For the series Good Folk on this blog I have sent interview questions to some really wonderful people who are either making things, running shops, or generally promoting sustainability. I think you will enjoy reading their answers as much as I have, and I hope they inspire us all with the knowledge that there are people doing good in the world!
This interview is with Noor from Project Cece, a fair fashion search engine based in Amsterdam and featuring over 400 brands.
Tell me about yourself and the work that you do.
I'm one of the founders of Project Cece, a search engine for ethical fashion. We collect the fashion of over a hundred ethical webshops (in the UK, international it's more than 300) on one website so that you can easily find products that match your style, budget, and values. We also research all the brands on our website and give insightful information on why they are ethical.
How or why did you get started?
I started Project Cece together with the sisters Marcella and Melissa Wijngaarden (yes, they are sisters) when we were still students. Marcella and I were housemates and study mates at the time, and we always tried to find ways to live more sustainably. Buying sustainable clothing was of course a part of this, but finding sustainable clothing was still quite a challenge. Especially Marcella was very frustrated with this, since she knew that there were actually many sustainable fashion webshops, but the number of products they had, was all quite small, and she had to visit more than 10 webshops before finding what she was looking for. One day she came home and told me: 'Having to visit all these webshops and researching all the brands is just way too much work, but if we can combine all these small webshops on one website, it would solve the problem for me... I can do that, so I think I'm going to.' Melissa and I were immediately enthusiastic and we decided to found Project Cece - Project Conscious Clothing.
[ Birdsong ]
What is your favourite thing about the work that you do?
I think reading all the heart-warming stories of the brands we carry. Clothing suddenly becomes so much more than just the product itself, it becomes a story with all the lives it touched along the way.
How has working sustainably impacted your non-business life?
I always thought I was already living quite sustainably, but when you work on and research sustainability topics every day you do learn a lot about the things you can still do. So I do think working on Project Cece has made me more aware of the impact you can make and has made me live more sustainable.
[ People Tree ]
What are you most proud of?
When I look at how many visitors we have these days and when I feel that we really helped people find ethical fashion. Sometimes we get an email from a visitor just to tell us that they are so happy that they found our site, that really gives me the best feeling ever!
What are your plans for the future?
The first next thing on our agenda is to make our website available to the rest of Europe. We are now in the Netherlands (where we are based), Germany and the UK.
Can you recommend any other makers or businesses that work in an ethical or sustainable way?
Haha so many! That's what our whole business is about, promoting brands and stores that only sell ethical products.
[ Baukjen ]
Have you got a particular cause or issue that you would like to raise awareness of?
We are of course most focused on the fashion industry and the problems that the fashion industry gives to people, planet and animals. The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world, and also exploits so many people. Less than 1% of the clothing is made fair trade, 80% of clothing is made by women, and on average only 0,6% of the product price ends up in the hands of the makers. This is something we absolutely need to change. The fashion industry is polluting on so many fronts: So many pesticides and insecticides are used, water is wasted and polluted, CO2 is emitted because of all the transport, and we create an enormous amount of waste because we throw so much clothing away again.
What is the most challenging thing about the work that you do?
We are a bit in a space where we want to sell our products, but we also want to raise awareness that people shouldn't buy too much. This is sometimes hard to balance. It is also challenging to deal with all the greenwashing of big fast-fashion brands. It is always annoying when a brand brags with that they made the "first sustainable sneaker" while we have beautiful brands that already make sustainable sneakers that are also fair trade.
Take me on an imaginary tour of your workspace.
Well, because of COVID we are all working from home... So welcome to my kitchen table, where I work from my laptop all day. Project Cece is completely online so we were quite prepared to work from home. Melissa lives a block away, so if we need to discuss something in person we take a walk together.
[ TO BE FRANK ]
Do you have a motto or quote that defines your practice?
Project Cece, Making Fair Fashion Choices Easy!
Do you have any advice for people trying to shop or live more ethically?
Yes, I think you should always stay critical, but not be too hard on yourself. Making an immediate switch to a completely ethical lifestyle might seem impossible, but if you take it one step at the time you can take it quite far. Start with the things you feel most passionate about, and build from there. For instance, you can start with only buying ethical underwear, eating vegan/vegetarian one day a week, and saying no to straws. Especially if you do it together with someone it is easy to move to a more sustainable lifestyle.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I wake up, walk my dog, eat breakfast, open my laptop, answer many emails, add new shops, write a blog, do research, and manage the website. Days really vary with what we have for plans, right now we are mostly focused on the holidays, so we try to make gift guides and promote products that work well as gifts.
What’s your favourite thing to do with your free time and why?
I adopted a dog just before COVID broke out in the Netherlands, and I really enjoy going for walks with her, even though she is a bit of a rascal.
I also love to read and to do a bit of crafts like making stamps, or toys for my dog (although my skills are very limited).
[ The Nordic Leaves ]
What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
Enjoy your summer holidays while you still have them! Haha I miss them, but I always used to work in summer...
What would be the top thing that you would change about the way we treat the planet if you could?
I think global warming is the biggest threat at the moment, so I think CO2 and CH4 emissions.