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Futerra Fashion Revolutionaries – Eilean and Leslie from Vepsi

To celebrate Fashion Revolution and the progress the fashion industry has made towards becoming more sustainable, we’re asking experts in the field who we think are fashion’s revolutionaries to share some of their insight into the industry and the future of fashion.

VEPSI was founded by Eilean and Leslie. Eilean worked for 6 years in the field of innovation and development at UNESCO and OrangeLabs where she persued her PhD. Passionate about fashion and marketing, she also managed a blog and organized VEPSI pop-up sales, a precursor to the startup. Leslie was an art director with professional experience in various communication agencies. She’s worked in several sectors: luxury, automotive, corporate, institutional and working in the fashion industry has always been a deep desire. Her expertise allows VEPSI to differentiate itself on all channels as the only marketplace-agency with an image that is both committed and attractive.

Why do you work in sustainable fashion?

Before founding VEPSI, Eilean worked at the UN, whilst running for fun a fashion blog, and Leslie worked as an art director. We both love fashion and all things beautiful, but we also care about people and the planet. Realizing progressively that there are thousands of people like us out there, we founded the VEPSI marketplace and impact influencer programme to contribute to the change we all want to see happening. It is a very rewarding experience: we do not only work with amazing brands and inspiring people from the fashion and development sector, but also with our “everyday actors”, the fashion and lifestyle influencers from our #VEPSIambassador programme. Style, sense, and action – the sustainable fashion industry has it all!

Tell us about one item of clothing from your closet that embodies sustainable fashion.

We are both huge fans of the jewelry brand Jimani: Every piece is composed of locally sourced materials and handcrafted by women in Kenya. Whilst working for the brand, they also take part in training program, which allows them to acquire a diploma in product design and product creation. Each collection is breathtaking! We also have a special relationship with this brand as they were the very first African brand to join #teamVEPSI from the start, in October 2015.

What do you think is the biggest achievement of the sustainable fashion movement?

There are many fundamental achievements, in particular in the area of international regulations, laws and policies. We believe however that these achievements are based on a much bigger achievement: a new mindset. People start realizing not only that clothes have a lifespan that is basically composed of three periods: a before (production), during (possession) and an after (waste). Shoppers realize that for each of these periods, their clothes may have a social and environmental impact, which can either be negative, neutral – or even positive. Those who a decade ago used to buy clothes like you buy chocolate, for a short moment of pleasure, now start asking themselves questions. Where do these clothes come from? How and by whom have they been produced?  Now that I possess this piece, will I pollute the environment each time I wash it? And once I do not want it anymore, what happens with all these textiles? We really feel that people get the bigger picture of the fashion industry as they feel more and more connected to people in the garment industry and the environment – which they are. It was about time…but it’s good news as it has a huge impact on the offer and demand logic: shoppers still want beautiful clothes, but they demand now for more – and start voting with their dollars.

With regards to making progress towards building a sustainable fashion industry, who do you want to thank and why?

There are so many actors out there, who contribute to a change on a daily basis, without never stepping out in the spotlight – those who tell their friend or a neighbour about the impact of the fashion industry, those who decide one day to not shop from sweatshop brands anymore, brands who decide to change their production processes to become sustainable. They do make a difference every day. Then, of course, there are organizations like the UN who recently launched the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion, but also NEONYT Berlin Fashion Trade Show putting sustainable brands on center stage and initiatives like the Conscious Fashion Campaign and Fashion For Development who work very hard every day to support those who decide to make an extra effort to achieve sustainability in  the fashion industry.

Tell us a story about a sustainable fashion industry in 2030 – a day in the life of a worker, a consumer, through the lens of your business, etc.

When we think about 2030, we see a fashion addict, laying on a rainy morning on her sofa, scrolling through a large choice of fantastic sustainable fashion brands on VEPSI marketplace. She knows that whatever she’ll purchase that day will not only make her feel beautiful  – but also create a positive environmental and social impact. She makes thoughtful decisions – thanks to the fashion and impact influencers she is following via VEPSI, she has not only discovered a dress and its designer’s story – but also she has learned that it was produced only from natural and sustainable fibers and manufactured as part of a social project. A few days later, her dress is shipped – in a recyclable package, of course! –  and she decides to wear it at a dinner party that same evening: she gets compliments all evening and proudly shares the positive impact story of that dress. Other people join the conversation and share their clothes story, remembering the “crazy old days” when “fast fashion was a bit like our grandparents driving around in cars without safety belts, kind of suicidal.”

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