Use Less, Serve More: An Interview with Goodwill Industries PR Manager Dale Emanuel

The truth: 90% of clothing that ends up in a landfill could have been repurposed, recycled or, reused.

One of the first steps we're taught in order to be more sustainably savvy is to donate our "gently used" and unwanted textiles rather than throwing them away but what happens to your donated clothes after you've donated them? What shouldn't be in your donation bag and what's the real difference between donating textiles to companies like Goodwill vs. fast fashion companies like H&M?

We chatted with Goodwill Industries Columbia Willamette PR Manager, Dale Emanuel to find out!

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SFF: What's your position and how long have you been with Goodwill?
DALE EMANUEL:
I've been the PR Manager of Goodwill Industries of the Columbia Willamette (GICW) for 23 years.

SFF: What initially drew you to the company and made you want to join the team?
DALE: 
I was in the news broadcast industry for nearly 20 years and wanted to move from that industry to work in the nonprofit sector. The news industry is not a stable industry and in my opinion often imperfect because it is so rushed. Time is a luxury not usually given to reporters who gather and create broadcast news stories. Though for much of my years I functioned as a medical/health reporter, I didn’t feel I was giving back enough. GICW in particular is a nonprofit of integrity. In this position I use my reporting skills to work with the media and provide the public with information about free services that could benefit them. GICW was the right fit.

SFF: Why does Goodwill care about our used clothing? 
DALE:  
We receive more clothing than any other donation category. It’s also the category of donation most often sold. With money raised from the sale of clothing and other donations, we can provide free job services to community members in Southwest Washington and Northwest and Central Oregon.

SFF: Some fast fashion companies have recently started recycling infinitives to become more sustainable. What’s the difference between donating to Goodwill and donating to a company like H&M?  
DALE: Goodwill’s mission is to provide vocational opportunities to people with barriers to employment. Our mission. The revenues raised from the sale of donations mean we can keep all doors open to our free job services programs. Every donation at GICW provides on-site training, access to computers for job search assistance, employment placement job training and other community-based services such as career counseling, English as Second Language classes, citizenship support, résumé preparation and computer skills training.

SFF: I've always wondered this, especially when shopping at Goodwill -- once we donate our clothes, do you wash them before reselling? 
DALE: No. The vast majority of donated clothing comes to us freshly laundered. In fact, many items come to us dry-cleaned! Our donors do take special care of the clothing they donate as they want them to have a new home.

SFF: Do you mend holes & rips? 
DALE: 
We do not mend holes or rips. In fact, clothing with rips or holes does not make it to the retail sales floor. These items will be transported directly to one of our Outlets and if they do not sell there then they may be sold on the salvage market.

SFF: We often suggest people donate unwanted items from their closet rather than throwing them away. What clothing items should people NOT donate? Do you take bras and underwear?
DALE: People shouldn't donate wet and/or heavily soiled garments. We do sell bras both new and gently used however, only new underwear is sold. If items can’t be salvaged they are taken to an area landfill.

SFF: So what happens to clothes after they're donated? What is the process?
DALE: We look over every item to assess condition and value. Using a Good-Better-Best scale, items are priced for sale in one of our 42 retail stores, 5 Outlets, one of 3 Goodwill boutiques or on our shopgoodwill.com platform.  We had 8 million store transactions last year.

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@ocgoodwill

SFF: What is the difference between the boutiques and retail stores?
DALE: From a sales floor no larger than 2,000 square feet, boutiques offer higher-end and luxury brands. Our retail floor spaces can be as large as nearly 16,000 square feet. It is here we have just about everything in addition to higher end and luxury donations.

SFF: What happens to clothes that sit on the sales floor but don't sell? 
DALE: Donated items tend to sell within two weeks of hitting the retail sales floor. Those items that do not sell are marked down 50% in week 4. If the items do not sell after week 4, they are moved to one of our Outlets to sell by the pound. And if you find that treasure at the Outlet, you better buy it quick!

In unsold textile alone, which includes linen, towels and bedding, 26.5 million pounds were recycled. GICW, among Goodwill systems throughout North America, is a model in recycling those items not fit to sell. But in 2017 GICW did transport more than 47.4 million pounds of donations not fit to sell or recycle to area landfills at a cost of $3.1 million dollars.

SFF: Where does the money Goodwill receives from sales go?
DALE: 
To fund our free Job Services Programs. Examples of these programs include these results for 2017: more than 1,700 ESL classes were attended by community members and GICW employees. 10,172 Job Connection participants found work and 1,106 community members attended Job Connection Meet the Employers Events and Job Fairs. In addition, more than 4,600 community members and GICW employees obtained office computer skills training through our Career Center classes. GICW’s Employee/Community Education (ECE) program provided H.S. outreach to schools such as Fort Vancouver, De La Salle North, Lebanon and Glencoe. Since 2012, ECE has also been providing free job services classes to inmates of Coffee Creek, Inverness jail and MacLaren Youth Facility.

SFF: As a longtime Goodwill shopper, it seems like prices have gone up since thrifting and vintage shopping has become trendier. Why is that? As a nonprofit promoting secondhand shopping shouldn't prices remain the same?
DALE: While I can’t speak for other nonprofit or for-profit area thrift stores, I can speak to our price changes in clothing over the last 3 years. From 2015 to last year our clothing charges have increased by 16 cents or just over 2%. Just as it is for any business, our prices reflect our costs. GICW’s last year total payroll expenses were: $97,674,884 (wages: $75,765,600/ payroll taxes and benefits: $21,909,224). That is 5.3% over the previous year. In landfill fees, the cost went to $3.1 million dollars in 2017 from $2.8 million dollars in 2016. That is an increase of 11%. Our 2017 overhead was 4.6% of annual revenues.

GICW employs more than 2,700 people in Southwest Washington and Northwest and Central Oregon. We do not rely on volunteers, Federal, State or County monies.

SFF: What has it been like to watch Goodwill and its sustainability efforts evolve over the years and grow with the company?
DALE: Simply wonderful - I have learned so much. In my former working life I produced news stories as a representative of a TV or radio station, which does carry a weight. This position allows me to represent all of our dedicated employees and the community programs they run. It’s been a privilege to work in a business that provides thousands of free services to thousands of local people each year. GICW is a self-sustaining social enterprise functioning without volunteers. This Goodwill is very unique.  

SFF: What's one thing about Goodwill's sustainability effort that you wish more people knew?
DALE: The planet is so small and we consume so much. We would love community members to know we diligently work to stretch the value of their good intention, that donation. It’s the right thing to do. It’s important we strive to be good stewards.


Event Recap: How to Build a Sustainable Fashion Brand

Fostering community, authentic storytelling and conscious consumption/production were just a few of the larger takeaways from our panel discussion on How to Build a Sustainable Fashion Business held last Friday evening. The panel, which consisted of designers Andrea Moore Beaulieu Founder of Moore Custom Goods, Cassie Morgan Co-Founder of Altar, Marisa Howard Founder of Seaworthy, Jason Calderon Founder of West Daily and moderated by Sarah Donofrio Founder of One Imaginary Girl, shared advice on building a successful fashion business and making eco-concious decsions apart of the business ethos. The result: honest and passionate advice/tips to help emerging designers and aspiring entrepreneurs start and build their fashion business with a focus on conscious responsibility. 

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We learned a lot from our panelist but don't take our word for it. Here are a few takeaways from our attendees: 

@kaleighnjones "My biggest takeaway from the forum was hearing everyone say to start small, work slowly and intentionally. The biggest hiccup I’ve had is getting so overwhelmed by environmental issues that I become paralyzed—not wanting to produce anything. Accepting that making a fashion product is not helping the planet, but you are consciously taking steps to do it responsibly was a bit of a mental breakthrough. It was great to hear all of the research each one of them goes into."

@swedes_den "One thing I learned and took away from the event was that our customers are on this journey with us and the ones who thoughtfully visit our stores multiple times before actually purchasing are the customers we want. They’re the ones who help continue our story.”

@janetmorales04 "A quote that stood out to me the most was from Marisa of Seaworthy. "We value the product even after you buy it." Buying sustainable fashion/accessories isn't a fast purchase. These businesses take the time to teach their customers how to care fir their items therefore adding lasting value."

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@dezignsby "I learned how to incorporate what you already do, based on your lifestyle, grow slowly, and know those that learn about your vision and believe in your story will become not only customers but also your biggest advocates. 

@pschanel "Something new I learned was that gems/stones can be sustainably grown in a lab - I had NO idea! Now that changes my plans with future wedding ring goals" 

@solunacollective "Our favorite take away was the conversation about how to communicate sustainable fashion to the public. This is something that we definitely struggle with!"

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 Pictured (left to right) Cassie Morgan of  Altar , Marisa Howard of  Seaworthy , Sarah Donofrio of  One Imaginary Girl , Andrea Moore Beaulieu of  Moore Custom Goods  and Jason Calderon of  West Daily .  Photography by  Candace Molatore

Pictured (left to right) Cassie Morgan of Altar, Marisa Howard of Seaworthy, Sarah Donofrio of One Imaginary Girl, Andrea Moore Beaulieu of Moore Custom Goods and Jason Calderon of West Daily.

Photography by Candace Molatore

4 Entrepreneurs Share Why Sustainability is an Important Part of Their Business Ethos

What, if any, are the requirements to be considered a sustainable fashion brand and how does one go about building an eco-conscious business? These are questions we've been thinking a lot about lately and are excited to chat about this Friday at our last panel event of the summer.

Eager to get the conversation started, we asked 4 of our panelists to share why they chose to make sustainability a part of their business ethos. 

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Andrea Moore Beaulieu: Founder of Moore Custom Goods

Sustainability came into my design sphere while working for large corporations in New York and Los Angeles and seeing all the waste that is created through the design process. When I started my brand 5.5 years ago I knew that I wanted to do things differently. 

Whether it’s fabric and trim sourcing, hiring employees, sample creation, collection building, garment rebuilding, etc sustainability is at the forefront of each process. 

It isn’t easy and sometimes it comes with major challenges but staying true to our philosophy for the betterment of the environment, our employees and consumers continues to be fruitful over time. 

Jason Calderon: Founder of West Daily 

When I started designing I didn't think about the impact clothing had on the environment or the workers making it. Over the years I started to hear buzzwords like "sustainability" and "green" surrounding products from big brands, and I started to get curious what it was all about. However, it wasn't really until the disaster of Rana Plaza that I woke up to the devastating impact apparel/fashion is having on the world. It made me change my view of the industry in a deep way; it changed the way I shop, design, and collaborate.

I used to call my brand "sustainable", but no longer do because making more clothing is never good for the environment no matter how you do it. Instead I refer to my approach as ethically aware because I do my best to consider the environment every step of the way by fostering a process of slow, small-scale, local production. I take this approach because it feels like the responsible thing to do as a designer. 

Sarah Donofrio: Founder of One Imaginary Girl

Sustainability became important to me when I started working in corporate fashion, and I saw the true dark side of the industry. From cheap labor to knocking off small designers, I knew there had to be a way to thrive in fashion, without decreasing someone else’s quality of life or depleting the earths resources. It is important to me to make my margins fair, so Everyone has access to small and sustainable designers, and one day the consumer will question why certain garments are so cheap.  It’s important for me to make small strides towards sustainability in my business every day because every element of being a fashion designer has some sort of environmental burden attached to it. It is my dream to be able to do my printing solely on existing fabrics, without having to create new fabrics.

Cassie Morgan: Co-Founder of Altar

To be totally honest, I grew up in a very remote part of the California redwoods with parents who preferred an "off the grid, off the land" lifestyle -- so I was raised to be acutely aware of man kind's impact on the natural world from a very young age. That said, sustainability as a concept and way of living has actually become way more palpable to me now that I am a mother. Before having my kid, I certainly went through the motions and made sure to follow good practices as often as possible, but something really shifted when he was born and I became intrinsically aware of the impact of my generation. I shame to think that he will grow up in a world with less resources and less verdancy because of the negligence of the era before him and I experienced a renewed sense of purpose in the realm of sustainable efforts in every facet of our household, business, and social existence. 

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Wanna hear more from our panelist and learn how to build a sustainable fashion brand from industry leaders who have made sustainability their ethos? Join us next Friday, August 24th and learn what conscious responsibility means for brands and consumers today

Why Sustainable Fashion Needs More People of Color

It's an unfortunate fact that the people and communities most negatively impacted by the fashion industry are those of color. The fashion industry is built on the oppression and suffering of black and brown women yet when you look at the visual representation of eco/sustainable fashion you hardly ever see women of color. 

"Thin white women are not the only people who care about sustainable and ethical fashion and yet these are the faces who are chosen to represent ethical and sustainable brands. We need to include all women, all sizes, all ages, all races in the design, research, production and marketing of sustainable fashion brands. It’s just that simple." Mary Alice Duff

As a woman of color myself when I came across Dominique Drakeford and learned of what she was doing with her platform, MelaninASS I had to connect with her and learn more. While POC aren't well represented in the sustainable fashion sector, Dominique is working overtime to give them a voice and a space to shine. Perhaps it's not that we need more people of color to join the movement. Perhaps we simply need to give them a voice and the opportunity to tell their story. 

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Tell us a bit about yourself— where are you from? Where did you go to school? 
My name is Dominique Chanel Drakeford and I'm from Oakland, California. I received my Bachelors degree from University California - Riverside and I received my Masters Degree from New York University. I'm the founder of MelaninASS and I'm also an educator and influencer. 


What is MelaninASS? 
Melanin & Sustainable Style AKA MelaninASS is an online digital platform that discusses the issues and celebrates the success of communities of color in sustainable fashion, green beauty and wellness spaces. It’s a content-rich, vibrant, and communal space that elevates sustainable development, social innovation and holistic living. MelaninASS features exclusive interviews and creates original editorial content in collaboration with sustainable fashion designers and natural beauty brands. After hitting our one year anniversary on July 2nd since it's official launch - MelaninASS is a bridge to connect people to resources, products and conversations that are not commonly visible in the mainstream ethical movement.


Why did you feel it was necessary to create this platform? 
Not to be cliche but I feel like this platform chose me. The Universe has an interesting way of continuously blowing wind into my afro and setting off my antennas. After being in the environmental / sustainability / sustainable fashion space for over 10 years across various industries and levels of interaction - I found this movement was becoming quite stagnant. I was frustrated by a number of things:

  • Not seeing enough black centric publications talking about sustainability, environmental justice and non-toxic/ conscious living.
  • Not seeing nearly of enough black women and melanin women across various ethnicities being represented on panels and in the audience. 
  • There was this overwhelming energy and advocacy from the sustainable fashion community in particular that lacks so much knowledge, understanding and experience with the original pillars of sustainability. These spaces oozed savior complex, lacked representation and visibility and very rarely crossed the historical context of colonization, appropriation, white privilege and lack of acknowledgement and respect for our ancestral roots.

I just wanted to praise, be super happy and show genuine love for various melaninated people doing amazing work in their own way! 


Why is ethical/sustainable fashion so important to you? Why do you care?
I think when you break it down in its most simplistic language - we all participate in fashion in some way shape or form. Your social economic background, your culture, your geographic location and your overall style share a political message and fashion is a non-verbal vehicle for communication. When you add the ethical/sustainable methodology to fashion it literally transcends style, activism and ecology all into one. 

For me, especially being a Black Woman in America with African roots, ancestry wise - how we adorn ourselves has so much meaning and even healing properties. Fashion has such a rich history of power and influence. Additionally, I'm from Oakland, California which has a prolific and rich history with radical activism through the black panther party. Black folks have used fashion as a means of protest while fighting for liberation and freedom from Miriam Makeba to Angela Davis. 

My overall understanding and passion for sustainable fashion combines African ancestry, black and POC liberation, environmental preservation and creating a circular relationship with the Earth to the best o my ability. Fashion has the potential to be a huge catalyst in changing systemic racism, corrupt industry and bringing pure peace and happiness to communities.


Why do you think people of color aren’t represented as much by ethical/sustainable fashion brands —especially since it tends to be people of color (POC) who are largely negatively affected by the fashion industry? 
It's a massive domino effect. White people have governed their existence based off of exploitation, wealth and power. Black people (and POC) have a rich history with the environment but also a complex one. Although today it's a bit more abstract for the average person to see, the same exploitation is still happening and it will NEVER properly get corrected unless the truth is spoken, taught to the younger generation and acted upon accordingly. America only works the way it does because of capitalism and the controlling of the narrative which many of us don't take the time to see how powerful marketing, propaganda and media affect perception of racism and nationalism. 

POC aren't represented because they were never intended to! Black people and POC literally come from land, linage and relationships that have all of the resources, have all of the cultural antidotes to set trends, have the traditional discourse of innovation - without America's power of manipulation - POC would be wealthy Kings and Queens and Earth wouldn't be bleeding. I interview and study many brands by POC who are doing AMAZING work but again, they don't get the love and notoriety as white owned brands. I also think there's an INSANE amount of appropriation especially with ethical fashion because many brands work with indigenous communities - again a platform for subtle exploitation. When looking at fashion specifically, there's so many inputs and outputs and a strategic massive disconnect in understanding the life cycle so it's a perfect mechanism for exploitation of black and brown poor bodies. Exploitation is literally the DNA of non- ethnic communities and it will take a hell of a fight to curb it and I'm here for it! It's very complex. 


At any point in creating M&S Style did you worry that people wouldn’t support a platform dedicated to people of color considering how white the industry is?
Nope. Not one fiber in my body was nervous about that. I knew that even at the time I created MelaninASS, my immediate sustainable fashion circle of influence was white - but because my mission was not to please or make the mainstream community comfortable or happy - I had no worry. My focus was finding all of these amazing Vanguards that sadly initially took some research and now it's like vegan butter.


What’s the biggest misconception/thing you want people to know about minorities & sustainable fashion? 
That - that word right there! It's about dismantling so many things that we have been taught. POC are not at all the "minority" ... contrary to what the skewed education systems have taught us and normalized - people of ethnicity are the Global Majority and have an influential potency beyond our understanding. 
 

Who are some of your favorite ethical/sustainable fashion designers of color? 
I get asked this question a lot and the answer remains - I don't have a favorite. There's so many different designers that I love that bring out so many different cool and exciting ways to be sustainable. I love Aliya Wanek, Kanelle, Two Fold, Chelsea Bravo, Printed Pattern People, Bhoomki, Remuse, Chan & Krys, Studio 189, Proclaim, Born Again Vintage, Iyla ... the list goes on and on. 


Who are some of your favorite ethical/sustainable fashion bloggers of color?
Samata (more of an influencer)
ConsciousNChic
Places of Bliss
Asaakemi
Sustainably Stylish
Lindsey Gene

Just to name a few


Where do you see your platform going in 5 years? What are your long-term goals for M&S style? 
I would love to start producing events consisting of Global partnership to really give the brand a pulse. Some creative formers of interaction, connection and forward movement through curriculums and conferences is definitely in the works. 


What advice would you give to designers, bloggers, creatives, and makers of color wanting to find their place in the industry?
Don't look for a place in the industry! I found my authentic purpose not by trying to fit in but by sticking out and doing so with intention and authenticity. The best way to tackle such an over-saturated space is really understand it as a progressive journey. Talk to people, do your internal market research, fuck up, journal, get angry, journal some more, force yourself to network in spaces that you normally would, READ books, create and collaborate on personal project with no outside funding, get your hands dirty, say affirmations daily, cry when you're overwhelmed .... - Understand that it's a journey and become your own ambassador with each step you take! 

FOLLOW DOMINIQUE DRAKEFORD ON INSTAGRAM at @dominiquedrAKEFORD & STAY CONNECTED WITH MElaninass AT @melaninass 


Everything You Missed From Our Style Event on Building an Ethical and Sustainable Closet

Building community and inspiring others are very important to us here at The Sustainable Fashion Forum so when it came to planning our summer event we knew we wanted to do something that was both inspirational and involved our community in some way. To celebrate the launch of SFF as more than just an annual event we partnered with our friends over at Foundation and Function to host a launch party/panel discussion. 

 Photography by Candace Molatore

Photography by Candace Molatore

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The panel was entitled, The Refashioned Closet and was all about how to repurpose your closet to create an ethical and sustainable closet. Personal stylists Rose Jubb of Style Class and Corey Gregg of Poppy Lyn gave us great tips on finding your personal style and creating a functional wardrobe that fits your lifestyle. 

Identifying your personal style is by far the first step towards a sustainable wardrobe. Knowing what NOT to buy is just as important as knowing what TO buy...when you know what works for your body type, coloring, personality & lifestyle you are eliminating costly mistakes that are wasteful & clutter up a closet. - Corey Gregg
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Drea Johnson, owner of Hidden Opulence shared insight on how to repurpose 'old' items in your closet and make them new.

One of the first steps in building a sustainable closet is to go through your closet and get rid of the things you're not wearing. If you really can't part with something try to think of ways you can reinvent the piece to better fit your wardrobe and style. By freeing up your closet you can create room for new treasures to love. - Drea Johnson

Influencers Hannah Aronowitz and Nicole Burron shared fabulous advice about what it means to create a sustainable wardrobe.

Everyone's closet should be unique and suited to their daily lives. Some of us work from home, others in places with little season variation and others who never accessorize per their personal style, or wouldn't leave home without. I think the trick is to have pieces that YOU would wear again and again and that would pair well with other pieces in your closet." - Hannah Aronowitz
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 Pictured (left to right): Drea Johnson, Rose Jubb, Hannah Aronowitz, Corey Gregg, Nicole Burron

Pictured (left to right): Drea Johnson, Rose Jubb, Hannah Aronowitz, Corey Gregg, Nicole Burron

To say we had a blast was an understatement! We had such a fun time getting to hang out IRL and even met a group of new friends that came down from Seattle just to hang out with us for the evening. So cool! 

Interested in attending one of our events? Sign up for our mailing list and be the first to know about upcoming events!  Sign up here


How to Build A Sustainable Fashion Brand on Instagram

I always try to do my best to always answer the questions we receive via email and social media. Typcally the questions are centered around how to build a sustainable closet and what ethical fashion actually is but, as a PR and marketing strategist I was so excited to receive a question about social media marketing and how to build a brand on Instagram! 

Whether you're a designer, blogger/influencer, stylist, retailer, or online platform or you're building a personal or business brand -- Instagram is a great platform for visually sharing the BTS of your brand, expanding your audience and creating community.

When it comes to building your brand on Instagram, it all boils down to six things -- knowing your audience, posting relevant and quality content, being authentically you, having a visually appealing feed, engaging with your audience and being consistent.

If you're interested in learning more about building your personal or business brand on Instagram -- keep reading!

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01. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE (like the back of your hand) 
In general knowing and understanding who your audience/customer is is a crucial part of running a fashion business. Whether you’re posting on Instagram, designing your blog/website or pitching your brand to a magazine editor, it’s important that you always create with a specific target audience in mind. In order to build your Instagram following you have to attract and keep the attention of the people that are interested in what you have to offer. The brands that are dominating the industry right now like Everlane and Reformation are the ones that have taken the time to understand who their audience is which allows them to not only know what their audience wants but also what they'll respond to. 

The more specific you can get about who your customer is, what they like, what they dislike, their budget, their lifestyle, and other buying decisions, the better you’re able to connect with them and help them see value in what you have to offer. When you know who your audience is you can post content that you know they'll like and create products you know they'll want to buy.

// HOT TIP // How do you figure out who your audience is? Instagram is a great platform for getting to know your audience. Not only do they provide you with analytics (if you've switched your account over to a business profile) but they also give you the ability to simply ask your audience about their likes and dislikes via poll features. You can also look at the posts with the most comments and likes to get an idea of what your audience enjoys. If you follow us on Instagram you know that I'm always asking questions and engaging with our community.   


02. POST RELEVANT & QUALITY CONTENT
Whatever you choose to post on Instagram you want to make sure that it aligns with your brand. For example, as a sustainable fashion platform if we were to post pictures promoting fast fashion companies I'm quite sure we would quickly lose all of our IG friends. Whatever your message and purpose are make sure that the content you post is in alignment with your core values as a brand. In addition to relevant content, always post quality content. Try to refrain from posting things just to post something. You want to make sure that everything on your feed is providing value to your audience whether its humor, information, resources, facts, style tips, etc. 
 

03. BE AUTHENTICALLY YOU & AUTHENTIC TO YOUR BRAND
Instagram is awesome in that it allows you to connect with people literally all over the world. Not only that, Instagram also gives us the amazing opportunity to see behind the scenes of our favorite brands however, it's also really easy to get distracted. Because it's so easy to see behind-the-scenes of other businesses sometimes it can make you feel like you need to change the way you do things -- change the types of content you post, change your brand voice, change your fonts, etc because it seems to be working for someone else. In an unauthentic world people crave authenticity. People don't necessarily want a 'perfect brand' they want to support people/brands that align with their own personal ethos. Define what your brand purpose and identity are and stay true to that. Across the entire fashion industry there are thousands of sustainable brands out there that are all promoting a similar message. How do you stand out? By being authentic to your brand, your story, your voice and what you want to share with the world. Your purpose and your story helps to give people a sense of who you are. It helps them to understand what your brand is all about and if their values align with yours, it helps them to fall in love with you and become a part of your community.


04. HAVE A VISUALLY APPEALING FEED
When it comes to visually branding your Instagram feed, there are many different options and Instagram themes (IG themes are a cohesive style that runs throughout your entire profile). Creating a theme for your IG keeps things consistent, shows a level of professionalism and helps your audience identify your brand. Some people only post pictures within a particular color scheme (like us), some post pictures that change colors gradually as you scroll through their feed (like Modified Style). Others crop their photos in to rectangles or only post photos if it contains a particular color (like Laptops & Smalltalk), etc, etc. 

The truth is, there is no right or wrong answer. You can brand your Instagram feed however you want. The key, is that once you decide on an aesthetic, that you stay consistent. Think about the Instagram accounts that you follow. Chances are they have a visual appeal to them which is the result of them taking the time to determine their aesthetic and then consistently sticking to it. 

The first 9-12 photos on your feed are essentially the first impression your audience and potential customers have with your account. When someone clicks to your account because you were tagged somewhere or because your picture was on their explore feed, you want to give them a reason to stick around and hit follow. Every single picture you post on Instagram IS important and should be consistent with your overall marketing strategy. 

Decide what color scheme you want that also aligns with the overall visual identity of your brand (your website and marketing materials). Not only will this create an aesthetic for your feed but it will also make life so much easier when deciding what to post and what your followers will respond to because it's already a part of your branding process. 

When you take pictures for your feed, make sure you edit them all the same to maintain a consistent aesthetic. Not only will this create a cohesive feed, it'll also cut down on editing time once you've found a process that works for you.  There are many great editing apps available to help you create a beautiful visual aesthetic for your Instagram feed. Two of my favorite editing apps are Snapseed and VSCOcam. We typically increase the highlight and brightness and play around with shadows and saturation. 

//HOT TIP//  Lighting has a huge impact on how your photos will look. Always try to take your pictures in natural light. Try not to over edit your photos and use too many filters that the image is unrecognizable. 

// HOT TIP: Don't take your photos in the Instagram app. It's not the best quality plus, it's always a good idea to take multiple shots to get the perfect one. The Insta camera only lets you take one at a time. 

 

05. ENGAGE & BE SOCIAL
Be social and engage with your followers and respond to every comment and tag. It’s called social media for a reason. The more social you are the more connections you can build. It can get tough once you start to get hundreds of comments to respond to everyone but if you’re averaging 3 or 4 comments per picture, there’s no reason why you can’t respond. If your audience is taking the time to comment and chat with you about how much they love that new dress you designed or, how much they enjoyed an event you hosted, why would you not respond? Additionally, the more comments a post gets the more likely Instagram will share it on the explore page. So engage and chat with your community. 
 

06. BE CONSISTENT
Being consistent with the type of content you share, the look of your photos, the tone of your captions and the frequency you post helps your followers get a sense of your brand and connect with you.

Some creatives are able to go with the flow and create visually stunning images naturally throughout the day as ideas come to them. If this is not you, and even if it is, I recommend creating a schedule for curating visual content for your social platforms and planning your posts in advance. Having a plan makes everything so much easier. It gives you flexibility, peace of mind and allows you to spend less time racking your brain trying to figure out what to post, or what to say in your caption. This will give you more time to focus on other parts of building your brand. Granted, things may change and you may see something that you want to post right now, but it’s far better to squeeze something in then to not have anything planned and have to come up with content ideas everyday.

A content calendar is essentially a calendar that maps out all the Instagram posts that you intend to publish within a specific time period. Content calendars help keep you organized, ensure that you consistently publish quality content in a way that is time efficient and stress-free and also helps you maintain the visual aesthetic of your feed. I use (and love) Planoly (app and desktop) which allows us to schedule content and visually plan out what our feed will look like. It also sends reminders and automatically posts at the scheduled time.
 

Did you find this post helpful? Are there other business related topics you want us to chat about? Do you have any additional tips for building a sustainable fashion brand on Instagram? Join the conversation and comment below!


Why This Influencer Decided to Ditch Fast Fashion

Over the years the power of bloggers & influencers has skyrocketed. In exchange for money, clothes, handbags and lavish trips around the world, many bloggers use their influence and popularity to promote / praise fast fashion brands and the individuals that profit from it.

While it’s not necessarily the influencers responsibility to educate others on the social & environmental effects of fast fashion, IMAGINE if they used their platforms to instead promote ethical and intentional shopping.

That’s exactly what Emily Mills aims to do. Once a consumer of fast fashion, Emily now strives to use her platform of 12.4k to promote conscious shopping and share her love of vintage shopping. 

 Images courtesy of Emily Mills

Images courtesy of Emily Mills

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
EMILY MILLES: My name is Emily Mills, I’m 22 and consider myself a wearer of many hats (literally and figuratively). I recently graduated from the University of Portland and have a full-time job at Blossom Brothers, a wine spritzer company based out of Portland. In my spare time, I work as a freelance photographer and enjoy taking cutsie photos for the gram. I would describe my style as eclectic and having no rules. I am in no way a minimalist and love my cluttered closet that I have filled with vintage and thrifted gems. I think that when people think of sustainable fashion they only think of hemp dresses and flowy linens, but I am here break that assumption.  

Has being an influencer affected your outlook on fashion? If so, how? 
I’ve been “influencing” for about 4 years. Initially I used my platform as a secondary modeling portfolio. But, when I found out modeling wasn’t my passion I began to focus mainly on fashion. In the beginning of my exploration into fashion, I was contacted by many fast fashion brands like Shein and Zaful land felt excited to be recognized by a brand with a large following. I began to need to update my feed more and felt like it was a necessity to continue to work with these fast fashion brands that could send large amounts of cheap clothing at a small cost to them. I also began to reach out to other brands just to feed my need for more things to wear and post about on Instagram 

Why do you think so many bloggers/influencers choose to partner with fast fashion giants like Pretty Little Thing and Forever 21 despite their impact on communities and the environment? 
I think many other influencers feel the same and don’t have, or at least start out with, a strict filter for brands because it’s often necessary to work with larger fast fashion brands to be able to update content and gain reposts. I also think it makes feel people important when brands that have a global presence reach out to work together. 

What made you decide to stop working with certain companies? 
I watched the documentary “The True Cost” a few years ago and it really opened my eyes to the environmental and socio-economic impacts of fast fashion on our world. I was able to look at myself and see that I was becoming materialistic and greedy to the point that I felt like I was having a direct impact on the wellbeing of the planet and people. I also realized that my posts that promoted fast fashion could have an exponential impact as more people would buy and post about these fast fashion brands. 

Do you ever feel tempted to go back? 
Sometimes when I need a basic white t-shirt, and I can’t find one at the thrift store, I am so tempted to buy one from Forever21. But I told my friends and family that I am sticking to only buying secondhand clothing and they help me stick to my guns. Eventually I find a killer white vintage T that is soft as could be and I’m glad I didn’t give in. 

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How did you get into vintage shopping?
I started collecting vintage when I was 7 or 8. My mom, sister and I always enjoyed going estate sale-ing on the weekends. I have a massive collection of vintage hats (it’s unnecessary) as well as vintage dresses and silver. My passion for vintage has flourished over the years and finding an amazing deal gets me hyped! You all can catch me in local retirement communities at 9am lining up to get in the doors of estate sales. 

What was the first vintage piece you ever bought? 
One of the first pieces I bought in elementary school was a hot pink velvet bee-hive hat from the sixties. I never wear it, but I love to own it as part of my vintage collection. 

What are some of your favorite vintage shops or places to shop? 
To be totally honest, Portland has a very overpriced and over-picked vintage and thrift market. I have a few vintage stores I like to go to: The Yo Store is amazingly curated, Magpie has a fun vibe and Hatties is great for when you need something cute to dress up. I very rarely thrift in Portland. My best tip to people wanting to score at a thrift store is to hit up the burbs and the boonies. People in rural communities often keep things longer and when items are donated there is a higher chance of finding vintage pieces at a lower cost. When I go on road trips I plan out what thrift stores to stop at along the way. 

What are some tips you’ve learned to find good pieces while vintage shopping? 
My advice is to dig through every rack. That means men’s, women’s and even kids. Finding amazing things doesn’t happen quickly. The hunt is timely but the reward is often priceless. 

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What advice or tips would you give to some who is new to the ethical/sustainable fashion movement and wants to start? 
As a young woman on a budget I understand the want to have a positive impact on the environment and society but also to need to manage a budget. Ethical brands can often be out of budget but a consignment store or boutique thrift store is a great place to start. You can find clean and curated pieces that won’t seem as daunting as rummaging through the Goodwill bins with medical gloves on. 

stay connected with emily on instagram @ms.millsie

What is Sustainable Fashion?

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Ethical and sustainable fashion. We've all heard these terms before but what do they really mean? We caught up with Whitney Bauck, assistant editor at Fashionista.com who frequently writes about these topics to learn what she defines as sustainable fashion, why it's so important to her (and should be for everyone) and what emerging ethical brands need to do to get her attention for press. 

 Photography: Nic Raingsey

Photography: Nic Raingsey

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? Where did you go to school and what's your background in fashion?
WHITNEY BAUCK: I grew up in Manila, Philippines before moving to the US for college, where I studied fine art photography at a small liberal arts school outside of Chicago. I got serious about pursuing fashion during my sophomore year, but I didn’t necessarily know in what capacity — I thought at first it might be through fashion photography.

My school had zero fashion-related classes, so I started a blog and found a way to turn every class into an excuse to learn about different aspects of the industry, from studying the environmental impacts of fashion in my science class to examining the sociological ramifications in an anthropology course. Shortly after starting my blog, I began freelance writing, which paved the way for internships and eventually my current job. I decided to prioritize writing over photography in part because it was easier for me to see how I could use it to have a bigger impact on the industry in a positive direction.


Talk to me about the blog! You launched UNWRINKLING in 2013 and used it as a platform to talk about the intersection of fashion, faith, and ethics (which is very cool btw). What initially sparked your interest in this particular topic? Why is ethical fashion such an important  to you?
I was studying abroad in Ireland when the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh happened, which was the worst accident in the history of the garment industry as far as fatalities go. I had been a huge thrifter my whole life, but that particular week I had purchased a pair of sunglasses from Penneys, a European company that had ties to the factory in Bangladesh. Feeling personally implicated in that tragedy was a huge wakeup call that forced me to examine where my clothing comes from and what messed-up systems I might be supporting through thoughtless purchases.

From there, my interest has snowballed and so has my desire to educate a broader audience. The more you know about the social and environmental impact that the fashion industry has – like the fact that fashion’s greenhouse gas emissions equal that of all of Russia, or that slave labor still exists in major designers’ supply chains — the harder it is to want to maintain the status quo.


There's a lot of confusion and marketing jargon about what ethical and sustainable fashion really is. How do you define ethical fashion?
This is a good question and a really hard one to answer, because “ethical fashion” as a term really ought to be understood as more of a sliding scale than as a fixed category. No company is perfect and the most sustainable option would simply be to not shop. Genuinely ethical brands will almost always acknowledge that, rather than trying to pretend that they’re 100% sustainable.

For me personally, “ethical fashion” refers to apparel or footwear made by brands that are taking whatever measures they can to ensure that people and the planet are being treated well in the process of making their pieces.
 

The cost of producing a slow fashion garment has a lot to do with the price tag and its accessibility to people who might not be able to afford it. Do you think that's the reason why sustainable fashion isn't the norm when it should be in this day and age?
I definitely wish that more of the ethical brands I write about sold things I could afford to purchase. And we know that American consumers in particular value a bargain over almost everything else. But again, this is where I would encourage people to thrift. It doesn’t fix everything, of course, and there are things like underwear and socks that you’re going to consistently buy first-hand, but I really think thrifting is the best affordable, sustainable solution. I would also point to brands like Alternative Apparel, the Summer House and Uniform as examples of ethical fashion that’s not crazy expensive.
 

Do you think there is a 'granola stereotype' associated with eco-designers which makes people shy away from buying sustainable fashion?
I definitely think that is lessening. Brands like Reformation, Everlane and Stella McCartney that do branding really well have helped shift that perception; they tend to be well-loved even by those who don’t care about the ethics side of things.

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What is your response to the stigma or stereotype that ethical/sustainable fashion isn't visually appealing? That it lacks excitement from a design perspective? I.E no sequins, no glitter and all that jazz. 
I would point to brands like the above — and many other brands like TARA, Kowtow and Lonely Lingerie  — as proof that prioritizing ethics doesn’t need to mean compromising on aesthetics. If you look at their imagery or wear one of their pieces, that becomes clear very quickly.

That said, I do personally feel frustrated sometimes by the fact that so many ethical brands fall into the same aesthetic category. It’s often this very minimalism-inflected, earthy thing that feels like a pared-back blogger-mom version of boho-chic. Which is totally a great look and one I dabble in myself at times! But honestly, hippie-femme pieces and earth tones are not what I most naturally gravitate toward, so it can be frustrating to me when I want to look like a grungy club kid in her 20s but so many of the brands whose ethics I respect are focused on catering to chic PTA members who take ceramics classes. I would love to see a greater diversity of aesthetics represented amongst ethical brands.


We live in a society that's fascinated with what's new. Fast fashion giants have led us down the rabbit hole and now, there's a high demand for new styles, new designs, new colors, etc. How do we as a society come back from that?
As far as demand goes, I don’t have a great solution. But I will say that I try to re-wear things with pride — if I’ve posted images of myself in an outfit on social media before, I might do it again with a reminder that rewearing things is actually a good thing rather than something to be embarrassed of. It’s a riff on Livia Firth and Eco-Age’s idea of “30 wears,” which asserts that everything you own should be worn at least 30 times before you part with it.

 

Sustainabilty has defintely become a trend and although many brands aren't as sustainable as they claim, do you think their potentially false claims could actually be a good thing for the movement because it brings eco-fashion to the forefront of people's minds? 
I’m hopeful. The food industry has gone through similar growing pains. Yes, “natural” and “organic” food has become trendy and that has led to some brands trying to tap into that in inauthentic ways, but I think the consumer is getting smarter and better educated, too, and they can see through some of that. I think media that rewards brands for making ethical choices and consumer spending that does the same can only shift the industry in a positive direction and reinforce to brands that this stuff matters to the next generation. If it’s becoming generally trendy to be green, my hope is that it will force companies to realize that the best way to make their customers happy with regard to this stuff is to make authentic changes.

 

Do you think slow fashion will ever be able to scale in a way that's not fast fashion but more accessible to the masses? If so, how?
Depends what you mean by that. Do I think slow fashion brands will be able to grow successfully and do so without charging an arm and a leg? Absolutely. Do I think they will grow to Zara proportions and sell “ethical” pieces for Forever21 prices? Nope, because producing that much clothing is never going to be good for the planet and rock-bottom prices are never going to leave margin for fair pay or environmental best practices.

 

Okay, before we wrap up, for the sake of our readers, I have to ask, as a sustainable emerging designer, what's the best way for designers to get your attention and share their brand with you?
I cannot stress the importance of compelling imagery deeply enough. Whether you reach out to an editor like myself via Instagram or email — and honestly, either one of those can be fine — imagery always makes a huge difference. If you’re the most ethical brand in the world and even have great design in the garments themselves but your pictures suck, it’s going to be hard to get a write-up. That said, if your brand is really fun but I can tell that manufacturing and production ethics aren’t central for you, you’re probably not going to catch my interest either. Brands that get those things right really shine.

2nd Annual Sustainable Fashion Forum (Photo Recap)

 Photography by:  Candace Molatore

Photography by: Candace Molatore

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What a day! On Saturday, April 21st we gathered an amazing group of designers, creatives, makers, influencers and the community together at Yale Union to chat about ethical and sustainable fashion and how we can individually and collectively make the fashion industry less wasteful. 

From a series of intimate conversations to a live fashion show/presentation, pop-up market and more, we were thrilled to gather like-minded individuals with the belief that together, we can create change.

 Pictured (left to right): Andrea of  Fashion Revolution  and  Ecologique Fashion , Chloé of  Concious by Chloé , Ellie of  Selflessly Styled , Allison of  The Thoughtful Closet  and Andrea of  Seasons + Salt

Pictured (left to right): Andrea of Fashion Revolution and Ecologique Fashion, Chloé of Concious by Chloé, Ellie of Selflessly Styled, Allison of The Thoughtful Closet and Andrea of Seasons + Salt

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Half-way through the event we paused for lunch where we invited out panelist, sponsors and friends to a private invite-only lunch curated by Tara Thomas of Her Garden Kitchen and sponsored by Cherry Sprout Produce, Amylk Milk, Roots and Crown and Hey Babe Vegan Cheese. 

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 Panel two. Pictured (left to right): Whitney of  Fashionista , Davora of  Prairie Underground , Carly of  Keen Footwear , Dre and Len of  EcoVibe Apparel  and Angela of  FAAS/ Pensole

Panel two. Pictured (left to right): Whitney of Fashionista, Davora of Prairie Underground, Carly of Keen Footwear, Dre and Len of EcoVibe Apparel and Angela of FAAS/ Pensole

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 Pictured (left and right): Kelly of Modified Style. Whitney of Fashionista.com

Pictured (left and right): Kelly of Modified Style. Whitney of Fashionista.com

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Thank you to everyone who attended the 2nd Annual Sustainable Fashion Forum! So many incredible people came together to connect, learn and open up the conversation about sustainable fashion! Thank you to our panelists, moderators and speakers for paving the way in sustainable fashion and for inspiring us with your words and practices. Thank you to Thank you to Yale Union for hosting us! We had an amazing time celebrating sustainable & ethical fashion with all of you! Let's do it again? 

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Did you attend this year's forum? Comment below and tell us your favorite part or something interesting that you learned!