For a better planet: Interview with Rebekka
This post is also available in: Deutsch (German)
Rebekka Sommerhalder has started her own business two years ago and opened the Glore Store in Lucerne – the largest Fair Fashion Store in Switzerland. In the interview for the series “For A Better Planet” she reveals why her customers are particularly interesting for fast fashion suppliers, which are her favourite brands and why sustainable living is always associated with renunciation.
Rebecca, when did you start taking an interest in fair fashion?
I have always attached great importance to fundamental values such as charity, care and a sense of responsibility. I want to stand up for that, I want to stand up for it. About five years ago, I discussed more and more with my husband and good friends what this means for our life and consumption. We have found that it is particularly difficult to live by these basic values in fashion. Especially if you want to keep your own style.
Did you manage to buy only fair clothing after that?
No. At the time, of course, I looked at what was already available in Switzerland. But there were really only very small shops or stores that didn’t appeal to me in style. For the time being, I have bought far less than in the past and have probably chosen a sustainable alternative. But the really consequent change in my clothing consumption took several years. During a holiday in Germany I saw that the offer is much bigger there. That was very motivating! In Nuremberg I visited the first glore store. I immediately had a great contact and the employee told me that glore would like to open a shop in Switzerland. It came as if I wanted to reorient myself professionally anyway.
Where did you work before?
In a communications agency. But I wanted to get away from this business. With glore, a door opened for me and I ventured into self-employment. I had never worked with textiles before, so it was completely new territory for me. After all, I had a degree in business administration as a basis for the management.
The courage was worth it. You’ve been running the Glore Store in Lucerne for over two years now. How satisfied are you?
Very satisfied. And very confident. More and more people are becoming aware of the topic and of us. Of course, we also caught a good time. The audience that is interested in fair fashion is getting bigger and bigger. The media is increasingly reporting about the grievances in the textile industry. I observe that consumers are also more willing to really look at things better and look for sustainable alternatives.
The big fashion chains have now also jumped on this bandwagon and are promoting fair fashion. Do you know why this is?
There is an interesting clientele to conquer. These people want to know what is behind it, where and how it was produced. At the same time – and this is what the fast fashion chains are interested in – they are also prepared to spend more money on it.
Does it help you to have fast fashion providers offering sustainable fashion or is that counterproductive?
It has both sides. On the one hand, it is interesting to note that these suppliers themselves are basically pointing out that there is something wrong with their “normal” range. At least that makes some people think. On the other hand, it is deceptive, of course, because in most cases this “sustainable” offer is not very consistently sustainable. However, the situation makes it clear that a lot is happening in the textile industry. Basically, it would be desirable for the big ones to make some serious changes. They would have much more possibilities and could offer fair fashion for much less money.
Who could possibly make a difference?
If a big fashion house had a boardroom that really wanted to move, it could make a big difference. But I honestly don’t believe that. Not in the near future anyway. This means that we need pressure from consumers. The more people shop elsewhere, the sooner the big chains are in trouble. Of course, the alternative offer must also be available. The young stylish brands are therefore very much in motion. Fair fashion is becoming increasingly popular. A great deal has happened, especially in the last five years.
Speaking of labels: What are your favorite brands?
There are lots of them! Armedangels does a very important job. For many, this brand is still the entry into the world of fair fashion. They have a huge collection – for our circumstances. Personally I love wearing KOI (Kings Of Indigo). The cuts are rather long and fit me well. I also like Lovjoi and Jan’ n June. Jungle Folk from Zurich is also a great brand with wonderful fabrics. Of these brands, I have some favorite pieces. There are, of course, many more. I’m a fan of many labels, because I love the philosophy and the style – even if I don’t wear or can’t wear it myself. This includes, for example, Cus from Barcelona. The designer is also very likeable and authentic as a person. That’s where you really like selling clothes.
What criteria do labels have to meet in order for them to be sold at your store?
Ecological and social demands must be met – at all stages of production. Ecologically, for example, means that it must be organic cotton. If they are synthetic materials, it is only those that have been recycled. No toxic substances may be used in further processing. It is also concerned with closed water circuits and sewage treatment plants. And of course, energy consumption should be reduced to a minimum. I could go much further here, there are so many factors that have to be taken into account. The demands on social ethics are concerned with occupational safety, decent working hours, salaries that safeguard livelihoods, freedom of opinion and assembly and similar factors.
There are also fair labels that are not organic, for example. That’s not in your assortment, right?
Exactly. All requirements really must be met. The social demands and the ecological. There are some fair labels that work with conventional cotton, but we don’t have that. But that doesn’t make it any easier for the customer. How can I be sure that a label produces fairly and ecologically? This is indeed difficult for the end customer. That’s why it takes shops like glore. We do the work for you and we guarantee that there are only labels in the assortment which fulfil both aspects. I always choose my partners very carefully.
But that doesn’t make it any easier for the customer. How can I be sure that a label produces fairly and ecologically?
This is indeed difficult for the end customer. That’s why you need shops like Glore. We do the work for you and we guarantee that there are only labels in the assortment which fulfil both aspects. I always choose my partners very carefully.
Aren’t there any certifications?
No, not yet – i. e. none that covers all points. In addition, many smaller brands cannot or do not want to afford certification.
And how can you be sure that everything is going well?
I am always in contact with the different brands. Either by phone or e-mail. I know many of them personally. That is also very important to me. I can knock directly at the brands in case of ambiguities and then get the information I need quickly and competently. This is all very transparent. But honestly, you never have a 100% guarantee. It also happens that we sometimes have to part with a brand because it changes its business practices or because we discover a lack of it somewhere.
Now another question: Why is sustainable fashion still so difficult?
Is she that hard? The whole thing is simply still new and has to fight against prejudices. People think of ugly eco-clothes and overpriced prices. Which is no longer the case in general. In the near future, sustainable fashion will certainly not yet become mainstream. Money rules the world. And we’re selfish. Sustainable consumption also means doing something that I don’t profit from or do not directly benefit from – after all, it’s not really attractive.
How was this for yourself? Did you find it difficult to switch completely?
Of course it is. Such a decision draws circles into all aspects of life. It’s not just about fashion. This has a lot to do with renunciation – and that is not easy for me at least.
Do you have any tips for the readers out there?
Firstly, wear the things you already have carefully and take care of them properly so that they can be worn for as long as possible. Two: Build a meaningful wardrobe. Things that fit together and really match your personal style and life. Thirdly, with every part you buy, think about whether it fits into this wardrobe. Is the cut, the colour, the material, the size, the style? Is it good quality and ideally produced sustainably? Do I really enjoy it for a long time? By the way: If you think about this and avoid unnecessary and unsatisfactory purchases, you can easily spend a little more on a single part without overtaxing your wallet.
You don’t only sell vegan fashion. Would you still say that even as a vegan, you can get away with fair fashion?
Absolutely. There is no problem with the dresses and there are a lot of great accessories and bags in the meantime. It’s a little more difficult with the shoes. Especially in winter. Most vegan shoes are made of plastic, which does not work out ecologically. But vegan and sustainable fit together very well. For our vegan customers we label all products without animal ingredients with a sticker, so shopping is easy.