I so appreciate Cailtin because she’s brings so much to the table that I don’t—she has color and vibrancy and such full, rich backgrounds in here home and I absolutely love it! She’s an illustrator, a book enthusiast, and is just about to jet off to Amsterdam in a week or so to visit. She so concisely verbalizes the needs of inclusivity and accessibility in the ethical community so read on to hear some gems from this gem.
Tell me a little about yourself? Who are you, where are you from / living, etc?
Hey there! My name is Caitlin, hailing from Austin, Texas! I’ve lived in the area my whole life, save four years in Savannah, Georgia for college. I’m 30 (which is still frightening sometimes), and a freelance illustrator/designer, meaning I work for myself in my home studio. I’m a cat mom to three lovely fur-children (Pumpkin, Biscuit and Buster), and live with my boyfriend, who is also a local creator. My life revolves around art because of my job, but some other unrelated things I love are traveling, treasure-hunting, and reading.
How did you first get into ethical / sustainable fashion?
I was unintentionally into it for years, because I always loved thrifting with my mom. We would visit a local event in Austin called the Citywide Garage Sale, and go digging for treasures. That started when I was in college, visiting home on breaks, so probably around 2009 (Yikes! Ten years!) But I honestly didn’t start making the connection with an ethical shopping mindset until about a year ago. It was an easy transition for me, because I was already living nearly the same lifestyle, just without being educated on the significance of it all. My preferred method of building an ethical wardrobe is through thrifting and secondhand shopping, because I was already comfortable with it. Thrifting is great fun for me, because hunting for the perfect piece has a much more satisfying payoff than walking into a store where you want everything, or dumping loads of stuff into an online shopping cart. I also am a “starving artist” so the price tag makes a huge difference for me.
What’s something you really want other people to know about ethical / sustainable fashion?
I think I have a slightly different mindset about the movement than other folks, in that I strongly believe we should make this a more diverse conversation. Right now, minimalism is mostly associated with ethical fashion, and I think that’s too exclusive. I love me a good minimalist look, but it’s currently become a uniform for the lifestyle. And I have three main reasons this is an issue: personal creative expression, representation, and pricing. I’ve seen people in this community say that they are afraid to wear color, and that’s a shame. Color is beautiful and expressive! I’ve also seen the mindset “ethical fashion isn’t for me because I don’t see myself represented there.” Ethical fashion brands need to represent more body types, and more POC. And most of all, I see people say that they can’t have an ethical wardrobe because they can’t afford brands like Jesse Kamm. I mean honestly, I can’t either.
If the ultimate goal is to change the world’s treatment of workers, and the way that fast fashion is helping to ruin this planet, we can’t make it an elite club with a specific aesthetic.
Ethical fashion and minimalism don’t have to go hand-in-hand. Ethical fashion should still be for the “every girl.” It should be for women with less money, for women with different sized bodies, for women of different ethnicities and for women who like collecting things *raises hand slowly* (Not to be confused with wasteful shopping/discarding or hoarding.)
Part of what I love about clothing is the variety in textiles, patterns and color– it makes me so happy to look through and touch a rack of beautiful clothes. People have different tastes, so I really believe that the goal should NOT be to create a niche, because then it will never be more than just that. The goal should be to get fast fashion to slow down. We can still hope that ethical, affordable brands of the future will create a wide variety of cute stuff, for lots of different kinds of people. I certainly don’t have the answer to this question, but I do think having a special club won’t help bridge the gap between the Every Girl and ethical fashion. I find thrifting to be the best way, currently, to still have a diverse wardrobe, live within a small budget, and being thoughtful about your purchases.
Who are your inspirations (ethical fashion or otherwise)?
I honestly don’t have any one person that I admire, living this lifestyle. For me, it’s more about the community. I think finding a group of like-minded and supportive people means way more than finding one person for inspo. But that’s just me! Maybe I’d change my tune if I found a “leader” in the movement who really has the same POV as I do. If anybody has any recommendations, I would absolutely love to hear them!
Do you have any ethical brands you’d recommend or tips for how to find great thrifted pieces?
No ethical brand suggestions here, but here are a few Thrifting Pro-Tips:
– Don’t only look in your size zone. First off, things aren’t always organized well in thrift stores so your perfect-fit-jeans might be two sizes over. Secondly, sizing varies SO MUCH from brand to brand and decade to decade. It might fit even if the label says it wouldn’t.
– Try everything on. For the same reason as above.
– Be patient. If you have the time, look through every rack at every item. I know that seems overwhelming, but you never know what you’ll find squished in there. Some of my best treasures have been in surprising, hidden places.
What is one of your current favorite items of clothing you own?
Oh no–it’s so hard to choose! I’ll give you a couple of categories instead, because I can’t commit to just one!
Most Sentimental: A vintage pink and white cardigan that I got at one of my first Citywide Garage Sale visits with my mom. It’s a knit, but has a similar cut to letterman jackets and I think it’s timeless.
Best Use: I think the thing I’ve had longest and worn most is another cardigan– it’s a grey cable knit with a hood, and fisherman toggle buttons. I ordered it from an Alloy catalog (remember those?) in 7TH GRADE and still wear it regularly!
Most Fun New Thing: I found a pair of rainbow stripe pants on Poshmark that are a knit, towel-ish texture and they’re so comfy. I’m afraid I’ll wear them to death soon.
What are you reading, listening to and/or watching right now?
I just finished “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” by Jon Ronson and it’s a very interesting look at how public shaming had disappeared by the turn of the century (think: the stocks) yet has had a resurgence in the new age of social media. Yes, sometimes people deserve to lose everything because of a horrible thing they said online, but sometimes we overdo it, and where do you draw that line? I gave it three of five stars because it was little longer than it needed to be, but a very interesting thought experiment.
For podcasts, right now I’m listening to Broken Harts, because I’m a sucker for true crime. It’s about two women who adopt six black children, and seem to live the perfect life according to Facebook, but one day they end up driving off of a cliff in a murder-suicide that leads to an uncovering of child abuse and racism.
For TV, my boyfriend and I just finished the new season of Queer Eye. I love watching that with him because he cries at almost every episode and it’s so sweet!
Where can we find you?
I’m not a blogger right now, actually– just an Instagrammer! @thrift_bee is a fun hobby thing that I haven’t expanded yet, but please go check out my illustration at www.cbaillustration.com. I sell prints, products and commissions at www.cbaillustration-lovelylittlethings.com and you can follow me on the Gram at @cbaillustration.
Please take time to check out her pages, including her illustration pages–she’s wildly talented and brings so much color to the world!