Emily: international explorer and ethical fashionista

To be honest, the first thing that drew me to Emily's account on Instagram was the aesthetic. I mean, it's just so pretty! But as I began to follow her, I became more intrigued with the life that she and her husband were living in South Korea. Emily is the very definition of a conscious consumer and has exhibited such great wisdom in both ethical fashion and responsible financial decisions. Read on to get to know a little bit about this amazing lady and check out her adorable blog after you read this interview! 

ethical fashionista interview

Share a little bit about your personal background...

I’m a California born, Seattle raised gal who has a passion for all things creative. I’ve been married to my best friend, Nicholas, for a little over two years! I was blessed with the opportunity to live in Uganda for several months after graduating from college and spent the past two years teaching English with my husband in South Korea. Though I love traveling, Seattle’s gorgeous scenery, quirky city vibes, and coffee shop abundance will always feel like home to me. 

What does a typical day look like for you?

Life is anything but typical at the moment! Recently, my husband and I completed our teaching contracts in South Korea, and then had the opportunity to spend some time exploring Bali and California. Now, we are living just outside Seattle, resting and visiting friends and family for the next few months.

During my time as a teacher in South Korea, hours were jammed packed, but deeply fulfilling. After downing some coffee and a plant-based breakfast, my husband and I would walk to school to lesson plan and prepare. The first half of my day was spent teaching English to twelve five-year-olds. As you can imagine, every day was an adventure! After a short afternoon break, I would then teach an assortment of classes to first, third, and fifth graders. Considering I did not enter this position with a background in teaching, my experience abroad was a whirlwind of growth. Did we enjoy it? Absolutely! We’ll be moving back to South Korea this fall! 

ethical fashion interview

When did you start shopping ethically and what prompted that change?

In high school, I was introduced to the issue of human trafficking through my youth group. I began to learn as much as I could about the issue, opening my eyes to the reality behind most of the products we consume every day. From coffee to clothing, someone was being exploited by my purchases. I held local fundraisers to support anti-trafficking organizations and even focused my high school senior project on human trafficking and slave labor. Being quite young at the time, I wasn’t aware of many ethical brands, but continued to stay informed. Real change began to flourish after I returned from a six month internship in Uganda in 2013. I began to only shop secondhand as a way to avoid financially contributing to brands that were utilizing sweatshop labor in their production. In 2015, I started to learn more about ethical fashion brands through research and social media. Blogging became a way to educate myself about new brands I discovered and inform others in the process. I still feel like a novice in the arena of shopping ethically and sustainably, but am deeply thankful for the friendships I’ve formed and wisdom I’ve received from the ethical blogging community! 

Describe your personal style...

Personal style can be so difficult to nail down. For the longest time, I allowed others to dictate my style. Magazines, Instagram, fashion blogs, etc. When I finally broke away from trends and recipes for style, I started to experiment more. This was tremendously life giving!  I would describe my style as a colorful minimalist. In other words, I love colorful pieces, funky garments, and creative patterns with simple silhouettes and clean styling.

What are your favorite brands to support?

My current favorite brands are Deux Mains (sustainably made in Haiti), LACAUSA (sustainably made in Los Angeles), Not Perfect Linen (sustainably made in Lithuania), and Della Los Angeles (sustainably made in Ghana). 

sustainable style

How do you make ethical shopping work within your budget?

This has been the most difficult obstacle in my journey of shopping ethically. For the past two years, my husband and I worked to pay off $50,000 of student loan debt. We lived on a shoestring budget, which deeply limited any personal spending. I can guarantee this is a huge struggle for most who desire to start shopping ethically. Products made fairly should cost more. The fast fashion industry has developed a sneaky lie that makes you believe a t-shirt should only cost five dollars (without disclosing the pennies a garment worker was paid to create it).

My solution to the budget dilemma was to save for items I wanted (sometimes this took months!), ask for ethically made wish-list items for my birthday or holidays, and supplement with secondhand style. Saving up and slowly adding ethically made pieces into my closet has helped me become more satisfied with my wardrobe and a less impulsive shopper! 

spring style

What's been the most rewarding aspect of this shift for you?

My husband has this saying he often mentions in some form or another: “I just want to discover what’s real and tell the truth artfully.” So much yes. For me, the most rewarding part of shopping ethically has been uncovering truth and living out that truth as a lifestyle. By choosing to dig deeper and uncover what’s real, lives are directly impacted and people are empowered to thrive. Knowing even my most simple ethical purchases could deeply impact another’s life is what keeps me fueled to not give up. 

What advice would you offer someone who wants to begin shopping ethically?

First, start small and move slowly. I became anxious and overwhelmed when I started this journey. I felt that if I was going to shop ethically I needed to quickly become an expert and have a closet of only sustainable brands. That’s just not realistic. Instead, shopping ethically should be exciting!

Whether your budget affords you purchasing ten new pieces of sustainable clothing or only one, your purchase is still powerful.

Second, learn your style (even if you can’t fully put it into words). If you’re going to invest in high quality, ethically made garments, you want to love them for the long term. Discovering more about who you are, what fits your body best, and what colors and silhouettes you actually love deters from impulsive purchases you may later regret!

 Be sure to follow along with Emily on Instagram and check out her blog for more insights into a conscious lifestyle!