Research shows us that more and more consumers today – whether Gen-Z or Millennials – are living greener than ever before. As a population we are making more conscious choices, becoming increasingly vocal and no longer stand for brands that overlook sustainability.
Niomi Smart seems to be the epitome of a modern-day luxury consumer who cares: she is considered, thoughtful about what she wears, enjoys looking put together and when we sit down at the Charlotte Street Hotel is immediately itching to know which brands have been awarded the Butterfly Mark and which she can trust. The difference between her and the average twenty-something shopper? She has a combined global following of 4.6million watching her every move, and her every choice.
While she shies away from Influencer – she assures me she isn’t offended by the term but would never refer to herself as one – she undoubtedly has a large platform. And with large platforms, comes great responsibility; especially in today’s age of trolling and vitriol which is often the case when speaking publicly on something that everyone has an opinion on.
Despite the word sustainability becoming more on trend, is there still a stigma attached when putting the concept to the masses? “When I started becoming more and more interested in this whole sustainable world, I was worried that actually, my audience would not respond as enthusiastically as they have. But their reaction has been unbelievable, and it actually encouraged me to dig a bit deeper and explore my interest in the subject. I feel like we are in this journey together, my followers and me, learning more about how we can make a positive impact on our plant by making smarter choices.”
“It’s just about being more aware of what things are made of, what the impact is going to be – small changes are better than doing nothing at all.”
The Influencer industry was the first to be blamed for our modern-day obsession with consumption. While Instagram has been praised for championing body-positivity and gender fluidity, it is inherently a marketing platform – so I ask Niomi how she feels about being in that position, and her easy-going demeanour takes on a more serious tone. “I’m in such a privileged and lucky position to be sent the products that I’m sent, but I am all about research. I will research everything online or in-store before I promote a product, and there’s no difference between what I use and what I talk about online” It seems brand-consumer transparency here is more important than ever, and this is where perhaps Influencers hold the key.
Has she ever taken a brand to task on their sustainability credentials? “There’s a conversation I think that needed to happen, and I actually have been in meetings with brands that I really like and they ask me “how do you really feel about what we send?” and I’ve been very honest about my feelings on waste and excess packaging.” Perhaps then the Influencer is an extension of a more general consumer: but one who is in the lucky position to have access to the boardroom.
The young woman before me is almost certainly a confident businesswoman herself, who knows what she wants despite still finding her sustainable feet. Back in 2016, she launched a deliverable edit of organic and vegan brands named SourcedBox, with the aim to make wellbeing and on-the-go snacking healthier. A vegan herself, she extols the wonder the lifestyle has had on her: its been five and a half years and I just love it – cooking vegan makes you so much more creative.” When it came to thinking about their product, she seized the opportunity to step into the shoes of those brands she encourages to act more responsibly, saying “Even when I started the brand I immediately knew we had to use a box that is 100% recyclable and we still do use the tissue paper in there but its biodegradable. We always ask the brands who we approach to be in our boxes How sustainable are you, what’s your packaging like?”
In late 2018 she launched her first SmartSwap, an organised day of wardrobe-exchanging, giving preloved items of clothing a new home that was ticketed to raise money for the charity Clothes Aid. “I’ve accumulated a lot of clothing in my wardrobe that is bursting at the seams, and Im constantly giving it away to charity shops – so I partnered with a brilliant organisation and you just bring say, five items with you and that means you get five tokens- then you can take five items away with you. There were people that came that never thought of doing it before so it’s great to start that conversation.”
Her eyes light up when she’s talking about her own approach to sustainable fashion, listing the much-coveted Mother of Pearl as one of her go-to labels; I’m eager to find out what she does, as just another twenty-something and not Niomi Smart the Influencer, to make positive changes to her way of life. “I’m always carrying my water bottle with me and a Keep Cup. And I’ve recently contacted my council to get them to give me a food waste bin – as our area doesn’t have them!” Although most young women don’t sit on a panel at Glamour for work, she also advocates having the confidence to turn down plastic when offered; which she did at the magazine’s recent talk on natural beauty, offering her more sustainable bottle instead.
We round up our conversation by talking about her Grandmother’s outlook on happiness, her exciting upcoming projects that are still under wraps and discussing the whos who of beauty must-haves. I left thinking that there was a young woman very much like everyone else in our generation when it comes to tackling the issue of what leading a positive life meant; just figuring things out and having that conversation with people: “I think I am still learning every single day about sustainability and I would like to think that I am open-minded to it. I’m so eager to learn and I love discussing what it means to other people as well because hearing others peoples opinion is really important and how we can all grow.” I for one am going to keep an eye out for her next SmartSwap event – I’ve had my eye on a Mother of Pearl dress for a while…
MY POSITIVE LUXURY IS…
Very occasionally, that’s why its a luxury, going and getting a 60 min natural hot oil massage. Totally relaxed and omg when I do it on a Sunday afternoon like nothing is going on, I can go straight home. That’s my positive luxury. Its a shame in a way that, that is a luxury but living in London time to be looking after yourself is lacking. Its when you do, its bliss.
THE BEST ADVICE WAS GIVEN TO ME BY…
My grandma said this to me recently and its a new one for me: Know its good when it’s good, we spend so much time focusing on the negativity in our lives, I think it is important to celebrate the positive and give yourself that pat on the back you deserve.
MY SUSTAINABLE BEAUTY MUST-HAVES ARE…
Fresh for their natural clay masks and bareMinerals because its natural beauty that is eco-conscious, vegan and great for your skin.
MY SUSTAINABLE FASHION MUST-HAVES ARE…
Mother of Pearl and Dagny London – Dagny are so good, I love them. Their pieces are really wearable, they are so feminine.
Images shot for Positive Luxury brand to trust Beulah London