Luke + Jill: conscious power couple
I can't adequately express just how excited I am to introduce you to Luke and Jill! It's an incredible inspiration to observe a couple that is working together to live consciously and make ethical/sustainable living more attainable for others. Together, this power couple runs a his & her conscious lifestyle blog called Sutton + Grove. It's an honor to share their story and thoughts here...
How did the two of you meet?
We met through Jill’s parents over six years ago and have been married for over fours years now. We live in Vancouver, Canada on the west coast and both love to travel, think deeply, eat Thai food and play board games.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Currently a typical day looks like one of two ways. The first would be Luke waking up and working a day in the construction world while Jill stays home working on design, blog admin or school. This day looked completely opposite six months ago where Jill would wake up and go to work while Luke stayed home.
Our second typical day however looks a lot more like what we want it to look everyday which is both of us waking up, going to the gym, making breakfast, sitting down at our little home office and working on anything from blog writing, social media management or graphic/web design. We tend to stay in at nights and usually play some games together or with friends, watch Survivor (when it’s on) and work on school when Jill has courses she’s taking (she is currently studying International Development).
What prompted you to start shopping ethically?
Well Jill has always loved thrift shopping which I guess falls into the sustainable shopping arena but more specifically for the past three years she felt truly convicted with her purchasing choices since starting her studies in International Development. Both of us took a course together that highlighted many realities of capitalism that has shaped our consumer driven western world and much at the cost of exploiting marginalized people groups in underdeveloped areas for cheap labor and poor working conditions. From these studies, to watching documentaries, shopping became a different idea and concept to Jill and something that has really rocked her world in a good and productive.
For Luke it’s been a bit of a different process, it was through his understanding and interest in minimalistic living that began his perspective change on ethical purchasing. He always has valued the ‘less is more’ concept, but his purchases, although few were still cheap and poor quality. It connected to ethical purchasing this year specifically when he began to read more about fair trade and realized that nobody could make a decent living off of a cheap item that he bought. So from there he started being not only intentional in how much he was buying but WHAT he was buying and from WHO.
Describe your personal style?
I think both of us have similar fashion styles. We both tend to gravitate towards minimal, clean and neutral toned clothing.
Jill really loves any style inspired by Japanese minimalism & modern Scandinavian design with an edge, and it has to definitely be comfortable. She also really loves staple, timeless items and barely owns anything that is a seasonal style or colorful pattern.
Luke would describe his fashion style a bit more simply; he loves black, white and grey clothing that’s fits well and tends to avoid anything that crosses the line into a preppy, trying too hard look. I think style is different than fashion; style goes deeper than just a look and the exterior. Fashion is what you wear while style is who you are. It represents your values, perspective on life, experiences and your uniqueness. Even though your fashion style may be similar to others, or even ‘in trend’ so to speak, how you wear it and what you do with it is your own.
What are your favorite brands to support?
Recently we found a brand called DSTLD that Jill has become obsessed with. It’s been reviewed as being Everlane’s edgy, rebel sibling. They sell a lot of minimal, simple, staple items with a bit of an edge (and all neutral colors). She also likes Everlane for the variety and polished, simple look that streams through all of their items. If he could, Luke would wear Nudie jeans everyday with a Krochet Kids or Alternative Apparel sweatshirt, Veja sneakers and an Everlane t-shirt.
What's been the biggest obstacle in your endeavor to shop ethically?
A huge obstacle we’ve encountered in ethical purchasing is shipping costs and import taxes/fees. Because we are Canadian a lot of the brands we love are either from Australia, New Zealand or the United State, all which when crossing the border with the Canadian postal service have been very high priced shipping fees. We don’t have many local or Canadian brands that we’ve found that fit our style quite yet, so we’ve had to dish out a bit more money for online purchasing from overseas/international. We haven’t really found a way around this yet, but we hope to find more Canadian brands worth supporting and in the mean time we will be doing some solid ethical shopping on our travels to the US soon.
How do you make this work with your budget?
It’s hard because when you usually consider buying clothes or consumer goods and you have a tight budget or even a decent budget you tend to look at it more from the perspective of wanting to get a good deal on the item rather than looking at it as an investment. If you look at purchasing items whether it’s clothes or any consumer goods from that lens, then you consider calculating the value, need, cost and your personal interest in it all together. This way you ask the questions, “do I need this, & why do I need this?” and plan, save and budget accordingly that way.
Before Jill used to buy with a less intentional mindset and only consider value and a good deal, rather than the need to be intentional and considerate. Luke used to be more intentional but only buy a good deal and the cheapest version of whatever it was. Now we’ve had to change our mindset on how much a good t-shirt is worth or a good pair of shoes is worth not just in cost value, but also in necessity and importance. With this perspective shopping within a budget becomes a bit more planned and calculated and we’ve ended up buying a lot less, spending more money but still not really going over our budget because we planned for it. I think it’s finding a healthy balance of intentionality with a minimalistic mindset (less is more type thing) as well as considering the need and importance to buy ethically and spend a bit more on clothing to support well and fair made products.
What's been the most rewarding aspect of this lifestyle?
Because we take the mixed approach of minimalism and conscious ethical purchasing, for both of us the reward has been consolidation; stripping down our wardrobes, household items and feeling a bit more free. Owning less is a great feeling and so is not being so worried about what people or even yourself may think if you only own and wear repeat outfits. It’s also been really rewarding to know and see the impact your purchases have on the world and people you buy them from. These brands that we love to support now are brands that are very transparent and provide great information on who they are partnering with to create their products. Our ‘stuff’ isn’t just ‘stuff’ anymore.
What advice would you offer someone who wants to begin shopping ethically?
Jill: I would say find a reason why you want to because it’s always the mindset that really changes your habits. Since there are so many easy to get to, or cheap clothing available at your finger tips its so easy to get caught up in the convenience and ease of purchasing less mindful or ethical clothing especially if you don’t see or know the faces of who made your clothing. You can also take a minimalistic approach to life and live in the less in more attitude. However you can buy less, like Luke always did but still not buy ethically. So watch a few documentaries, read some stories of child labor or poor working conditions from some top brands and get your heart connected with the mindset. Then you can begin to research some brands that are going against the grain and start slowly shifting and adding well made products to your closet. And if it also helps make you feel more accountable, document it on a blog or through social media or do it with a friend. Whatever it may take for you to start putting in the work towards being mindful because it can be hard at times especially since ethically consumerism isn’t 100% mainstream yet; it’s shifting that way but we’re not fully there so keep at it even when it takes loads of research, a bit extra money and hard work.
Luke: I would stay start small, meaning make your next purchase an ethical one and look to great starter brands like Everlane, Krochet Kids, Alternative Apparel (brands with a lot of variety) to get you going. These brands are on the more affordable end of ethical fashion so they’re an easier starting point budget wise.
Anything else you'd like to share?
Jill: I think in general buying ethically can cross into a critical and judgmental place very quickly. Don’t get caught in that. Every person is on their own journey, including yourself and has different levels of conviction. We don’t need ethical-fashion-police running around judging people for shopping at Forever 21, or even becoming your own ethical-fashion-police and getting hard on yourself for not being somewhere you want to be. It takes time to change mindsets and also practically replace a closet full of other clothing. Don’t worry if you don’t fully change everything right away, in fact you probably shouldn’t. Like Luke said start small, and like I mentioned, make it meaningful to you not because someone tells you it’s right but because YOU think or know it to be and then start acting on it.
Get that passion and drive, be okay with the process and the rest will just fall into place.