Laura from Fashion for Conservation encourages us to truly define our own unique style, choosing a look that stands the test of time and makes us feel confident when we walk into a room. To bring more sustainability and less fast fashion into our lives, we can start by borrowing and trading our clothes when we need something new. If that doesn’t work, we can try second hand shops, or purchasing from small artisans at local boutiques, farmer’s markets, or even on Etsy.
4 Simple Ideas to Try:
Top 4 actions that you can take if you’re feeling compelled to bring more sustainability into what you wear.
- Spend time and thought defining your own unique style, and move away from trends
- Borrow or trade clothes with friends or family
- Purchase and re-sell using second hand shops
- Buy handmade goods from small artisans. Farmer’s markets, Etsy, or local shops that specialize in this are great places to start.
About Our Guest.
Laura Choi joins me from Seattle, Washington. She is the president of Fashion for Conservation, a nonprofit that supports the financial independence and empowerment of artisan craftswomen in the Peruvian Amazon.
Sounds pretty cool, huh? How do they do that? They provide micro loans to these ladies, to rent materials and supplies, for crafting traditionally and culturally inspired accessories (handbags, bracelets, earrings). These goods are then sold and distributed to international markets beyond Peru.
Laura describes herself as an incessantly organized person who thrives on doing what is essential, and doing it always in a thoughtful way. Her day job is in tech, but Fashion for Conservation feels more impactful, and the community involvement makes her heart soar. She believes that if she is on this planet, she needs to make a maximum impact with her energy all the time.
Can you imagine? I get tired thinking about it! But Laura is so full of positive energy and optimism that it is truly contagious.
You can follow Fashion for Conservation on Instagram at @fashionforconservation to keep up with the new changes Laura describes in our call. It will be neat to see how their mission and impact evolves.
My Favorite Episode Quote.
“So with the internet, people can do more research into what they buy and why. And because particularly now we’re celebrating individuality, I think humans are more geared to finding unique things than ever. And not necessarily trying to do their style the same way they see everybody else doing it.” – Laura Choi
Laura is a confident, strong, powerful lady. But it wasn’t always like that. She credits fashion to helping her find her voice.
About halfway through her college career, she realized she was on a path that didn’t bring her joy. She said she was always busy growing up, doing activities that were decided for her. College just followed naturally in the same way, and she was studying engineering. But one day she realized that she did not see herself working as an engineer after graduation. And she was pretty lost.
She was drawn to fashion magazines. And it occurred to her while reading that fashionable women were actually fashionable through a very conscious choice and a lot of introspection. They really knew who they were. And they were able to express that from the outside in.
Being an introvert, Laura was really excited by the idea of projecting her strength, rather than only relying on her voice to do it for her.
She was a young fashionista, working for Escada in Chicago and New York City. She then moved home to Seattle and worked for Nordstrom. She says being a fashion intern is certainly a great way to learn patience and discipline.
Being remembered for your style is better than being noticed.
This was my favorite theme to come out of my talk with Laura. She speaks to how the fashion icons in history were all known for their unique style. And how you can really lend your voice to causes that you care about through the brands you choose to wear. And if we all do that, we really help bring back the sustainability of fashion.
Laura encourages people to explore their own unique style. We live in an era that celebrates individuality, and there are more choices than ever to go off the beaten path and find those one of a kind pieces second hand or from small artisans. You can also take borrowed pieces and make them into a completely new outfit with your own flair.
Fast Fashion: the thorn in fashion's side.
I thought this was a funny way to describe fast fashion, but it’s totally true! The good news is that there is a big shift happening in fashion now, and more and more people are using fashion as a platform to tackle important issues like sustainability.
If you’re not familiar with fast fashion, Laura elegantly explains why it is a problem. “Fast fashion” is a term that refers to shops like Forever 21, or H&M… places that produce and sell cheap clothing that is sold specifically to be on current trend. These pieces typically fall apart quickly and result in the owner going and buying more.
Laura describes why she doesn’t see many redeeming qualities in fast fashion. In addition to expending a lot of energy and ending up in land fills, fast fashion instills a culture in which individuals can feel undervalued or under-accepted. Constantly chasing the newest trend can be expensive and unfulfilling.
But, a lot of celebrities are coming on board with environmentally conscious fashion brands. And because it became such a craze, it lended way to a lot of attention and a lot of people stepping forward to change it.
The Artisan Initiative.
Historically Fashion for Conservation brought awareness to sustainability through high end couture fashion campaigns. They’re well known for their campaign Elephantasia, that brought together 15 sustainable designers in London to bring awareness to the elephant poaching crisis.
Although they were very successful with this type of campaign, Laura talks about how she felt their mission had been taken over by the glitz and glamour, and the parties and the social media.
They wanted to do something more substantial for the environment, and for women.
So now they’re focused on the artisan initiative, which is based along the Amazon River in Peru. The women they support weave unique handbags, or make jewelry from local beads they find, or even paint the scales of the paiche fish for earrings.
This initiative is opening them up to making money during the 9 months of the year that tourists are not visiting. It’s empowering women in the culture, and men are even getting involved to help. Some local shops in Seattle, such as Cura Co. carry the pieces for them.
One Simple Idea to Get Started.
Laura shared a fun story of the traveling pants. She spoke about Fashion for Conservation’s founder, who lives all over the world and has very little possessions to her name… including clothes! So what does she wear?
She borrows. She borrows or inherits her clothes from people along her journey. And this triggered Laura’s number one recommendation for someone who wants to help with the sustainability of fashion. Borrow! Or trade.
Reusing clothing is one of the best things we can do for the earth. This does require higher end pieces that can stand the test of time. But with that quality, you can really take anything and make it your own. Laura suggests trading with friends, family, or even through online second hand resources like The Real Real.
She even mentioned that Nordstrom now has a recycling program. Actually Nordstrom surprised me with how much they’re doing for sustainability. This has me excited because I miss going to stores and trying clothes on. I’ve only done that three times in the past four years since I launched my clothing line. I began feeling guilty buying anything that wasn’t sustainable. I personally am so excited by this interview and the changes that are happening in the fashion industry.