Environment activist and slow fashion advocate Venetia La Manna describes herself as a ‘recovering hypocrite’, as someone who had a disordered relationship with food and wellbeing in her teens and only came to the world of holistic wellness and sustainability in her mid-twenties. Now she’s on a mission to make us live more eco-friendly lives and consume less, particularly when it comes to fashion. Here she shares her top tips for going green at home, supporting sustainable brands and making the most of the clothes you already have.
It’s important to remember that every day is Earth Day. In honour of the 50th anniversary I’ve profiled 10 young climate activists who are doing incredible work for social and climate justice on my Instagram account, and I’m releasing a special video at 6pm that I made with the help of my community. But I do really want to flag that this isn’t just a one-off day.
Both the climate crisis and the Coronavirus pandemic are issues of social injustice. Neither of these crises are ‘equalisers’ – they both affect marginalised communities worst. So today and every day, I’m continuing to unpack my various layers of privilege and striving to show solidarity to the people who need it most. I want to fight for a better system that supports the earth, but also the people living on it.
The lockdown is a great time to assess your current practices at home and see where you can improve. I’d start by looking at your energy provider and switching to a green one, like Bulb. When it comes to food, try to make everything from scratch whenever possible and make sure to compost any food waste you might have.
It’s so important to support local businesses during this time. Our local farmers’ market is still open, which is such a blessing, so that’s where I get our fresh produce and I use food box delivery services such as Riverford Organic and Oddbox. I’m a big fan of the fantastic zero-waste grocery store Liberté Chérie on Portobello Road in Notting Hill. I’ve also been supporting Made In Hackney, an incredible charity who are providing nutritious, plant-based meals for those in need.
My number one piece of advice when it comes to clothes is to make the most of what you already have. Having a wardrobe organise is a great thing to do at the moment – if you know what’s in your wardrobe you’re more likely to wear more of your wonderful clothes. You’ll most likely discover things you haven’t seen in months, which is always exciting. Make things easier by separating your summer and winter wardrobes and putting away the clothes you won’t need for six months. It’ll feel like a new wardrobe when you get them out again. A great way to show respect to the people who made our clothes is to value them, hang them up and fold them properly, and mend them when they break.
Looking after your clothes is key. Always read the label when it comes to washing and wash at no more than 30 degrees on a short cycle, air-drying whenever you can. I love hand washing my delicates as I find it super relaxing and there are hundreds of YouTube tutorials on up-cycling and darning. I’d also recommend following Lydia Morrow on Instagram – she’s self-taught and makes the most beautiful clothing.
I’m passionate about slow fashion because it’s a social justice issue as well as a planetary one. The industry is taking precious resources from and harming our earth. Fast fashion brands like Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing aren’t looking after the people making their clothes. These workers don’t have the support or the rights that they need and if the current crisis has showed us anything, it’s that we are all connected, so we all need to feel supported.
I want the fashion industry as a whole to stop exploiting the people who make our clothes – that is my hope for the future of sustainable fashion. I want brands who break this practice to be held accountable. I want us all to be in international solidarity with the entire supply chain and I want transparency, inclusivity and circularity to be standard practice.
If there’s one positive to take from the current situation, it’s that it’s shown us how connected we all are. The climate crisis and Covid-19 are issues of social justice and we cannot support a system that only protects the privileged few. We need radical system change and a Green New Deal. If you’d like to learn more, I’d highly recommend this webinar from The Rising Majority with Angela Davis and Naomi Klein – it’s a great place to start and is really encouraging and uplifting.
Venetia’s top slow fashion picks
Since I learned about fast fashion, I don’t shop on the high street anymore. Instead, I scour eBay and DePop for vintage gems – I’m always on the lookout for floral print Laura Ashley dresses from the ‘70s and ‘80s. I also run a Facebook Group called Slow Fashion Exchange, where members discuss sustainable fashion hotspots.
If you need an outfit for a specific occasion that you’ll only wear once, try a fashion rental website – I really like Hurr.
In terms of brands, I love Lucy and Yak, who make great affordable casual wear, for their inclusivity and transparency, and 11.11 clothing for its use of indigenous cotton and heritage techniques. They produce small-batch slow-made clothing in collaboration with groups of artisans located all across India. Veja are my go-to for trainers, Girlfriend Collective for active wear and Riley for loungewear
Venetia’s eco beauty and wellness routine
I always start my day with the same beauty and wellness routine. I wake up at 6am, have a freezing cold shower and then meditate for 20 minutes. I make sure to exercise daily, whether that’s yoga or a walk or run.
For my morning beauty routine, I start by using the Cleansing Face Balm by Upcircle, a brand I love because they use things that would otherwise go to waste like coffee grounds and apricot kernels in their products. The balm is a gentle exfoliant, which I remove with a hot muslin cloth; I find the process really relaxing and therapeutic. Then I use the Liquid Radiance Glycolic Toner from Evolve – this artisan, organic, small-batch brand made in Hertfordshire is another of my favourites – and then follow up with their Hyaluronic Serum and Facial Oil to hydrate and moisturise. I finish off with a natural sunscreen – I like Mineral Sunblock SPF 50+ from Amazinc, which comes in compostable packaging.
Venetia’s recommended books
Why Women Will Save The Planet, by Friends Of The Earth – Because educating and empowering girls around the world is fundamental for the planet’s wellbeing.
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, by Renni Eddo Lodge – This unpacks how white supremacy and colonialism still impacts life on earth today.
More Plants Less Waste, by Max La Manna – Incredible plant based recipes and tips on how to make the most of what you have.
Venetia’s lockdown go-tos
What I’m reading: Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror and Kiley Reid’s Such A Fun Age.
What I’m watching: Unorthodox on Netflix.
What I’m listening to: Jessie Ware’s Table Manners podcast.
What I’m eating: Right now my husband [the vegan chef Max La Manna] and I have been making lots of comforting food, like porridge, pancakes, stews and curries. And for lunch we make vegan tuna sandwiches and salads – you can find the recipe in my Instagram stories highlights. Max has also been making incredible no-waste recipes like carrot stem pesto pasta, as well as growing his own lettuces and spring onions. When it comes to food, I always refer to my favourite quote by Michael Pollan: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”