Livia van Heerde, a 22-year old Viennese ethical fashion influencer, with almost 20,000 Instagram followers, has created a buzz in the rising online sustainability community. Re:solve talked eco-conscious living in London with the rising social media star.
How did you switch to a sustainabile lifestyle?
I started to read about environmental issues around eight years ago and decided to stop contributing to the problem. I was especially interested in the environmental impact of the fashion industry, which is one of the biggest polluters in the world. Three years ago, I started posting about ethical and sustainable fashion on Instagram and my blog followed a year after. I did this to share what I had learnt with others who wanted to stop contributing to environmental degradation through their lifestyle choices.
Was it difficult to become more sustainable in your daily life?
I struggled to find sustainable fashion that matched my style. I was looking for very specific things like crop tops and bodycon dresses that people my age like. I feel like there is still that market gap because, generally speaking, 25 to 35 year olds are more interested in buying sustainable fashion. But I think this is changing more and more.
It took a lot of online research, but in the past three years I have found countless stunning fashion labels that are also environmentally-conscious. They are using organic and biodegradable fabrics and non-toxic dyes, and other innovative materials like apple leather and plastic-free packaging. Fashion brands interpret sustainability very broadly, so some have more environmentally-friendly practices than others. I think it’s all great as long as brands are not greenwashing their image as more sustainable than it actually is.
What are the biggest misconceptions about being fashionable while sustainable?
That sustainable fashion looks very “hippie” or doesn’t look like contemporary styles. But there are lots of brands following current fashion trends. I like Armed Angels, because it is affordable and great for basics. I always buy their menswear for my boyfriend. JAN ‘N JUNE and Ekyog have great quality, work-appropriate and young styles. Reformation is my go-to for trendy pieces, and Underprotection makes the most beautiful sustainable loungewear and underwear. I also support Vildnis, because it is a small business that focuses on transparency and slow fashion.
In which city is it easier to be sustainable – Vienna or London?
It is a bit easier to live more sustainably in Vienna, or in Austria in general, since there are lots of organic and plastic free products available in every big supermarket and drugstore. From my experience, Germany is very similar to Austria when it comes to accessible sustainable alternatives.
What inspires you?
I have great respect for Livia Firth. She is a sustainable fashion advocate who produced “The True Cost” (a documentary exposing unsustainable and unethical fast fashion practices – author’s note). Most people that are new to the ethical fashion community have been inspired by it.
Also, bloggers and influencers like Lauren Singer and Kristen Leotsakou (aka Kristen Leo) are great examples of how bloggers and social media influencers don’t have to be bad role models that just try to sell you new products. Lauren has helped popularise the “zero waste” lifestyle and Kristen has inspired a lot of people to be more conscious of their impact on the environment. They are giving real advice on how to be more sustainable.
What does a sustainable night-out look like for you?
When I go to a friend’s place for drinks, I always bring glass bottles instead of plastic. Many places are big on single-use plastic and can get very wasteful, but there are little things you can do. Ideally, I try to order drinks without a straw. As the last resort, paper straws are better than plastic. I think that a sustainable lifestyle is a journey, not a destination and I am still far from perfect.
What are some sustainability tips for living in big cities like London?
Use public transport or cycle as much as possible. Choose bars, cafés and restaurants that use reusable cups and cutlery rather than single-use ones, as London is big on single-use plastics. Additionally, buy the unpackaged fruit and vegetables rather than the pre-packed ones. You can also get everything second-hand, from clothing to furniture, and it’s often cheaper anyway.
Livia’s TOP 5 sustainable products:
Stojo Collapsible Pocket cup (“It’s life-changing!”)
Bright Zine Ethical Lifestyle reusable cutlery kit
Hydrophil bamboo toothbrush (“They are using biobased bristles and have a great variety.”)
Glass/metal reusable straws
Shampoo bars by Alverde or Lamazuna
Photographs: Livia’s personal archive