Last spring, I was interviewed by Anna for Sunt Boende—a Swedish magazine that writes about sustainable lifestyle. Since I love talking about decorating my home, and sustainable lifestyle, I thought I’d share the interview here with you guys!
She is the stylist who tired of trends. Be inspired by Emma Elwin—a creative sustainability pro and founder of the alternative fashion project Make it last. Her philosophy: a climate-smart lifestyle without pointing fingers.
After an intensive career start, working as an assistant to fashion profile Elin Kling and later assisting at ELLE—the world’s largest fashion magazine—Emma Elwin was promoted to fashion editor at the same magazine in 2012. By then, however, she had this growing feeling of being unfaithful. Her passion for style and design had not cooled off, but with the new title, there where these conflicting expectations: to represent the latest trends and to be promoting an industry that encourages rapid consumption.
“I wasn’t true to myself in that role, or in selling clothes that people don’t need”, says Emma.
To convey a fair picture of Emma Elwin, it should be emphasized that she is talking about the fashion industry critically, but not in a judgmental tone. Even though the prestigious job made her feel misplaced, she is a full-blooded optimist who gets adrenaline kicks out of problem solving. Instead of going into conflict with the industry, she decided she would try to change it. As she quit her job at ELLE, the Make it last project took off.
Emma Elwin and Lisa Corneliusson where joined together in the sense that they both needed to find a new perspective in order to be able to continue working in the fashion industry. Make it last was the answer to that—a project Emma describes as “a dream world of its own”. It’s a digital platform with blogs, articles and photos that discuss sustainability within fashion, beauty and lifestyle.
– At Make it last, we’re generous with the definition of a “sustainable model”. For us, it includes everything from high quality, timeless designs and recycled materials to second hand and swapping clothes with friends. The important thing is that we inspire smarter choices.
She emphasizes that the road to a more sustainable lifestyle is not about throwing out everything in your home and abruptly changing ones routines. It’s about engaging in small, prestigeless steps—like buying a pair of organic socks, or turning the water off in the shower while shampooing your hair. For Emma, the first step was to stop buying clothes that just lay around in the closet. Now, her sustainable lifestyle reflects on home, food and—since her son Dylan was born—even children’s consumption.
– You can’t change habitual behaviors overnight. It’s important to start with small changes and realize that your life will not end because of it. If the first step you take is joyful, you’ll be more open to bigger changes later on.
The goal is to let Make it last grow, and to hire more committed people who want to make a difference. The big vision is to be a serious alternative to the established fashion press. It’s a perspective plan with great potential given the feedback the company has received since it was launched three years ago. Unlike many other Internet sites where people try to break standards, there’s an openhearted and generous vibe between readers, producers and critics, sais Emma.
“We have built a network of freelancers based on women who we admire and enjoy working with. Make it last is a world of fashion in which we work actively to give each other a bigger game plan. For us, that includes making space to female photographers, stylists and illustrators”, she says and adds: “In the circle we work in, everyone knows it’s never a bad thing if someone else is doing well. This means that there’s no elbowing going on; instead we inspire each other”.
Inspiration is definitely important to someone whose profession is simply to inspire. Emma finds inspiration not only in other creative women, but also in people who have succeeded in building something out of nothing.
“Looking at an old plank from the woods gives me more ideas than any interior story from a millionaire’s house ever could. I love having something in my knee that isn’t perfect, and to create something from it in my own way”.
Emma begins to tell me about the many ideas within all conceivable areas she has been thinking about lately: from new lighting for dark country roads, to features for washing machines. She interrupts herself when her son Dylan starts chewing on her headphones and the conversation turns to sustainability for children.
“In fact, I don’t think it’s hard. There’s a great second hand market now, but also many good material options for newly produced things. We haven’t always had plastic—it’s a modern invention”.
When Emma and her family moved from an apartment to a house last year, there was more room for a sustainable lifestyle and the interest in healthy living grew. They challenged themselves by not allowing anything newly manufactured into the house, which is why all furniture is purchased on Blocket or on auction sites.
“It’s exciting to see what people are tired of and want to get rid of—you never know what you’ll find—and it’s cheaper too. But sometimes a compromise is needed: we bought a new mattress, for example, but chose one made from coconut fiber and organic cotton”.
Emma Elwin doesn’t make anyone feel insufficient because they’re not as thoughtful about sustainability as she is, but she does raise a question: Why not try harder? Growing your own food in the garden suddenly doesn’t sound so strange (only there’s the lack of both garden and green fingers). And if development goes in the direction Emma wishes, a sustainable lifestyle won’t be just “inspirational” in the future, but the standard for all. We can create a better future for both the planet and ourselves, without having a boring time on the road there.
Text by: Anna Thanner (Translated to english for Make it last)
Photo: Christian Gustavsson
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