An interview with sustainable fashion and lifestyle advocate, Besma Whayeb of Curiously Conscious
Through her popular sustainable fashion and lifestyle blog, Curiously Conscious, Besma Whayeb is guiding shoppers to find their own sense of style while being conscious of one’s impact on society and the environment. This inspirational influencer also founded Ethical Influencers, a community platform to connect and support fellow influencers and creatives who are doing good. Read our interview to find out her thoughts on the most pressing sustainability issue in fashion right now, how you can be a conscious consumer, and recommendations for brands that are successfully pairing beautiful style with great ethics!
What motivated you to start Curiously Conscious? Tell us more about your blog.
Curiously Conscious is my journal where I document kinder ways to live and dress. I started writing in 2014, after moving to Paris for a year as part of my degree. I went from buying oven pizzas to cooking fresh food, and continued to explore the importance of seasonal, local food, and its impact on people and the planet. I continued to explore that same mindfulness with my clothes, belongings, and the systems that I’m part of. My ethos today is to look for better things in life. That means better for the earth, better for others, and better for myself too.
What is sustainability to you?
I see sustainability as two parts – social and environmental. We have to pair caring for people – campaigning for social justice – alongside caring for the planet – supporting environmentalism.
As a leading sustainable fashion and conscious lifestyle advocate, what are the most pressing sustainability challenges in the fashion industry today, and how, in your opinion, could they be addressed?
The main challenge I’m looking into at the moment is that of circularity. I’ve just started a course with RSA and Ellen MacArthur Foundation to learn more about this. My issue is that circular systems are not yet normalised – we should expect to be able to return clothes to the places we buy them from, and see them recycled. The responsibility should be on retailers and manufacturers but at the moment, it’s mainly on charities.
What about today’s consumers? Do you feel with all the awareness that sustainability has been garnering as a theme, that that has impacted beliefs or behaviours? Vis-a-vis which categories do you see consumers having changed most?
I saw my readership double this year, and I believe it’s a combination of a growing willingness to be more sustainable, alongside additional time that many people had during lockdown to reassess their impact and the systems they’re part of. I think the main UK sustainability trend was anti-plastic over the last few years, and now it’s moving into sustainable fashion, with second-hand shopping rising in popularity.
With the rise of fast fashion, we’ve seen high-profile criticism surrounding the exploitation of workers for cheap or even forced labour within the operations and supply chains of several major retailers. Consumers are attracted to low-cost products, which may induce fast-fashion retailers to try to keep their production, specifically their labour costs, as low as possible. As consumers, what can our role be in tackling this problem?
I wrote a guide to fast fashion brands over the summer, and my main recommendations to anyone shopping with these brands were:
- Try shopping second-hand or vintage fashion
- Suss out your style – you’ll be happier with your fashion choices and wear your wardrobe more
- Reduce how much clothing you buy
- Address why you shop – often it’s because we’re sad, or happy, or somewhere in-between. But shopping isn’t a harmless activity.
Which brands would you say are doing well on sustainability, and what sets them apart from other competitors? What might they have done to engage consumers differently?
This is always a tough question because there are so many doing things RIGHT. I’m hoping to put a huge brand guide together soon… That said, I do love brands that can pair beautiful style with great ethics. A few that spring to mind: Cossac, GANNI, Nude Ethics, On Good Authority, Springkode, Yala Jewellery.
Do you think that sustainable brands are only accessible to a specific market segment from a price perspective? If so, how can we make them more mainstream?
It’s true that most sustainable brands are more expensive – it’s partly to do with the fact that to pay “premium” for their labour and materials – but the cost of mainstream clothes is a false economy. Often they’re lower quality, not designed to last, and you’ll be rebuying them more quickly. The best middle-ground in my opinion is to buy high-quality second-hand clothing.
Social media has offered a platform for influencers to shape the lifestyle choices of their followers. From your own experience, how are influencer marketing and social media leading the way in spreading the message on sustainability?
This year has definitely seen a boom in positive influencing online, and I hope that’s enabled more people to see that their voice and their platforms can inspire real change!