Kaisa: entrepreneur + ethical dresser

Clothing is a necessity, but it’s not a right. We act like we have the right to have access to cheap clothes without considering the cost someone else is paying to make them.
— Kaisa

If you wander into Lionheart Coffee, there's a good chance you'll see Kaisa working. Although she's one of the owners, Kaisa has an unassuming warmth about her that makes her incredibly approachable. I sat down to sip some delicious iced matcha and hear about Kaisa's journey towards ethical consumption, from living in India to opening a coffee shop in Oregon...

Can you describe yourself and how you developed a passion for conscious consumption?

I'm an outgoing introvert who loves getting to know people and making sure their needs are met physically, emotionally and physically. My heart for people is one the main reasons for opening Liohneart. Becoming a conscious consumer has definitely been a process...

I first became interested in the issue of human trafficking during my college years and ended up living in India for a year through IJM (International Justice Mission). While in India, I realized that slavery and human trafficking takes on many forms, including the garment industry. Seeing the conditions workers were living in made me start asking, "Where do my clothes really come from?" People were working in unsafe conditions and not getting paid fairly. We forget that there’s a face behind each piece of clothing that we have. 

When I came home to Oregon and was working on opening the coffee shop, it was a priority from the very beginning that we only use ethically-sourced coffee. When you're researching the ethical production of one commodity (like coffee) it's bound to lead you towards questions about other commodities (like clothing). Watching the True Cost documentary on Netflix really helped solidify my conviction to shop differently, and it's been about a year and a half now since I fully committed to ethical shopping. 

Kaisa's simplified summer wardrobe

Kaisa's simplified summer wardrobe

Do you have a strategy for making an ethical wardrobe fit your lifestyle? 

I mostly shop consignment/secondhand, and save up for some well-made basics here and there. Simplifying my wardrobe has been a huge part of this process. I've narrowed my closet down to about thirty items and it really works for me!

My clothes have to be comfortable since I'm wearing them to work at the coffee shop almost everyday. I really likes basic colors that can mix and match. I don’t want to be the star. I want my coffee to be the star! 

What are some of your favorite places to shop? 

For consignment, Plato's Closet has great active wear, Goodwill can be good if I have a lot of time to really search, Crossroads is awesome, and ThredUp is the best for online shopping. 

As far as fair-trade brands are concerned, Imogene + Willie make wonderful jeans from organic cotton, Everlane is a favorite for basics, Mata Traders for dresses, and Pact for active essentials. 

How has ethical shopping & simplifying your closet affected your daily life? 

With the busy schedule of an entrepreneur, it’s so nice to have a narrowed down wardrobe... it makes deciding what to wear really easy! I'll be honest, some days it is hard to find something to wear that I don't feel like I've worn too recently, but that just pushes me to get creative and be content. 

Before switching how I shop, I was accustomed to purchasing cheap clothing that wasn't made well because I was just thinking about the lowest price. Now I’m able to get pieces that are better-made, they last longer and I don’t have to worry about looking shabby.

(If I get something at the thrift store, I’m not worried about it wearing out because I didn't spend a lot of money on it.)

For my husband, it's pretty easy because he rarely shops for himself anyways. He loves thrifting or hand-me-downs. He definitely sees the value in purchasing a well-made piece of clothing for me though. 

What's been the hardest element of this transition for you? 

I think the hardest part for me is not feeling super guilty if I accidentally purchase something that isn't ethically made. I have to remember this is a lifestyle change, and an occasional slip-up isn't the end of the world. 

What advice would you give someone who is starting the process of shopping ethically? 

Just start gradually. Be encouraged that there are so many resources out there and check online, go to thrift store, take your time with the process. It's that much more of a treasure to find something that you either saved up for or searched for far and wide. You end up saving a lot of money shopping this way.

Whether it's coffee or clothing, I pay a higher price to know that my actions aren’t negatively impacting the world. To me, it's so worth it. 


If you live in the Tigard/Beaverton area, stop by Lionheart coffee and say hi to Kaisa and the crew. They are some of the friendliest people you'll ever meet, and their coffee is exceptional.