Sameena: dressing well + doing good

ethical fashion

Don't you just love it when social media connects you with someone who is totally on the same page as you? I met Sameena through Instagram several months ago and feel like we're besties even though we live on opposite sides of the country! You guys are going to fall in love with this girl's style and heart for sustainability. I'm super excited to share her interview with you today.

You have a fascinating background, can you share that with us?

I’m a Texan girl at heart, but have roots in both hemispheres. I was actually born in Bombay, India, and spent some of my childhood in Bombay, Singapore, and Manila (in the Philippines). I moved to Houston, Texas when I was in the third grade, so some parts of living abroad are blurry. But I strongly feel living in different countries- particularly countries where you see people around you suffering from very real and devastating poverty- had a lot to do with me caring about social and environmental issues from a young age.

I mostly grew up in Houston, Texas on my Mom’s delicious food and tons of Tex-Mex and a pretty typical suburb experience. And then came college! 

I studied Marketing and Advertising at the University of Texas in Austin for a few reasons. I love the unique mixture of creativity and analytics in Marketing. I love the power of Business as a force for good. And I always loved the quaint, bustling, hippie city of Austin. It’s way more “me” than the sparse oil-country suburbs of Houston. ;) 

After college I decided to brave the tundra (I’m only exaggerating a little…) and go North- way North to Minneapolis, Minnesota. I moved here for a job in Marketing, but when I interned here, it honestly was the best summer of my life. It was the first time I really got to enjoy being outside and soaking in all the amazing natural beauty MN has. The city is littered with amazing lakes and parks and rooftop bars. Moving here has even made me a little outdoorsy! Though I’m still terrified of camping. ;) Also, there is a thriving small business, socially responsible business, artisan, and creative scene in this town. It’s has been absolutely amazing to become a part of!

I now have started my next adventure with New York City as my new home! I’m starting a new job and life in the big city. I am beyond excited, especially for the ethical fashion and living scene on the island. And the food!

ethical fashion

What does a typical day look like for you?

I’m a marketer by day, and stylist/blogger/model, etc at night. My days are never the same- they range from staring at my computer and excel sheets to interviewing customers in a store to doing photo shoots and fashion shows. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Tell us about the vision behind your blog...

ethical fashion

I’m passionate about making ethical and sustainable living approachable and attainable. I grew up in a pretty conservative suburb of Houston, and honestly spent my life having conversations and bridging gaps since I was always different. Different background, different religion, different views.

I think those of us advocating for a mindful and sustainable lifestyle are up against the same thing. Many are quick to label us hippies (though I wear that badge with pride!) and don’t see a place for themselves in the things we are passionate about. But there are others that have never heard of or considered conscious consumerism. When we focus on the very real impact of the fast fashion industry and more on humanity- through horrible conditions for workers and devastating effects on the environment- it sparks their interest, but the shift may seem too large and too hard. I hope my blog can be a resource for this information as well as a place of acceptance. Lifestyle changes are not easy, and I believe every small step should be celebrated! 

What prompted you to start shopping ethically for your clothes?

In July of 2016, I broke-up with fast fashion. I say that because it really did feel like a break-up! Shopping fast fashion and shopping unsustainably was a huge part of my life. Minneapolis is the home of Mall of America, which is the nation’s largest mall and a shopaholic’s dream. My shopping habit had gotten to the point where I had a running wishlist of what I wanted on my phone, was constantly browsing and buying online, and spent full days at the mall. When I was sad, I shopped. When I was happy, I shopped. And to keep from going broke (though honestly there were many times that I was there), I only bought the cheapest stuff.

Then, I watched The True Cost. And it was like this veil was lifted from my eyes. I have always cared about the environment- it comes from faith, my liberal parents, and more liberal high school best friend- so I was horrified to see that I was so regularly supporting the second biggest polluter in the world- the fast fashion industry.

So overnight, I changed my habits. And started blogging about them. I now think twice- more like three times- before shopping. I focus on buying less and buying better. I get to meet amazing shop owners and ethical brand advocates and artists. It’s been the best change of my life! 

Describe your personal style...

ethical fashion

My personal style is all about variety and telling my story to the world. It can reflect my mood, or my new favorite show, or the events of the day. Some days I’m all about wearing chic black clothing, other days I’m about flowy florals. It makes getting ready every morning even more fun!

What are your favorite brands to support?

I’ve fallen in love with Hazel & Rose, a local ethical boutique in Minneapolis, and MY SISTER, a local brand that sells tees that work to end sex trafficking. Both ship all over the US!

Oh, and Esby Apparel is a retailer based in Austin that has absolutely the most beautiful clothing and accessories! They stock amazing ethical brands, so stopping by their store or website is a great way to discover more. And if you’re ever in Austin, you HAVE to stop by Art for the People, a shoppable gallery that houses local artists’ work- from soap to posters to jewelry to beautiful bags! I honestly want everything there.

For shoes- I love going a little edgy and trendy, so I love VEJA a French brand that has ethically and sustainably made shoes. And Fortress of Inca has some of the most beautiful heels, boots and more that I’ve ever seen! They’re also handmade in Peru. Eep!

ethical fashion

What are the biggest challenges you've faced in your ethical shopping?

Though my shopping habits have changed, my love of trends and fashion haven’t. It has been hard to not be able to quickly find and incorporate the newest trends, or not have ready access to – honestly – incredibly affordable clothing, accessories, shoes, etc! But, it’s a fleeting thought, because in the grand scheme of things, the integrity of working conditions and the environment is a huge price to pay for that affordability and consumerism.

How do you make ethical shopping work with your budget?

I’m so glad you’re asking this question! Needing to shop within my budget is actually something that brought me to ethical fashion. Our incredibly cheap and readily available clothing made it feel like I could buy a lot more than I actually could. Everyone has felt that undeniable draw of lit up windows and mannequins and of course- the SALE sign. But, we also know that it adds up. Ethical shopping is a) not always as pricey as you may think (for example, thrifting is an amazing, affordable option!) and b) a need for thinking twice and budgeting before purchasing. I actually wrote a little something about my experience with budgeting and ethical shopping on my blog, too.

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

Ahh, how to choose! I’ve always seen style and fashion as a way for us to tell our stories to the world. The most rewarding part of this shift is that now my story does good for the earth, for others, and more. I love getting asked the “where is that from?” question or about my blog. It’s so fun to share about my mission, about the small businesses and local artists I’m wearing, and about the vintage and thrifting finds I regularly rock. 

What advice would you offer someone who is considering shopping ethically?

ethical fashion

Don’t be afraid to start small. I think sometimes people think living greener or more ethically is an all or nothing choice. And that can be overwhelming!  When it comes to shopping ethically, there are so many easy, approachable ways to start without doing a total overhaul. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed, choose something manageable to start with, and build on that.

Maybe you’ll decide to stop purchasing from one clothing brand that uses sweatshops, and check out thrifting and ethical brands instead. Maybe you’ll realize you don’t even need to shop as much as you did, and instead of depressing, this realization will be freeing! (Like it was for me!) Maybe you’ll decide to start using handmade/natural/organic soap rather than chemical and paraben filled conventional products. Or maybe you’ll decide to support your local artisans and boutiques the next time you’re shopping for a gift instead of dropping by the mall. Whatever you do, it’s your interest and the fact that you are taking a step that counts.

Anything else you'd like to share?

Sustainable and ethical products and living have the best community of entrepreneurs, small business owners, artists, photographers, bloggers, and more behind it. I’m incredibly grateful to have gotten to meet and work with just a few of them so far, and be a part of this amazing community!

Head over to Sameena's blog to read more about her journey and be sure to follow her on Instagram too!