Doina Ciobanu is a model citizen. Literally.
The fashion world influencer , environmental activist and world-traveler grew up in the former Soviet Republic in a family that valued constant education and scholarship. Initially, she won public attention for her personal style via her former blog, “The Golden Diamonds.” That propelled her into the British fashion world, kickstarting her career as a model, entrepreneur and millennial voice.
At only 25, she has been recognized three times by ELLE for having the “best personal style” and twice by Harper’s Bazaar as one of the most influential current fashion icons. She has also been featured by publications including The Guardian, Vogue and Forbes (as one of their “Top 19 Young Entrepreneurs” when she was only 19 years old and one of their “Top 30 Under 30” in 2017).
But it was when her blog gave way to Instagram and she embraced the potential of that platform that Ciobanu began to advocate for saving the planet, as well. Since then, she’s been involved in socially responsible projects including Livia Firth’s Eco Age and various local NGOs for her home country, Moldova. Recognized for her unique knowledge of fashion and the environment, she was named “power ambassador” by The Global Survey for the UN Sustainable Development Goal 12 (which relates to responsible consumption and production). Here, on Earth Day, Ciobanu shares her illuminating journey and reminds us of ways we can all live—and dress—more sustainably:
Live The Process: Were there elements of your upbringing that you think made you the self-motivated and outspoken person you are today?
Doina Ciobanu: I grew up in a house filled with love. My parents were very demanding in terms of learning, as well as extracurricular activities, which was both a great and bad thing. I missed out on a lot of normal childhood fun: During the week, I studied morning till night and, on the weekend, I’d basically do the same—except on Sundays. That helped me become very driven and responsible. I had to balance school with dancing (modern and traditional), piano, singing lessons, gymnastics, maths, English, French, painting classes, literature, history, guitar, Mandarin (that didn’t last long), German (also didn’t last long). I think that’s kind of it? But it probably made me a little too comfortable with doing a lot of things at the same time and maybe nothing to a perfect degree. And it made me a bit of a dreamer—which is, again, a good and bad thing—because I had to dream in order to get to where I am, but I can also be distracted by all these million things for which I have passion.
As for the extroverted part, I think what I’ve always enjoyed is being outside my comfort zone and being heard. I blame the Soviet mentality that was present even after the collapse of the USSR, when people still weren’t feeling safe to express their opinions and you kind of always lived in fear of people finding out what you truly thought; so, I grew up rebelling against that.
LTP: To what do you attribute your personal style? What item of clothing or accessory are you most obsessed with right now?
DC: To everything. I strongly believe that there is no one event in our lives that makes us one way or another; it’s every single thing, good and bad, shaping us into the personalities we become.
Same applies to my style, which is very, very versatile. I have no problem being super masculine (and feeling at my sexiest) or looking very feminine and chic (and feeling very comfortable that way too).
Audrey Hepburn and Katharine Hepburn were definitely my style icons growing up—but also my mother. She was a little rebel in the Soviet era, trying to stand out and dressing very chic with almost nonexistent funds. She just knew how to pull off interesting looks like re-purposing her makeup box as a bag.
LTP: When did your passion for the environment take hold? What does it mean to be “power ambassador” for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production?
DC: It started in school to some degree, when I first learned about pollution and deforestation. But I didn’t really put it into action until I had a medium. Instagram gave me a platform to start expressing my concern for the environment, but also take my audience through my journey of learning about it. I didn’t just wake up one day and decide to post this cool looking list of things people shouldn’t do. I actually admitted that I didn’t know much about the topic and wanted to educate myself and said I would be sharing my journey to sustainability with my followers. None of us know the perfect way, and, definitely, none of us are perfect, so claiming otherwise and approaching it from a superior angle is just wrong to me.
Being “Power Ambassador” means a great deal to me. I had the privilege of choosing what cause was closest to my heart and, while a lot of the other sustainable development goals are dear to me, No.12 was directly related to my business. It would have been hypocritical of me to ignore that.
The message I really want people to get, which I think most of the media confuses, is: It’s not about fast fashion; it’s about fast consumerism. I have a pair of Zara shoes that I have been wearing religiously for exactly a decade next month. (I know that because I am turning exactly 10 years older.) It’s not a case of how much people pay for a piece; it’s about how much use they can get out of it.
And, of course, then we get into the ethical issue of underpayment, which is a part of responsible production. Yes, in fast fashion people can be underpaid. It’s not within my power to convince people to ignore a bargain and to compensate well, but I can impact what that t-shirt is made of, so that the prices naturally grow in time or production switches towards automation.
LTP: In honor of Earth Day, what’s one thing we can all do today to help take better care of our planet?
- First and easiest, reduce your single use plastic usage: say no to plastic straws, say no to plastic cups, say no to plastic bags etc.
- Use the things you own to their maximum life span; if you’re tired of your things, sell them, gift them, donate them. Don’t just throw them out! And that applies to most of the things in your household—electronics, furniture, clothes, shoes etc.
- Recycle. I know it’s such a basic one but it absolutely amazes me when I still see people in very modern cities with amazing recycling systems, who don’t even bother separating their rubbish and just send recyclable materials into the landfill.
- If you have the option, choose green energy. And if you don’t, save on energy by using low energy appliances, turning the lights off when not in use etc.
- If you have the option of traveling just as quickly and comfortably by train, ship or plane, choose train. Out of the three, trains have the lowest carbon footprint.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
DC: While I would love for this not to be the truth, happiness often looks like my memories because I can’t quite grasp the reality of happiness in its present moment. It’s always surrounded by people I love and breathtaking experiences rather than material things.
LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we all do that more each day?
DC: The most important thing is to be grateful every day—for the fact that you’re healthy, the work you’re doing, the moments you’re experiencing. There is no point in being successful “in 10 years” if you spend 10 years feeling like your present life is not worth living, if you’re just looking towards the future and not enjoying the process it takes to get there.