Why I need more financial support from ethical brands. Hey! My name is Antonia and I am the founder and only person behind this website! I started MOCHNI.COM 3 years ago (end of 2015) with the goal to support ethical brands and to inspire women to shop fair trade fashion. I want to tell you what it takes to run this website. I am 32 years old and I recently opened up on this issue in a panel at the Santa Monica College in Los Angeles. I appreciate the reactions and I will tell you also my story and how much work this website brings along. I am currently working nearly 12 hours a day, sometimes 7 days a week to keep this website running, plus no sickness or holiday allowed 😨… Continue reading below.
My Job Experiences when I was 14-19 Years Old 💁🏼
When I was 14, I started my 1. job in my grandma´s boutique, where I used to sell Givenchy and Yves Saint Laurent. I learned sewing in a sewing class and created my first dress when I was 16 ✂️ . When I finished my high school with 19, I interned at a film set without any compensation, working 12 hours a day. I also interned at a furrier´s workshop which was owned by my friend´s dad (I do not support any fur anymore and I am so glad that the city of Los Angeles started banning any fur products). Then I started studying fashion-and textile management which is a mix of fashion design and marketing in 2006. I worked at MaxMara as a sales assistant in my summer holidays and I worked at the furrier´s boutique where I used to sell a sable coat for a price of 30.000€ when I was only 19 years old.
My Job Experiences when I was 23-25 Years Old 👩🏼🎓
🎓 After my graduation in 2009, when I turned 23, I moved from Hamburg to Berlin Neukölln to live with my cousin and to start working as a freelance fashion stylist, working with Toni Garrn, Lado Alexi, Ben Lamberty and had to work without any compensation to build relations. Here and there I worked as a commercial model and participated in endless castings 🎥. I also worked as a fashion designer and created made-to-measure gowns for clients on requests. Besides that, I worked as a part-time sales assistant for VALENTINO to ensure my living wage. At this boutique, I used to sell exotic leather handbags for 4000€ and evening gowns for 12.000€ (ready-to-wear not Haute Couture), as part-time I made a sales volume of 200.000€ in 1 year. And the most shocking: I sold a t-shirt for 500€ which was made in Bangladesh from viscose fabric.
👗 At this point, I asked myself if I really want to continue selling these items. I decided to quit this sales job and to start my own fashion label ANTONIA LEONI with a small financial support from Germany. I quickly realized that I needed a BIG financial investment, or I would never be able to run a successful ready-to-wear brand with seasonal collections. I had some short-term jobs in Berlin at disrespectful companies such as a glove company that paid my freelance work with only 10€/hour pre-tax or a media company that offered me a full-time internship for 1000€/month but wanted my full presence and assignment. These kinds of creative jobs are typically underpaid in cities such as Berlin. Please note that a freelance have to cover costs such as insurance, tax, holidays and sickness. 👩🏼🎨
My Job Experiences when I was 23-26 Years Old 🤦🏼♀️
After all these jobs in Berlin, I finally decided to take on a full-time job with Abercrombie & Fitch. Although I did not want to continue working in unethical fashion it was a very easy job option to become a Manager in training and this gave me the possibility to move back to my hometown immediately. I ended up working there for 3 months as this was the worst job I ever had in my life. This company is the most unethical company ever. I could tell you many stories about the fake and racist work environment with A&F. They forbid me to wear my mom´s childhood ring which I wore every day and already felt like a part of me because I loved it so much. I then became store manager of a small boutique in Hamburg managing a team of 3 elder women who could not stand the fact that a 26-year-old girl became their boss and they behaved disrespectfully against me. So I also quit that job and finally decided to NOT working in fashion retail anymore.
My Job Experiences when I was 26-28 Years Old 🙅🏼
I wanted to work in the publishing industry and started to study culture-and media management at the college for Music and Theatre in Hamburg while I worked part-time for a secondhand online store that used to buy second-hand clothing from people and sell those on eBay. I used to work with about 30 other women in a big hall without any windows and with the worst workplace conditions, you could have in Hamburg, Germany. We photographed the dirty items and published them with certain texts on eBay. We had to finish a horrendous amount of items per hour. This company is bankrupt now. I don´t know why, but I continued working there for half a year and then started a new job for another fashion online store.
This time, this e-store was a start-up from Denmark with a nice office in Hamburg’s city center. It was on a snowy winter day that I had my first day in this company and came to the office when they told me that I have to work at their new location. So I drove to the new location which was located in the industrial area of Hamburg and the office was basically a 500 square meter big hall without heating, office equipment, kitchen tools, and bathroom necessities or anything. They told me and 2 other part-timers to use the computers which stood on 2 desks and to set up the department on our own. We wore our winter coats during the whole working time and were hardly able to focus on anything. That was the craziest and most stupid start-up ever and is (no wonder) bankrupt now, too.
My Job Experiences with 28- today 🙇🏼♀️👩🏼💻
After so many years of hard work, I decided to launch my own website MOCHNI. My goal with MOCHNI was to create a cool platform to inspire women to shop ethical fashion. MOCHNI became worldwide the first European (Germany-based) platform in the English language focused on sustainable fashion. I still was studying and had a part-time job in a super nice online marketing agency for blogger relations and SEO where I used to work for a couple of years. I invested 30.000€ in MOCHNI and lots of hard work to produce high-quality content and to build this niche community around MOCHNI which I love to meet in real life actually, too! I sold my complete wardrobe to be able to have enough time to work on this website. I also sold my bed and slept on my mattress for about a year, so that I was able to use the sleeping room as a photo studio during the day. Yes, I also taught myself photographing. After 1 year running MOCHNI, I could quit my agency job and be able to focus 100% on this website. Since 1 year I have my own office and little photo studio and do not need to work from my living room anymore which feels great. But I work 12 hours per day and most of the weekends, too. I still live under a big pressure to ensure my living wage every month. Read on why I need more support from ethical brands.
1. I Must Make A Living Wage In Germany, Too 💶
To be able to run MOCHNI I have to work full time on this site. To be able to work full time, I have to receive a normal payment for all the high-quality work I do. My job with MOCHNI is to create a platform with a unique style and voice. I produce photos, I art direct the photo style, organize the clothing and styling, book models, a studio, photograph and edit the images, I write texts, make a huge research which takes weeks for 1 article. I have to entertain the audience through Instagram and Facebook and the newsletter which means I have to create individual content for each channel. I taught myself coding and how to write texts with the best readability so that all articles on MOCHNI are easy to read for everyone worldwide. I taught myself how to edit articles and how to structure them.
I used to manage a team of 25 contributing writers from all over the world. I am attending many events and summits in the sustainable fashion industry worldwide to learn and to connect with people. I have plenty of ideas for investigative articles which could teach readers about sustainable fashion. I would love to focus on writing and creating content as this is the job I love but at the moment I only can invest 10% of my working time in that as I work 90% on sales to ensure my living wage. I must reach out to a lot of brands to promote the Ethical Brand Directory and to earn money. This also means that I have to know all the brand’s stories and the sustainability facts behind each brand. This means I have to have a high knowledge of sustainability and greenwashing in the fashion industry. The truth is that I earn about 5€/hour at the moment and I live in Germany where the minimum wage is 9,50€. But I want to continue this website as I really want to grow MOCHNI to support the ethical fashion industry. But I also want to be fair to all the small ethical brands and offer them the same rates.
2. I Have To Pay Income Tax On Any Barter Deal 💸
Unfortunately, still many ethical brands think that barter deals are gifts. That is not true. Each item which the company sends must be taxed as income. That being said, I have to pay 50% tax on each item if I can not use this for my job and book it as a business expense. To all brands, please train your marketing manager better and stay respectful.
3. I Must Grow MOCHNI As An Independent, Ethical Media Site 💻
To be able to grow MOCHNI independently, honest and ethically, I have to earn money from ethical brands and not greenwashing or fast fashion brands. I have to re-invest this money in employees and even in social media, too. 1 full-time editor, for example, must earn at least 30.000€ per year. But I also need 1 social media editor and I need money for interns, tax and tax-lawyer, insurances, programmer, the office space, furniture, computers, work travels and much more. I really want to grow MOCHNI as the number 1 site for sustainable fashion inspiration worldwide. If ethical brands do not invest in publishing I can not grow this website and I would not be able to give back to ethical brands anymore. Ethical brands must pay for the publication on MOCHNI, otherwise, MOCHNI won´t exist as an ethical and independent media platform in the future anymore. But the ethical fashion industry needs that in order to drive real change. Because the brands need the customers to buy their collections and the media inspire these customers.
4. To Build Long-Lasting Relationships 🙌🏽
Most of them do, but ALL ethical brands should respect the work behind ethical media platforms like mine with MOCHNI and should focus on long-lasting relationships and building high-quality brand awareness. They should still be kind if I decline unpaid advertisement on my website, especially if it is a bigger company with a budget. Even Coca-Cola won´t ever stop spending money on building their brand awareness and marketing because they always want to be the nr. 1 of beverages with a brand awareness of 99% worldwide. Brands must pay when the invoice is due and not weeks overdue. Overdue payment means that the publishing deadlines must be rescheduled as I do not want to publish before payment. Past experience showed me that there were some brands that do not pay the invoice at all after the work was completed. I won´t mention any brand names here but I wont´ever work with those again in the future. Also, the community of ethical writers is very small worldwide and brands must take care that they do not lose their “ethical” brand image within this group of publishers as no one is interested in any kind of coverage anymore.
5. Big Brands Have Not a Budget For Ethical Media 👀
The fun fact here is that a German PR agency from Berlin reached out to me to request media coverage for a huge company´s new “sustainable” collection. I offered them to write an article about this collection if I get a transparent insight and a budget which covers my editorial work and this article would be marked as paid content. The agency told me that this brand does not have a budget.
6. To Drive Change ♻️
Starting my first 3-day event in Berlin in January, this will give me another possibility to earn money in order to keep on supporting small ethical businesses. I really hope that the brands believe in MOCHNI and value the work amount behind it a bit more because only with collaborations, we can drive change. I hope that the brands that are more established and have the budget will spend it and also that small brands plan in a budget for exactly these kind of media. If this won´t be the case in the future, we have to charge for the read or we won´t exist anymore which does not make any sense. Thank you for listening. If you want to work with MOCHNI, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.