Plastic Free July with Angela Fink & Mireia Llusia-Lindh

July: a time for picnics, BBQs and trips to the beach, also marks Plastic Free July, a global movement that helps everyone be part of the solution to plastic pollution. This Plastic Free July, we aim to raise awareness and funds with the EARTH tote: 100% of the profits are donated to No More Plastic Foundation to fight plastic pollution and end the cycle of single-use plastics to protect the planet.

DeMellier’s founder Mireia Llusia-Lindh and creative director Angela Fink who co-designed the EARTH tote discuss what sustainability means to them and how fashion can spark a force of positive influence for the environment.

Angela Fink - Creative Director

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When did you first start thinking about the environmental impact of fashion? Was there a catalyst?

During my travels, I was initially struck by just how much plastic trash was littered around the most beautiful places. I realized there was no place on earth untouched by trash and pollution, not even these incredibly remote and venerated destinations. All that distance and perspective allowed me to hold a mirror up to what was going on at home - how I was contributing to plastic pollution in my everyday life and how I could change my habits for the better.

What was your inspiration behind the EARTH tote?
The EARTH tote is supposed to reflect the majesty of our planet and making a renewed commitment to it. In working closely with DeMellier, I found that I could put that commitment into practice by designing a bag that can be paired with multiple looks across every season, the perfect staple. It's simple, timeless look doesn’t go out of style just because the trends change, and in that way, its versatility makes it the antithesis of fast fashion and excess waste. It’s design doesn’t just carry a message of the earth, but a promise to it, as well.
What does sustainability mean for you?
Sustainability is having a brutally honest conversation with yourself about what you’re bringing home with you and what you’re putting back into the world - food, beauty products, clothing; it all adds up and all has an impact. It’s about asking yourself, will this new jacket clothe me, keep me warm, bring me joy for years to come or will I grow tired of the style before next season? Do I need to buy supermarket vegetables wrapped in plastic or could I just as easily buy local produce at the farmers market and take them home in my reusable bag? Is this product, this action, this thing worth the impact it will have on our planet? And harder still, how can I begin to give up the things that aren’t?

The sea is an extension of us. Why would we do anything to destroy that? And just as we’re mindful of what we put into our bodies, we can and should share the same regard for how we treat the ocean.

Did you have fun on this project? What did you love most?
Absolutely, it was an amazing experience from start to finish - the collaborative nature of the design process, the stunning landscapes we visited while shooting the campaign, and even the inspiration that came from seeing friends and others style the bag in their own creative ways. It was a truly rewarding project to be a part of.
What is your relation with the ocean and pollution?
The ocean embodies life - the way it ebbs and flows, the ecosystems contained within it, the energy and power of its currents that we can only begin to understand. The sea is an extension of us. Why would we do anything to destroy that? And just as we’re mindful of what we put into our bodies, we can and should share the same regard for how we treat the ocean.
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Will you only collaborate with sustainable brands from now on?
I’ll continue to support brands that I believe in and that share my values. That often looks like sustainable companies and projects but it can come in many different forms and carry lots of different messages - women-owned companies, Black business owners, or even just brands that create one-of-a-kind timeless pieces that will last.
Can you tell us more about being a fashion activist?
For me, it’s about being aware of exactly what it is I’m supporting, endorsing, and putting out into the world when I partner with a company or share a product on my social media. It’s being radically honest with yourself about our industry - the real impacts of our industry - and deciding to make the tough choice, but ultimately the right choice. I do everything I can to stay up to date on the positive changes I can make and kindly share those with my audience.
Do you think that your Instagram account is a more powerful platform to voice your opinions and have a positive influence towards change?
I think that if I inspire even a few people, even one single person, to think critically about what they purchase and consume, then I’ll be happy about that. And if my actions and stories can influence a lot of people then that’s all the better, but I’ve never been one to tell my followers what to do. I believe in openly sharing how I live my life and how I navigate the future. If others are inspired to make the same changes I have, I’ll be glad we’re on the same journey.

Mireia Llusia-Lindh - DeMellier's founder

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How did the 7 Women, 7 Causes project and the collaboration with Angela Fink come about?

As someone who was fortunate to have a safe and loving upbringing and receive an education, I feel an obligation to help those who are less fortunate and this is something that is ingrained into DeMellier’s DNA through our permanent charity initiative A Bag, A Life. I’m always thinking of ways we can do more and try to be a force of positive influence, so I thought about getting together with 6 other great creative minds and joining forces to raise awareness and funds for 7 amazing causes. I wanted to do it with 6 inspiring women who I knew and who shared our values, and it has been such a pleasure to collaborate with Angela who is a dear friend on this project.

All of us can inspire change, weather we are at the forefront of companies, in the arts world, in the classroom... I think everyone has a voice and is important to use it to be a force of positive change.

Do you feel that the current economic climate will help or hinder the sustainability movement?

I think it goes both ways, it’s always tough when we are in a hard economic environment to have governments, companies and people investing to undo the mistakes from the past, but sustainability is not just about investing to make the changes needed (e.g. buying an electric car, putting solar panels in our homes etc). It’s also about how much we consume; with economic hardships, everyone tends to think more carefully about what they buy, buying less and buying better. I think regardless of the economic climate, we don’t have a lot of time left before some of the impact becomes irreversible. So all of us collectively, we need to continue working towards greater sustainability despite the adverse economic conditions.

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In this new uncertain world, what role do you think fashion needs to play?
I think it’s critical that all of us in fashion, like other industries, try to become as sustainable as we can by using more sustainable materials (at DeMellier for example, we only use 100% cotton lining for our bags and not polyester or other plastic derived fibers), by working with suppliers who have the highest sustainability standards like our leather tanneries which have been awarded the Gold standard by the European Leather Group and by creating products that last and can be repaired. I am confident the younger generations are conscious of this more than ever and I hope that fast fashion will one day become a thing of the past.
When you started DeMellier, how did you plan on incorporating sustainability into the DNA of the brand?
I always wanted to do things differently with DeMellier, as I saw how many compromises were made in the industry. I wanted to make sure we did things with integrity, that means offering a product that is not only reasonably priced, made with artisans that are paid and treated fairly, but also that the product would be of very high quality and as sustainable as possible. This is an area we are constantly working on as things evolve quickly and we could always do more, for example, we are always looking at the new sustainable materials appearing in the market, more sustainable finishes, better packaging options etc.
What is your relation with the ocean and pollution?
I was horrified when I found out a couple of years ago about the trillions of tons of plastic that end up in our oceans every year and also the huge pollution of microplastics coming from plastic derived fibers used in clothes. So I try to fight against plastic pollution both professionally through initiatives like the Earth tote and personally, being against polyester and plastic derived fibers as well as trying to avoid buying any clothing that contains them.
What are your ambitions for the future of DeMellier? What is your vision for the next 10 years?
To reach more women around the world with our products and our vision, and always keeping our values.
DeMellier bags are worn by celebrities across the world. Who were you most excited about seeing with your creations?
We have been very fortunate to have amazing women wearing our bags, from members of the British Royal family, to Beyonce, Emily Blunt and Jessica Alba. Though I feel equally honored every time I see a woman down the street with one of our bags, very honored that they have chosen us to be their loyal companion.
Do you think that as a Designer you can inspire change?
Most definitely, all of us can inspire change, whether we are at the forefront of a company, in the art world, in the classroom... I think everyone has a voice and it’s important to use it to be a force of positive change.
What inspires you the most? In your life? In nature?
My children, and the joy of the small things, a ray of sun on the face, a homemade croissant, a beautiful beach…
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100% of the profits donated to No More Plastic Foundation