Humans Of IBCoM – Lena’s story

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“To me, fashion is a bit like food: putting on clothes is part of everyday life just like eating. Getting dressed is one of the first things everyone does in the morning. I really believe that fashion is not as superficial as most people think it is.”

Just in case you haven’t noticed yet, this month’s human of IBCoM has a huge passion for fashion and she is ready to share it with us all.

Lena comes from Germany and has been living in Rotterdam for almost 9 months now. Although she has been in contact with the Dutch culture all her life (living close to the border), her real Dutch experience started last year when she moved to Groningen to start her studies. “I really loved Groningen and I made many good friends there but because I missed the city life so much, I decided to move to Rotterdam and start a new course here.” When I asked if she is happy with her decision, Lena said: “Honestly, moving to Rotterdam was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I am completely in love with the city because it is so future oriented and because of the many good experiences it has offered me so far.” Lena also said that her life in Rotterdam was slowly put together thanks to random, unplanned meetings with people who she calls friends now. As for her passion for fashion, it has all started when she was around 15 years old and was just starting to discover all the amazing vintage stores. “Actually, my love for fashion is probably part of my general love for culture. I like anything that has to do with art like film or music and fashion is no exception of course.”

When I asked her about her preferences when it comes to buying new clothes, she said: “Like many of us I guess, I used to shop a lot at stores like H&M and Zara but I’ve always had a weakness for vintage shopping. I love finding pieces that are unique and special and not mass produced and I believe that having a unique style is not necessarily about having new and expensive clothes.” Another interesting fact about Lena’s garment preferences is that she totally supports and believes in sustainable fashion: “Not long ago I was standing in front of my closet in my room and suddenly I realised I have so many clothes, some pieces still with the price tag attached, things I’ve never even worn. It made me really think about our buying habits and how we don’t even care about the things we buy anymore.” Although she admits she’s not perfect herself, Lena said she tries to buy mainly sustainable or second-hand items, hoping for a change for the better in this sometimes very dirty industry of fashion. “I believe that at some point we won’t have any more resources to produce all these items and that many brands have to stop turning their backs on sustainability.” Lena believes that one way to try and revolutionize the fashion industry would be for countries to stick to a circular economy – use resources for as long as possible and then regenerate products at the end of each service life – as well as adopt a culture of sharing: “I really like the idea of sharing. For example, there is this library in Amsterdam where you can rent clothes without having to spend a fortune on something you would only wear once.”  

Apart from her environmentally conscious shopping habits, Lena is also part of the Fashion Revolution team: “Fashion Revolution is a non-profit organization which was founded following the collapse of a garment-factory in Rana Plaza in 2013, where almost 1,200 people died while producing clothing garments. The aim of the organization is to make brands question themselves and find out where and who is making their clothes in order to be more transparent.” One of Fashion Revolution’s campaigns that Lena contributed to – and which proved to be very successful –  was one where the organization asked brands about their feminist shirts and how they are empowering their female customers while at the same time exploiting females in third-world countries.

Impressed with Lena’s dedication towards sustainable fashion and willpower, I asked her whether she has some advice for people who care about the environment but don’t know how to start contributing to a revolutionized fashion industry. “Instead of shopping at fast fashion brands such as Zara and H&M try to look for second-hand shops, you would be surprised by the amount of unique (and high quality) items they provide. You can also try to buy more from small local brands – and make a real person very happy! It will take time of course and reaching guilt-free shopping habits is a whole process” added Lena” but be optimistic and proud that you are at least trying to make a change.”