By Chere Di Boscio
As the Editor-In-Chic and founder of Conscious & Chic, style inspiration Kathleen Elie creates and curates content showcasing ethical fashion, beauty, food and travel. She states that her goal with the blog is to inspire people to live their best sustainable lives and take back their purchasing power. With a background in finance, international business and fashion, she strongly believes that one day soon, doing business ethically will be the only profitable way.
Here, in this exclusive interview, we caught up with Kathleen Elie to talk
How do you define ‘sustainable fashion’?
It’s in the word itself: “sustain-able” ie “able to be sustained”. For fashion to be sustainable it should be produced in a way that is profitable for consumers, companies, manufacturers, workers and the environment, long term. For example: if workers are underpaid and work in hazardous condition they won’t be able to sustain their jobs. Also, if the manufacturing process is polluting or using a finite resource, the manufacturer will eventually be replaced by another factory. Moreover, if companies pressure manufacturers to make things cheaper and cheaper, they will inevitably cut corners which can and will lead to tragedies like the Rana Plaza collapse. The purpose behind sustainability is to avoid creating business structures that may be profitable in the short term but cannot be maintained over time.
Why did you move into the sustainable fashion space?
I worked in the fashion industry for years and noticed that there were undeniable social justice and environmental issues in our industry. Not necessarily with my employers but with the fashion world as a whole. “How could such an influential community not use its influence to not only create beauty in the garments that we see but also produce beauty in the lives of everyone involved in the process?”, I thought. It is with that realis
ation that I decided years ago to be part of the solution and not the problem. Making this change felt right and happened organically. Like Maya Angelou once said: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” So, I did!
If I know that a brand uses child or slave labor or suspect that they might be, I will steer clear from using and promoting their products. As for beauty, I aim to feature products that are healthy and cruelty-free. Conscious & Chic is an inclusive platform which promotes a variety of ethical viewpoints in fashion, beauty, food, travel and tech such as eco-friendly, organic, sustainable, fair trade, cruelty-free, plant-based, non-toxic, natural and charitable. I give people options and present them with attainable steps they can take without feeling overwhelmed because when people are overwhelmed it’s easier for them to ignore the issues all together.
Which people in the ethical fashion community (or beyond) most inspire you?
Rosario Dawson and Emma Watson get it! I love how they are using their influence in Hollywood to further our mission. I’m also inspired by Christine Caine because of how her faith guides her social justice and anti human trafficking work. Lastly, Ali Hewson founder of EDUN, Aurora James designer of Brother Vellies and Eileen Fischer with her namesake label are ethical fashion bosses!
Tell us a bit about your favourite sustainable fashion designers from North America
There are multiple brands and designers here creating beautiful goods at different price points. Some of my favourites, based in North America, are: Cuyana * Raven + Lily * Tradlands * Brother Vellies * Studio 189 * Dôen Patagonia * Edun * ABLE * Leota * The KIT * Apolis * Encircled * Everlane * Reformation * Eileen Fisher * Matt & Nat…to name but a few!
What are your pet peeves about the fashion world?
- The notion of exclusivity promoted by slogans like: “You can’t sit with us!”
- Preying on people’s insecurities in relations to weight, body type, skin colour and social status.
- Poorly-made clothing with sloppy workmanship.
- Cheap and forced labor.
What’s the best piece of fashion advice you’ve ever had?
“When in doubt overdress!” I learned it from my mom through observation as well as “It’s ok if you’re the best dressed person there.” She also thought me to invest in quality, care for my pieces and make them last a very long time. Case and point, I own multiple of her vintage pieces, many of which she acquired before I was born.
What are some of the proudest moments you’ve had since launching Conscious & Chic?
Some of my proudest moments include speaking and leading workshops for college students about labor trafficking and the challenges that come with ethical production.
Being featured in Bustle was one of my proudest moments too. Here’s the link to the article which was in support of The North Face’s latest campaign ‘Move Mountains’. I also wrote a short blog post sharing some ‘feels’ about the feature!
Also covering events like New York Fashion Week, movie premieres and C2 Montreal, doing interviews with guests like Joe Cross (Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead), Isaac Mizrahi, Supermodel Coco Rocha, Celebrity Stylist June Ambrose, Designer Jean-Jacques de Castelbajac, Pamella Roland, Nigel Barker, Michelle Phan and Maria Menounos to only name a few definitely constitute highlights in my career.
Lastly, witnessing the overall impact Conscious & Chic has had in motivating people to live their best lives and change their lifestyle to be more sustainable and ethical gives me purpose.
What’s next for Conscious & Chic?
Without giving too much away, I plan to engage consumers and makers in new ways to not only raise awareness but also create practical and in-person experiences where we can connect and positively challenge the status quo. I see Conscious & Chic growing into a lifestyle brand and change agent. I also launched the Conscious N Chic YouTube channel which I highly recommend you subscribe to…. “Like, comment, subscribe!” You know the drill!
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