A talk with Janice Sommer🌱👠
a model, podcast host, sustainability activist and sustainable business growth strategist. Janice is half German and half Singaporean, and graduated with an MA in International Relations and Economics from the University of St Andrews. She is passionate about finding smart solutions to help make the world of fashion more sustainable. In order to explore these topics, is the founder and host of the podcast and blog "In Conscious Conversation" (https://www.inconsciousconversation.com/) , which features interviews with the founders of fashion brands that are truly sustainable, transparent across their entire supply chain, and make a real social impact.
Janice is particularly excited about community-led entrepreneurship and innovation, and enabling sustainability-focused entrepreneurs and founders to learn from each other and tell their stories.
She is also one of the leaders of the London branch of Model Mafia, a group of models working to create a more just, equitable and sustainable fashion industry and world.
On the side, she cares deeply about supporting career changers to follow their dreams, having herself fully switched her own career from a corporate life in finance, to working creatively as a model, podcaster, and in the start up business development.
I had the joy of interviewing Janice and getting to know a little more about her and sustainability in the fashion industry today,
from the point of view of a model/activist.
What inspired you to start speaking out about conscious fashion?
I modeled for the H&M Conscious Collection once, and before the shoot they gave a presentation on the H&M’s sustainability policies, investments and innovations.
It was really interesting, but I was surprised to learn that they could classify an item as “conscious” even if the materials or production process was only 50% sustainable.
That really surprised me and I started asking questions.
Also, joining the “Model Mafia” (@modelactivist on IG),
an international group of 300+ fashion models working together to make the world and the fashion industry a more just, equitable, and sustainable place)
really inspired me. I helped launch the group’s presence in Europe, and I really enjoy the fact that there is a lot of open conversation about sustainability and also about the “bad sides” of modeling.
It is a space where models can talk freely and a lot of great girls are part of it.
Through this group, I learned about the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh in 2013, where over 1000 garment workers were killed. This really made me realize how bad things were, and motivated me to start reading and learning more.
What are your goals with the content you put out in your podcast and your socials?
Firstly, I want to be a resource for people who are really into fashion come to, to learn and to discover new sustainable brands and start-ups.
For the broader audience, I just want to be part of the conversation. I want my content to be a place where people can learn about new innovations, entrepreneurship, and the changes that are going on in the industry.
How do you combine modeling for unsustainable brands with your values?
I don’t like it at all! But I personally think that I am not in a position to turn down a job. Or else I couldn’t pay for food…or rent.
But that while I can’t reject jobs based on the brand’s ethical practices,
it still means that I have a choice on which brands to celebrate in my social media. I will often try to highlight brands on my socials that I approve of, or where I know that they aren’t outright “unsustainable”.
I try to use social media as a way to influence positively.
At jobs, I try to open up the conversation.
I sometimes go up to clients if they are present at a shoot and ask them questions about their production methods, their products and their values.
I try to be curious and non-confrontational.
My thoughts are that I may not be able to stop the train that I am on, but I might run into the train-driver on the way, and have a dialogue that could get him to slow down the train or go into a different direction.
What are eco-friendly things you do in your everyday life?
I never ever leave the house without a rolled up, reusable bag in my handbag to avoid needing a plastic bag.
I use “Ecosia” (https://www.ecosia.org/ ) as a search engine and it’s really great!
I also try my best to make my things last.
I have that from my mother. We were raised with values that avoided overconsumption and were taught to treasure vintage items rather than always wanting the newest thing.
My mother always made sure to fix things that are broken first, she has always taken good care of clothes to make everything last, and I do the same.
What are a few eco-friendly things that absolutely everybody should do in your opinion?
Don’t use plastic bags ever! And if you happen to, make sure to reuse them.
Make sure to refuse straws at restaurants and cafes.
Another thing for people who fly a lot is getting these sustainable baggies where you put your liquid items in at the airport instead of the plastic ziploc bags.
I recommend my friend Olivia’s brand https://www.safarbag.com/ .
Apart from sustainability in the fashion industry, are you aiming to get involved or interested in other areas in the eco-world?
I am interested in every area.
But I want to stay focused on the fashion industry.
I want to be a place where people find sustainable alternatives in fashion, where they find recommendations and information also from the business owners themselves.
Do you see a shift in the fashion industry? Is there more pressure and ambition among brands to become more sustainable?
Yes, there is definitely a movement which has actually accelerated due to Covid. Brands will not fly a whole team and a model to a sunny beach in the middle of winter anymore.
They will try to stay more local at the moment.
People are definitely starting to think more differently, so there is a growing demand from the consumer to pressure brands to become more sustainable.
Of course, a lot of it really depends on the brands, but there is definitely a positive momentum towards sustainability that will become more pronounced.
Especially the younger generation is much more aware because they have grown up with it.
Nowadays, thrifting and shopping “vintage” is cool.
A lot of people shop secondhand on Depop (https://www.depop.com/ )
or Vinted (https://www.vinted.de/) .
It has become appealing to shop that way.
It is also the power of the consumer to put pressure on the industry.
If brands see that people don’t buy their things anymore they will change what they produce.
And after all I also think that we need 100.000 of people doing these things imperfectly instead of 100 people doing them perfectly.
Thank you so much Janice! It was great talking to you!
Make sure to check out Janice's instagram: @janice_sommer and her podcast,
In Conscious Conversation: https://anchor.fm/janice-sommer
Thank you for reading💚
See ya next blog👋🏼