meat and dairy, and invest in quality, durable products. In the end, leading a sustainable lifestyle generally leads to less stress, better health, more time and saving money. It just takes a little time to get there.

If you could introduce only one major change into the fashion industry today, what would it be?

Tough question! If I had to choose, I think we must put a stop to the pollution caused by factories that is destroying the environment. The devastation that results from processing and dying our garments is beyond control. As passionate as I am about supporting workers’ rights, I can’t ignore the urgent need to slow down climate change.  Nature has no voice and we are running out of time!

https://www.les-sublimes.com

Slow.ee — Pioneering Estonian Eco Fashion Revolution

Helen Puistaja — founder of the first online slow fashion boutique Slow.ee — is on an altruistic mission of bringing eco fashion closer to the Estonian public, and make it more accessible in our half-Scandi land. She assures that the eco revolution hasn’t happened rapidly, but Estonians are more conscious about their consumption habits than ever before. I met Helen at a quaint cafe in my hometown, Tartu, to talk the present and future of eco fashion in Estonia. What an honour to exchange ideas with a brave woman pioneer dedicated to changing things one generation at a time…

 Helen Puistaja, founder of Slow.ee

Helen Puistaja, founder of Slow.ee

Personally, I find your idea of a slow fashion concept store relatively unique in the Estonian market. What were the main concerns in this infinite fight between the fashion industry and the environment (large-scale and the ones you considered on a personal level) that informed the creation of Slow.ee?

The idea preceded already about 5 years, but I somewhat sensed that back then people were not ready for my vision as such. Originally, it started when me and my sister were facing an infinite dilemma of where to get the most basic clothes in Estonia — the most simple, ‘everyday uniform’ type clothes, such as black and white T-shirt, tight black jeans, the most basic sneakers, that would also be of good quality, and we felt like these items were impossible to find in Estonia at the time. So for a while we were playing around with the idea of a store specialising in wardrobe basic items, but then I went to Germany for a year and we somehow dropped it. After a year, though, my thinking had changed and I had also turned into a vegan, which had invoked another level of thinking — I was more concerned about the environmental impact of fashion-making than ever before, so I knew there needs to be an ethical twist to it. I wasn’t really contemplating the concept and its necessity, because I generally have this attitude in life that if an idea pops into my mind I immediately execute it, trusting my gut instinct. I don’t even bother to go into too much detail, but just consider the fact that ‘oh, there’s a gap in the market’, nothing similar exists in Tartu yet. So, Slow.ee was born. 

“I generally have this attitude in life that if an idea pops into my mind I immediately execute it, trusting my gut instinct.”

Nothing similar existed in Tartu, but elsewhere in Estonia? How does your approach stand out? 

There are actually three similar boutiques in Estonia, but they’re all located in Tallinn [our capital]. It seems to me that they are focusing on eco fashion and strictly certified items, but what was particularly missing from their approach was focusing on educating the consumer about the environment and the impact of fast fashion. They’re style direction — what I perceive as romantic and hippie — is also a polar opposite to mine. I didn’t notice too many classic, everyday basics within their selection. 

What's your initial reaction to the cliche that perceives eco fashion as something not as glamorous, e.g. namby-pamby linen cloth products that look a bit outdated. On the other hand, we see fast fashion as something desirable — piling those fashion items high into our shopping basket offers us fulfilment, we are gaining immediate gratitude from simply buying those items. However, do you feel that people’s attitudes are starting to change?

Considering [the realm of] Estonian market, I truly understand where this perspective comes from — there are not many sustainable fashion alternatives on offer to balance it out. We still only have a choice of hippie dresses and those flowers and fairies, but a lot of excellent brands are out there and slowly cropping up here as well to offer balance to the market. I also hope to bring them closer to the Estonian public. You brought out the fast fashion issue and the satisfaction we gain from buying [new things], which could be related to psychology. By no means I am an expert, but I had a thought that, from an early age, we are being sold that idea of ‘shopping makes you happy’. So often we are just buying new things and new things, without focusing on our main problem, and [find it easier to] kill it with the good emotions we gain from the act of consumption. It is easier to show the audience that the other side of fashion has a lot of variety to offer than root out the necessity to constantly consume and crave and seize for new things. It is a deeply-rooted concern; addiction which takes years to reverse. 

 Slow.ee PopUp at Tartu Kaubamaja, September 2016

Slow.ee PopUp at Tartu Kaubamaja, September 2016

 Slow.ee PopUp at Tartu Kaubamaja

Where does this phenomenon come from that we see shopping as a reward — we subconsciously hide our true concerns behind conspicuous consumption and mindless buying craze, and also tell our children that ‘If you behave well, I will treat you to some goodies, I will reward you with a treat or two.’

It is the easiest way [to deal with it]! It is an easy way out, especially when it comes to kids, who see things and want chocolate and candy in the shop. If the kid wants something and is shouting in the store, then you cannot put up with [the unpleasant scene] in front of everyone. And when they get the treat, then they become completely silent immediately. 

Perhaps it is to do with us spending too much time in those artificial environments these days — all our entertainment revolves around huge shopping centres, whereas it is inseparable that when the children drag along and see fancy things, they immediately want them too. How do we get out of that vicious cycle of consuming things and perhaps realise that there are other ways of spending our leisure time? 

I think these issues are all interrelated. It is not only about buying better quality clothes, which are better for the environment and therefore for our health, but it is also attached to the concept of personal development. After all, it is an individual matter to come to this realisation — you yourself need to force yourself out of that cycle of commercialism and reflect more on yourself to make rational decisions and understand that you don’t need that new item to be happy. Firstly, you should always ask yourself, perhaps there’s something else missing in your life, it might be that somewhere deep inside there’s another reason behind [craving for a thing]. 

So you believe that every person has an individual responsibility to open their eyes to the idea of environmental responsibility? 

It can be approached on many different levels and through various layers of importance — starting from your own health to [what is to do with] the environment. The easiest way to convince parents to act greener is the fact that they always want the best for their children and they don’t want to wrap their child into those clothes full of chemicals. Last week I held a presentation at a kindergarten, and I find it a very clever approach to speak to people to whom the future we build for ourselves and our children is more tangible. I want to do things better for the world simply to be a better place, but I don’t have this particular person in mind whom I am doing it for, but parents have that special person because of whom they should do things in a more considerate way. Nothing will change overnight, but let’s take it generation by generation then. 

“[…] From an early age, we are being sold that idea of ‘shopping makes you happy’. Often we are just buying new things and new things, without focusing on our main problem, and kill it with the good emotions we gain from the act of consumption.”

How did parents react to your presentation? 

I only had limited time to speak, so I used the shock therapy method. I showed them images like, here’s a child sitting on top of a dumping ground, that is the reality. A young, exploited child sewing somewhere in a dirty factory, that is the reality. To see the images of the huge amount of sewage water that drains into the natural waters from plantations and factories, is only one side of the coin, but I think this is what people have the strongest reaction to. There they sat and stared with petrified faces…

Don’t you often get the impression that these problems and concerns seem somewhat distant, so out of reach from us? For example, we often hear the news that somewhere in Bangladesh a factory collapsed, and immediately think, who cares? What we actually don’t realise is that we are contributing to these incidents on a daily basis by buying those fashion items, toys and homeware, which are crafted by children of the Developing World. 

During the presentation I gave at the kindergarten the headmaster pointed out savvily that, “we feel like they are extremely unhygienic and unkempt there, but it is our rubbish they are sitting in.” She was confronted with the epiphany that this little human is sitting on top of our rubbish, not on someone else’s rubbish. Of course, there will always be people who couldn’t care less about preserving our environment, and there’s nothing much to do about it. But if you take that garment full of chemicals and wash it in the washing machine here, then the infused chemicals reach us one way or another. Then comes the time we have to learn to take responsibility for it. 

Of course, we are often presented with the beautiful lie that they are actually happy to have that job in a factory mass producing clothes… 

They are! Because they don’t know a better way. Perhaps it is the best choice for them out of all choices, but it doesn’t justify the sad reality — exploitation of these young people.  

I’ve also noticed that slow fashion still stands on the pricier side of the market compared to its Fast Fashion sister. To me it seems like stating the obvious, considering the high production costs and ethical approach, but how has the audience’s reaction been so far — do they perceive eco fashion as something lavishly expensive or affordable? 

I have also tried to take in orders for goods that are more affordable. However, I’ve been keeping in mind that the things I offer cannot be too cheap. In order to cherish the item more,  you need to think the purchase through and ask yourself a few questions — how to combine it with the already existing pieces in your wardrobe; how does it go together with your personality. I want the customer to see it as an investment — she is willing to spend a larger amount, because that way it also lasts for longer. My target audience — of course, all people could act more considerate and consume better — are people who have already found their own style and know that the lifespan of the purchased item will be infinite. I am that person myself… I know nothing about fashion! On the other hand, I have developed my own unique style over the years, which is not very significant, but I feel good in my own skin wearing my signature clothes, and when I do buy something, I wear it at least for a year…two… three… four, maybe even longer. 

And when you divide the cost of the product with the number of years worn…

It is overall much cheaper indeed. 

As a true fashionista, I am also struggling with the results of excessive fashion consumption habits in the past — I’ve got heaps and heaps of old garments, which I’ve disregarded for long and, as a result, I cannot find a way to get rid of them anymore. It just seems to me as a mindless waste, both financially and environmentally. 

I would also like to highlight that I don’t support mindless wasting. That comes without saying that when people all of a sudden realise they should consume less and invest in better quality, durable clothes, then it necessarily doesn’t mean they have to swap their wardrobe against a new one. The items that already exist should be used until they last, without the attitude that “I am now environmentally conscious and I only need to consume organic clothes.” I am also struggling with finding the best option to send off the old items to recycling. 

Tell me more about the brands you’ve chosen to introduce to the Estonian market. According to which criteria did you select them? Do you keep your own personal taste in mind, or think that, ‘I don’t actually like it, but my customers certainly do’?

I aim to keep a characteristic line in the selection of products, not to diffuse things unreasonably, because my aim is that the regular customer, who comes every once in a while, knows that they will certainly find items of a specific style from my store. If I would only consider my own personal taste, my store wouldn’t be customer-friendly at all! (laughs). It would be only for a strictly limited audience then. When I fill in the orders, I usually have specific prototypes in mind — people whose opinion matters and to whom I turn to when I need advice about product selection.

When I was studying in London and my course was completing our final major project, our tutors would often ask in awe, “Who do you keep in mind, when designing these products?”. There were artworks that were designed in a very incompetent way and we would often answer, “Don’t worry, I personally also don’t like it, but the one who purchases it, will adore it, hands down”. I think it also cannot be that controversial…

Agree! Well, of course I am considering what the consumer thinks, but I also have to remain true to my own vision — if I am doing it alone now, then it is my brand, my soul that has been poured out to take a form of a store, and I cannot do it inadvertently at this stage. I am always trying to look for the middle ground bringing together my own personal taste and an understanding of what the customer wants and needs. 

Do you believe that slow fashion is still targeted at the niche market? Who is your actual target audience? You already mentioned earlier that someone who has already found their own personal style. Do you have anything else to add to this equation?

I wouldn’t say that slow is the right word to use here, but consuming consciously is certainly becoming more trendy and common here, more than it was a few years back. 

Well, the brands you represent, use specific principles to be more environmentally considerate… 

After all, the reality of things is, for making ends meet, you need to sell your products. This is the… 

Together: Point of conflict!

Did I understand correctly — you can produce something ethical, but when you sell it in large quantities, then the end result comes across as completely unethical? 

When you look at the entire process as a whole, it is absolutely acceptable that people need clothes and they want clothes, nothing wrong with that, but then we should start from the fact that the items we wear have been crafted keeping the nature and people in mind, and when the garment reaches the end of its lifespan, then it is crucial it won’t be thrown out to the dumping ground immediately, but the whole recycling process has to complete the full circle. Then the act of consumption becomes more reasoned and thought-through, too. 

How would you evaluate the slow movement in Estonia compared to Scandinavia and the rest of Europe? Assuming that they already stand a step ahead of us, how could we progress to their level? How could we fill in that education gap when the subject of living greener is concerned?

To be honest, I preserve it more as a natural process, but as much as I’ve kept track [of the progress], it can be said Estonia is still a step behind. Although I think that the progress gap is not immeasurable anymore — people are more aware of the harmful effects of overconsumption and thinking green has become valuable. Of course I can perceive the rapid change in the mindset and general attitudes more sharply due to the fact that I am also an active member of the vegan community here. 

Oh, veganism has become an entire movement on its own in Estonia. 

Yes, all of a sudden there are vegan cafes popping up everywhere and we also boast a wide variety of organic food stores. Judging by that, I think we shouldn’t define the gap in being slow in progress — we only need more activists, who create these stores and make whole foods and the organic produce more accessible [for the everyday consumer]. 

One thing I have noticed, though, is that everywhere in Europe, the excessive use of plastic bags is strictly prohibited, but Estonians haven’t adopted that policy yet…

Not to mention that a few days back I just got angry with Selver [my local food store], where there was a striker on the food scale saying: “Please place all the products with different prices in a separate plastic bag.” AAAAGGHHH! Pure nonsense! 

I also believe that they should at least encourage using paper bags, or… 

Why do I need to place a single item in a plastic bag? I can weigh a single tomato without it.  

That is indeed ridiculous. 

I do understand there will always be people who would place even their single carrot in a plastic bag, but the store has a responsibility not to encourage it. I cannot buy any food products that are wrapped in heavy plastic packaging… in Estonia, they sell leek wrapped in plastic. If I see something like that, I just refuse to buy it. 

“My target audience — of course, all people could act more considerate and consume better — are people who have already found their own style and know that the lifespan of the purchased item will be infinite. I am that person myself… I know nothing about fashion!”

What other environmentally responsible principles do you follow in your everyday life? Apart from being a vegan…

I hate wasting water. Although our bad habit of letting the tap run freely while we are brushing our teeth is not even comparable to the amount of water wasted on growing cotton in India, but I try to avoid wasting water as much as possible. Also, as mentioned, I am not fond of using heavy packaging. The loveliest surprise awaiting me when I moved to my new flat was that next to our building are 4 separate recycling bins — one for general waste, one for plastic and packaging, one for cardboard and one for organic waste. Now I recycle everything separately. No one is an über-human, but at least as much as I humanly can. 

Have you also reduced consuming fast fashion? 

To be fair, I have never been particularly fond of shopping — when I was brought up I was always encouraged to think my purchases through. I still belong to the generation who remembers the time when everything wasn’t so easily accessible and available in our market, so it is fairly a modern-day concern, when you have limitless opportunity to consume and consume. 

Maybe partially this could be the reason why Estonians are reluctant to accepting eco fashion and consuming less, because we are so used to not having anything available… 

And now we have more than enough, so we have to take advantage of it! Maybe that’s the reason why it takes longer for us to understand that we are better off with consuming less.

In a nutshell, could you bring out a specific aspect that concerns you the most related to your start-up?

To be fair, in Estonia there are thousands of people who are dedicated and ambitious; who are willing to invest all their free time to help and work 12 hours in a row, but in the end it all comes down to the finances and readiness to act. But it is not a hindrance at the moment. We can do it!

I would again like to point out that we are inserted into this materialistic and superficial cultural environment that encourages consumption and therefore we also encourage our children to look for the missing happiness in rewards we can buy only with money. How to change that mindset and replace it with thinking greener? Pitch me an effective action plan.

I think everyone needs to come to that conclusion themselves that this cannot go on any longer. What we can do is to educate people as much as in our will and be a positive example. Sadly, the way it works with certain things in life is that when you force them upon people, then they refuse to conform, and as a result, act in a reverse way. We certainly don’t want that. I personally try to offer a variety of possibilities — to filter the products according to my own vision and ideals, to educate people on the negative effects of consumption and be an exemplary figure in thinking green. And then everyone individually slowly gets there in their own pace, if they do… 

How is your experiment called pineapple leather versus Estonian weather progressing? (hinting at the shoes made of Pinatex leather [pineapple leaves fibres] Helen is wearing)

They haven’t seen any rain yet! I also haven’t deliberately jumped into shower with them to test the water resistance, but they are extremely comfy and allow the feet to breathe. 

So you recommend them? Will they be available for us to buy?

I have introduced only a couple of pairs at the moment. My final e-store launches in October and then feel free to order and test out yourself!

Where do you keep your inventory and send the products out?

Under the kitchen cupboard. I have a teeny-tiny apartment and you wouldn’t even notice that there’s a whole store full of goodies hidden somewhere… everything is perfectly fitted in. 

Thinking economically! Both laugh out loud. 

Lately, Slow.ee PopUp store could be spotted at Tartu Kaubamaja, (expectedly) from December onwards, Slow boutique will be open to customers in the newly-refurbished Aparaaditehas…

www.slow.ee

Noctu: Seasonless Organic Cotton Nightwear

Noctu is a family business founded by sisters Zoë and Milly, who are based between Bath, UK, and Oslo, Norway. Having witnessed firsthand the shocking impact conventional cotton manufacturing has on people and our planet, they were compelled to create ethically made, beautiful, minimal night and loungewear.

 Noctu Campaign, 2016

Noctu Campaign, 2016

“Take my hand and I will lead the way.

Through the fjords where the night is day.

A special place where the sun does not set.

A land where mountains silhouette.

A place for those who dare to dream.

The land of the midnight sun.”

 Noctu Campaign, 2016

Noctu Campaign, 2016

Noctu dedicated years to finding the right manufacturers, determined to find organic production and fair trade conditions. Throughout their business, Noctu ensure equality, women empowerment and ongoing training programmes. The collection is a wonderful example of how small companies are helping shift the norm with beautiful, high quality products, sourced and made ethically and sustainably that don’t compromise on design, or start at an inaccessible price point. 

 Noctu Campaign, 2016

Noctu Campaign, 2016

Noctu’s first seasonless night and loungewear collection is beautiful and simple, inspired by the Scandinavian midnight sun, where days neither begin nor end.

All of Noctu’s cotton products are certified to the Global Organic Textile Standard Fairtrade.

We love their nighties and the gorgeous pure white bed linen, just what we need as the nights start to draw in. 

 Noctu Campaign, 2016

Noctu Campaign, 2016

Beauty Is Beauty Is Beauty Is...The Natural You: Estonian Eco Cosmetics By Sõsar

Words: Johanna Raudsepp

Lately, applying my all-natural face moisturiser first thing in the morning has become like a second nature - it leaves my skin firm and gives it an immediate healthy glow. I couldn’t think of any fresher way of starting the day’s beauty routine. In Northern Europe, the appreciation of natural beauty is nothing unusual: it has gradually become sort of a trademark for us, which translates into our modern-day beauty industry, too. Natural cosmetics, consisting of pure ingredients derived from our surrounding biosphere, are nowadays widely known as bio-organic or eco-friendly cosmetics. As a cherry on top, these fuss-free superheroes often boast environmentally friendly packaging, too. 

 Sacred Forest Peat Mask by Sõsar

Sacred Forest Peat Mask by Sõsar

To further understand the buzz around fuss-free, bio-active cosmetics, we talked the essence of beauty with Piret from the Estonian cosmetics brand Sõsar (‘Sister’). Whilst creating their products from all-sustainable resources combining modern-day science with local folk medicine, Sõsar not only serves organic skincare products for women, but has introduced an entire range for everyday use for the modern, global man. Perhaps that rather unusual stunt reveals why we have fallen utterly in love with their all-natural range…

What is beauty? 

Beauty is something very effortless that exudes from within. It reflects in our entity, the way we speak, [in our] physical stance and attitude towards ourselves and one another. Beauty is healthy, not artificial. It’s inside all of us already. [It’s] like a diamond which needs polishing to become a rare brilliant. The question is, will you polish your diamond or cover it with paint? 

"I believe that we all are already beautiful the moment we wake up. It’s a whole different question, whether we have the ability to see that beauty."

What inspired you to launch Sõsar?

Sõsar was born out of a personal need for cosmetics which would highlight natural beauty without damaging our skin and body with synthetic preservatives or colourants. I consider myself to be a bon vivant when it comes to cosmetics and skincare. I value the highest quality, the purest and the most effective natural products that help you stay youthful and glowing. [The idea] came to me once I realised that what is considered ‘best’ isn’t always the most expensive or dressed in the fanciest packaging. I quickly came to the conclusion that everything depends on what’s on the inside - the rest is often just a beautiful facade. As I soon found out there were others who shared my values and believed in the power of nature — thus Sõsar was born. 

 Piret Laasik, founder of the Estonian eco beauty brand Sõsar

Piret Laasik, founder of the Estonian eco beauty brand Sõsar

Aside from the obvious, why are natural ingredients better for our skin’s health?

Everything in nature is already in perfect balance — we don’t need to extract, add or remove any components. The compote of fabricated substances [that stand at the other end of beauty industry] might not even give the desired results, but will rather create an addiction to the products. We should get to know nature better and learn how to benefit from it, rather than fear it. Natural products help to create a balance in our organism. We don’t need to apply seven layers of make-up or moisturise our skin on a daily basis, because our body and skin have the natural ability to be healthy and glowing if we knowingly support that. I believe that we all are already beautiful when we wake up. It’s a whole different question, whether we have the ability to see that beauty. 

"Beauty is healthy, not artificial. It’s inside all of us already. Like a diamond which needs polishing to become a rare brilliant. The question is, will you polish your diamond or cover it with paint?"

Besides women’s cosmetics, Sõsar also offers products for the modern man. What is important to keep in mind when creating a beauty product for men? 

What is most interesting about men’s products is that men need to be encouraged to use said products, especially for skincare. [They should keep in mind that] it doesn’t make a man less manly. In fact, [it is not a myth] that we, women, like men who are naturally handsome and take care of themselves. After all, men have the same kind of skin problems as women do. Healthy skin will give men confidence in building their career, and they will also benefit from that confidence in social situations…in their private lives. What’s great about natural products is that they are actually suitable for both men and women. 

 Wild Man product range by Sõsar

Wild Man product range by Sõsar

If Sõsar was a character in an upcoming movie, what would she look like? How would she take care of her skin?

Sõsar would be a character called ‘Natural Beauty’, who makes heads turn in awe as she enters the room. It’s not about the perfect brow or having the perfect hair. Her beauty reflects in who she is, her gaze, and how she walks. She’s mindful that knowing her worth, getting a good night’s sleep and weekly beauty rituals are the key to beauty and youthfulness. And she doesn’t take no for an answer. Fresh air, good quality food and an active lifestyle are an essential part of her life. 

If you’re as obsessed with natural beauty as we are, go check out Sõsar’s webpage at www.sosar.eu where you purchase their skincare products. (PS! They ship all over the EU!)

Saying The ‘Yes’ Word…To Honest Beauty: JYB Cosmetics

Belgian brand JYB Cosmetics has brought their take on bio-organic skincare to the market circa 2014, and adamantly operates on a 100% transparency policy ever since. Savant peeked into their world of organic oils and earthly blends, and discussed the allure of today’s traceable beauty with Gauthier Berlemont, brand’s Marketing Director in United Kingdom, at Fofolles World Pop-up weekend held in Chelsea, London.  JYB — that’s miraculous, nourishing skin food in sexy packaging, all the trimmings. That’s the formula of honesty in a bottle, and no witchcraft.

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Slow Food Movement Taking Over in Tartu, Estonia: Aparaat & Barlova

Historically, Tartu is somewhat notorious for its café traditions. The university town attracts young crowd from all over the country and abroad, so cafés have long served as socialising places for the youth. My grandmother would tell me stories about she and her friends enjoying fresh pastries at Café Werner before heading to lectures as a favourite pastime. Werner has been around since 1882, making it one of the oldest cafés in Estonia. Many Estonian writers and artists gathered there to play chess, read poetry, and of course, drink coffee. But times have changed and so has café culture. People’s lives have grown faster and it seems like we have simply lost connection with time to enjoy an indulgent drink or sit down for a chat.

Yet amid the hectic day-to-day life in today’s Tartu, there are those who choose to enjoy the little moments. Whether we are sipping coffee at a quaint local café before heading to work or venturing into a new hip restaurant at the creative district for lunch break, we try to embrace a slower lifestyle. And the city responds to the yearning. A new wave of cafés, bars and restaurants with sassy names are popping up all over the town, and we’re excited.

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A Milky Way To Success: The Pressery

The audience is a fan of the beautiful Instagrammable bottles with The Pressery logo engraved on them. Their purpose though, apart from being visually appetising, is to offer super-natural goodness, too. London’s kindest almond milk makers Chi-San Wan and Natali Stajcic open up on their personal success story. 

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