I saw Willa briefly during the soaking wet Climate March in Amsterdam last March (2019). She walked as an activists, and screamed with slogans like “Let’s get rid of CO2!”. This is not a marketing thing that you often see. Or greenwashing. This is real. This is genuine. Willa is a fighter. She speaks about diversity, feminism and has a sustainable mindset. This woman dares to stand up for those who can’t, fights climate change, is a mother of beautiful son Eloah and oh she also runs her own company W. Green Agency; A sustainable Branding & Communication Agency. Who is this power woman? I want to know more about her and decide to meet her. This is not that easy because she is very busy, as you can understand…
On the morning of our appointment, she is already enjoying the sun at Coffee Bru in Amsterdam East with a latte. Fabulous as always. I quickly sit down, order a nice fresh juice and fire the first question directly at her.
Sustainability & Fashion, how did this even start?
“Sustainability has always been present. From the age of nine I was a vegetarian and activist. The real problems started when I went to high school. I just didn’t fit in, the system I didn’t understand. I had ADHD and a high IQ, but school did not succeed.
When I was older I started working in fashion, an easy choice, because both my parents were also working in this industry. I was always the odd one, politically left-winged, with my father making the link between Vivienne Westwood and me. In 2010 I got myself a job at Spice PR, a fashion phenomenon with brands like Nike, Vogue, Bijenkorf, Bulgari, Iris van Herpen and more. This agency is one of the most known in the PR world. After a few years I decided it was time for something new and started working as marketing manager for BlueBlood, the Amsterdam jeans brand that went bankrupt at the start of the economic crisis. I lost my job because of the bankruptcy and got burned out. But in the end it came out much better.
At the age of 27 I started my own sustainable branding and communication agency, almost 10 years ago now. Quite a daring step and ahead of the time. But here was really my heart “.
What do you want to achieve with W. Green Agency?
“My passion is to lift sustainable brands to a higher level. If we get this space, we can deliver something we have done for Yoni, Afriek or Ace & Tate. For example, we saw that Yoni, a brand that focuses on organic tampons, could express itself much better on social media, so we tackled that. The photo below clearly shows that Yoni is much more than a tampon or simple sanitary product, there is a real story behind it.
We are being approached because people think this branding, brand identity, visual identity, positioning and holistic approach are right and want that for their brand too, that’s pretty cool.
W. Green agency stands for Ethics & Aesthetics. Both the inside and the outside of a brand must fit properly. Sometimes this collaboration works better than the next. The more confidence we get from a brand, the better it can come into its own. And you know it’s not about my own ego, I do this for ‘the greater good’ because everyone has to see that sustainable brands are the best choice.”
Can you tell more about Ethics & Aesthetics?
“Sustainable brands focus more often on the ethics, so on the inside, but much less on the aesthetics, the outside. This is actually due to the fact that the ‘outside’ is perceived as too superficial. However, a consumer decides in a split second if they trust the brand and want to buy from it or not. This choice of whether to buy the product is often made based on the outside, and then people zoom in deeper.”
“Often sustainability has something dusty and if something on the back about it being 100% sustainable, but has not been designed well enough on the front with aesthetics, then it is by definition not sustainable, because it is not sold. So if your brand is something for which there is no market, you are wasting resources, energy, water, etc, and then it is not sustainable by definition.”
A PR agency has a showroom. What do you think about this?
“Years ago showrooms still had a good function, but that really disappeared. In addition, a showroom is simply an extra room that you have to heat and maintain for just a few visits a week and that is not really sustainable.
Moreover, I would like to add that the W.Green Agency does not have the image of a PR agency. PR is really a last layer and with our agency we go much further and deeper. We really want to help build a sustainable model and thereby make sustainable choices for the brand. This goes from office level, business model to branding and communication level. Think of the printer that you choose, the energy supplier, etc. With us it is certainly not a last “PR” layer that we throw over it, no we want lasting impact. ”
How do you combine work with a family?
“It is sometimes tough. Motherhood and W.Green Agency are both a full-time job and finding a kind of balance without sacrificing anyone is a challenge. Eloah, of course, is always number 1, but clients also should be given the attention they deserve. In addition, I am very critical, both in work and daily life. That is sometimes difficult for both other and myself.”
For example, our son Eloah does not eat sugar, meat or fish, and I started giving vegetable snacks instead of fruit snacks. Look, if at some point he decides to eat it all, that’s fine, but I just think about everything very well and read about it. Then I make a choice, and then I stick to it and I am not easy to leave the field. If people around me think differently about this, it can be difficult for them. That is why I express myself with these 3 words: Sweet Enfant Terrible. ”
What do you think about the future of the earth?
“I’m not sure. My hope is still there … “, Willa is emotional, and so am I. Fortunately, we have sunglasses on.” I hope we realise that we are now ruining the earth for future generations and that its occurrence is extremely urgent. As a consumer, you no longer have to hide behind apologies that the government or companies should just do it. But we really have to take action ourselves. ” Noticeably the combative activist comes up again.
If you have to wait for companies or governments you will be disappointed. Only a few companies take this responsibility and the Netherlands is roughly 14th in terms of sustainability, while we are in 3rd place as the richest countries. I find that bizarre. We are now trying to “live life” for our son. As an optimist, the glass is always half full, but I hope we will make a good choice with the next election. Let us come into more contact with ourselves, know our place in the ecosystem and ensure a sustainable world. Not only do it for yourself, but also for future generations. This allows us to enjoy this world.
When I walk home I feel that I am touched and inspired. Willa, this sweet enfant terrible is a beautiful person. It is pure and real, without frills or layers. I think it’s nice that she dares to be vulnerable, honestly admits that she’s not quite there yet and that she sometimes has trouble making sustainable choices. Like me. Then I realise that during this conversation Willa has taught me that becoming more sustainable is a process and that it is great to grow step by step more and more …
Do you want to know more or do you have questions for Willa or Rachel? Feel free to do that in the comments below. Did you like this? Perhaps you will like our previous article ‘How to Make your Wardrobe Sustainable‘. Do you see mistakes? Let us know! Do you want to stay informed? Sign up for our Newsletter or social via Facebook and Instagram.