A Journey Into Women’s Sustainable Style – An Interview with Roberta Lee

Taking my turn in the hot-seat for the Ethical Brands for Fashion Revolution event, I was interviewed by my friend Dan Pontarlier, aka Sustainable Man. In our back-to-back interviews, I took a journey with Dan into women’s sustainable style, in support of Fashion Revolution Week.

You can check out my interview with Dan on men’s sustainable style here.

Roberta Lee | Founder of Roberta Style Lee with Dan Pontarlier | Founder of Sustainable Man | Wearing Ethical Fashion at Pure London Fashion Show 2020

A Journey into Women’s Sustainable Style: The Highlights

Give us a brief introduction of who you are and what you do.

When I started out with my sustainable styling career, no one was interested. I had to actually remove the sustainable part of my marketing. Since then I’ve evolved. I started as a stylist and confidence coach – I realised the one of the things that made me feel good was my appearance. It definitely doesn’t make you shallow to care about how you look! I feel good when I care for myself and I wanted to send this message to other women. 

I started my ethical fashion journey in 2015 and it really evolved in 2017 when I set up Ethical Brand Directory. I’ve made it my mission to include my personal values into my business and making people feel empowered – not guilty – to take positive action!

I couldn’t agree more! Sometimes it starts from the exterior and works its way to the interior. What about you, what’s your Style Story?

When I was growing up I was really shy and lived in a small town where fashion wasn’t really a thing. I took up performing arts and this allowed me to experiment with my personal style, without judgement. My style really did evolve. The performance element of clothing and how what you wear affects your energy has always been with me. 


10 simple things you can do to transform your style 

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When you go through so many different styles, you know what you do and don’t want to keep. What’s your favourite item of clothing you own?

My favourite piece is actually not an ethical brand. We’re all about endorsing ethical brands but they don’t always create the items you need. If a brand isn’t ethical but you love and treasure it this is just as important. When I was younger, I made a list of key items I wanted to invest in. I wanted a Burberry Mac – I’d seen models in magazines wear these. And they always seemed timeless. It’s all about the experience of investing in something you’re going to treasure forever.

Roberta Lee | Modelling Burberry Mac | Wardrobe Staple | Over 100 wears | Paired with Striped T Shirt, Black Skinny Jeans and Black Heels

You’re right. When you find a piece that you truly adore, even if it’s not an ethical brand, you’ll make it last and that’s when we’re being sustainable. How many items do you have that have seen #100wears?

I definitely need a #1000wears tag now. I am a loud and proud outfit repeater and I’m not embarrassed to repeat the same ensemble. One I always reach for is a jumper, skinny jeans and some knee-high boots. The champion pieces are probably jumpers in the winter. Jeans. I never throw these away – I even have some from uni! Handbags and shoes, I keep them forever. 

Roberta Lee Models Ethical Brands and Preloved Fashion from Clothing Swaps | Faux Leather Clutch | The Morphbag by GSK

I love that. Finally, regarding your career in fashion, what are your most standout moments?

One of the standout moments in my career is being invited to the Natural History Museum for the Hope Gala where Sir David Attenborough gave a speech. I worked as a stylist alongside Deborah Milner and Mother of Pearl. It was just an incredible experience! It was the start of me taking my styling service to a bigger platform, not just one to one. And of course being invited onto ITV news to discuss sustainable fashion. And then BBC News in the New Year, being able to showcase ethical brands. Standing in and hosting fashion events – of course this includes taking to the Pure London stage for a second year.

Also writing a piece for Harpers Bazarr Japan – which comes out next month! 

Roberta Lee Interviewed in BBC News Studios | Modelling Ethical Brands and Preloved Fashion | Ethical Faux Leather Tote Bag | The Morphbag by GSK

Webinar Participant Q&A

Q: Does tailoring help make clothes more personal?

A: Yes it does. Clothes that come off the rack tend to be designed for a straight body shape. For someone like myself who is petite and curvy, nothing ever fits me. You can take a cheap garment and transform it completely with tailoring which you can keep and reuse for a long time. The only downside of tailoring everything is that this can make it harder for an item to be circular if it’s only a perfect fit for you

Q: Have you got recommendations on how we shop sustainably on a budget?

A: Firstly, explore the preloved market. There’s so much clothing in circulation already. I use eBay, it’s a great platform for this. Sometimes I have to find 6 months to a year to find what I need. – if after this time I cannot find the item I want from an ethical brand or preloved, I will buy the best quality version of the item, knowing I will treasure it for as long as possible. Think about what you need, buy less and tackle your existing wardrobe first. By upcycling and customising what you already have is some of the most sustainable things you can do.