Izzy Manual & Rosie Okotcha On Their Podcast, Spill The Sustainabili-Tea

By Charlie Colville

1 month ago

Meet the women getting candid over a cup of tea


You know those deep (and sometimes not-so-deep) discussions that you have with friends? The ones usually had sat together on the sofa with a cup of tea? You might have often though they’d become good podcasting material. This is exactly the premise of Spill The Sustainabili-Tea, a new podcast hosted by Izzy Manual and Rosie Okotcha. Each episode, they (alongside the podcast’s resident cat, Bunsen) dive into a topic from the world of sustainable fashion – from the comfort of their sofa, cups of tea in hand – talking about everything from the rise of the Depop Girlie to how small things can make a big difference. Now with a few episodes under their belt, we checked in with the two co-hosts to see what we can expect from the rest of the series.

Spill The Sustainabili-Tea: Meet Co-Hosts Izzy Manual & Rosie Okotcha

Izzy Manual and Rosie Okotcha

(L-R) Izzy Manual and Rosie Okotcha

Hi girls, thanks for joining us today. Can you kick us off by telling us a bit about yourselves and how you got into fashion?

RO: Of course! I’m Rosie Okotcha. Originally I’m from Wiltshire, but I’ve been in London for a while now. I’m doing my masters at the moment in fashion history and theory, focussing on sustainability – which is really exciting. I’ve always loved fashion, and have found myself working in fashion in different capacities since I was 17, so I really love the industry and I’m optimistic about seeing it hopefully change to have a more positive impact on the planet.

IM: I’m Izzy Manual, and I’m also from a ‘shire. I’m from Hampshire, and grew up in the countryside with my parents. I did live in London for a few years, but we moved when I was quite young because my parents were done with London. I actually studied chemistry and got an integrated masters, and during that time I got to see more of the industrial side of sustainability. I went to the University of Bath, which has a sustainability hub, and so a lot of our lecturers’ research was focused on creating industrial change in a more sustainable way.

So, I do have a bit more of a science-chemistry background, but I’ve always loved fashion. My mum introduced me to charity shops when I was younger, and as I got older I got to learn more about sustainability and the issues around sustainability and fashion. And I was sort of like ‘Oh, I really feel like I could utilise my science and chemistry knowledge.’ I was thinking about how it relates to fashion, because they are so inherently linked. I felt like there was a space for someone to talk about sustainability and the science-y side of sustainability in a way that was accessible and more easily understandable.

And how did you both meet?

IM: We can’t actually remember when exactly we met, but we’d been mutuals on socials for a while before properly meeting. The sustainability space is quite small – everyone seems to know everyone – and we must have met at an event.

RO: I’m also not sure where, but I do remember when we first met that I was really worried that Izzy didn’t like me – and I really liked her and wanted to be friends. I was so nervous. Eventually I did ask if she wanted to be friends.

IM: Yes, you said thought I was so serious. That changed when you got to know me.

RO: I’ve heard people say they think that about both of us, before they get chatting to us. We probably gave each other that impression.

You’ve recently come together to launch a podcast, Spill The Sustainabili-Tea. Can you give us an elevator pitch for the show?

IM: I would say it’s about two friends having controversial chats about sustainability over a cup of tea. It’s very light. We want it to be funny. We want it to be accessible. We want it to be a joy to listen to, but also educate people about topics they might usually be scared to talk about – and in a way that is accessible.

RO: We both often think the sustainability space can be quite intimidating, and also quite judgmental. We really wanted the podcast to just feel like a really fun, judgement-free space, somewhere where you can ask ‘silly’ questions about sustainability and learn at a good pace.

And what led you to start the Spill The Sustainabili-Tea?

IM: As Rosie mentioned, sustainability can seem like a very serious space – especially at panel events – and I think that puts a lot of people off from creating those small changes. Rosie and I have always like chatting about these topics, and it eventually became the baseline for Spill The Sustainabili-Tea. Rosie would come to my house, we’d have a cup of tea and chat about something that was going on in the industry. And one day, we thought, ‘Oh, this could be something – should we start a podcast?’ We wanted it to be educational, but not super serious. I do think people find sustainability to be an overwhelming topic, so for us it was really important to make the narrative light, fun and silly – but without erasing all elements of seriousness.

RO: In the sustainability space, it can be quite heavy. Sometimes it feels a little bit sad and scary to have those conversations. It’s still important to have them, but it’s also important to have a laugh where you can. You can talk about something serious, but also chat about the weird things you’ve bought on Vinted. You need a bit of balance.

Was this you first venture into podcasting?

IM: This has been a first for us both, I think. We’ve featured on other peoples’ podcasts and radio shows before, but never owned one ourselves.

RO: It’s definitely been a learning experience, especially learning how to do all the tech stuff. Everything that’s being presented is just us. So it’s been a learning curve for both of us.

How did you plan out the episodes?

RO: We had quite clear topics in mind. We’ve got a list of things that we definitely want to talk about, and have started making our way through it – but then if there are topics that come up quite suddenly, that we really want to talk about, then we’ll pick those up along the way.

IM: When we’re actually planning the episodes we usually have the headline title, but then we try to keep it quite free-flowing. If there are numerical facts and stats then we’ll have them ready in our heads or written down somewhere – just to make sure we’re being factually correct – but we want it to feel like a conversation between friends. So, for this reason, we don’t really have touch points. We have a topic, we have our opinions and the facts we’ve found, and we’re going to have a chat about it all. We’re trying to create a community feel.

Izzy Manual and Rosie Okotcha with cup and tea pot

Any fun stories from getting the podcast together?

RO: We’ve had lots of funny little moments where we’ve had to stop ourselves from talking about the podcast topic before recording. We usually have a pre-podcast cup of tea where we have to tell each other, ‘Don’t say that yet. Keep it in for the podcast.’

IM: I also think, especially during the recording, that a lot of laughter comes from the cat.

RO: Yes, Bunsen! [After bunsen burner? Yes!] He actually bit me during one of the episodes. He was on my lap, looking really relaxed one moment, then he must have gotten overstimulated because he took a turn. Izzy did warn me, but I didn’t listen, which is how I ended up getting a small bite. It was so funny.

IM: It was funny. At least we know now to step away when he gets overstimulated.

RO: He’s definitely a highlight of the podcast.

IM: He does love a cuddle though. We’re usually sat on the sofa while recording, so if he comes through the cat flap then he’ll be straight in someone’s lap.

RO: We’ve got a great relationship now, so it’s fine!

We love bonus cat content. But when you don’t have a lap-full of Bunsen, we assume you’re making your way through a cup of tea. What’s your go-to hot drink while podcasting?

IM: Probably a classic breakfast tea, although I also love a jasmine tea.

RO: Lemon and ginger tea, fresh mint tea or sometimes matcha. But something Izzy and I both love that is a little weird is just a cup of hot water. I don’t really like drinking cold drinks, so sometimes it’s nice to just have a hot water.

IM: I’ve also been told it’s good for digestion to have hot water. I don’t know if it’s scientifically proven but it feels nice.

RO: Another tea I really love to have in the afternoon is rosemary tea. It’s really good for waking you up a little bit and helps with blood circulation – so whenever I’m writing an essay or something I always drink rosemary tea so that I don’t feel cold. You can just grab a sprig of rosemary from your garden or the shop and just put it in hot water, and it’s really surprisingly delicious.

What can we expect from future episodes of Spill The Sustainabili-Tea?

IM: One of our upcoming episodes will ask the question of whether you can be sustainable and still love fashion. Rosie and I actually have this conversation quite a lot, and a lot of people feel like they can only be one thing and not the other.

RO: It’s definitely not like that; it’s easier than people think. You can repair things and buy them secondhand, for example – but we’ll save the rest of the discussion for the podcast.

We’re actually hoping to have guests soon. We’ve got like quite a few people we’d really like to have on and so hopefully, that will be the next steps for Spill The Sustainabili-Tea.

IM: I think it’s just about sorting the logistics, because currently everything is recorded and filmed at my house. So we need to figure out how the space will work. We really want to have guests because it’d be so nice to have people on who are experts in certain fields in the industry, and just have different perspectives as well. It’s so interesting to hear people’s opinions and thoughts.

And has the process of creating Spill The Sustainabili-Tea brought you closer together, do you think?

RO: It’s been a bonding experience, hasn’t it?

IM: Yeah, doing Spill The Sustainabili-Tea has just been so nice. I feel like Rosie and I have become such good friends now, we just text each other all the time and ramble about stuff that annoys us. If we see something secondhand that’s cool, that we know like the other person will like, we let the other know. We’re basically personal shoppers for each other now.

RO: We actually went shopping the other day around some charity shops, and there was this pair of shoes that I’ve been obsessed with for months – we found them, but in Izzy’s size, not mine. But it was still nice to have moments like that where we knew that the person getting the item was going to wear it well and take good care of it. If I couldn’t have them, then I was glad Izzy could.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to your 15-year-old self?

RO: I love that question. I think I’d just tell myself that everything’s going to be okay, you know? Just keep doing what you’re doing, and don’t worry about failing and trying new things and not being good at them. Try everything that you have the opportunity to try – and if you don’t enjoy it, don’t feel like you have to keep doing it. Go on adventures and take any opportunity, because I feel like I’ve gotten to where I am now by trying new things. I wanted to be a lawyer and a doctor at one point – lots of weird career paths, but by exploring them I’ve been able to realise that they were things I definitely didn’t want to do. So, to 15 year old me, I just say sort of keep at it and take all the opportunities that you can and have fun. And don’t worry so much.

IM: I’d say you don;t need to stick to one path. You can change course, and that’s okay. I know this is slightly later, but when I started doing my chemistry degree I had this idea that I was going to work in oil. Like I was going to be a chemist and be in industry. Over time I realised that wasn’t wanted for myself. Just because you’re already doing something doesn’t mean that, at the end of it, you can’t change direction. I think 15-year-old Izzy probably felt like she had to go into industry if she wanted to do a chemistry degree, so I’d tell her that that’s not the case at all. She should also be kinder to herself; she was too hard on herself.

How do you think we can live our life a little better?

IM: I have this thing where I try and spend 10 minutes a day outside in nature. Being outside is so important for your mental health, but it’s also a good way to reconnect with nature. I think we need that connection with nature to understand why it’s worth saving. I think it’s also worth remembering that it’s okay not to feel okay, when you have days that are just not just not the one. I think everyone has days where they really struggle with their mental health, and that’s okay. There will be better days in the future.

RO: I agree with that. Something that I often get weird looks for is, even in the dead of winter, I’ll go to the park and take my shoes and socks off and like walk around with bare feet. I find that so grounding [IM: Literally]. Cultivating a connection to nature is a really important place to start, whether it’s for your mental health or even with sustainability. And it’s just small changes. Like even if you live in a high rise building where there’s no access to a green space, having a potted plant that you care for does   wonders for your connection to nature. And in those moments when you’re finding it hard to care for yourself, you’re caring for something else, which I find always brings me joy.

IM: Reaching out and connecting with people is also important. Rosie and I were talking about this earlier, but London can feel like a very lonely place sometimes. There isn’t a huge sense of community despite it being a city with like so many people. So I think going out and finding your people, connecting with people, is also so important.

Izzy Manual and Rosie Okotcha

And how do you live a life in balance?

IM: Taking time for yourself. I think it’s so easy to get burnt out; work is so intense, everyone’s stressed. You need to just take some time to do things that you enjoy. For me, that’s exercise, and I don’t share about it online because that’s like my thing. I play hockey, which I think people don’t usually know about me, and I don’t really showcase it because that’s something for me. At the end of the day I’m a content creator, but it is my job. So I do try and keep some boundaries and do things for myself. And I think that’s really important in all stages of life, no matter what your job is. Do things for others but also look after yourself.

RO: I love that. I believe in astrology — not super hardcore, but a little bit. I’m a Pisces, and how I tend to stay balanced is through water: swimming, baths, showers, anything like that. Anytime I feel like I need a moment to reconnect with myself and have a refresh, I gravitate to water. It’s like washing away a bad day. A hot shower does wonders. Small acts of self care are also really important. I always try to light some candles and put on a facemask once a week, usually with my favourite TV show playing in the background. I’ll then have a really long shower, and probably go to bed early.

IM: Going to bed early is an underrated form of self care.

Any parting words for our readers?

RO: Do listen to Spill The Sustainabili-Tea if you can. Bring a cup of tea and come join us. The more people in our little online community, the better – and every single person is always welcome.

IM: It’s always going to be shame-free.

RO: Our DMs are always open for sustainability questions, too.

IM: Something we’re both really hot about is that, if people want to ask us questions about anything – even if they think it’s silly – we’ll always be there to help. We want people to feel like they ask questions that they’re not really sure about.

LISTEN

You can hear more from Izzy and Rosie on their podcast, Spill The Sustainabili-Tea. spotify.com