The FH Edit is excited to be able to feature sustainable fashion writer, educator, and activist Elizabeth Joy in today’s interview. Elizabeth Joy is the founder of Conscious Life & Style, a website and Instagram account dedicated to informing consumers and holding brands responsible. Check out her website HERE.
FH: How did you get interested in sustainability?
EJ: I was interested in sustainability from a young age, since learning about recycling and ‘conserving water’ in school as a child. Of course, my understanding of sustainability has and continues to evolve constantly! I wouldn’t say there has been a specific moment, but it really has been a lifelong learning process, and one that is still not complete.
FH: What motivated you to start Conscious Life & Style?
EJ: I first started my site, Conscious Life & Style, years ago to share conscious fashion brands I was learning about and help build a portfolio of sorts for a marketing internship that I was applying for at a fair trade fashion brand! When I was learning about sustainable fashion, I just had this urge to share everything I was learning with as many people as I could. I believed (and still obviously believe!) SO strongly in the importance of this movement, and I felt like these digital platforms — my site and Instagram — would be such a powerful way to bring more people into this movement and support those on their journey.
FH: How has your content evolved as the sustainability movement has gotten more attention and more complicated?
EJ: Oh wow, my content has evolved a TON. I notice this especially when I look back at old blog posts, and I’m sometimes almost embarrassed at what I said or believed at the time… it’s very humbling! In the beginning, I thought that sustainable fashion was basically swapping out fast fashion, unsustainable brands with ‘sustainable” or ‘eco’ or ‘ethical’ brands! But now I understand that it’s so much more. While supporting better brands is part of the conversation, it is not the sole way to push for a better industry — not at all! The problems in the fashion industry run SO deep. We need massive solutions. We need regulation. We need an overhaul of everything this system is built on. I now see that the fashion industry’s issues do not happen in a vacuum but are a consequence of centuries of colonialism and racism. They result from the quest for domination — and the willingness to exploit people, the land, and every other living thing to get there. It’s a symptom of the system we have now, where there are winners, and there are losers, where some countries, some people, and some companies profit at the expense of others.
FH: You recently wrote a post busting common sustainable fashion myths, some of which have been perpetuated by sustainability-focused social media accounts. How important is fact-checking in your process? What do you think can be done to improve the amount of science-backed statistics being shared on the internet and specifically on social media?
EJ: Fact-checking is something incredibly important to me, and whenever referencing a statistic, I try to look for the original source (or as original as can be found) and put that source in my Instagram graphics or blog posts. That said, facts are not always easy to find when it comes to the fashion industry. The truth is that we don’t have all of the facts and all of the answers right now. We do need more (objective, non-brand-funded!!!) research on the impact of fabrics, dyes, and certain processes on the environment. We do need more research on labor exploitation, wage issues, and so on. In no way does this mean that we need to wait until we have the facts to act. But, I do think that we need to be willing to evolve and grow and update our thinking and approach as we learn more and get more data. I will not say that everything I say will be 100% accurate 100% of the time. I will make mistakes. I am still on my journey of unlearning and learning. What I will promise, though, is that as I learn, I am committed to doing better. I am committed to changing my thinking as I learn more, and I am committed to admitting mistakes or acknowledging when I’ve maybe not thought everything through correctly or missed a certain perspective, and so on.
FH: How has doing research into/working with brands changed your view on production and consumption?
EJ: Working with brands has taught me how difficult it is for smaller brands to do everything sustainably and ethically!! Lack of funds and resources is a serious barrier. And this is why I recognize that no small brand will be able to be 100% perfect in an imperfect system. I don’t have much sympathy for billionaire brands, but certainly for small businesses that may just have 1 or 2 employees and are boot-strapping their brand. I am all about pushing for better (like genuinely doing better; not fast fashion brands just trying to get by with doing the bare minimum!) rather than perfection. I want to see that brands are committed to the journey, committed to evolving. I am committed as a content creator to growing and learning and doing better for my audience when it comes to educating on ethical fashion, and I want to see brands willing to do the same. Sustainability is not static. Sustainability is a journey, and we need to always be pushing for better until we have true equity and are truly living in a relationship with the earth.