"Finding a group of like minded people will be a gift."
Kate is the founder of EcoSessions®, a monthly global event series connecting industry, designers and citizens to discuss change. EcoSessions are an opportunity for industry and designers to forge relationships and hatch collaborations and for citizens to engage directly with their favorite brands. EcoSessions are held in Berlin, London, New York, Los Angeles, Montreal and Toronto on topics ranging from: Innovations in Textiles, Fashion and Sustainability, Nontoxic Beauty, Ethical Retailing and Fashion in Africa.
How did you come up with the Idea of EcoSessions?
I launched Magnifeco.com in 2008. And after 5 years of writing daily stories about brands and designers who were doing things differently I realized the industry needed two things to push it forward: there needed to be more sharing and collaboration between makers, and consumers needed opportunities to hear the stories and see the products. So I created EcoSessions to meet both of these needs. We bring together leaders around a topic or theme (most who have never met) and then ask them to share their stories as a way to activate conscious consumerism.
How do you find people to work with?
Between the Magnifeco blog, book and podcast we have shared the stories of almost 2000 brands and designers. I pull from that, and then also ask panelists – ‘who do you want to meet? It gives me a chance to pair them with their heros in sustainablity and to meet even more change-makers. Too date we've had over 120 speakers who are some of the most inspiring people in ethical fashion, clean beauty and sustainble living.
What advice can you give to others who want to become active for sustainable and fair fashion?
I would say find a community. It doesn't matter if you are an entrepreneur or just trying to learn more to incorporate into your life or current work, finding a group of like minded people will be a gift. That’s one of the reasons I started EcoSessions - so people could find a community to help each other. Whether it’s designers who need help sourcing sustainable materials, or consumers who want to learn more about the best shampoo - EcoSessions events (and Facebook groups) offer that community. That’s also why I love hashtags…. they are another way to connect with like minded people around a certain theme: #slowfashion #ethicaldesign, etc.
Has sustainability always been an issue for you? If not when and how did this change?
I grew up in Canada, so I feel like caring about nature is in my DNA. I became a vegetarian as soon as I learned about factory farms, and I had the same reaction when I learned about issues in the apparel industry - fashion is the second most polluting industry! But at that time, I was living in Tokyo and had a hard time finding solutions. So I created Magnifeco (back then as a ‘daily eco-fashion find’) – to share solutions. And have been trying to share solutions ever since.
What is important to be said about fashion?
I made an acronym for my book on how to shop for v.a.l.u.e. – for people who are trying to buy better. And it’s shaped around five questions to ask:
Do I need to buy it /does it need to be new. The industry is currently producing 150 billion garments per year, most from virgin resources. (v = vintage)
Could my purchase support a creative community or artisan group? Artisan work is the second largest employer (after agriculture) in the developing world. (a= artisan)
And if my purchase is going to support craft, does it have to be a community abroad? What about supporting local makers? (l= local)
Does the item divert waste? Has someone applied design thinking to taking something headed for landfill and added value? Think Freitag bags. (u=upcycling)
Lastly, does the item or maker match my values? Have they made the product with environmental, human or animals rights in mind? (e=ethical)
Who do you admire?
I love Vandana Shiva and her tireless work to preserve bio-diversity and indigenous knowledge.
What, in your profession, put a smile on your face?
I’m happy when mainstream press (newspapers and magazines) dedicate pages/stories to the issues in fashion and beauty (often at the risk of their big advertisers).
Do you have some links that fit this profile to share with us?
What else is Kate up to?
Recognized as an expert in ethical fashion and sustainable living, Kate is the founder of Magnifeco.com (launched ’09), author of ‘Magnifeco: Your Head-to-Toe Guide to Ethical Fashion and Non-Toxic Beauty’ (published 10/15) and the producer and host of Magnifeco Radio (09/16), a weekly podcast on the Heritage Radio Network and iTunes.
Kate also sits on the board of the NYC Fair Trade Coalition, she's a business adviser for MadeSafe.org and is part of the EPA's "Trash Free Waters" Working Group on microplastics and microfibers and finds time to teach Ethical Fashion at NYC’s Fashion Institute of Technology.
Interviewed February 2017 by Cherie Birkner