Madara Freimane from What's Your Legacy
Madara was one of the first people I met when starting my journey towards a more sustainable lifestyle. I felt like I had a very lonely road ahead in my mission to try and make sustainable fashion more appealing and interesting, but as soon as i stumbled on What's Your Legacy I knew (just from her Instagram account) that I had found a kindred soul. Shortly after we started following each other on Instagram she messaged me that she wanted to film my 'Sustainable Wardrobe', before I knew it Madara and Aniko who at the time worked for WYL came to my house, we talked about ethical fashion and the whole thing was casually filmed. The same day I invited them to Sardinia where I was going on holiday and a month later they book tickets to come in summer. We started our platforms around the same time, we started vlogging together, she does all of it better than me so I thought it would only be fair if I gave you the chance to get to know the inner workings of her mind a little better! Hope you enjoy!
Tell us about yourself
I am the co-founder of What’s Your Legacy - an online platform looking at sustainable fashion and innovation. My background is in creative direction, videography and photography but as anyone who has or is trying to build something know you end up doing a bit of everything.
What made you start What’s Your Legacy?
Long story short, I was studying at London College of Fashion and through one of my projects I decided to explore fashion production. Of course, we all kind of know that the behind the scenes of how our clothes are made are not the, let’s say, nicest but when you really dig into that you can’t go back - at least I couldn’t. At the same time I was also getting very tired of fast fashion. I had this feeling that on the one hand everything was accessible but on the other it was missing something that made it special. So all that combined I decided to start shopping sustainably (whatever that meant). As most of us when searching for any kind of information I googled the two words ‘Sustainable Fashion’ and discovered things that I would not necessarily want to wear. However, once I commit to something there is no way back so I persisted and after a long research I started to find beautiful brands that did things better. So through that me and my friend Anna, whom I was complaining a lot to about the whole situation, decided to start What’s Your Legacy to introduce these brands to other people who might be interested in more conscious fashion but wouldn’t really want to sacrifice aesthetics for it.
What has been the biggest challenge since starting? And what tip would you give someone who wants to start their own business?
First thing is that no one knows what they are doing so you just have to start and you will figure things out on the way. It is about starting and moving forward instead of perfection - otherwise nothing will get done. Honestly, I struggle with wanting to make everything perfect myself so I am only learning to improve in that area as well.
In the beginning I would also suggest to say Yes to everything because in that way you will meet people and learn quickly what works and what doesn’t but at some point you have to start saying No and focus on your main goal. Whatever someone asks you you have to ask if that will lead you to your goal and I am learning to get better to saying No myself.
It is okay to not have a groundbreaking idea in the beginning, it might only come once you have worked in the area for a while and explored all the possibilities.
You have to take it seriously, whether if it is an instagram account that you create or a blog. No one else will take it seriously if you don’t.
And of course the cheesy thing - you have to be passionate about what you do because you have to work a lot and if you don’t love what you do you will quit and I feel that lots of things fail because people quit too early.
What do you see in WYL’s future?
Our main goal for now is to make shopping fashion sustainably easy. At the moment we are developing an easily searchable sustainable brand guide that gives you information about the ways brands are sustainable and directs you to shop their collections. So that is our main focus for now. However, we are very interested in how we can rethink fashion and build on such ideas as circular economy, sharing economy and how technology can allow us to solve the problems within the industry. It could be through such innovations as blockchain that could tackle the ethics side of supply chain or worldwide search engine where companies can sell their byproducts, dead stock or waste materials and other companies can buy them for a lower rate and in this way minimising the waste. Those are just few ideas but future will really show.
A bit of a broader question - What are the changes you think we will be able to see in the fashion industry in terms of sustainability?
As the resources are getting scarcer I think brands and companies will more intensively think on how to collect and reuse the already existing materials. I also think that the sharing economy will become a major player in fashion (the same way it happened in hotel/housing industry with Airbnb and in taxi/transportation industry with Uber, Lyft etc). I don’t think people will stop shopping but I think we will find much more sustainable ways to offer the choice but at the same time not be damaging to the environment while doing it. From the society perspective we can see how people are very interested in sustainability and be it greenwashing or not but brand are responding to this movement which is a great trend. I also think that the big retailers will be some of the major investors in the research in sustainable materials since they have budget for that and a need to find alternatives to stay in business in the long term.
Do you think a faster model of fashion and sustainability can coexist?
I think that thanks to the social media and internet smaller and independent brands will take increasingly larger proportion of market space. This is a trend that is already happening now with major retailers closing down their stores. But I also believe that so called fast fashion will find a way to become more sustainable and transparent. I don’t think that the prices will stay as low as what, for example, Primark offers but there for sure will be businesses that offer more trend driven and affordable garments. However, circularity, sharing economy or 3D printing might play a major role in how the ‘fast fashion’ will be achieved.
Activism seems to be very on trend at the moment with countless designers sending slogan T-shirts down the runway. How do we keep sustainable fashion from becoming a trend but rather ‘the new norm’?
I think lot of movements start as a trend but in order to make them long lasting we have to make it the easiest and convenient way to consume so when the buzz and excitement goes away it still makes sense and doesn’t take too much effort to do. I think that if you would ask around to people if sustainable consumption is a good idea they will for sure agree but they might struggle to figure out how to effectively incorporate sustainability with their busy everyday lives. So the HOW is what we industry need to figure out. We basically need to make sustainability convenient and most reasonable choice and then it will last beyond the trend.
What’s the biggest misconception about ethical fashion?
That it needs to look ‘Ethical’. Ethics and sustainability is about how the garment is made and not about the fashion and design side. I still see that a lot of people try to put sustainable/ethical fashion in a different category than mainstream fashion when it is actually is the same fashion just smarter and better done. If anything I would call it the future of fashion. Nevertheless, when I talk to people who have great sense of style and the conversation turns to sustainable/ethical fashion they somehow accept bad design more easily just because it is ethical. Ethical sustainable fashion doesn’t mean that it needs to be slogan t-shirt that is made of hemp or is in beige or green colour. I believe if we want to make ethical/sustainable fashion mainstream we have to be way more critical about the design and make sure that the garment is desirable for what it is and the ethics/sustainability comes as the 'by the way’ aspect.
Personally I think that what has made WYL so successful is your ability to make sustainable fashion visually appealing. What do you think are key messages / actions that will help rebrand ethical fashion?
couldn’t agree more - the aesthetics and also accessibility. For us the first stage when considering to feature a brand is not the sustainability but aesthetics. If the brand creates something people would love to wear then we proceed further and explore what do they do within the realm of sustainability and ethics. So one can’t exist without the other. But it is also the accessibility, if people want to buy something they want it now (or they will find a similar alternative) and I am surprised by the amount of brands that doesn’t sell online when that is the most convenient option for them to grow. Every time we can have someone buying sustainable garment over fast fashion it is a success so we need to make sustainable fashion easily accessible and for now it is through online shopping.
Who inspires you?
am a bit obsessed with Elon Musk and all my friends knows that. I think it is inspirational to see him creating successful businesses that are there to solve major world issues. You don’t have to be a charity or nonprofit to create a positive change in the world and I want more entrepreneurs to see that and build businesses that are successful and contribute to doing good at the same time. But honestly anyone who works towards improving the world and helping others inspires me and different people do it in different ways. Some of the other 'favourite people’ of mine are Gary Vaynerchuk, Malala Yousafzai, Bozoma Saint John, Sam Altman, Trevor Noah, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, Gandhi, Ai Weiwei, the guys from Yes Theory youtube channel. But honestly the list is long and currently I am trying to find more women that inspires me.
I am also obsessed with space and the idea that we are such a tiny part of it always straightens my perspective. Just watch The Farthest documentary about Voyager spaceship. Carl Sagan’s speech 'Pale Blue Dot' in the end of it gets me every time.
Last book you read and a book everyone should read (+ why)?
Last book I read was Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. It tells story of his experiences at Auschwitz concentration camp and his observation that no matter in what situation we are at we can chose what our attitude towards it will be. It is a book about sad events that in a way gives us hope for humanity.
But there are many amazing books out there - one that I suggest for a lot of people to read is Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
I love both Sapiens: A brief History of Humankind and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari.
Trevor Noah book Born a Crime was very funny and moving at the same time.
But you know so many amazing books out there that we should start a book club. :)
Favourite podcast (+ why)?
his one is a major thing. I have been obsessed with podcasts over the last year so here you go:
echStuff by How Stuff Works - I love learning about different new tech, science discoveries and stories about how brands evolve and this one is amazing for it. Also on Youtube channel Cold Fusion is amazing.
Masters of Scale by Reed Hoffman by Wait What - So Reed Hoffman is the co-founder of Linkedin and was part of the PayPal team so not only he can get the most amazing entrepreneurs on his podcast but he also have a very interesting behind the scenes insights.
The GaryVee Audio Experience by Gary Vaynerchuk - Gary Vaynerchuk has been a constant inspiration and source of knowledge for me in terms of entrepreneurship and social media. He always have some interesting perspective to learn from.
The Tim Ferriss Show by Tim Ferriss - Tim Ferriss has a great set of interviews with many amazing entrepreneurs and amazing people. I also recently read his book Tribe of Mentors where he gathered interviews with some of the most successful people in the world.
How I Built This with Guy Raz by NPR - origin stories of different companies.
Business of Fashion Podcast by The Business of Fashion - Business of Fashion is the only source of fashion press I really indulge in as they have such a fresh and forward thinking perspective on the current state and future of fashion.
We all get a creative block sometimes, what helps you get out of it?
Good question! I am one of those who need an inspiration to create something and when I am in the state of flow I can do anything but when I get one of those blocks I need to get out of my head. I would probably first go for a run/walk and clear my mind. I would meet with my friends that I can have exciting conversations with and they get me back in motion. I actually love when people ask me questions because it makes me creatively think about different problems and solutions and that energises me. I often feel like I have the answers in me but I just need someone to ask me the right question. Lastly, I would watch an interesting documentary/ youtube video or read a book that get my perspective back in line. And yes, meditation always helps!
What’s your everyday eco hack?
Don’t buy/take things that you don’t need. We all have that first urge to always take either that free postcard or buy that little cute thing you saw at the store even if we are not really sure what the use for it will be. I always try to think what will I do with it. I am a little bit of a minimalist in heart (or have turned into one over the years) but over-cluttered spaces don’t allow me to think so instead of just throwing things out I really think and sometimes overthink everything that comes into my life. Otherwise I am vegan and through that I am able to lower my eco footprint.
Being vegan is super easy for me as I am used to it but of course it might be more difficult to someone who is just exploring it.
What are your favourite ethical brands?
So many! Sunad, Reformation, RAFA, Faithfull, Kings of Indigo, Thoreau, Maison Cleo, Underprotection, Mara Hoffman.
What do you want your legacy to be?
I want my legacy be showing that you can create a successful business that does good in the world and hopefully inspire others to do that as well. I would especially love to inspire other women because if I can do it I think anyone can. :)