Lord knows Justin Bieber needs to do some community service, rope him in
Rachel Kibbe dressed in Dolores Haze
Rachel Kibbe is the founder of Helpsy, an online store for ethical fashion where every item is marked with 4 or more of 13 ethical qualities. She’s also a writer, and she caught Make it last’s eye when writing about ethical brands’ failure in reaching the millennials – the ones most receptive to social change. So we asked her – why does she think that is?
Why is it that millennials are an ethical brand blindspot?
– The ethical and sustainable fashion ideas were started by people who were not part of that generation (Vivienne Westwood, Katherine Hamnett). Now that it’s a full blown movement, I think we’ve continued to speak to that more mature audience because we thought those were the only ones listening.
I’m 33 and consider the HELPSY customer to be ageless. But it’s the much younger people I’m especially interested in speaking to because they are the most receptive to social change and carry the torch for future generations. I think I’m one of the few doing so, at least in such a directly ethical fashion context. Not to toot my own horn, but perhaps no one has had the combination of loud voice, connection to millennials and understanding of their aesthetic, as well as how to communicate with them until HELPSY came about in March 2013. After all, HELPSY started as just a personal blog, which is tres Millennial. It’s a radical idea that the world is ready for… But that’s why I’m pointing out this blind spot, so other’s can work with us to follow suit.
Who would you like to see in the next H&M Conscious Collection campaign?
– Grimes! I feel like she’d really dig the cause and her fashion sensibility is standout. I don’t see many really rad/progressive/fashionable young celebrities talking about ethical fashion, but we should reach out to them and get them on board. Shoot lord knows Justin Bieber needs to do some community service, rope him in. Whoever. I’m sort of kidding but seriously we just need young people with a LARGE platform to spread the word. The messenger isn’t all that important, but the size of their audience is.
The speedy process of making on-trend clothes is often something that customers of high street fashion appreciate. How important is speed in fashion, now and in the future?
– I think we’re addicted to speed now but ethical fashion, which is also known as Slow Fashion, is more and more on the table. When people start to understand what that means, I think speed will become less important because ideas surrounding consumption will change. The speed is not only damaging to our environment and work forces, but it’s really sucking the creative juices out of designers and burning them out. They’re crashing and perhaps even dying from it (Alexander McQueen). This is finally being talked about in a real way.
How are you hoping to expand Helpsy in the future?
– We’ve already got our own knitwear line coming out in collaboration with Hortensia Handmade and we’d like to collaborate with as many great brands and names as possible to get the word out and teach people what Ethical Fashion means. Part of Helpsy’s mission is education. That’s why we’ve broken down ethical fashion in the the 13 HELPSY qualities on our site, and have every item fall under “4 or more”. This is part of making ethical fashion not just a nebulous word, but something concrete and easier to pin point, because it’s a really complicated subject. It’s those brands that have the biggest voices that have the largest audiences that will LISTEN and I’d love to tap into that base.
What part of your business would you wish for more actors of the fashion industry to adapt?
– Transparency. Every item on our site has a story and just as much as the beauty of the garment is important, so is how it’s made. So our product descriptions concentrate equally on both aspects. I wish every clothing company did this. “Imported” is not a good enough product detail. That’s is a potentially dangerous word.
Who’s your unsung hero within sustainable fashion?
– Katharine Hamnett – she’s one of the people who started it all and talked about ethical business issues before it was cool to talk about them. And that’s cool.
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