Each week at the Sustainable Shopper, Stylist talks to the people focused on creating a more conscious shopping space for all. This time, Audrey Migot-Adholla – founder of Yala Jewellery – talks to fashion editor Harriet Davey about how buying investment pieces is better than fast fashion.
Opting to be more sustainable is easier than you think. From recycling more, choosing refillable beauty products and repurposing your homeware to investing in eco-friendly brands, the level at which you choose to be more conscious is entirely up to you – but every little helps. To make it easier, the Sustainable Shopper is here to get insight from some of the people who are leading the way.
Kenyan-born, Bristol-based jewellery brand Yala Jewellery was founded by Audrey Migot-Adholla in 2017. Named after the village in Kenya where her grandmother lives, the brand focuses on creating as little impact on the planet as possible.
Audrey aims to be transparent with her brand, showing customers exactly who made their new forever jewels. Yala uses recycled metals and works with 150 local artisans in Kenya who are all fairly paid in safe and healthy work environments.
Here, we find out Audrey’s sustainable shopping hacks and how she gets people to care more about their purchases.
What is your earliest memory of sustainability?
Audrey: I remember seeing an article in a magazine about People Tree back in the early 2000s and up until that point, I’m ashamed to say, I had no idea that there was anything wrong with the way clothes were produced.
At that point I was curious and interested but my ‘awakening’ to the true horrors of the garment industry came after Rana Plaza happened. I stopped shopping on the high street after that – once you know, you can’t un-know.
Is there such a thing as truly sustainable fashion?
Are you kidding? No way! There’s no such thing as a 100% sustainable fashion brand. The most sustainable fashion is what’s already in your wardrobe. I’m not suggesting that no one should buy anything new ever again, but we can certainly be mindful of what we buy, who made it and how they were paid, as well as buying less often, mending more and buying better quality items so they last longer.
Investment pieces vs fast fashion: how do you get customers to care?
I think one of the biggest problems with manufacturing – particularly the fast fashion business model – is that so much of it happens very far away from the end consumer. So it’s ‘out of sight, out of mind’. The people who buy the products never have to face the consequences of their purchase – they don’t have to look the person in the eye who made it, or see the conditions they work in. By the time the item is on the shelf, branding and marketing can disguise the truth of where items come from.
I truly believe that if customers could see and understand that, they would care more. For that reason, I would definitely choose investment pieces but even then, I want maximum transparency from the brand about what it’s made from, where it was made and who made it.
What changes would you like to see happen in the fashion industry?
It’s actually the same change that I would like to see across all industries – the end of shareholder primacy. As long as companies continue to prioritise only the shareholders, they will always be looking for ways to maximise their profits.
The easiest way to maximise profit is to cut your costs. So they cut the costs of whatever they can – wages, materials, safe disposal of toxic waste etc. If the goal wasn’t profit for profit’s sake, they would have the option to make different choices that are better for the labour force, the environment and their customers.
Three sustainable shopping hacks
- Before you buy anything consider whether you really, really need it.
- Buy things that will last. Yes, they’re more expensive up front but you will treasure them for much longer
- Don’t beat yourself up. Even if we all became just 20% more mindful of what we buy, the net benefit would be incredible. But it’s unrealistic to expect everyone to change their habits and be perfect overnight. None of us are – be kind to yourself and others.
Sustainable Shopper edit by Audrey:
Yala Jewellery huggies
The perfect hoops to wear everyday to make you feel more put together. Each pair is handmade in Nairobi, Kenya by a team of local brass artisans.
House of Bilimoria dress
I love this brand because they use second hand, vintage and heirloom textiles to create all their pieces. They also have a ‘reincarnation’ program where you can send items back to them to be upcycled into other products.
Yala Jewellery bracelet
The signature Yala hammered texture makes these bangles unique. Each piece is handmade and is perfect for layering with other bracelets.
I discovered Afrocenchix at the end of 2019 and I’ve never looked back. A hair care brand owned by Black women – not as common as you would think – for Black women. Ethically sourced raw materials, no harsh chemicals and no animal testing.
Yala Tiwi earrings
These recycled brass earrings can be worn three ways thanks to the clever design – they’re an investment piece you’ll never tire of.
A brand close to my heart that shares Yala’s Kenyan heritage. Ethical, sustainable homeware and gifts from all over East Africa that are meticulously handcrafted using local and indigenous materials.
Our best-seller at Yala is the zero waste pendant made from remnants created during production of all the other jewellery pieces.
Tigs & Moo body butter
Tigs & Moo make the most incredible 100% vegan and organic skincare products. My current favourite is the organic whipped body butter which smells and feels heavenly.
Images: courtesy of Yala Jewellery