...On Changework is a series of interviews where we ask smart and interesting people to reflect on their experience of trying to change things for the better. This week: Eva Geraldine Fontanelli.
Eva Geraldine Fontanelli has spent much of her adult life whizzing between runways, magazine covers and endless racks of haute culture. As a fashion insider, she is conscious of the power the industry wields and has decided to turn it into a force for good. Eva set up the platform Goooders and works with influential brands and organisations to change the narrative on sustainable lifestyles, from Ralph Lauren and Prada, to Audi and the UN. She's been featured in fashion staples like Vanity Fair, Elle and Vogue. Now, Eva talks to Something More Near about her point of view on the complex and controversial topic of sustainability, fashion, and whether the two can ever really meet.
What is your particular area of focus right now?
Fashion is my background, my DNA, my everything. For 15 years, I was totally in love with fashion, moving from one fashion capital to the next. I started my career as the intern in The Devil Wears Prada, I didn’t give up, I became an editor and when at the top of the game, I woke up one morning and decided I’d had enough, the word fashion sounded suddenly so old fashioned, there was something missing, a purpose. I did not want to hear the word “fashion” any more. But I realised that, as dysfunctional as fashion is, it cannot be avoided. So now I focus on fashion as a powerful tool for change. I’m trying to create communication that brings a sustainable approach to fashion and lifestyle to positively impact people’s lives and the environment.
What is the change you’re most proud of being a part of and why?
I’m most proud of disrupting an industry from the inside. Fashion is exclusive, disconnected from the real world, and set in its way so I knew I had to still be a part of the industry to make the change.
I was called a hypocrite for driving the sustainability agenda while still attending fashion shows. People are incredibly judgmental. You get 80% right and they’ll focus on the 20% that you get wrong. At Goooders, we have a step-by-step philosophy and believe that a million people trying to be sustainable (in a less than perfect way) is better than 100 people who are 100% sustainable. We need to stop making people feel guilty for what they've been doing. It is the industry’s responsibility to provide the tools and the choices.
We make sustainability achievable so that it can become part of the everyday. The vintage concept is great but unrealistic. You can’t stop consumerism nor the supply chain that supports the disadvantaged communities who depend on that consumerism.
I’ve experienced how important it is to lead by example. People tend to get inspired by someone trying to do better, through ways they can understand and replicate. My silver lining over the last year has been the opportunity to film a series on the road, “The Goood Tour” with an electric car brand.
After this experience, the first goal for Goooders has become to lead our community into a more sustainable lifestyle thanks to Goood experiences.
What advice would you give to others trying to change things?
Being an entrepreneur and disruptor can be very painful sometimes, “like chewing glass and staring into the abyss” as Elon Musk would say. My advice would be to know yourself and take care of yourself, because you start from doing good to yourself. Take the time in this chaotic, messy environment to pause and find your inspiration. It shouldn’t be a duty to be a better person, it should be something that excites you. It’s not a sacrifice, it’s something you are doing for yourself first.
Is there someone you particularly admire who is working to change things for the better?
I feel inspired by all women leaders, sometimes for very different reasons. AOC gave me the courage to be brave, starting from a place of negativity and injustice and refusing to give up. I also admire Lauren Singer, founder of Trash is For Tossers, as an environmental activist who didn’t loose her style or sense of high aesthetic.
Is there a particular reference (a book, a poem, a person, etc) that you find particularly helpful in your work?
In our consumer driven environment, our choices as individuals are very important so I’m interested in the power of the mind and personal energy - I’m always referencing The Power of Now (even though it’s 20 years old!) and I constantly draw inspiration from Buddhism, yoga meditation and my studies in quantum physics. Recognising our interconnectedness has helped me to develop a more conscious approach to business, which I believe is the future. I started to keep a gratitude journal, as part of a project with Vogue Italia, which helped me immensely in lockdown. Gratitude is my biggest power, it can change everything.
Thinking about your area of practice over the next decade, what must we learn to leave behind? And what should we pay more attention to?
We have systemic issues in fashion. It doesn’t help to fight what is not working, instead we need to inspire people - from consumer to CEO - to find an alternative. If you’re really passionate you’ll touch people’s hearts and the money and business will follow. It's a lot of work and it’s going to be hard, so let’s make it fun.