While I’ve spoken about this through conversation, I’ve never really sat down and written about my past and ongoing experience with sustainability. It’s been an incredibly long journey, and one I’m constantly making minor changes to because of growth and education. I truly believe in the baby steps, and not overwhelming oneself with many changes at once. I’m also not perfect, and make many mistakes along the way!
For me, this ‘sustainable’ journey began about 7 years ago. However, at the time, I didn’t even know the true definition of sustainability. I was starting to learn about organic food, non toxic skincare and (my favorite) fair trade products through my own shopping habits rather than someone else telling me about it. A couple years prior to this, I had watched a few videos in my fashion courses about unethical treatment in the industry, but it took a bit for them to register in my mind as an issue I could potentially do something about. Back to my own shopping habits making a slight transformation, I had found eating cleaner, using greener skincare products and supporting artisans from developing nations was making me feel better on many different levels. I feel as if around this time was when you were finding more ‘Fair Trade Certified’ and organic products, but there still wasn’t a lot to choose from. This was also back when Instagram had just started, not all of your friends were on it and hashtags for easy searching were definitely not being used.
I decided at that point to learn about how my studies in fashion could turn into something more responsible. This is when I became particularly interested in eco fashion, but when I came across the word ‘sustainability’ it all hit me at once. I was like ‘THIS is what I need to focus on.
How can the industry use this concept properly and still provide the many jobs it does, today?’. When you apply the concept of sustainability to the fashion industry, you have to take more than just the environment (despite popular belief) into consideration. It’s about the workers, culture, socio-economic backgrounds, values and principles, etc. It’s anything but black and white, and quite subjective so keeping an open mind was always very important to me during this journey. After college, I started my own little Etsy making upcycled and organic accessories while searching for that ‘perfect’ job. Of course, this job thing didn’t seem to happen for me, and I began struggling with finding purpose in the fashion industry. I decided to just start a blog to talk about the issues I felt were important to discuss. It took me three years after my studies and projects with sustainable fashion to start talking about it online.
On July 7, 2014, I bought the domain name for Sustainably Chic and started my Instagram account. I put out a post asking anyone if they had a business focused around a sustainable model so I would be able to share their stories with others. Ever since this first post, the emails have been flooding in.
For about a year and a half, I would share interviews I made with these brands as my side project rather than a job I was earning a living off of. It became so overwhelming time wise, it was absolutely unsustainable for me to continue in that fashion. I decided to make it my full time job, and start charging for my content while keeping things genuine. I make sure to never promote anything I don’t actually like or use in my own life. This is very important to me, but also keeping a roof over my head and valuing my work is absolutely necessary. After all, I am advocating fair wages, and I should be included in that mix.
The last four years with Sustainably Chic have been incredibly awesome, yet demanding and ever changing. Even the words ‘sustainable fashion’ have started trending and are way more popular than when I first heard them years ago. I’m constantly tweaking how and what I promote based off new findings and what is relevant to my audience. The viewers are so vastly different from one another, and I must take that into account when deciding what goes on the blog. It really is a space for all different kinds of lifestyles, but most importantly, it has a focus and that is sustainable fashion.
I believe this industry can exist responsibly and it needs to in order for future generations to experience the same things we enjoy, today.
Written by Natalie Kay