Wardrobe Crisis Series Four is Here: Clare Press meets Amber Valletta

“Speed up the activism, slow down the fashion churn”, says Amber Valletta on the Wardrobe Crisis podcast this week.

In today’s super-fast fashion world, it’s hard to imagine our current system is a relatively new invention – but it is. When I started writing about fashion, we mostly covered Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter. There was space to breathe in between. The pre-collections were primarily for buyers, rarely written about or shown on the runway. If you were lucky, there was couture. Done. 

Fast forward 20 years and as Wardrobe Crisis Series 4’s first guest Amber Valletta points out: “It’s a never-ending season, it never stops. So, you have the shows but in between you have all these pre-season collections; then you have fast fashion on top of it, then licences… It’s too much. You just didn’t have that amount of stuff made when I first started [modelling].”

Listen to the interview here.

“In some ways, what’s happened is an amazing thing in that we’ve democratised the ability to be stylish,” she says. “But the question is: what does that mean, and at what cost? Everyone should be able to creatively express themselves in what I don’t want to bash anyone for [that] but there is definitely a big discrepancy on that we need, and what we want and what the environment can support.”

Amber Valletta rose to prominence in the 1990s, and landed her first Vogue cover at 18. In the 2000s, she had her own MTV show (with Shalom Harlow) and then went to Hollywood – she was in Hitch with Will Smith. In 2013, she launched a multi-brand online ethical and sustainable fashion store called Master & Muse. “The idea was to show that responsibly-made fashion could be stylish,” she says. She was way ahead of the game. 

“We researched and found a few things but nobody was really doing something stylish [in terms of a curated eco boutique]. We also couldn’t find that many brands where the fit was good, but we found enough.” She persisted.

“It was a difficult task and each year we increased our inventory. We were ahead [of the Zeitgeist], but I feel like we proved a point.” She hints that one day there might be “a new iteration of the business – I just don’t know exactly what it’s going to look like.” If she were to relaunch Master & Muse, it would be great timing. Slow considered fashion is what’s needed, and sustainable fashion is finally going mainstream. “We are having the conversation more and more about fashion and sustainability,” she agrees. “It’s on the tip of a lot of people’s tongues, and it wasn’t before.”

AMBER VALLETTA FOR STELLA MCCARTNEY Spring Summer 2020 campaign / photographer Johnny Dufort.

In recent weeks Valletta’s eco-aware image has been splashed across the latest Stella McCartney campaign (she was in the previous one, for AW’19 too), and the covers of Porterand VogueMexico. Valletta is a familiar face from the Green Carpet Awards, and in January joined Jane Fonda for #firedrillfriday on Capitol Hill in “an act of civil disobedience” on behalf of climate action. Valletta got arrested. 

She says can sense a tipping point. “It’s changed, it’s changing and it’s going to change a lot more in the next few years.” To help progress this quantum shift, however, we need more activism.

“It’s like: I know the climate crisis is in front of me, so why are we not out on the streets screaming? [Or] why aren’t people listening?! I think it’s all happening, obviously, for a reason, but I also think that as much as there’s this heaviness and these big existential questions. There’s another part that we have to be able to balance: it’s a compassionate side. It’s the yin and the yang –yes, we’ve done a lot of bad, but we also have the potential for a lot of good. So what are we doing? What can we highlight, what we talk about? How can we get out of this perfectionistic paralysis?” Time to speak up!

Follow Clare on Instagram @mrspress.

Don’t forget to subscribe to Wardrobe Crisis so you never miss an episode. Next week? Vintage tips from the top.

Read about Amber Valetta’s journey into sustainability in her Life As I Know It.

Discover more Wardrobe Crisis podcast episodes with Clare Press.