Sophia Li is a Chinese-American multimedia journalist and film director. She’s worked on projects like a short documentary on the biggest landfill in the US in partnership with environmental non-profit, Slow Factory, and in her previous life, she worked at Vogue.
Sophia’s content is constantly teaching me about policy and climate action in a gentle, digestible way, and her killer style doesn’t hurt either. We chatted to Soph about her journey and career, and her intention for her platform.
Please introduce yourself! Who are you and what are you up to right now?
Hi! My American name is Sophia, my Chinese name is Fei. What am I up to literally right now? I just finished eating fried rice for lunch at 4pm (one of those days, ya know?) and finalized designs for my sustainable cashmere collection in collaboration with DTC, made-to-order brand Public Habit set to launch at the end of this month!
How did you first get introduced to sustainability? How has your journey evolved over time?
What initially kickstarted my relationship with sustainability is also the main reason I discovered my love for fashion as well. Growing up, I would spend my summers in China and because of the high production volumes, shopping there was always a season or two ahead in terms of trends. I would buy my entire school year’s worth of my tween wardrobe in the shopping meccas of Shanghai and Beijing. While visiting China as a young adult, I firsthand witnessed how these high production volumes across all industries: fashion, automobile, etc. were affecting the air and life quality. It made me realize that this isn't a sustainable production model and that blue skies can be gone in a matter of years if we continue with this formula of consumption.
Additionally, while I was the Entertainment Media Editor of American Vogue, we would have shoots where we would rent out two studios for styling and one studio for the actual shooting-- it was another firsthand look at the sheer quantity this industry creates, and how much it relies on volume and profit more than anything else.
How do you see your role within your platform and community? What is your intention for your platform?
Perhaps I have always processed the world differently; when I was a child I would always ask my teacher "but why?" My platform is where I can use storytelling to process the insane amount of information we are bombarded with everyday (hi #contentpollution) and streamline it and humanize sustainability so that it’s not overwhelming.
The intention for my platform is to claim a pocket of safe space in the interwebs where you will never be shamed and where learning and asking questions is the way forward.
What are three books that you'd recommend for people beginning their journey with being a climate activist?
- This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein
- Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
- Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change by George Marshall
Are there three brands or items that you personally love in the sustainability space?
More than three! But to start…
- I have to shout out my collection with Public Habit, which is an on-demand luxury fashion company. I spent a year developing and understanding the carbon footprint, the sustainability rating of the factory where the garments are produced, and the sustainability rating of the cashmere sourced.
- This new brand, Forgo, from Sweden, makes the chicest refillable glass bottle hand wash with the most luxurious scents I've seen on the market. Can we please replace each Aesop or plastic hand wash bottle hotel bathrooms and personal bathrooms with these bottles instead?
- Because face masks are the hottest and most necessary accessory right now: Henry Masks. They’re rewashable, subscription-based, BIPOC owned, and small-batch produced in LA.
What are you hopeful about right now?
Mass healing on an individual level to trickle down into our collective consciousness after this disruptive past year.
What are you interested in learning more about?
Gosh, everything! I always say I have more questions than answers. My parents, one isa neuroscientist and the other a biostatician. One of my first internships was in trend forecasting combining all of these different silos, so I'm interested in a lot of different topics! For now I would say, extraterrestrial life.
If there was one thing you wanted people to know about climate, what would it be?
Because sustainability is a spectrum, I would never say that I'm a perfect environmentalist or that I'm 100% zero waste or vegan. As a human living in a capitalism-dominant society, one can only live a life that is still adherent to the boundaries in place by societal rules. I'm going to keep fighting that as long as I can and holding these entities accountable, but I will never claim to be perfect. I actually think that this 'purist' or 'extremist' mindset in the climate space is dangerous to embark on and will not be the solution to the climate crisis. As my dear friend Céline Semaan of Slow Factory says: "the more you know, the less you know."