Who is Ruby Elmhirst?
Ruby is a creative producer and consultant specializing in sustainable, socially conscious and emerging brands and designers, working on projects that bring them to life.
We’d love to hear a bit more about how you got into sustainable fashion?
I grew up in London and began getting experience in fashion from a young age. I was simultaneously always concerned with a sense of social justice, whether it was through volunteering after school or working on projects, like a magazine I launched while at University, that I felt elevated young voices. I was a huge shopper! But, I had also studied history and so it was a love affair with Ukrainian embroidery and its history that shifted my focus. I looked at the negative way in which we often produce items now, compared to before. Shopping sustainably as well as supporting and working with socially conscious and emerging designers became a way to be part of design in a way that reflected my values.
You’ve worked on curation and design for physical stores at a time in which a lot of the focus is on digital and online - why is that ?
For me, it is not about stores and commerce as much as about alternative spaces and story-telling. Whether it is a bakery, library, a garden or a shop, I am such a believer in creating and protecting spaces that people can come to and interact in real life, or be alone in if they want. It can be easy to overlook how important the quality of each of these experiences is. For some people the local grocery store is the only social interaction they get. Why is it that I may feel more gratified in a Tasca in Lisbon, than an of-the-moment restaurant in London and the former will outlive the latter? It is inspiring to be in spaces that are created with integrity and a sense of community, that are able to bring those values together in a physical sense. Ultimately, the larger picture is about connection.
How did you get into sustainable fashion?
I was already very enthralled in the world of sustainable design on a personal level, and my experience was within fashion and beauty. I looked for opportunities that might allow me to do something in line with my beliefs and that would allow me a way to creatively story-tell. It wasn’t so easy to get those opportunities at the time, however over the last few years I’ve worked with over 100 forward thinking designers through different projects!
Do you have any tips for those who want to buy more sustainable clothes?
I think creating a value system that works for you is a good way to start. You could even have questions that you ask yourself based on your ethics. Cashmere pieces have a sense of timelessness which is fantastic, so I would look at the quality, craftsmanship and longevity of a piece. I would also always question the conditions of the people who made a cashmere item and the overall mission of the brand. Then, checking the composition of a first-hand piece and questioning whether there are materials that would make it difficult to biodegrade, if that is something important to you? I personally love brands that promote craftsmanship and are close to nature, which is great to see at Garin! By asking yourself what you care about and un-doing each piece into its components from seed to user, you can determine whether it is ‘good’ in your eyes.
What are you excited about when it comes to emerging and sustainable design?
It is amazing to see tech-led innovation in the material space of course, but I also feel like there is a lot of creative design using natural fibers, regenerative processes or local makers which I am really excited about. Designing in a way that is inspiring and cool, but celebrates and makes use of age-old craft is exciting.
Have you read anything inspiring recently that you can share?
I came across an interview recently, that had actually come out last year, with Anna Lappe who coined the phrase ‘Vote With Your Dollar’. Anna speaks about how she doesn’t see the phrase as a reflection of her beliefs entirely as it only speaks to the privileged of us that have money to spend and that there is more powerful work that must be done. I agree with this (and I love the idea that she challenges her own words), but I do also believe that if you are able to make choices and think about who and what you support whenever possible, that is an amazing starting point and way to live your life.
Where and how would you wear your Garin?
I am always cold, so I’d be likely to take a Garin sweater everywhere! In winter I've been wearing a vintage or mens borrowed coat with a cashmere sweater thrown over the shoulders (and a jumper underneath). Then in summer or when I am in warmer weather, I would wear an oversized piece with a long dress, or a cropped cardigan style as a top which is such an easy and comfortable evening look.