Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Yana Gaevskaya. Yana is based in Belgium and the founder of Styling Studio by. She works with fashion brands, businesses and and professionals who are looking for sustainable styling. Yana also does public speaking engagements where she frequently speaks to retailers about the importance of personal style. Yana is incredibly talented and knowledgeable about style in general, and especially sustainable fashion. I spoke to her last week about her work, the industry and how to move forward from here:
On bringing sustainable fashion to a mass audience:
There is a constant debate within the sustainable fashion community about who is responsible for getting the general public on board with buying less and buying better. Yana made a point that it must be a combination, but retailers definitely have their work cut out for them.
'[...] even people who are interested in sustainability, I'm talking about individuals, they are open to knowing new brands etcetera, but the biggest issue there is they don't want to do research themselves, and the lack of time that is now in our lives means that they go to the same stores that they usually go to [...] they may be bored or they don't want to do this anymore but they don't have any alternatives yet. So I think the biggest solution is going to be when retailers don't see sustainability as kind of extra.'
Yana talked about how most retailers factor in overproduction but could be using all of that time, money and energy for sustainable production. Instead of continuing to overproduce retails could standardize the availability of sustainable basics.
'Something needs to change but I don't feel that retailers, big retailers, have this on the top of their agenda.'
Along with consumers and retailers there are 'people like us' Yana pointed about. People who are in between the two categories and are knowledgeable about sustainable fashion. We must to try to bridge the gap by revealing that sustainable fashion can be fun, sexy and stylish. When Yana works with individuals and businesses she makes sure style isn't sacrificed for sustainability. With individuals, she focuses on helping these professionals to define their personal style and then introduces concepts of how clothing is made. With retailers, she emphasizes that design has to come first. She encourages brands to design a basic collection and then challenge themselves to make it sustainably. But it's not easy, because the fashion industry is all about making money and, Yana explains, that many businesses already have production set up, as well as a lot of parties involved.
'It's a long process, but, it's on their agenda and five years ago it wasn't.'
On criticism of sustainability being 'trendy':
Recently there has been a lot of criticism sustainable fashion being trendy. Many people say it is simply another fad that the industry is trying to sell to us. However, is any exposure bad in this case?
'Even if there are brands that don't put sustainability first, like Reformation does, I think they are cases to learn from. If you look at it, not as a brand, but as a case. If a retailer or brand wants to make a move towards sustainability, they can change little things, like the way they communicate about it or the way that they apply it to make a great difference. I think that Reformation has a lot of things that we can learn from. The best thing they do is put sustainability into the context of pop-culture so they put it into a context which is recognizable to us and make simple, desirable designs and the rest of the operation is good to know but that's the idea.'
Who is the audience for your services?
'If we are talking about individuals using my services- they are, most of the time, professional women between 25 and 40 years old. And something has happened in their lives that's made them think differently. [...] Everything they currently wear doesn't feel like it represents them. Then they hear everything about sustainable fashion and they think, Okay I can have this new identity and it is possible to do it in a sustainable way, then why wouldn't I do that? I specialize in image creation and identity in a sustainable way. [...] they change, they never go back again. There's a transformation. [...] They come to me to learn and be able to apply it to their life.'
On public speaking engagements:
'I started doing this full time a year ago I began talking simply about the idea and what I was doing and I was just talking. But now I kind of make themes that I want to address, ones that I know people can relate to and will make the biggest impact. For example; if I want to talk about how to make your wardrobe more sustainable- I start by saying that you can't make it sustainable just by buying sustainable clothes. You make it sustainable by wearing it, reusing it and investing in your items. Personal style is a huge factor.'
When Yana speaks to retailers she underscores the importance of communicating and understanding customers. 'I mean the biggest collections are made by designers who never talk to the customers.' There are psychological aspects to fashion that many big retailers can forget but are incredibly important to customers. Instead of trying to manipulate individuals into buying clothing items it would benefit retailers to tap into what customers are truly yearning for.
Yana is an extremely busy individual and I greatly appreciate the time she took to speak with me! To read more about the services that Yana offers, her writing and story, check out her beautiful website Styling Studio by. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook as well!