In a world where fashion is often associated with excess and environmental impact, Janice Sommer, German-Singaporean model and activist, is leading the battle for a more sustainable and socially conscious industry along with the group "Model Mafia”.
During the interview, Janice opens up about her sources of inspiration, the challenges she has faced, and her vision for the future of sustainable fashion, emphasizing the pivotal role of activism in driving the transformation of the fashion industry.
Hi Janice, can you tell us about yourself and the work you do as a writer and model activist?
I have had a lot of different careers, I could even say I had many different lives! Currently, I work as a writer, content strategist and communications advisor for brands and venture capital funds with a social or environmental mission. At the same time, I work as a model, and am a co-founder of the London hub of “Model Mafia”, a group of 250+ fashion models using our voices (especially on social media) to advocate for a more equitable, fair and sustainable industry and world.
What inspired you to become an activist in the fashion industry and advocate for sustainability and social impact?
I always wanted to somehow make a difference in the world, but until I discovered what I do now, I never really knew how. I only discovered my real passion for sustainability work after entering the fashion industry and becoming one of the leaders of Model Activist. We work not only in sustainable fashion but also advocate for models rights and labour laws and contractual transparency for freelancers in the fashion industry.
When I was cast as part of a major brand's "conscious collection" campaign, in the briefing during the fitting, their sustainability manager explained that if only 50% of items are sustainably produced, they are legally allowed to call it sustainable. This was how I learned about greenwashing, and was the starting point of my sustainability journey.
What do you see as the biggest sustainability challenges facing the fashion industry today?
Greenwashing and a lack of transparency. Also, long and hypercomplex global supply chains that make it hard to clearly track Scope 2 and 3 environmental impacts.
How can consumers make informed choices when it comes to sustainable fashion?
Transparency and mindful decision-making is the key, so it would be helpful if more brands communicated more clearly about what they are doing in terms of environmental actions, and explained more about their supply chains, sourcing and materials so that consumers can make more informed choices.
What are some effective ways to raise awareness about the social and environmental impacts of the fashion industry?
The most important thing engaging in constant conversations on these topics, while meeting people where they are. I truly believe that beauty and beautiful imagery are a great way to open doors and attract interest, which then can be transitioned into sharing educational content. It’s also important to keep an open mind and not be overbearing or condescending within these conversations. At the same time, we need top-down governmental regulation plus a positive mindset, as well as consumer activism with a sense of urgency.
What do you see as the future of sustainable fashion and what role do you think activism will play in shaping it?
I think activism will play a huge role but it’s all about the tone of voice. Of course, we need people to take the extreme ends of the conversation (activists like Greta Thunberg, Extinction Rebellion or even Just Stop Oil, for example), but these can be off-putting for the vast majority of people.
But now let's talk a little about you. On your social media, you stated that you are going through a period of exciting but very challenging changes. Can you tell us more? What are your next plans?
I’ve just moved back to Germany after over 10 years in the UK and around the world. At the same time, I’ve shifted my focus from modeling towards my writing and sustainability advocacy work, choosing clients (both in writing and modeling) where my values are aligned with the companies I work for. I’ve found this shift incredibly empowering and I am now happier and feel stronger than I have in years. It’s also wonderful to be closer to my family and to feel like I’m coming to a place where I’m more settled after many years of a somewhat transitory and nomadic lifestyle.
How would you describe your style? And how do you match your glasses to your everyday wardrobe?
I would say my style is classic with a twist! I love timeless times, vintage shopping and heritage pieces inherited from my mother, grandmother and even friends. I’m a huge fan of sharing wardrobes amongst friends, and I believe that the key to a more sustainable wardrobe is investing in quality and not trends, choosing carefully and mindfully, and repairing broken things. With my glasses, I like versatile options that can match any outfit, and TBD’s styles really make it possible! In fact, it’s almost difficult to choose from so many great options.
You immediately fell in love with our Juta Eco Havana | Orange model! What did you like about this pair of Sustainable sunglasses?
I loved the Juta Eco Havana with Orange Lenses because they’re exactly this - classic with a modern touch. Not only that but they are actually made from sustainable materials. TBD Eyewear is one of those rare companies that actually truly invests in both communications transparency (not greenwashing) and in innovative materials, from the glasses frame and lenses all the way to the packaging.
It’s the perfect match for me - and I’m honored and thankful to have been asked to speak to you today, thank you very much.