An interview with Valentina Hernández for ELOQUĒNTIA MAGAZINE
This past week we’ve had the immense honour and pleasure of speaking with one of the most prominent figures in the fashion sustainability community: Marina Testino. Born in New York in 1994, she defines herself as an artivist, since her two passions are art (fashion) and environmental activism.
In her own words, "Action is now more important than ever. Few have stopped to think about the environmental impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is causing us to fill our oceans with a new type of trash: single-use masks and rubber gloves. As we are slowly recovering from this pandemic, I think it’s the perfect time to start helping our oceans recover from the years of trash we’ve dumped in them."
In the midst of Coastal Cleanup Day, that falls on September 19, Marina decided to design and launch a filter (now available on Instagram) based on #WeSeaThrough’s iconic image. Throughout this interesting conversation we asked her about sustainability, ocean pollution and her upcoming projects.
Valentina: Since you’re one of the most iconic fashion sustainability activists on social media, we’ve noticed that your Instagram is filled with different campaigns such as #OneDressToImpress, #WeSeaThrough and #SustainableFridays. What was your main source of inspiration to start using your voice through social media?
Marina: Growing up I’ve always been exposed to not only fashion, but also to sustainability. In my household we were always well-informed about the importance of treating nature with respect, as it is the source of everything and we need it more than it needs us. It came quite naturally to me to address this issue, but I wanted to do it in a different voice, in a positive and uplifting one, finding solutions instead of problems. As for social media, I believe nowadays it’s one of the most powerful tools to reach an audience and get in touch with people, especially the younger generations. They are very involved in social media and, most importantly, they are the ones who will shape the future.
It's important to note that she’s not only a sustainability IT girl. Marina is also the Founder and Creative Director of Point Off View, an agency focused on digital communication and sustainable transformation.
Valentina: As the Founder and Creative Director of Point Off View, how have you — as a company, taken action towards a more sustainable fashion industry?
Marina: Our main goal at Point Off View is to drive change in the fashion industry towards a more sustainable future. We carefully select all the brands we work with to ensure they are implementing sustainability measures along their supply chain. We try to create meaningful partnerships with brands that mirror our own values. Furthermore, I rarely accept gifting of products from brands, unless it’s something that I am really in need of and that I know I will get a lot of use from. I instilled this policy as I began to realise the amount of clothes influencers receive from brands, and I wanted to steer away from this version of over-consumption.
In our current reality, defined by living within a pandemic, the creative force of Marina hasn't stopped. She’s already thinking about and producing new ways of raising awareness about the importance of living in harmony with the environment.
Valentina: Despite the pandemic, we have seen that the environmental impact of human actions hasn’t ceased in a substantial way. Have you come up with new ideas or campaigns to address the reality we are currently facing?
Marina: I am constantly confronted with things that negatively impact the environment as I go about my days, as these unfortunately, stem from society's habits. This is how I come up with all my campaigns — I see something that I realise is harming the environment and I try to come up with creative ways to teach people about this problem and get the message across by finding solutions.
Last summer, I came across the use of synthetic fibres in swimwear, from which I learned that wearing these in oceans and rivers actually releases microplastics — tiny pieces of plastic of 5mm or less, into the waterways, further contaminating sea life, and eventually us. I then understood that not only were these microplastic-releasing fibres in our swimwear, but also in most of our clothes — it has become the tendency to manufacture clothes with synthetic textiles due to its reduced cost. This is why I started #WeSeaThrough with @Danilo, where I went nude for a whole month to show that, nowadays, most clothes in the market are actually polluting our environment.
This year, to celebrate and support Coastal Cleanup Day on September 19, I decided to design and launch a filter based on #WeSeaThrough’s iconic image of me holding a plastic bottle in front of my eyes — plastic pollution is everywhere even if we don’t see it. I intend for the filter to be used to discuss this issue, and many others, hopefully encouraging positive conversation and the search for solutions!
Valentina: Do you think the general public is naïve when it comes to realising how bad plastic and coastal pollution actually is? Why do you think this is happening?
Marina: I believe that the general public is aware of the extent of this issue. A lot of people have a concept of ‘throwing away’ that is false. We were never taught to think about where things go when we throw them away. The very use of the word ‘away’ is unspecific, making us believe that it simply disappears somewhere, and thus, making it easier for us to throw things out carelessly into nature. Furthermore, specifically talking about coastal pollution, a lot of people do not live near water, which makes this reality even harder to grasp for some.
There needs to be a mass re-education on the meaning of ‘away’ and its effects. That’s why social media is the best way to do this — everybody watches stories on Instagram all the time, making the filter a light-hearted way to get the message across and slowly starting to introduce this conversation into people’s lives.
Concluding this extraordinary conversation with Marina, we asked her about how we, as consumers, could change our habits around waste, consumerism and fashion.
HINT: We should all stop using single-use plastics!
Valentina: Taking into account your experience, what steps and concrete actions could consumers take to become more mindful about waste and consumerism around our fashion habits?
Marina: Knowledge is key to any sort of change and improvement. It is very important for people to learn the consequences of their daily habits. Once you have the knowledge on how your consumption habits affect the planet, your decisions will automatically become informed decisions, and I believe it will become natural to opt for sustainable alternatives.
On a more practical level and pertaining to ocean and coastal pollution, it’s imperative to always check what your garments are made of — stay away from synthetic fibres that end up polluting our oceans and beaches. All-around, it’s crucial to avoid single-use plastics, which unfortunately are found almost everywhere. One good tip is to always carry reusable alternatives, such as straws, bags, or coffee cups, to ensure you don’t have to consume single-use plastics!