I’m SO excited to announce a new series I’ll be doing where I feature some of the many amazing women who’ve inspired me (and others!) on our journey out of fast fashion. My goal is to post every two weeks with a new feature interview. There are so many amazing women involved in this movement and I would be remiss I didn’t share them with you all!
Today we’re talking with Alissa, who is constantly making my neutral outfit dreams come true and decorating her adorable apartment with the cutest baskets (it’s a thing, y’all!) She’s a thrifting queen and takes time to create beautiful and thoughtful content, and connects so genuinely that you immediately feel like she’s been your friend for ages! I hope you enjoy this interview and find some new encouragement and inspiration from this ICON.
Tell me a little about yourself? Who are you, where are you from, where are you living, etc?
“Hello, my name is Alissa! It’s pronounced ah-lee-suh. Almost all my life people have pronounced it like the common uh-liss-uh, and I finally have taken responsibility and initiative to ask people to say my name the way my mom intended it to be said. It may sound small, but it means a lot to me!
I’ve lived in different parts of New York my whole life, and right now I live near Albany, the capital! It’s a cute, small city with a boppin’ downtown & we really enjoy living here. And by we I mean my can’t-eat-can’t-sleep-reach-for-the-stars-over-the-moon-world-series-kind-of-stuff partner Eli & our black cat named Wednesday!
During the day, I work for the state. I’m a public information specialist & I handle communications for two public school districts, serving as a strategic adviser to the district’s superintendent. I also manage their websites and social media channels.”
How did you first get into ethical/sustainable fashion?
“I think it was a bit dramatic and jolty for me. It happened so fast. First I’ll just say that I am a completely obsessive person with a bad case of imposter syndrome. When I hear about something that interests me, or better yet, something that I can easily incorporate into my life that will help society/the planet, I have a really hard time not doing hours and hours of research. And the deeper and deeper I get and the more I learn, the less I feel I know & it drives me to keep going.
That’s basically what happened with sustainable fashion! My friend convinced me to start an Instagram account just to share my OOTD, because, let’s be real, I was usually stylin’ 😉 I had always been a thrifter (purely for the sake of saving money), so naturally I started using thrifty hashtags. I quickly stumbled across thrifters who had an entirely different purpose for shopping secondhand & it just clicked for me.
I was a weekly fast fashion shopper. Target, Forever 21 and H&M were bae. Every day at my old client district, I would prance around the District Office to show off the new $5 top or $7 sandals I’d just scored. I was totally ignorant of what I was doing and I cringe to think how I had inspired people to run, not walk, to wherever I had just shopped and buy a similar piece. I was a living, breathing, essentially clueless advertisement for these companies. After my life-changing realization, I stopped shopping new altogether. I haven’t really gotten into shopping ethical companies yet, and truth be told I want to do way more research before I spend a lot of money on pieces that I could probably find way cheaper if I just have patience. There are pieces though, like a good pair of leather booties, that I have been on the hunt for and will most likely by new.”
What’s something you really want other people to know about ethical / sustainable fashion?
“I want people to know that you DON’T have to continue to live under the terms and trends of fast fashion. You don’t have to base you style on what’s on sale or on the racks. You don’t have to wear polyester & acrylic just because it’s affordable. And you don’t have to own SO much clothes! I wish everyone could have that ‘Oh, I just was totally brainwashed into buying, buying, buying because that makes H&M and Target rich’ moment, because that’s what really did it for me. Like I said, I would shop so often, because I felt like if I didn’t grab those pearl jeans or graphic tees I was somehow losing. Like I was missing out and even wasting money if I didn’t buy those items. That’s such a backwards way of thinking, especially for a girl whose closest was already exploding with prints & patterns & plastic galore. All things that will take maybe centuries to fully decompose — far longer than the one or two times I actually wore them. I’m slowly learning to decouple who I am from what I’m wearing.
I also want people to know that the fast fashion industry is a feminist issue. It breaks my heart to see those empowering t-shirts that were likely made in Bangladesh or China by garment workers who are forced to work in dangerous, sometimes deadly conditions for pennies. Eighty percent of garment workers are women. Just picture that — a woman not unlike yourself, stitching a top that says “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” while in a crumbling factory, her small daughter wearing a face mask and hungry at her side, for maybe $150 a month. It’s just unacceptable.”
Who are your inspirations (ethical fashion or otherwise)?
“I’m inspired every day by the strong women I follow on Instagram. I’m inspired by the scientists who works tirelessly on the crisis that is our dying planet, despite those who believe climate change isn’t “real” and that the impacts aren’t man-made. I’m inspired by my sister Arianna who turned to a natural, plant-based lifestyle after she had her first son. And I’m inspired by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and how she’s been championing the Green New Deal — the only option that’s been presented to actually cut our carbon emissions, hold big business responsible for their wasteful practices that have largely gone unchecked, overhaul transportation to eliminate pollution and guarantee family-sustaining wages equitably.”
Do you have any ethical brands you’d recommend or tips for how to find great thrifted pieces?
“When thrifting and shopping secondhand, you should always ignore sizes, but pay attention to fabric. You can really score some high quality merino wools and linens! And don’t worry about “women’s” clothes or “men’s” clothes. They’re totally all up for grabs. Even the little boys’ section! Because larger shops can be overwhelming, I try to always bring a list of what I actually need. Of course I may stumble upon a flowy, organic cotton blouse with bell sleeves and fall in love even if it’s not on my list, but I try to at least have a plan so that I don’t go overboard. In my head, I try to pair the new piece with items already in my closet so that I’m sure I’ll be getting use out of it.”
What is one of your current favorite items of clothing you own?
“I know it’s a cop out if I say my entire wardrobe is my favorite, but honestly it’s true. I feel good in everything I wear and I always find new combinations because I generally wear all neutrals! But this vintage Dooney & Bourke shoulder bag I recently found for TEN DOLLARS at a local thrift — she’s definitely the showstopper of my closet. I get so many compliments on it & people are always surprised to know I got it secondhand.”
What are you reading, listening to and/or watching right now?
“I’m ALWAYS listening to “The Daily” and “Still Processing” (two New York Times podcasts that are 100p worth it), but also we have been making our way through “Leaving Neverland” with horror, disgust, utter confusion and so much sadness. I think it kind of ties into fashion in a way, because we as a culture are so fixated on what celebrities are doing and wearing & we allow that to inform our choices. At the same time, we hold them on this unshakable pedestal that is really unfair to us and them. I think we also celebritize large Instagram accounts. My perspective is no one deserves to be idolized. We can admire talented people, but never should we let them become these larger-than-life characters who can do no wrong.”
Where can we find you?
“You can find me on Instagram at @alissa_etc where I post daily outfit pictures, but also try to start conversation about the fashion industry through my captions. I also recently started a blog — it’s at www.alissaetc.com — where I’ve been sharing all the research I’ve been doing. I always link all my sources and hope it will give others a jumping off point. Perhaps one statistic or fact could change someone’s mind!”
I hope you all enjoyed learning from this lovely lady, because I certainly have! Seriously check out her blog, it’s stylistically gorgeous and her content is so well-researched and thoughtful.