David Evans, aka Grey Fox Blog, is a style icon to many. An avid supporter of British brands and ethical producers, David has long been a friend of ours at Billy Tannery. Here we catch up to discuss all things sustainability, style and how to shop responsibly.
You've been on quite the journey with Grey Fox Blog. How would you sum it up so far?
The blog has just reached its tenth anniversary. I never thought, back in December 2011, that it would last more than ten weeks let alone ten years, but here it is, hanging in there.
It's been a steady burn; an older man talking about style and small or new or British brands will never set the world on fire as younger bloggers and Instagrammers do with their emphasis on fashion rather than style. The industry's preference for youth became clear to me early on, but I've enjoyed working with so many brands who don't take that viewpoint. I love what I'm doing and hope that my enthusiasm for what I feature comes through. I'm lucky to have a loyal and communicative audience and the blog and Instagram have led to many friendships with people all over the world.
People often message or email me for suggestions for products and to ask advice. I feel a bit of a fraud as I had no background in menswear or style when I started, but I can talk from personal experience. I like to avoid clichéd advice about what men should and shouldn't wear. We are all on a search for personal style and each of us is an individual with his own needs and tastes.
How important is sustainability to you when it comes to style? When did sustainability become important to you?
I've always taken a reasonably sustainable approach by featuring small, quality brands and turning away collaborations with high street businesses which might be associated with poor employment and environmental policies. The last two or three years have seen me working harder on such issues. I've been running a series of Sustainable Style features on the blog and have discussed issues like buying vintage and owning fewer but higher quality items.
The shocking extent of the damage caused to our environment by the fashion industry is the responsibility of all of us, both brands and consumers. As someone who has a social media following I have a responsibility to discuss these issues. I'm not here to patronise or dictate, but I don't want to be seen to be encouraging uninhibited and uninformed consumption.
Sometimes finding the best brands can be difficult. What are your top tips for someone who wants to start shopping more ethically?
It's difficult for a consumer to know how ethical the brands that they buy from are. The term 'greenwashing' has become well known and describes how brands fudge ethical and environmental issues.
My advice would be to where possible buy high quality products from smaller businesses; and local where possible. Large high street brands can lose touch with their unwieldy supply chains, potentially condoning sweatshop conditions where workers are underpaid, underage or are housed in dangerous workplaces. Buying goods produced on the other side of the world causes unsustainable air miles. Smaller and local businesses are less likely to have such issues (although recent events have shown this isn't always the case) but at least they are more approachable and consumers can reassure themselves about their approach to ethical issues with a quick phone call or email.
We should be prepared to pay a fair price for a product. There's a reason why some items are cheap: decent wages and good worker conditions don't allow for cheap products. There's nothing clever about buying a £2 t-shirt. While paying more doesn't guarantee sustainability, it's a start.
Buy the product rather than the name. Well-established and world famous designer names are often no guarantee of quality or sustainability. Products may be made half a world away and be sold on the strength of a name rather than how well they were made. Buying a quality product from a local or smaller brand also has an element of exclusivity that many of these designer brands have lost through their increased size and international coverage.
Finally, buy fewer and buy better. You find you treat what you have with greater respect and enjoy it more when it's well-made rather than cheap tat.
What are some of your favourite brands that are doing things in the right way?
I tend to start with British-made brands as that's long been a theme of the blog: SEH Kelly, Community Clothing Co., Johnstons of Elgin, Reworked 348 and of course Billy Tannery are just a few with what seem to me to be genuinely sustainable while producing exciting and well-made products. There are many others listed in the stories highlighted on my Instagram profile.
Why buy from international and impersonal fashion brands with opaque ethical policies when you can discover, wear and use high quality products from great businesses that are approachable and passionate about what they do?
Fashion aside, have you made any other changes to living a more sustainable lifestyle?
I do all the usual things like recycling, buying vintage and trying to minimise our impact on the world. I have found that brands are years behind the demand in products like cars, home heating systems and even menswear.
The interest in sustainable living has caught many by surprise and it will be years before many catch up. As consumers we can try to promote the changes that brands, answerable to their investors, are slow to bring about.
And finally… we have to ask! What is your favourite Billy Tannery accessory, and why?
I love my Billy Tannery soft leather briefcase. I have a few bags for business use and to carry tech, but find that it's this one I tend to reach for when going out. It's beautifully made and the story of using goat leather that would otherwise have gone to waste is an irresistible one.
Visit David’s blog at www.greyfoxblog.com or follow him on Instagram at GreyFoxBlog.