Jo Boon catches up with Ulla Vitting, founder of VILDNIS, after our London Fashion Week event. Ulla speaks passionately about how we can all help the environment and make simple changes to build a more sustainable wardrobe. In this interview she tells us who has inspired her own journey and offers us five top tips to protect our planet.
Where did the name Vildnis come through?
The name VILDNIS means wilderness in Danish and alludes to the word ‘wildness’. It reflects both our connection with nature and our untamed never-too-polished style.
The logo is a triple V inside a circle. It symbolises our holistic approach and triple bottom line e.g. how we measure our success on both people, planet and profit instead of just profit like traditional businesses do.
What was the inspiration behind the brand?
Having worked in the industry for many years as a womenswear Buyer and Head of Product respectively, I have visited a lot of factories and been involved in the creation of many collections. While I have thoroughly loved those aspects of my job, there have been times where I felt disheartened knowing that I worked in an industry where poor working conditions were a frequently occurring thing and pollution the norm.
I started pushing for change years ago, but often heard the argument that ‘our customers are not interested in sustainable fashion so there is no need for us to change our practises’.
It made me think how we can get customers to demand sustainable fashion, and I used my final thesis at the Exec MBA study to interview women between 20-35 years about their sustainable fashion buying habits – or rather why they weren’t buying ethical and eco-friendly fashion. The conclusion; most consumers want products that are better to people, animals and the planet as long as they don’t have to compromise on style/image.
And the reason they aren’t all demanding ethical and eco-friendly products from their favourite brands is because they perceive sustainable fashion as something that is boring, beige, hemp and hippie. The majority of them are unaware that sustainable fashion can look exactly the same as anything you can find on the high street – and it doesn’t have to cost the earth (metaphorically and literally).
The findings resonated well with my own experience. I had set myself a goal to wear sustainable fashion only, but found nothing that remotely resembled the brands I loved such as Z&V, The Kooples and AllSaints.
I started VILDNIS to give the consumers more choice and to show that fashion can be kind and seriously stylish at the same time.
Who else do you admire in the sustainable fashion industry?
There are quite a few people that I admire within the industry but three of them stand out.
The first one is Saphia Minney, the Founder of People Tree and Pozu, and a true pioneer who has put sustainable fashion on the map. I see her as ‘the voice of the industry’ and is grateful for her having paved the way for other sustainable fashion brands like ours.
The second one is Tamsin Lejeune, the Founder of Ethical Fashion Forum and Common Objective, who I had the pleasure of meeting at Label’s Future Fashion event @Sketch about a month ago. Tamsin has helped grow the sustainable fashion industry through offering a place where brands and suppliers can connect, and where you can find valuable information. I found this incredibly helpful when we were setting up the business and looking for contacts within the industry.
The third one is Yvon Chouinard, the Founder of Patagonia. Although Patagonia is an outdoor brand and not a sustainable fashion brand as such, it is a leader when it comes to using environmentally friendly materials and methods, and I love their authenticity and genuine passion for protecting the planet.
What can we be doing, both as individuals and as society, to better protect our planet?
There are so many things we can do as individuals to better protect the planet and it can sometimes seem overwhelming, which is why I think a lot of people end up doing nothing.
I believe the following five things will have a big impact and can easily be implemented in our daily lives :
1) Choose fashion that is made from the most environmentally friendly fibres: Tencel, organic cotton, organic linen, recycled polyester and all other things recycled to save natural resources and significantly reduce pollution.
2) Wash your synthetics in a Gubbyfriend washbag to prevent micro plastic waste in the seas.
3) Say no to single-use plastic whenever possible including plastic bottles, plastic bags, single-use coffee cups and straws.
4) Cut down on your meat-intake. Livestock is one of the biggest causes of global warming.
5) Recycle as much as possible. Re-using materials is much more environmentally friendly than producing them from scratch.
As a society, we can stand together and demand that our politicians start taking the environmental challenges we are facing seriously, including introducing more regulations in the fashion industry.
What do you most want people to know about Vildnis?
I want them to know that all of our products are produced with respect for both people, animals and the planet – without compromising on style!
Where do you see the brand going in the future?
I would like to see VILDNIS grow organically into a brand that is an inspiration to both consumers and other brands. A brand that is driving change in the fashion industry, making ethical and eco-friendly fashion the norm.