Sunday, July 29, 2018

What Motivates An Ethical Blogger - Kristen Gilbride

I'm always hoping that ethical bloggers and fashion bloggers will want to write about Dunitz & Company. So when they do, I'm thrilled for the attention.  If they focus on the good looks of our fair trade jewelry, I couldn't be happier. If they hone in on our upstanding ethics, yeah - awesome! Write about both, now that's the best.

I meet the (mostly) women that write about Dunitz & Company various ways. Often it's through networking on Instagram. So it's not unusual that recently on this very social network, I met Kristen Gilbride of Purposeful Fits.  She's one impressive woman, currently working on her masters degree at Rutgers University. She recently wrote about Dunitz & Company on her blog.

And then, this got me thinking. How fun would it be to interview her?  With so many people always looking for the latest cheapest new blouse or shoes or necklace, what makes a 20-something feel otherwise? Lucky me. Kristen loved the idea of us reversing roles. Now I've been able to learn more about her and what makes her tick. Here's what she shared with me.

NANCY: I'm so impressed when I see someone your age advocating for change. Was there a pivotal life experience that encouraged you to educate others about sustainability and environmental issues? Can you tell me about that?

KRISTEN: Thank you so much. A few years ago I was working as a stock girl in a luxury women's fashion store in an outlet mall in New York. There, I learned so many valuable lessons about fashion and what needs to change within the industry.  This company produced really beautiful clothes and showed two collection each year. We were told to tell customers that the clothing was made in France when it was really made in China. The way the company got away with this was there were no "Made in" tags sewn into the clothing. Some customers came in with their recently purchased clothing and showed us holes or split seams.  At the time, it was somewhat easy to shake these feelings of customer exploitation. Or maybe each event was too small on its own for me to make a fuss. But it wasn't until me and my sister, who also worked at this store, were scanning out damaged goods, did the manager tell us that some of the blouses being sold for $300 or more only cost the company five dollars. We knew this small price tag had to include material costs, labor costs and transportation costs. This was hard to shake off.

I did some light research and found that this was the norm for most fashion retailers. Companies with transparent supply chains were few and far between.  But when I found companies that were transparent, it was refreshing to say the least.  I wanted to give these companies a platform to showcase the amazing efforts they were making to change the industry.  With this knowledge I wanted to show people that they can change how the fashion industry operates by supporting companies that operate with higher morals. (Note: Kristen will be building a list of ethical designers and suppliers for her blog soon.)

NANCY: I was thrilled when you wrote about Dunitz & Company and our fair trade jewelry line.  So obviously you're interested in promoting fair trade.  Is there a cause you're most passionate about?

KRISTEN: It was so much fun writing that piece.  Fair Trade is such an important topic to cover when it comes to many industries, including fashion.  Being Fair Trade is always my first check-mark when it comes to what I consider sustainable.  I have so many Fair Trade causes that I'm passionate about, but I think one cause that is sometimes overlooked is job security.  For so many women around the world, including America, maternity leave isn't guaranteed. Even if a policy exists, there is no guarantee that the same job will be there after you return.  Sometimes the working contracts are questionable and sometimes they are down right wrong.  Workers should be able to take a sick day or a personal day and not worry about losing their job. I believe fostering healthy work environments is important for employees and can generate creativity.  When people are comfortable and valued, it shows in their work.

NANCY: You're attending Rutgers. Are you taking or have you taken any classes that focus on ethics and sustainability?  Perhaps there was a course or a professor that most inspired you?

KRISTEN: I have not taken a class that specifically focuses on ethics or sustainability. But, I've taken several inspiring classes that have taught me things that I now apply to Purposeful Fits (Kristen's blog.) I took a religion class that talked about Native American representation and appropriation within America. This really inspired me to look into representation in general, and as it pertains to the fashion industry.  The majority of fashion labels have limited diversity when it comes to age, gender, race and body type.  I think it's so amazing when a company incorporates diverse models.

This last semester I took a class that focused on how to engage people in local issues. This gave me so much perspective on the many ways you can reach an audience. Not only did it make me aware of the number of issues people in poverty face, but it also really got me thinking about how I could encourage engagement in issues I'm passionate about.

NANCY: Do you have any idea what you might like to do professionally after you finish university?  I'm just wondering how your interest in sustainability and the environment will continue after you finish. Have you even thought about it yet?

KRISTEN: Ah, the question that is asked the most and the one most dreaded by college students.  After college I would like to work somewhere in the fashion industry.  I'm currently getting my masters in communications and would love to be part of a communications team that values Fair Trade, is eco-friendly, promotes social change, and of course sells beautiful clothes.  Right now I can't get any more specific that that.

NANCY: It's clear you love fashion.  You and Rowan Eo take amazing shots for your Instagram feed and blog.  Do you ever think about launching your own fashion brand?

KRISTEN: Rowan is such an amazing photographer and person. I don't think I have too much of an eye for design. I'll leave that to the (design) professionals. With that said, I would love to work alongside those designers to creative a sustainable fashion line.  I think my talents are geared more toward the communication side of a business. Who knows? Maybe one day you'll be wearing Purposeful Fits designs. (last comment clearly communicated with a smile.)

NANCY: What projects have you been involved with in school or outside of school that make you most proud? Tell me about it.

 KRISTEN: Although this doesn't pertain to fashion, I'm very proud of playing the cello.  I've been playing cello since I was 6 years old and have performed in Carnegie Hall and with various orchestras. Not too many people know this, but initially I was a music major at Rutgers before switching to communications. I still play, just not as much as I'd like to.

NANCY: Am I missing anything important?

KRISTEN: I don't think so. Your questions were great, super interesting and diverse. I'm so happy you wanted to interview me.

And with this - I must say, I'm thrilled I interviewed Kristen. I was impressed with her before. Now after digesting her answers to my questions, I'm even more impressed. I know more about what motivates a young ethical blogger. It's obvious this talented moral woman will go far. Learn even more about Kristen by reading her Purposeful Fits blog. And of course, do not miss her post about Dunitz & Company fair trade jewelry. -ND