Get 25% off any order with Vella Vintage using my code ETHIGIRL25 !!
Social entrepreneurship is damn exhausting. Being a woman in social entrepreneurship, and trying to balance probably like ten other things, while also building your credibility and maintaining your confidence in yourself and what you've created...that's even more exhausting.
But people like Erin, who created Vella Vintage, a gorgeous online vintage shop, demonstrate to us that this can all be worth it. It takes a lot of hard work and confidence, but believing in your personal value as an entrepreneur, and your brand value of what you sell will get you there. A few weeks ago, I FaceTimed with Erin after getting connected through Dazey LA, a feminist, slow fashion brand which we are both ambassadors for (if you want to know more about Dazey click here - and remember that you can get 10% OFF through my code through that link and my code ASPENIRIS)!
It was so entirely refreshing and exciting to hear from someone so passionate and excited about sustainable and ethical consumerism, just the same way I am, who also loves fashion. We had an amazing conversation. Here, I want to share just a few of the awesome things that were said throughout it!
the origins of vella
Erin started her business after growing up attending school in Germany and being heavily immersed in an education which put an emphasis on environmental advocacy. She also always loved thrifting. That's why, when she started university, everything clicked and it made sense in her mind to launch Vella Vintage! As the brand evolved, its mission became even more centred upon environmentalism and social justice, and the idea of how what you buy affects people.
What Erin has created she calls more than a business. It's a movement.
Erin focuses less on the business aspect of Vella, and more on the personality which shines through it.She believes that, at heart, people want to support a personality much more than they want to support a faceless corporation - you just need to make the option to do so accessible. That's what's going to divert the demand for fast fashion and influence people to support local, small, handmade, secondhand, and sustainable.
influencing friends + family to be conscious consumers
I also spoke to Erin about her opinion on individually influencing other people in her life to shop slow or shop less. According to her, trying not to be judgemental is key - which I also am so passionate about supporting here at Ethigirl. Her reminder to herself when people don't make the same consumer choices as her is to try not to take it personally, because fast fashion is NOT an individual issue. The mindset is hard to break because it's a societal problem. And we need to remember that, and to try not to get disappointed, when people don't immediately change their actions. Influencing others takes time - and while judgement is okay in small doses, in anything more it results in us turning people away from the movement.
On the other hand, having nice moments is so validating. When people come to you and tell you they made a different consumer choice because of what you taught or told them, or when someone buys something from Vella, according to Erin, this can make all the difference in your motivation to keep working.
easy conscious consumerism tips
Erin also makes many small choices in her everyday life to be a more conscious consumer and individual. These are a few of her favourites:
air-drying her clothes
choosing walking over driving whenever possible
committing to buying 100% secondhand and ethical clothing, as well as secondhand furniture and books whenever possible
refusing single-use plastic, or anything else which cannot be reused
limiting meat as much as possible
purchasing more organic and local foods; supporting farmers
picking up litter on walks
She acknowledges that aside from thrifting, there are so many small ways which everyone can do their part. As well, along with making better consumer choices, reducing our waste is super important.
outlook on affordability and accessibility
Erin's personal preference, and tip to all, is thrifting. When you're on a budget, of course it is not always feasible to spend $50 on a t-shirt. Therefore, in the movement toward sustainable and ethical fashion, thrifting and secondhand clothing are really the best you can get when it comes to saving money and still looking great.
However, Erin has also come to realize that her brand does indeed have worth, and sometimes that means being firm with your prices. The root of the problem of fast fashion is peoples' belief that we need to own far too many clothes; therefore, they need to be available for cheap prices in order to keep up with trends. But in the space of ethical and sustainable fashion, entrepreneurs recognize the value of their items. They are confident in their inherent worth, and reflect the time and effort put in by their designers, creators, and curators.
Ethical fashion is more expensive to make, and a lot more effort and care goes into it. Entrepreneurs are also influencing the movement to reflect this. Consumers need to be encourages to shop less and shop better by recognizing the value of their items, and therefore paying more for something they truly love. You curate your wardrobe so that you have a smaller collection of great clothes.
Erin recognizes this and refuses to undervalue her clothes. Her items have stories: they're made differently, in a time before fast fashion, when things were sewn locally and with an entirely different process that was designed to last. So, obviously she will price these items higher - because customers need to value them more, too.
credibility as a small + female business owner
The intersectionality of these two things can really impact how people trust you. Erin has indeed dealt with many customers questioning her and questioning her confidence - ranging from things based on her age, her gender, and more. Specifically to do with her identity as a woman, she has dealt with customers being condescending and skeptical that she truly knows what she is doing. This can indeed be extraordinarily frustrating when you're putting so much time and effort into something that you truly love, are passionate about, and firmly understand.
Another really cool thing that Erin does as a woman who understands this issue, and how specifically prevalent it is within business and entrepreneurship, is her Girl Boss Blog series. Each month, she features a different badass business woman who is making waves in all different disciplines. I am so honoured that I'm going to be featured this month (March) - stay tuned in the coming days on my Instagram for a link to that!!
opinion on the future of fashion + consumerism
Erin is extremely hopeful and sees things changing every day. There is indeed a tremendous number of conversations being sparked all the time surrounding the things we are consuming and putting into and on our bodies. People are paying attention now, and they're educating themselves, as well as others. Bloggers are supporting brands, and vice versa. It could not be more of an emerging time.
It's really easy to stay pessimistic, and sometimes really hard to be optimistic. But Erin believes that they will.
She finished our conversation by opening the question to me: what really would happen if nobody made any more clothes? We would be fine. 100% fine. The prices might go up, and there might not be any more huge malls - but the world, all in all, would be literally fine.
This is something to think about. We all need to stop buying new, and reduce our buying as much as we can in general. In Erin's eyes, this is where we're headed, and she wants to be alive to see it.
You can find Vella Vintage's online store and website here. I am excited to be able to partner with Erin to offer 25% off on all her items using the code ETHIGIRL25. Also, be sure to follow her on instagram @vellavintage and stay connected with what's ahead. She is truly a wonderful human being and entrepreneur, and the type of person every Ethigirl should be supporting.
With love and sustainability,