With responsibility for the fashion content of The Daily Mail's YOU Magazine, reaching over 3 million UK readers every week (more than Vogue) Shelly Vella is arguably one of the most influentual women in UK fashion. She's also a vegan, and a passionate advocate for ethical and sustainable brands in fashion and beauty. We spoke to her about her coping mechanisms over the last year, the changes she's seeing in fashion, and why she loves Immaculate Vegan!
Firstly, can you tell us a bit about how you’ve been managing through the last few crazy months – and do you have any tools or tips you can share to staying physically and mentally healthy and happy?
Gosh what a year, tough on everyone. Personally, having access to ride in the glorious woodlands near where I keep my horse Prophet has been the best tonic. Nature and being out riding, walking or running in it always lifts my spirits and to be honest, having more time at home during those Spring and Summer months was a revelation, as being able to stop and really watch the garden literally burst into life was a beautiful thing.
I also signed up with a personal trainer and have been training twice weekly since, which is one of the best ways to keep your mind and body strong and positive.
You’re the Fashion Director for The Daily Mail YOU Magazine – tell us a bit more about your role and what being a Fashion Director entails?
I have the most wonderful role on a weekly supplement with a readership of nearly 3 million, it’s the perfect position through which to educate and reach out to readers not only about fashion but also the move to a more sustainable and ethical approach to consuming.
On a day to day level my job is to create the imagery for covers and fashion editorials and oversee all the fashion content in the magazine and whilst doing this, I get to work with really talented teams of creatives. It can be so satisfying, especially when you receive positive feedback from readers.
You’ve worked in the fashion industry for over 25 years building a huge bank of knowledge and experience in the world of fashion and magazines – what would you say are some of your career highlights and memorable moments?
Gosh, so long – for me my standout moments are anything I’ve managed to achieve connected to animal welfare and making a stand against cruelty in the fashion industry. Whilst Fashion & Style Director for Cosmopolitan magazine we launched a ‘Smart Girls Fake it’ campaign against the fur industry, and invited everyone from Fearne Cotton to Joaquin Phoenix to be photographed and take part. It was massively successful and earnt us a PETA award of which I am so very proud – I have the glass trophy in my office at home as a reminder that a sense of purpose and total commitment to belief really matters.
Other highlights include creating a collection for Miss Selfridge and heading off to India to source inspiration – I learnt a lot and loved the result.
As a fashion ‘insider’ what changes do you see taking place in mainstream fashion?
The most exciting change, and not a moment too soon, is how brands are finally pulling together to be more responsible and ethical in their approach to fashion production. Green and sustainable are no longer words that are swept under the carpet or a tokenistic nod in press releases.
Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of green washing out there ( I just need to look at my email inbox to see that) but there is a genuine move by many companies to step up. It’s heartening. When mass producing high street stores seek me out to tell me about the advances they are making in their green initiatives, it’s a positive, and little ripples big waves make.
You’re a huge advocate of ethical and sustainable fashion brands – why is this important to you and do you believe the industry is making the changes it needs to? What else do you think needs to happen?
It’s been a career-long obsession and, as a Fashion Director, constantly holding brands to account over their ethical practices eventually has had an impact and I’ve had to believe in that since day 1. From my stance on fur and exotic skins to my belief in greener manufacturing and sustainable sourcing – I have to stand firm and support as many smaller brands endeavouring to do the right thing as possible. Putting a more responsible form of consuming on people’s radar is my goal.
There is plenty more that can happen but the wheels are in motion.
As a fashion expert and a vegan – what are your thoughts on ‘vegan fashion’? And do you have any favourite brands?
I think vegan fashion is so exciting now, the styles on offer from sites like Immaculate Vegan and Rêve en Vert are just incredibly en pointe and more and more retailers are recognising that consumers are typing ‘sustainable’ ‘ethical’ and ‘cruelty free’ into their search engines and delivering up on exciting product across different price points.
I was desperate for quality vegan shoes and bags a few years ago, so much so I worked with a brand to create four of my own vegan bags – but now there is plenty of great choice. It’s exciting and I see it really growing in the next few years.
As well as being Fashion Director at YOU Magazine, you also work commercially with brands and have recently launched @thegreenerooms on Instagram – can you tell us a bit more about this?
I do love to support and work with smaller independent brands that have the same ethics as me. The Greene Rooms is my passion project where, once I have time, I want to hero the fashion, beauty and home brands that really knock the ball out of the park when it comes to delivering on clean, green and cruelty free.
What are your go-to vegan meals and snacks for every day?
I have recently discovered the naughtiest of sites – Trufflepig Vegan who make the BEST chocolate truffles and ‘familiar feel’ chocolate bars. They are my guilty pleasure and I have to set my timer on a Friday at midday when they restock the site. Worth trying for sure.
Otherwise I love a good pasta, stir fry, curry or nut roast. I was vegetarian from the age of 11 and have only been vegan for five or six years now, but it’s so much easier than when I was young and veggie. The world has really changed and plant-based offerings are insanely good.
You’re clearly into living an ethical and sustainable lifestyle more generally and have been hugely supportive of Immaculate Vegan since we launched. Can you share with us some of your favourites and recommendations from the site?
Of course – here's an edit of my site favourites (I’ve already purchased a couple of pairs of boots and am eyeing up some more pieces as we speak).
Tell us something about you that people might find surprising?
- I’ve run three marathons.
- I have the most disorganised, over stuffed wardrobe as I am tragically sentimental about clothes.
- I am not as confident as people might think and often suffer from chronic self doubt.
- When I was 12 I read the entire mobile school library contents during the summer holidays.
What’s next for you?
Oh watch this space but The Greene Rooms and a retreat into deeper countryside is a part of it all…
For more articles like this in your inbox, sign up to our newsletter, and get up to 20% off your next purchase.