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Ethical Unicorn: living a cruelty-free, no-waste life

Photo by Katy Lalanne
The girls and I come across quite a few people on our journey to planting goodness. But very few inspire us as much as Francesca Willow, a.k.a. Ethical Unicorn.


Francesca, a London-based artist and writer, has created Ethical Unicorn to help the world transition towards living the best ethical life possible. When you take a look at her site, you note she explores and covers all aspects of life. From the environment, to food, to eco-friendly fashion, to social justice.

If you are wondering what an ethical life exactly is and how to get there, check out Francesca’s pointers below. Along with the fascinating story behind her brand, she reminds us that it’s the little, everyday choices in life that lead to the biggest impact.

Thank you, Francesca, for inspiring us. Keep up the good work!

When and how did your interest in a cruelty-free, zero-waste life begin? 

In 2016, some friends decided to go waste-free in February. They created a Facebook group for people to follow and get inspired. I ended up in it somehow. And I had never heard of zero waste before then! My friends then decided to continue their experience past that month. It’s their journey that inspired me to start my own. At the same time, a friend working in PR was representing quite a few cruelty-free and ethical brands. I started thinking about how all these issues link together but really no one in the UK talking about all of them in one space. So I decided to be that person – and I started Ethical Unicorn 3 days later!

What does the term “ethical” mean to you?

I come from more of a social justice background. To me, ethical always comes down to believing in the value and rights of others. Buying something that’s ethically made is about believing in the value of those who made it. Believing they deserve a fair wage, good treatment and dignity. Being more sustainable is about valuing the beautiful planet we’re on. But also the people who live here – both future generations and those in developing nations who are so often the victims of climate change issues. Ethical is about trying to right those wrongs in society through consumer habits and advocating for social and political change.

What brought you to exploring the textile and fashion worlds, amongst others?

I’m a bit of an anomaly. Most ethical influencers come from mainstream fashion backgrounds and move into ethical fashion. I come from a cultural studies and social justice background. It just clicked for me, one day: consumer power is one of the biggest things we have. Especially now, when we may feel our leaders don’t represent us, we can reclaim this power. Companies follow market trends and if we’re demanding better practice across the board, they will have to keep up with us to stay afloat. Fashion is a huge industry, and one that we can influence directly.

How does “organic” go with “fair trade” in the fashion industry?

I think it depends on the company. More and more these days, I speak to fashion brands that are both treating workers ethically and using organic materials. This is really exciting. I think the problem is if you’re a brand that’s a social enterprise and talking about treating workers ethically. This means you have to think of materials as part of the wider picture. You can make things ethically – and that’s great. But if your materials are contributing to pollution, then that will come back around and threaten developing communities. So you have to think big and ask if you’re being more a help or a hindrance. If it’s the latter, how can you change that?

Also, there’s still a lot of variety. There are brands that are working on cleaning up their supply chains, upcycling old materials or partnering with small fair trade cooperatives in places that maybe can’t afford to source organic or eco-friendly materials yet. You need to have grace and understanding here. If a brand is genuinely trying to make the world better, they’re also learning and growing. That’s where you come in and guide them in the right direction (e.g. see TRAID, helping cotton farmers go organic).

Michelle Calcatelli

Michelle Calcatelli

Hi there! My name is Michelle. I'm an American living in Italy, mom of two girls, a lover of travel, music and good food shared with loved ones. I am a freelance grant writer and a former agricultural development practitioner, having worked mostly in rural Africa for 18 years. I look forward to creating a space here - with your help - where we can exchange dreams, ideas and kindness to start shaping a better tomorrow.

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