We had a chat with Emily Evans who started up sustainable fashion brand Zola Amour in 2016. Covering her views on the issue of ‘greenwashing’, her must-watch environmental documentaries and the reasons behind why she started her brand, this interview gives a real behind the scenes insight into the mind of an inspirational new gen designer!
RC: You talk about how your trip to China opened your eyes to the effects of mass production and consumerism. Do you think a lot of people are shielded from the realities of their fast-fashion habits here in the West, and is this preventing real action from taking place?
E: Absolutely. I think more could be done in terms of the press making people more aware of the true background of fashion. You pick up a top in H&M, you simply take it to the counter and you buy it; but you have no idea how much pollution that top has produced along the way. Going to China for work was a bit of a wake up call… when I landed in Hong Kong I thought it was foggy but quickly realised that was actually clouds of pollution. I’ll never forget pulling up to a factory and seeing the river next to it being completely polluted and the surrounding area being piled high with rejects and textile offcuts – which I imagine go into landfill sites. That was just one tiny area of China! God knows what else is going on!
RC: There’s been a lot of controversy lately about ‘greenwashing’. Do you think it is positive that large brands such as H&M are marketing themselves as thinking sustainably, or are they just capitalising on a gap in the market?
E: I think it’s a gimmick. My gut instinct is that they’ve hopped on the bandwagon after realising that a lot of young people care about the environment. Unfortunately they have the authority and the money to advertise as ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘sustainable’. What I think is important is certification. Say that they claim it’s organic cotton – unless its GOTS-certified cotton then actually the farming process isn’t really governed.
I heard Primark are introducing an organic cotton range, which just doesn’t make any sense. It’s not logical. I know how much it costs to buy organic cotton and it’s just not feasible for it to be that cheap! Sadly people will lap it up, thinking they’re buying something that’s consciously made. If they don’t do any research they may feel like they’re doing a good thing but actually they’re not. It’s definitely important to do some research before buying into it. It’s terribly sad because it also makes brands like mine look really expensive but actually that’s just the price that it is!
RC: As we are in Brighton, a city heavily populated with students; what would you say to those that think sustainable fashion is a ‘middle class’ phenomenon – that it is only available to those who can afford it. Is this just a defeatist attitude, and are there other ways around it?
E: I know what it’s like to have no money and the thing is it’s not a case of things being cheaper, it’s about thinking about what you buy and when you buy it. So instead of buying a top for 10 quid every month, buy a really good top for 40 quid that lasts 10 months. Give a bit of thought to whether it’s going to last and the materials used to make it. I think if you care enough you can do it. It’s all about re-establishing how people approach shopping. It’s not about making things cheaper because that’s impossible, it’s just about reassessing your approach to shopping and saving for things you really want! It’s going to take years but we’re heading in the right direction.
RC: Are there any books, documentaries or films that you would recommend, on the subject of sustainability and the environment?
E: I would recommend The True Cost movie. It’s a really amazing introduction, summarising everything from the environment to the slave trade. It is a heavy watch, it broke my heart. I’ve watched it 3 times now and every time I’ve not been able to not cry – but it’s true, honest, and well documented. I’m also in the middle of reading ‘A Slave to Fashion’ at the moment, which is more about the ethical side of fashion.
RC: Do you think it’s important that celebrities get more publicly involved in the fight for sustainability? i.e. Emma Watson, Pharell, Lily Cole. Do you have any favourites?
E: You named both of them! I love what Emma is doing, she is an inspiration to young women – she’s our age, she really cares, she isn’t being endorsed or anything… and Lily Cole is just a phenomenon. Her approach to life, her opinions, everything. I think it will be a catalyst of time, the more people learn about sustainable fashion the more they’ll be able to speak about it. I think it’s really the younger generation who are starting to take note.
RC: I’m intrigued, where did the name ‘Zola Amour’ come from?
E: Zola amour translates as ‘Earth love’.
RC: What is the aim of your brand?
E: I try to make sure the design is considered so I’m always considering longevity; whether the user is going to be able to use it for years and whether it’s going to date. Once the actual design is done the focus is on making it natural and certified. I want my brand to be a cycle: the garment to be worn for years, then once done with, composted and sent back to its roots. Also everything in the collection can be worn together- sort of like a ready made capsule wardrobe.
RC: Did you take inspiration from any other brands or designers in particular?
E: Yeah I looked at Zadie – a US brand who have created a ‘new standard’. They’re looking into natural and organic materials, focus on longevity and they are inspiring for me because they’ve actually made a success of it. They’re an amazing brand and I recommend looking them up! They also make everything in the US, keeping their carbon footprint down.
RC: What materials do you use and what makes them sustainable?
I use GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) organic cotton. The GOTS standard means that it is 99.9% organic, and no pesticides or herbicides have been used. It also means that during the dying process no harmful chemicals have been used. I use bamboo for my shirts and my t shirts – however I did recently learn that bamboo viscose can be bad. Luckily, I checked my bamboo and it’s oeko-tex certified, meaning no harmful chemicals are used. I chose the bamboo because it uses very little water to grow.
RC: What can we expect from your blog on the Zola Amour website?
E: I’m going to start focusing on certification; showing people how to check things are what they say they are. I’m also going to do tutorials, like t-shirt making tutorials. I might also start reviewing things like books as I want to help people to learn more about sustainable fashion.
RC: Why do you think Brighton is such a green city? Where does it come from do you think?
E: Brighton is really magical for sustainable fashion and sustainability in general. I think it’s the influence of all the young people. People are so free here and are able to do what they want as compared to places like London. Yeah, I think the student population helps sustainability become the norm. Also obviously the fact that we have Caroline Lucas as our MP really emphasises how green it is!
Zola Amour produces chic, sustainable and ethically made clothes and this brand is the one to watch if you’re looking for the perfect capsule wardrobe!
Have anymore questions for Emily? Comment below or tweet us @revival_collect. For more behind the scenes at Zola Amour follow Emily on instagram at @zolaamouruk