Goodbye fast fashion, hello Encircled
What if you could actually wear the same thing twice? Three times? Even, dare I say it: more times than you could count on one hand - maybe even both hands! Like, without dropping your standards for being fashionably on-trend and gloriously fresh. Think about it.
Kristi is the founder of Encircled, a line of ethically made apparel that helps women do more with less. Previously, Kristi worked for 10+ years in management consulting, retail and consumer packaged goods focusing on building brands, and igniting growth in large retailers. She’ll be talking all things sustainable fashion on our Designer Panel at Retail Therapy, and to give a sneak peak of the wisdom behind this entrepreneurial powerhouse, I connected with Kristi to get the scoop on what it means to make mindfully fashion-forward choices.
Q: What was the inspiration behind Encircled & how did it come to life?
A: Encircled started with one design. I was traveling weekly for my job, and started to feel frustrated with the lack of stylish, and versatile clothing for women. I wanted to be a carry-on only traveler but was finding the pressures of always looking put together, and packing light, didn’t necessarily go together.
So, while breaking from work and packing for a yoga retreat, I dreamt up my first product idea. An innovative 8-in-1 piece that transforms into a cardigan, scarf, dress and more called the Chrysalis Cardi. Building a business that felt good both on the inside, and outside was extremely important to me personally, so I started figuring out how to make the garments locally in Toronto, and chose a very specific, luxurious and sustainable fabric for the Chrysalis Cardi. I started retailing it online, on a website and through working with influencers, and social media marketing, and it started to grow!
While our values remain steadfast at Encircled, we pivoted in 2016 to focus on living light as well. I realized that if I could live for weeks with just a carry-on bag, why did I need so much clothing in my closet? We began to embrace the notion of doing more with less clothing in your closet through developing a curated, capsule wardrobe and focusing on quality over quantity.
Q: What's the most challenging thing about making "mindful" choices when it comes to fashion/design?
A: The most challenging thing is not getting caught up in trends, and the media. The fast fashion retailers have taught consumers over the past two decades to buy cheap, buy trendy, and buy often. The media in it’s own way supports this by constantly promoting what’s new, and in style this moment.
However, this throwaway culture is not only contributes to increased amount of clothing in landfills, it also creates horrific environmental impacts from the poor practices of dying and making the clothing and ongoing exploitation of workers in developing countries to make these designs.
Stepping away from the buzz, resisting the impulse to constantly be buying clothing and to be keeping up with the latest and greatest goes against the cultural shopping norms in our society. This is the challenge for many consumers.
Being more mindful in your consumption and fashion choices requires an investment of time to understand more about how a brand makes their clothing, how fabrics are made and how people are treated in their supply chain. Many people don’t have the time or incentive to do this research, though I’d say increasingly consumers want to know this information.
Q: Can you list a few common "mistakes" (or mis-considerations) when it comes to consumers shopping retail/fashion?
The higher the price point on the garment, the more ethical the manufacturing. Not true. Many luxury brands are the worst offenders on human rights in their supply chains and pay their workers poorly. Do the work, and research the brand before you buy.
Cotton is sustainable. Not true. Conventional, non-organic cotton uses extremely large amounts of fresh water to create, which is then unusable as it’s toxic. The cotton industry is one of the world’s top insecticide and pesticide users in the world and a major exploiter of human rights. If you are going to buy cotton, look for organic options that are certified by an organization like GOTS.
Sustainable fashion is not affordable. There are many ways to integrate more elements of sustainability into your wardrobe without breaking the bank. A great way is thrifting or vintage shopping. You can also do a clothing swap with friends or in your community. And ultimately, the goal is to buy less. So instead of buying 10 x $10 t-shirts this year, invest in two really nice, ethically-made ones that will last you season over season.
Q: What are some ways we can make kinder decisions - without sacrificing our style?!
A: Do your research. A conscious consumer is an educated consumer! The sustainable fashion landscape is changing, and there are hundreds of new brands entering the space every year. Each one offers something for everyone. I think there’s still a stigma out there that all sustainable clothing is uncomfortable and boxy. It’s not the case.
Also, when you’re thinking about buying something new, think need first. What do you need in your closet? Is it the perfect white-T? Great. Now, use resources out there to find some brands that have standards that resonate with you. A couple of great resources for learning more about ethical fashion brands is DoneGood.co, TheGoodTrade.com and TrustedClothes.com.
Q: If there's one thing you wish would/could change in the retail fashion landscape, what would it be?
A: I would make fashion retailers publish the wages for the people who make their clothes.
I think that alone would change many people’s purchasing decisions. There are so many stories still of garment workers not being paid properly, being exploited, harassed, abused, overworked, working in dangerous conditions, and in some cases dying while making clothing. Brands that we all know, and may have in our closet are not operating at the highest level of ethics, mainly because they can exploit others in countries that lack labour laws.
Q: What does "retail therapy" mean to you?
A: I’m a reformed compulsive shopper. In my 20s, I used to shop if I was upset, or bored. I now only shop for items that I need, and focus on a rule of one in, one out in my wardrobe. So, shopping isn’t retail therapy for me anymore because I’m very picky about the brands I’ll shop with and they must meet my standards of ethics in order to buy from them. For me, it’s all about experiences over things.
For ‘retail therapy’ now, I love practicing self-care like reading a good book, meditating, drinking a glass of wine, researching travel destinations or meeting friends for a dinner.