Annie: fashionista + thoughtful blogger
I found Annie's blog Terumah through Instagram a while back and I've been hooked ever since. In her own words, Annie created the Terumah for "smart young women looking for fun insights on style, beauty, travel, art and pop culture." It's the kind of site you can get lost in for hours due to the high-quality content and images. I had the chance to pick Annie's brain on ethical fashion and am feeling so inspired by her interview...
How did Terumah get started?
I started Terumah over a year ago as a way to collect my interests and make some sense of them. My friends aren't always into the things I'm into, so I think it's also my way of connecting with other creative people with the same tastes in fashion, music, books, etc., and possibly collaborating with them. It took me a while to tweak the site down in terms of aesthetics and content, and now I'm clear on what the site is.
Never in a million years did I think I would be a fashion blogger. They seem to have a new outfit every week, if not every day. I wear the same things all the time—for three years, I had this uniform of skinny jeans, black ankle boots, leather jacket and scarf. The fashion section on Terumah was going to be about other people's style.
When I went ethical over nine months ago, it made sense, as a non-model and the owner of awesome new ethical clothes, to be in the fashion posts. It helps to bring a personal touch to the content, but I'm definitely more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it... I got my friend Anne to help me on one of my first fashion blog shoots, and I looked so awkward that I decided only to use my feet. I think it's getting better though. I'm trying to have more fun with it and do creative things with the photography.
My goal is to make ethical clothes more mainstream and accessible. I'm using the fun fashion/lifestyle blogger formula to promote ethical fashion brands and nontoxic beauty products—good companies that care. You'll definitely see me wear things more than once though. For each piece I link to all the other fashion posts that include that piece so you can see the different ways I wear it.
How long have you been shopping ethically, and what made you decide to do so?
I watched The True Cost documentary last year and was horrified. I was crying. While I admire talented fashion designers and well-made clothes, the fashion industry has always been a bit off-putting to me—Do models really need to have 24-inch waists? Why are people fighting each other to buy H&M x Balmain clothes? Why are runways so white? —but I didn't know how bad things really were for the workers and the environment. Fast fashion companies pay millions to supermodels and flashy marketing campaigns, but can't pay living wages to people who make the clothes. On top of that, the quality of the clothes is getting worse. And there's the environment havoc that fast fashion has caused. Why would I want to contribute to any of that?
Doing research to shop more consciously led me to join the Ethical Writers Coalition, a small band of bloggers and journalists with similar missions. They've inspired me to go green in other areas of my life too.
What's been the biggest obstacle in this endeavor and how do you overcome it?
Ethical fashion is mostly available online. As a Canadian, I have to get things shipped to the border or brace for hefty custom fees. Returns are more complicated for us if the company is out of the country. You have to really know your size and what looks good on you. That's where fashion bloggers come in. They interpret pieces for everyday wear. I'd love to see more fashion bloggers go ethical and make it easier for consumers to buy confidently online.
Shopping only ethical fashion might feel limiting sometimes, but doing so helped me develop and expand my style. I'm now exposed to underrated ethical labels doing beautiful things. Not a lot of people own what I have so there's the unique factor. I still own some nice fast fashion pieces that I'll continue to wear. Throwing out everything you own to be ethical is not the point.
Another major obstacle is cost. People have been conditioned to spend less on clothes, so the high price tags of ethical fashion can be a turnoff. Everlane, Amour Vert and People Tree are good affordable entry labels into ethical fashion. Friends have asked me more about Everlane than any other brand. Everyone wants nice basics at reasonable prices. The stuff I own cover a good price range. You might see me style a $400 shirt with a $11 skirt I thrifted from Value Village.
Describe your personal style...
I'm moving toward a more grownup wardrobe, so now I have some amazing classic, high-quality pieces. I want to say my taste is classy and even pretty basic, but people have called my style eccentric and hipster-ish.
I wouldn't say that I dress to express myself. There are other creative outlets for that. Some people can put together crazy outfits and really stand out. I dress to look good, simple as that. I know what flatters my body and what doesn't.
A friend once told me she was confused by my style because I'm not very consistent with my look. One day I can look like a housewife in a floral dress and high heels, and the next I'm in all black, ripped jeans, leather jacket, band tee, a scowl on my face. I don't really care about having a look though. I dress for my mood, like George Costanza.
What are your favorite companies for ethical clothing?
Recently I bought some amazing stuff from LemLem, Maiyet, Edun and Dôen. There are plenty of others. I've compiled an epic list of my favorite brands to make ethical shopping easy. If you need more, you can go to the bottom and check out lists from other EWC bloggers. I went through your list and there are a few brands that are new to me that I have to look more into.
I also like thrifting and buying from consignment stores.
What's surprised you the most about buying ethically?
1. There are so many ethical labels out there, and more are emerging every day.
2. Having less to choose from saves me time and stress. For example, when I go to New York now, instead of being overwhelmed with all the stores, I just hit up the ones I know are ethical.
Can you offer any advice for someone looking to start forming their own ethical style?
The most important thing is to find your style, not just buy things because the company is ethical. Don't be afraid to be picky.
When I'm shopping, whether in stores or online, I'll only buy something when I have a strong emotional reaction to it. It's instinctual. It's an overwhelming feeling of admiration for something. I've learned to trust my taste. Sometimes I have doubts and want to make sure it's love, not infatuation, so I send the product link to friends whose taste I really trust to get second opinions. They are always right. Other times the thing I want is expensive, so I sit on it to decide whether I really want it, and if I'll wear it enough. I've never regretted buying anything I've felt strongly about.
If you like something, don't worry about whether it will go with the rest your wardrobe. I know people who will buy things with sale goggles on, or because they think it'll match with things they already own, but they feel blah about it.
Never buy anything you're only lukewarm about. When you learn to trust your taste, outfits will automatically come together. Fashion is easy when you have a closet full of stuff you love. You'll throw a bunch of stuff on and form some interesting combinations you never could've planned. It's magical. Don't overthink it.
There are 3 things to look for when buying clothes: design, material and fit. Unfortunately with a lot of fast fashion stuff, the design might be there (often stolen off the runway), the tailoring might be okay, but the fabrics are absolute shit. Or you might find something with great design and fabric, but it looks awful when you try it on. So remember that design, material and fit are all equally important.