Inez Bjørg David - you probably know this name via German television shows such as 'Verbotene Liebe', 'Tatort' and 'Männerherzen'. The Danish actress sparked my interest when I was looking for fashionable, fair trade and sustainable clothing, which can be a very difficult task until.. you find MIWAI. An Online-Store and a Shop in Berlin, which offers exactly - ALL of that. When I stepped into her store the first time, I was surprised at how much care and love the pieces were selected and presented in this neat environment.
We sat down to an organic lemonade and talked about her vision of saving the world, her career, her plant-based diet, yoga and more.
Hi Inez, tell us a bit about yourself since most of the readers are not from Germany.
My name is Inez, I have two children and my main job is being an actress. And then on the side, I try to save the world *smile on her face* through my shop because I am convinced that the only way to change something is via consumption. I am also a Yoga Teacher and I realized in my teachings that you ARE able to help people, also individually and I really liked this. I mean each person has to be happy so that the community can be happy, but there are specific things that can destroy people much faster than helping others with yoga.
And that's the industry - in any direction, it doesn't matter, be it pharmaceutical, fashion etc. The fashion industry produces even more pollution than the pharmaceutical industry does. You don't really think about it, but fashion is worse. And because of all these factors, I thought that this is the right direction, to create a shop, where you can get almost everything: we also have underwear for women and men. The men's corner is still pretty small - I've also never thought that men would be so interested and curious about it, but they really are! In addition, we have clothing for children and babies.
But this was my actual idea: that you can get everything “green” in one place, but also just nice clothes. Not these brown, green and dusty cord pants, but normal fashion from an organic and fair production without chemicals and a high water consumption. People will be treated and paid right. This is really important to me - that people are treated in a good way. My idea was to stimulate a positive consumption. Not consuming is not the solution. It's like not voting, you won't change anything. You have to change the mainstream with a 'counterstream'. That's my hope, and of course, everything is still small, but my astrological sign is Aquarius and I always think big! I hope for the future that people will look differently at us.
What does MIWAI mean?
It's only a fantasy name, resulting from brain storming. We began with myway with the y and then someone came up with miwai, which also looked very nice with the i. It's only a name and we just really liked it because it doesn't sound too green. We thought about a 'greener' name but then it was like: NO, this is not the main reason, it's not only eco and green, these standards should be there from the beginning. You can shop beautiful fashion. It should be like: And, by the way, you did not destroy anything! Here you can shop without any regrets because that's what we do. We have to go shopping anyways, so this was the thought behind it.
How come you moved to Berlin?
Well, I came here with 19 from Copenhagen, and wanted to study some German and spend a year abroad. I just wanted to be more conscious about what I really want in life, what I want to study and all that. In a classical way, I got stuck here in Berlin and then, somehow I slipped into acting which I didn't really choose myself. Then, I got stuck even more, but in the first three to four years I thought about moving back, but at some point you realize: Okay, I'm not moving back anymore. And then, when you have your own family, you don't think about that at all anymore.
So did you study acting?
Oh no, I didn't study it. I just fell into it somehow. I was working as an extra because I didn't know that much German and had a few contacts through my sister, and then.. I was discovered twice on the set. One time, I was invited to an audition and another time, I was introduced to an agency. It took a long time until I decided I really wanted to be an actress. I used to say: “Okay let's do this for ten years.” - but when I founded MIWAI last year, I started to really enjoy acting. Before, it was never enough because I did not really make a choice, it just came too easy.
When I started MIWAI, it was really challenging and hard, but at that point I started having a lot of fun with acting and meeting all these exciting people. Now I can enjoy it differently and really like it. It's funny isn't it? Like I'd say: I’ll do this for ten years and then after ten years, I'm actually having lots of fun. Sometimes that's just life *laughs*
How do you cope with negative prejudices on eco fashion?
I don't know, I just trust my feelings and hope that I can show people: Hey, you don't have to live on an eco farm - which I'd love to do actually - to make a difference. I still feel like many people are reacting negatively to eco fashion and then they say: Oh, it's actually pretty nice. I think it's a prejudice which you have to deal with and this won't pass that fast. Nevertheless, I hope that we can change something in the next couple of years, but it won't happen overnight.
How do you choose the pieces and labels you're selling in the shop?
Uhm, it depends because the labels have different focuses. Still, all of them are eco labels, most of them are also at the Ethical or in the Greenshowroom. That's actually a very good guide because they are pretty strict. 70% of the whole production has to meet the eco criteria. Of course, it's sometimes hard to be eco and we know that it can be expensive with all the certificates. For example UMIWI: these bracelets I'm wearing, they don't have a fairtrade certificate, but they are definitely 100% fair.
UMIWI was founded by two women living in Berlin. The brand has two workshops: one in Thailand and one in Mexico. With the money they make selling the bracelets (and earrings, necklaces and so on) they do not only pay their workers but also educate them and their children. So it’s actually more like a NGO, except they do not need any donations, because the sales pay for everything. So they are definitely 100 % fair and have no certificates at all. We should keep in mind that the certificates are really expensive.
So my task is also to trust them and to do research on that. It's always important to me to get to know the people behind the brand. You can really feel their intentions. Sometimes I think: Wow, great! And then: Oh, there must be something wrong. It's only a marketing idea. I ask a few questions and then I realize that they are only putting an organic fabric inside and that's it. I don't carry those labels because I can’t be sure if they are really being as eco as they could or if they are cutting corners. And with the others, I think: Okay, it's not all organic, but they try and give their best. Sometimes the small brands can’t get the organic fabrics, because all suppliers handle the big orders first.
Any fashionable criteria?
I have to like it *laughs*. In life, I always feel like if you're open and creative, you will go with the trends naturally. It's the same with ideas, if you've seen something too often, you don't like it anymore and you will sense that there's something new coming up. I mean, we don't sell Haute Couture, just normal clothes.
Are you only wearing eco clothing?
Before, I often didn't find that much eco fashion, it would be like: I don't like this, there is none or not my size and I would still buy non-eco clothes, but ever since I have the shop, I'm sitting at the source and of course shop here. And of course, I am still wearing my old clothes until they fall apart. Everyone should actually do that. And you know, it really isn’t okay to shop at all these cheap chains. Many understand that now, but I have to say that also more well-known labels produce in just the same way. Otherwise, it would be labeled differently. If it doesn't say that this is fairtrade, it just isn’t. Period. They earn even more money than the cheap chains on each item. And that's not okay because people suffered for it. And it's absurd to get a bodysuit for my baby for 3,90€ with an organic cotton tag, and to think it's real. You have to know that a child suffered for this and that’s not okay. That's the point where I realized: No, I really don't want to buy this.
You have to know that “organic cotton” means that there is at least 30% organic cotton in the fabric, the rest can be conventional. It’s like the “spelt bread”. If it doesn’t say: “100% spelt” you will most likely find the same numbers: 30% spelt, and 70 % wheat. That’s the magic number the government decided on – 30% and you can say: “that’s what it is, people!”
I can also understand, especially in your age, when you're a student, you don't have much money, but still want to look nice. Some people who don't have money might still go to H&M to buy five tops. Don't do that, please buy only one. Buy one good one instead of five bad ones and nobody has to suffer. And no child died for you. I don't want to point the finger at you, but this is a fact. This is not MY moral, this is simply fact. Someone did die for that or suffered or worked 16hours a day although he or she is only 15. So that's not fair.
Anyways, that was yesterday, from today on: Do it right! You know what I mean? You don't have to justify yourself but you can’t pretend these things aren’t happening.
How long have you been a vegan now?
Not too long, it will be two years next month, and most of the time before that I was a vegetarian - because even as a kid, I found meat disgusting and I would only eat things like sausages because it doesn't look like meat. In my mid-twenties I realized that dairy products were too strenuous for me. My body already said No - so that's one of the reasons why I was so open to a plant-based diet. Then, I read a book called 'The China Study', a director gave it to me once, and after only two or three lines, everything made sense. All right, it's Vegan now!
My children don't get cow milk from me either. I always give them rice or soy milk and soy yogurt instead. They are not vegan because in kindergarten they get vegetarian food, from time to time also meat, but with children, I think it's more important to not make such a big deal out of food. If the whole kindergarten was vegan, I would love that but it's just not, and I think it's more important that children can eat whatever they like.
My daughter, she is almost 4 years old, addresses the topic sometimes and asks me: Mum, can you eat this? Then, I answer: Yes, I can, but I don't want to. Mum is that animal? Yes, that's animal. Mum, what is meat? It's an animal. Did it die and did it hurt? Yes, and yes.. hmm. Sometimes she laughs and shakes her head afterwards because it's totally absurd for her, but then other times she says: I don't want to eat chicken, I also want a veggie sausage. So, she gets what she wants and I don't want to change my children's diet. As long as they don't eat and drink too much of meat and dairy, that's fine.
But do you cook meat at home for them?
No, I don't, but Mirko does sometimes, but he rarely has it, maybe once a month. He also buys organic meat which is somewhat a different story, if you consider it on an ethical aspect.
Any tips for people who would like to start becoming vegan?
Just do it! I still remember when I started, I bought 3 cookbooks and thought, okay this might be really difficult. Then you realize: It's actually not. I love this question: So what would you eat? I answer: Everything! Except from meat and dairy, but tons of vegetables. I always liked vegetables.
Try to have fun and don't be too harsh on yourself. You know, if I go out and there's no other way, I go with vegetarian. Also, if someone brings a cake to the set, I don't ask: Well, are there eggs and milk inside? You have to be social and in general, being vegan shouldn't be a burden to you. It should be something that makes you feel better and if I have the chance to bring a cake, there are no eggs inside and nobody notices it. People would say: Oh, this was super yummy, but this wasn't vegan right? They always think that if you're vegan you cannot have cake and such. You can get anything today, even vegan butter-creme.
You just have to do it, and - Oh my favorite cookbook for vegan dishes is the Green Box by Tim Mälzer. It's a vegetarian cookbook, but you can always substitute cream and cheese. The recipes are just amazing! Many vegan cookbooks are great and you guys are doing an awesome work, but honestly speaking, the recipes are not made from a star cook.. like Tim Mälzer. He simply creates better recipes. Often, in these vegan cookbooks, you will find ultra complicated recipes with 500 different ingredients and then you think: Do I really need one spoon of soy flour here? I highly recommend the Green Box, it's incredibly good and if you substitute the dairy, it's the best vegan cookbook out there.
How was the Yoga Teacher Training experience?
At first, I didn't want to do the training to teach, but to gain a deeper insight into yoga and I loved it! In Berlin, I did the Kundalini Training and in Cologne, I did a Hatha Training. Of course at some point I did start teaching. And it's so much fun to give back, and you make a totally different experience through the teaching.
Are you excited for Fashion Week?
Yes, totally! Last year I gave the opening speech at the Ethical Fashionshow and this year I will be presenting my own brand in the Green Showroom. But it’s a bit too soon to talk about it ;-) I’ll give you first hand information though when we’re out of the testing phase.
Thank you Inez for your time, it was amazing and so much fun talking to you!
Talking to Inez was such a pleasure because deeper into the conversation, we've found so many similarities. I hope this interview will give you guys something to think about and maybe - change a little bit of your perspective of your consumption - be it style, food or living-wise.