Interview: Roberta London
Fur farms in the U.S. are the only sector of animal agriculture unregulated by the federal government.
Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world, surpassed only by petroleum. In the current global context, where communities and people are being exploited at the expense of fashion trends, the topic feels even more pressingly poignant to discuss.
Ocean Generation had the pleasure of speaking with eco-warrior Roberta Rocha, founder of 1-year-old Roberta London – a sustainable luxury fashion brand producing some of the finest coats, jackets, vests and scarves in eco-fur. By not harming animals or the environment at the expense of fashion, Roberta is part of a fashion community that is instilling purpose in her brand before trends or money. This shift in ideology when starting her business is recreating perspectives globally on how we consume fashion and she hopes to achieve a more sustainable future for herself and generations to come.
More than 50 million animals are violently killed for use in fashion every year. Methods used to kill animals for their fur include gassing, electrocution, and neck breaking. Fur-bearing animals are also caught and killed in barbaric body-gripping traps.
Beyond the animal welfare, fast fashion is one of the main culprits of the urgent environmental crises. Planetary changes like ocean pollution, sinking islands, drought, flooding, extreme weather conditions and depleting resources are making supply chains physically and economically unsustainable. But, sustainability is a word regularly used in the fashion industry, but often lacks clarity for brands and consumers. It is a complex issue that needs to be communicated simply and with better guidelines for suppliers and manufacturers that guarantee responsible sourcing of materials and labour.
Roberta London has partnered with an eco-fur manufacturer that is also sourced by the likes of Louis Vuitton and Gucci. Roberta started her brand before some of the bigger brands announced they would stop using fur in its fashion collections, starting in 2018. The fur industry can only be sustained as long as designers continue to use fur, but big brands going fur-free does have a huge ripple effect throughout the fashion world and is changing the desires of what its consumers want. A valuable tip Roberta gave us was how to spot the difference between fake and real fur. Some brands have been found to be selling items made from rabbit, mink and fox fur and mislabelled as faux despite having no fur policies. This is just one example of various bullshit green-washing practices by bigger brands that we as consumers need to be aware of dirty fashion practices.
For us it was important to be totally transparent and talk about the % of polyester and acrylic used in eco-fur, as these materials widely used across the fashion industry do contain micro-plastics, very harmful to our oceans. Roberta talked us through both her own and the wider fashion industries investigations into alternatives, and as she fairly quotes “It is not about living perfectly, it is about choosing your priorities”. This non-radical approach tells us about our moment in history and our current dominant ideologies.
Roberta thinks there is this mentality about ownership, us belonging to something and something belonging to us. That something might be an item of clothing, as the world consumes 400% more clothing that it did two decades ago. This sense of entitlement of “we have to have the latest trend to fit in”, highlights our disregard for nature because most of time as consumers we are influenced by what is on a billboard, not what is happening on the planet. The brand has been a very personal journey for Roberta, as her identity shines through the purpose of her brand. Growing up in Brazil, Roberta said that she feels many Brazilians care more about the environment because resources like electricity, clean water and clean up of waste are not such a luxury like in the UK or USA.
When asked about educating future generations, Roberta says she hopes to travel the world with her son as he grows up and show him different landscapes, love for animals and appreciation of the environment. Roberta knows that we cannot dictate to our children what is right or wrong, especially after previous generations are the ones that have left the damage. Instead her values intend to guide her son into becoming clean and conscious. As Roberta rightly said “We all have the responsibility and everyone must contribute to save the planet for future generations coming”.
When talking about the direction of the fast-fashion industry Roberta also pointed out that in the future hopefully eco-friendly options will become the norm and therefore buying eco will not be expensive. This will only happen once the big brands really stand by their conscious values, this will push prices down. Currently most of the ethical fashion brands are between small start-ups and medium size enterprises.
Clothing is our identity and what we wear tells the world a little about our personality. Roberta London’s eco-fur coats and accessories are injecting some colour and vitality into our lives without harming animals or the planet.
Roberta’s new spring collection will be released in April and her coat range is expanding this coming winter. Stay up to date with future pop-up shop announcements on Instagram @r_o_b_e_r_t_a_l_o_n_d_o_n or online.
Check out other sustainable fashion projects, resources and brands here;
The Ellen Macarthur Foundation has released a report, A New textiles Economy: Redesigning Fashion’s Future, outlining a vision based on the principles of a circular economy – to design out negative impacts of the fashion industry.
Stella McCartney are challenging and pushing the boundaries to make luxurious products in a way that is fit for the world we live in today and the future.
Dame Vivienne Westwood is holding back on her business expansion to reconcile her fashion empire with her strong ecological beliefs and concerns about mass production.
Throughout February 2018, Vetements Official and Harrods are shining a light on corporate overproduction featuring window display installations with stockpiles of clothes donated by Harrods’ employees and a Parisian Charity. They invite all customers this month to donate their own garments the proceeds of which go to NSPCC.