I have always had this secret dream of a career in design, but it took some time to align the “what” and “why” of my career goals.
I would say my resistance to this dream came about from fear of failure, but also from my self driven pressure to pursue a path in science. The sciences as it relates to human health and culture is something I have a natural curiosity for, but when I found myself outside of the academic setting I didn’t quite know how this interest applied to a career path. To put it simply I was completely lost when I entered the real world. In my early twenties I worked as an EMT exploring the path of health care, while simultaneously working at a farm education center. This inevitably lead me down a path of wanting to help prevent leading health issues in America at its root cause.
When I took a leap of faith and moved to Seattle in 2014, I perused my interests in nutrition and the food industry through working in Hunger Relief. When you step deep into the issue of hunger in in America, you exist in a space navigating the unsustainable methods of the food industry often finding solutions for food that would have gone to waste, while also working to create spaces and resources that best suit the needs of your community. This is done all with the goal of increasing access to nutritious food, targeting food deserts and low-income communities with fresh produce, dairy, and meat, while figuring out the logistics of doing that. That often involved driving a truck filled with 6 pallets of food to community centers, unloading the truck and distributing it to 200 families with volunteers from the community. Repeat with a small team of people 5-6 days a week, ice your back, do it again the next week. Luckily there was help from people in the communities, usually the people that stepped up to help were the worst off.
Hunger relief work exposed me to layers upon layers of injustices in our communities. Whether related to food access, access to education, healthcare, there is work to do to make this world a more equitable place. I found my “why” in terms of what work I wanted to be part of, but my role always felt like it wasn’t quite the fit for me long term. I am naturally an introvert, creative at heart, and the strain of being a circle in a square box was putting a toll on me that was not sustainable.
It was when I learned of the commonalities between our food industry and fashion industry, that I allowed myself to align the “what” and “why” of my career goals. In that moment I almost gave myself permission to go for it and step away from the path I was on to peruse the arts with the purpose of continuing the fight of making this world a better place, just through a different lens.
The food industry and fashion industry are paralleled. Relying on unsustainable agriculture, deforestation, unfair wages, fossil fuel, mass consumption, inhumane labor practices, and a global economy so we can have our strawberries in winter and “52 seasons” of disposable clothing, all while creating a burden of waste that ends up in our landfills, creating harmful greenhouse gases as they decompose. The fashion industry and food industry in our world are essentially one in the same. The cheap tomato picked by a poorly paid agriculture worker sold for 38 cents often feeds the worst off in America, just as the cheap shirt made by a poorly paid (or unpaid) garment worker is often the only option many Americans can afford. We need to find solutions to break this cycle.
It can start with our actions: find quality secondhand pieces (I say quality because our secondhand market is getting a bit out of hand due to industry over production in fast fashion, so we need to stop the demand for disposable clothes with our consumer choices even in secondhand markets), learn to mend and make your own clothing, and perhaps plant a tomato plant.
Luckily, brands and activist groups are demanding more transparency and high standards, and with that, more of us are paying attention including myself when I had my wake-up call. It is promising to see brands improving standards and promoting ethically made clothing, fair-trade goods, and second hand/vintage mindsets. I hope to join them in the movement to bring back “slow fashion.” I hope my approach and business model inspires a few of you to join the movement as well by offering ready to wear clothing (made by me), patterns, and garment kits. While some of you may be able to afford my ready to wear clothing, I hope my patterns and resources offer tools to help those that have the desire to make high quality clothing a bit more at reach.