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Julia Roitfeld: My Sustainable Life – ‘I only buy clothes I know I will wear for years’

The Independent’s My Sustainable Life is a Q&A series in which famous faces reveal their personal approach to the climate crisis

Julia Roitfeld was catapulted into the fashion industry as a teenager – an unsurprising fate for the daughter of  legendary model and former editor of Vogue Paris Carine Roitfeld.

Now, the 40-year-old designer and lifestyle blogger, who just created a line of sustainable dresses for Hervé Leger, explains why she’s holding out for a solar-powered phone, how always carrying a tote bag around lowers her carbon footprint, and why just she can’t let go of her daily coffee run.

The most sustainable decision I made in the past year was…

I have considerably cut meat from my diet, as well as dairy. My boyfriend is pescatarian, so it made it easy for me to cut down on meat.

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There are so many “fake meat” vegan options around now, too, such as Beyond Burger. I’m not saying we should all cut meat out completely; I will still indulge in a burger or steak once in a while.

However, if everyone in the US reduced their consumption of beef, pork, and poultry by even by a little, we’d save so much in terms of greenhouse gas emissions per year. Every little change helps considerably.

My least sustainable guilty habit is… 

Buying coffee to go. I love a coffee run. Especially these days; it’s my little daily escape and treat.

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To make it a more sustainable trip, I have my takeout coffee mug, but unfortunately I don’t always have it with me. And with the pandemic, many places are a bit weird about filling up your cup to go, which is a bit silly.

If I ruled the world, I would make it more sustainable by…

Make Amazon create a zero-waste system where old boxes are taken back and re -used over and over again. Same for takeout.

When I want to feel in touch with the natural world I…

When I lived in New York, I tried to get out of the city as much as possible, either by going upstate, or to the Hamptons, even just for a day. I feel like nothing resets your mind better than fresh air, a hike, or a walk by the ocean.

One of the best trips was going whale watching in Maine. It was a childhood dream and I am so happy I made time for it. On a daily basis, I loved running around Central Park and watching it change through the seasons.

Now that I live in London, I was really hoping to be able to go often to Ireland where my boyfriend is from. Nature there is breathtaking. Unfortunately, with the lockdown, nature escapes are quit limited at the moment. So we make the most of what is here.

Sometimes even a walk by the Thames helps, or a bike ride by the canal, or a long walk in Hampstead Heath. All of it helps me reconnect a bit.

If I could invent one thing that would make my life more sustainable it would be…

Technology that does not need to be recharged. Or solar-powered phone and computer devices. That would save time and a lot of energy.

Helmut Lang. He is my “less is more” fashion icon since forever. He lead the minimalist trends that defined the 1990s and his work was really more about essentialism. 

I read in an interview that he has not bought any new clothes since over a decade and I find it so inspiring. I like to think I am quite similar. I very rarely buy new pieces unless I know I will wear them for years.

I usually stick to black minimalist pieces, that will never go out of style. I feel I have had my own “uniform” for the last decade. I actually still have my first black blazer, from Helmut Lang, which I bought with my mother in the 1990s on a trip to London when I still lived in Paris.

The one thing everyone should watch or read about the climate crisis is…

David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet. It’s so beautifully filmed and narrated and the story is told in such an honest way, which makes it impossible to not want to make a change.

My favourite vegan or vegetarian restaurant is…

I have so many easy veggie dishes I like to make. I love a butternut squash ravioli with butter and sage ,or roasted vegetables with quinoa. I have an amazing green grocer around the corner from my home, and an Italian deli with fresh pasta that makes vegetarian cooking much easier.

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As for restaurants, I love any from the Western Laundry group. Not all of the dishes are veggies, but their menu is all farm to table, and there’s always a great veggie option.

My one piece of advice to people trying to be more sustainable is…

Don’t be too hard on yourself, it’s impossible to change our lifestyles overnight. Be kind on yourself, be conscious , start with small changes one at a time.  Carry a tote to avoid plastic bags, compost, and reduce your food waste (I love raiding the fridge and creating a meal out of anything that’s about to expire).

Also, think twice before buying, and walk instead of taking taxis all the time.

Three sustainable brands everyone should know about

I feel that being sustainable is not just about buying into sustainable brands. It’s buying thoughtfully and consciously. Buying less, buying better, for the long run. For example, I think it’s fine to buy a piece, such as a long black classic coat, that is great quality and will last for a very long time, and will never get out of style, that you can wear with everything.

If I ever want something less classic or more bold though (although I rarely buy bold trendy pieces as I don’t like having too much in my closet), I will buy second hand or vintage on The Real Real and Vestiaire Collective.

Then, if I want to buy ethically made or sustainable clothing, I like Everlane.