Hello and welcome!
Some of you may already be familiar with my background but for those who have just joined me, a brief intro.
The past few years of my professional life have been spent working with my husband at the digital marketing agency he founded here in Bahrain. At the end of last year, we made the decision to change course, transitioning the agency to a consultancy so that we could explore new opportunities and areas of interest. We were excited about the prospect of taking a step back, reassessing and applying the valuable lessons we had learnt at the agency to new challenges and projects. Over the past few months we’ve had the opportunity to do just that. For me, this has led to an unexpected path, but one that I’m very excited to embark on and share.
This week, I took the first steps towards creating a small capsule wardrobe of organic, fair trade everyday essentials for women. That’s a bit of a mouthful, I know, and I’ll be expanding on the idea more in future posts! I’ve just enroled in an online accelerator program that provides support for people looking to create sustainable clothing businesses and I’m hoping to take you along for the ride!
As well as being a means of keeping you up-to-date with what I’m up to and what I’m learning, I’m hoping this little journal will also act as a virtual accountability partner and help keep me on track. If you’d like to sign up to receive notifications of new posts by email you can do that over on the right-hand side of the page if you’re on a desktop, or towards the bottom of the page if you’re on a mobile or tablet.
A SEED IS PLANTED
So, where to start? For those that know me, it won’t come as a surprise that my passion for food and healthy living in general has continued to grow over this past year, but it’s also expanded and taken me in a direction even I would never have seen coming. This post is a lot longer than future posts will be so, apologies in advance, and thanks for bearing with me!
Around the middle of last year, my interest began to move beyond food as I started to get curious about the ingredients in my make up, shampoo etc. This led me to Alexx Stuart’s “Go Low Tox” course which was an extremely eye-opening and educational exercise. That’s a whole other story though, and one I’d be very happy to share with anyone who’d like to learn more.
Although I’d heard the terms before, this course became my first proper introduction to the concepts of ethical and sustainable clothing (I’ll be shedding some light around these ambiguous terms in future posts). Part of the course highlighted the social, health and environmental impacts of “fast fashion,” particularly in terms of the chemicals used in clothing production. A seed of curiosity was planted and I started to read more about “healthier” clothing options.
Fast forward a few months to Fashion Revolution Week – an annual campaign that falls on the anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy which killed 1138 garment workers when their factory collapsed in Dhaka in 2013. As part of the schedule of activities organised by the local chapter of Fashion Revolution, I attended a screening of The True Cost documentary. I won’t go into detail here, other than to say it tells an important story about the largely unseen impact the clothing industry has on both the people involved in producing our clothes, and on the environment. It’s on Netflix, iTunes, Amazon and also available for free online; I’d encourage anyone to watch it.
I didn’t walk out of the screening a raging activist but I did leave feeling very flat, sad, and if I’m honest, disappointed. Why hadn’t I ever really clocked on to the fact that something didn’t quite add up when it came to all those unbelievable bargains? I was angry at the big fast fashion companies for having pushed the industry to this point whilst successfully hiding the ugly truth that sat behind it, but also struggled with the uncomfortable realisation that it was society’s insatiable hunger for a bargain (mine included) that had, in turn, pushed them.
Along with that came an element of guilt, but I quickly realised that there was nothing to be achieved by dwelling on decisions made when I, rightly or wrongly, simply didn’t have the knowledge. You don’t know what you don’t know and when you do know, the best use of your energy is to try to do better.
Without meaning to sound overly dramatic, it’s safe to say that my approach to buying clothes, and shopping in general, was changed forever. That’s not to say that I’ll never again buy anything on the high street or in a mall, but just that it wasn’t possible for what I had learnt not to influence my buying choices.
Soon afterwards, we went to the UK where I was sure I would be able to find some brands producing wardrobe staples with organic or low chemical fabrics and also complying with good social and environmental manufacturing practices. I did buy a couple of things but for the most part struggled to find what I was looking for. I’m no fashionista, but I still like to look and feel good in my clothes.
A few weeks later at yoga (I know, so cliché 😂) I was telling friends how surprised I was that it seemed so hard to find “normal,” everyday clothes that were certified organic AND Fairtrade (it’s relatively easy to find one or the other) and not either a baggy, hemp sack or a high fashion catwalk creation. How had nobody done that yet?
Oh. Nobody’s done that yet.
The conversation quickly moved on to capsule wardrobes – a few key versatile and coordinated pieces that combine to create multiple outfits – and within minutes the two ideas merged and the concept of an organic, Fairtrade capsule was born. The idea got me super excited. So much so that I was up until 4am that night researching competitors, fabrics, factories etc. I couldn’t be the only one looking for this, I thought (I’ve since learnt that research both in Australia and the US shows over 50% of people would make more ethical shopping choices and more sustainable decisions if presented with more options – source), and, if no one else was doing it in this way, maybe this was an idea worth pursuing? I was pumped.
Then my inner critic made himself heard – “Uhh, HELLO, you have NO fashion experience! You don’t even read fashion magazines! There are sooo many clothing companies out there, even sustainable ones these days, and people who are way more knowledgeable and creative than you!” But despite going over and over all the reasons why this didn’t make sense, another noisy voice inside my head kept saying, “Do itttt! It’s an opportunity to learn. Don’t be afraid to try different things. Don’t overthink it for once, just jump in!”
Around the same time I came across the online accelerator program I’ve just signed up to. An attractive proposition for sure. I couldn’t help but notice that, although the excitement around other ideas I’d had waned pretty quickly, my enthusiasm for pursuing this one seemed to be lingering.
MOTIVATIONS & GOALS
While pondering the opportunity, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I would be hoping to get out of this project. More than anything, it’s about being comfortable with being uncomfortable. About proving to myself that I can take a leap towards something, without any real certainty about the outcome, and not have the world fall down around me. About making mistakes and learning the valuable lessons that come with them. About creating something from scratch through to realisation and surprising myself with what I can accomplish by simply taking little steps forward each day. About connecting with like-minded individuals who share my interests. And, finally, about actively supporting and participating in a positive movement for change that aligns with my personal values.
REFLECTION & REALISATION
If all I gain from this venture is achieving just a few of the things I rattled off in the paragraph above, how could I possibly not consider that a success?
The more I thought about it, the more I realised that it was the opportunity for personal growth that was attracting me to this project the most, not financial growth. Now, that’s not say that I don’t want it to generate an income, of course that’s part of the plan, but I realised that if that was my sole focus or purpose for taking on this challenge, then it was way too easy for me to find reasons not to do it. I thought, if all I gain from this venture is achieving just a few of the things I rattled off in the paragraph above, how could I possibly not consider that a success?
Those of you who know me well will probably recognise that this runs counter to my usual approach to, well, anything! Even though I’ve been working hard on embracing the motto of “progress not perfection” over the past couple of years, I’m all about the research, the planning and making sure all my ducks are in a row before I start any new task. And whilst that approach has its merits, it also has its limitations when it comes to taking (and missing) opportunities.
I realised that the main thing that held me back from taking a more daring and positive approach is that my brain would always focus in on everything that could go wrong in a particular scenario if I DID do it, but it never got as far as thinking about what opportunities might pass me by if I chose NOT to pursue an idea or take action. The new knowledge and perspectives I would gain, the connections I would make, the sense of accomplishment and purpose….you get the picture. As a side note, Tim Ferriss’ “Fear-setting” exercise was central to this realisation and I highly recommend it for times when you’re facing a tough decision about whether or not to do something.
So, this week, I pushed the button. I’m apprehensive and excited all rolled into one. I know that even with the help of this program it won’t be easy but life so far has taught me that the things that give me the greatest sense of satisfaction often aren’t!
Phew, that took a little longer than expected. Thanks for reading this far if you’re still with me and please feel free to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter or drop me an email.
Just a little side note before I sign off. I know that some of the issues I’ll be writing about can sometimes be contentious but the purpose of this blog is purely to share my experience. It’ll be as much about personal development and starting a new business as it will be about the ins and outs of the clothing industry. Hope you can take something useful from it.
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