Monday, April 6, 2015

Sustainably Awesome! An Interview with Eco-Designer Natalie Smith of Sustainably Chic

Sustainably awesome...that would be my opinion of Charleston, SC based artist and designer Natalie Smith's online shop, Sustainably Chic.

What is Sustainably Chic? Directly quoting from the site, it is, "A blog and online boutique dedicated to sustainability within fashion economics and culture. We can all make a difference by what we decide to purchase. Shop positive, shop small, shop sustainably."

Though Natalie is not too far down the road from me, I discovered her shop through a long-time favorite blog of mine, SaimaaLife! (Isn't the wide world of the web amazing? I learn about something local to me from a blogger on the other side of the world! Read Mari's posts on Sustainably Chic here and here!) I was hooked after reading Mari's first post, but this was during The February Challenge so I had to wait a bit to order my own Sustainably Chic items! However, they were well worth the wait!

Love my ivory headband from the organic linen & lace headband/bracelet line. Yes, it can double as wristwear!

This piece from her organic crochet and lace necklace line just has all of my heart!
I love my two pieces, and was able to chat with Natalie for this post and learn a bit more about her and her vision for the future of Sustainably Chic!

Natalie Smith of Sustainably Chic
"Sustainably Chic actually began as a school project," says Natalie. "It was a filler for my portfolio. I studied fashion, and the last two years of school, I found sustainable fashion and became obsessed. All my projects became dedicated to sustainability within fashion economics. Towards the end of my studies, I wanted to create a business plan for my own store. Faqara was the name of the business, which means ‘love’ in Amharic. It was a fair trade store that sold accessories and home decor from all over the world - and my professor hated the idea. She didn't understand the concept of Fair Trade and thought there was nothing special about the store - no niche. That’s when I realized I needed to change the minds around me and educate people about their purchasing power. I started La Petite N-Kay to add to the mix and relate to my immediate peers. The name ‘Faqara’ dwindled off in my mind, but then Sustainably Chic came about and the conversation got bigger."

Organic linen& lace headband in grapefruit, $12
"The name La Petite N-Kay derives from two things: we are from the canton Vaud in Switzerland so there is a lot of French speaking in the family. My Grandmaman calls me her Jolie Petite Fille. N-Kay is short for my first and middle name, Natalie Kay. I’m pretty small, 5’1’’ and three quarters, so it fits!"

Organic linen turban headband in light forest green, $22
"The main thing I want to do with both La Petite N-Kay and Sustainably Chic," says Natalie, "is to create awareness for positive consumerism. I think it’s safe to say we all love to get something new now and then and a lot of us enjoy being trendy. There is a sustainable alternative to purchasing, however - buying organic, upcycled, recycled, fair trade, ect. can make all the difference in the world! In my world, and Sustainably Chic’s world, sustainability is in fashion, and now it’s all about letting others realize the impact they can make with their own purchasing power."

Gloria tote in multicolored diamond + teal by Manos Zapotecas, $130

     Like Natalie, I have a passion for sustainability. In the past few years,  I've learned so much about the true cost of cheap clothing and accessories in America and it has made a profound impact in how I shop and how I view the fashion industry. It is nice to have a discussion with someone who not only shares my views, but has an insider perspective on what it might take to change things. 
    "I read so many terrible articles, throughout college, about unethical treatment and waste that it made me sick," Natalie stated. "I took a few courses where I focused heavily on sustainability and my career in fashion took a totally different course. I was never really into trend reports - I loved style and construction that lasted. The fashion industry creates so many unnecessary wants. While I enjoy the art behind fashion, the industry pushes the trends too heavily on consumers which is why we have stores like GAP, H&M, Forever 21, ect. But every purchasing decision you make affects someone else in the world, and with ‘fast’ fashion, it is not in a positive way. The more people we can get to say no, the less terrible working conditions and waste there will be. Consumers have the ultimate say, and it’s important to discuss that power."

Eyelet Necklace in Easter Candy by SoloHope, $25

     The desire to be a conscientious consumer and also the desire to be fashionable do not have to be mutually exclusive, however! "Don’t get me wrong... I do like to purchase new items throughout the year (after all - I do own an online store), but you will never see me posting a different outfit everyday just because I have to keep up with the latest trends. My style and the items I purchase are a positive alternative to all the ridiculousness. I have had some amazing sustainable fashion designers, specifically with clothing, on the blog this past year that I look up to. Everyone I have featured is extremely talented and I only feature people or businesses I really stand behind, such as FROCK Los Angeles designer, Victoria Tik. She has taken the celebrity world by storm, which is one of the best ways to spread the idea of sustainable fashion."

Organic crochet and lace necklace in Bluebird, $20
Natalie includes both the work of sustainable companies that promote empowerment through creativity as well as items she recylces/upcycles/creates herself. I was particularly drawn to the delicacy of her necklaces and headbands and asked her to share a little about her creative process as an artist/designer. "I love anything dainty, so I always start with lace or vintage buttons and figure it out from there," she stated. "I do a lot of making and taking apart. Normally it’s when I’m not thinking too hard about it something good actually comes about! Nothing I make is difficult, but it also isn't something I've seen before."

As for Natalie's personal creative goals, she says "I really want to be a professional tatter and make lace. When I get there, I’ll feel much better about my other creative processes!"

You can follow Sustainably Chic's blog here, and I totally recommend doing so for beautiful imagery as well as insightful information on sustainability and creative living! In addition, you can follow Sustainably Chic on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

***All shop photos and image of Natalie Smith courtesy of Sustainably Chic.


Shell said...

Love Natalie, this is wonderful!

Shell said...

Love Natalie! This is a wonderful interview!