Independent Creator Round Table:
Sustainability, Social Media, and Resale in 2020
We brought five creators together to share stories and advice for resellers and discuss what makes their work worth it at the end of the day.
None of them knew each other before - but everyone is obviously best friends now
Watch the whole convo here:
Or read the transcript below! (your call really )
Meet the makers
Sophie Poukish, Ooey Gooey Van Shop
I started Ooey Gooey Van Shop maybe a year and a bit ago. I started in New Zealand, I was living in a van over there, and I wanted to not be a waitress anymore and I wanted to go to festivals and markets and sell clothes…
I came home in May and asked my grandma for her sewing machine… I wanted to find a nice comfy sustainable fabric so I have been using bamboo velour. I started making clothes myself under my brand… and I just launched my website two weeks ago!
Alex Deane and Stephanie Hoffmeister, Poppy Design Studio
We make handmade small batch clay goods, we started with earrings in March (right at the beginning of quarantine)… we recently branched into ornaments and have a couple of ideas we are cooking up for a couple of products we can work with next.
Our goal is to create a circulatory business through our business practices, by creating products that are durable and can be used for a long time, educating other makers to create with minimal waste, and educating our customers on how to care for and treat their products.
Shyanne Yellowbird, YTB Clothing
I started YTB clothing in collaboration with Thrift Collective over the summer… I created the clothing from fabrics that I thrifted or saw lying around and tried to repurpose them and sew them into new pieces… I did a limited amount for now but am trying to do more in my free time!
JeLisa Marshall, The Stylist Way
I work full time in corporate America as a product developer. What I do on a day to day is create private label clothing.
In my part time I style people, I started over a year ago to branch out from what I do full time. I try to educate people on how their clothes are made and show them how much power they have when they buy the things that they do…
I think if people understood that process a little more they maybe would think twice about the things they buy and invest their dollars differently.
Hannah Linksky, Vintage Hannah Jane on Depop
I've been collecting vintage for a long time and in the last year started selling… I have been branching out into thrifting fabrics and bedsheets and trying to make those into my own garments, that is where I am headed next. Mostly selling vintage clothes through Depop and Instagram.
How has 2020 been going? What challenges are you encountering?
Sophie: the biggest learning curve is being in charge of everything. I really like to work hard, but I also like to chill! Self-motivating and also the social media game is such a learning curve for everyone. Having to do social media, and the design of the clothes, and the creation, and the shipping - it's like being pulled in many different directions...
Stephanie: There is a hard balance of trying to grow our business and push our products without being insensitive to the current state of the world. Are people needing to spend their money on clay earrings? We love creating them, selling them, we love when people wear them - but it is hard to grow the business in that climate
Alex: and doing all of those things while also potentially having a day job. Working a regular corporate job and then, in your free time, learn how to grow an entire business.
JeLisa: I want to second that! For me that is the biggest challenge with everything going on in 2020 is figuring out how to keep the balance… We of course need to sell things, but how do you do it in a way that is sustainable for our own mentalities and bodies, but for the earth also. So how do the two coexist. Trying to navigate that space is the hardest for me.
Shyanne: I would third that! I am also working a full time job…It is hard to balance trying to make clothes and run a business as well… So finding a way to dedicate time is something that I am running into. I am trying other creative endeavors through social media… but with everything going on it is just hard to balance everything
" Are people needing to spend their money on clay earrings? We love creating them, selling them, we love when people wear them - but it is hard
to grow the business in
- Stephanie Hoffmeister
How do you manage educating followers about
sustainability while also generating sales?
JeLisa: it has been a challenge… for me I am all about being authentic engagement and I try to build that into my content. I don’t want to post anything for the sake of posting… There is a conflict between being sensitive to the things that are going on in the world and with my own self… how do you create with all of that?
Hannah: As someone who is passionately anti-capitalist but also a small business owner there is this education about how capitalism won't save us while also saying "buy this vintage thing I just posted." It is so strange and there is so much nuance there…
Imagining what real sustainability will be is something I do a lot even though I don't have all the answers.
Is there any advice you would give a reseller who is just getting started out?
JeLisa: don’t give up. No matter how hard it gets because the mission needs all of us.
Sophie: I feel like i started creating purely for myself… I just wanted to create clothes that I really liked and were comfortable. People say "don't make clothes for you - think about what everyone would like," but I have just really been creating things that I really like and I hope other people will like as well
Just be creative. That is how it's authentic…trust yourself and trust your intuitions. Then just put it out in the world and don't overthink it too much
Hannah: I totally second that! I think it is really easy to get caught up in a post until it is perfect… The reality is you just need to start getting stuff out there, you can wait all day to have that one perfect thing out there, but ultimately you will only grow if you put it out there and get feedback.
I am so embarrassed by the first few things that I made and posted photos of but you just have to start doing it and that is how you see more growth.
Shyanne: I was so nervous to put out some of the things that I had just created and then some of my friends just bought the things and I didn’t know until they were posting pictures and the feeling you get from seeing something you created on someone is just amazing.
In terms of actually executing, just have a plan. It is cliché but have goals, have deadlines to stay on track… create that for yourself so you have something to measure yourself against for starting out.
We will often look back at the first couple earrings that we made… I remember being so excited about them and now I look at them and I think, "did a child make these?"
Alex: And we gave them to people! Our friends are so nice!
Stephanie: It’s embarrassing but so fun to look back and see how much you have grown In a short time… if you are committed to it and have time to dedicate to it you can get good at a craft in a short amount of time. It’s embarrassing, but also so fun to look back and see how far you have grown.
Alex: Also Experiment with different mediums. Clay is not even something that we did… it just turned out to be fun… you are not pigeonholed into one type of thing. I often bring inspiration from different types of art and things that I do, but it’s good to know that you are evolving and your art is evolving. That is why we named ours a "design studio," it gives us the space and the freedom to grow.
"ultimately you will only grow if you put it out there and get feedback." - Hannah Linsky
Is there anything that you feel people consistently
misunderstand about the work you are doing?
Sophie: "How much money do you make?” Right now the money I make is going right back to Ooey Gooey… Also people asking "when are you going to have other people sew for you?" And all of these scalable questions - like “hey I am just trying to run after Ooey Gooey as fast as I can let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.”
Shyanne: I haven't received a lot of negative feedback but a lot of family and friends ask "what's next" and it was so hard to create my first little collection and do that! I am still seeing where my inspiration comes from.
Hannah: As a vintage reseller, I don’t think people fully realize the amount of time that goes into it.. Like there is a "so you just went and found it and now you are selling it for way more?" The money is coming from the time of finding and especially with older vintage I am restoring, patching things up. I am also cleaning a bunch of stuff... Vintage is gross!
You have to make it worth wearing again and then I am measuring, shooting, packing, and shipping. It is a full process to get a piece to someone in wearable condition and that is where the extra money comes from.
The pleasure of someone buying from a small business is giving their money to someone working their butt off.
Shyanne: Thinking about what to do next is honestly just maintaining a sustainable clothing brand. Just gathering the materials is so expensive. It is really hard to maintain and think about where the long term goals of everything are.
Sophie: I so agree with that. I want to be small so I can be the most sustainable I can be, and then people think that small isn't successful so it is a hard thing to balance.
JeLisa: Just the notion that people get overwhelmed with the word sustainability. Like how does that match with their current life and that they will have to give up so many things when really there are so many more options in 2020. It is all about progress over perfection.
You don't have to completely do a full 180 overnight. There are small things you can do to lead up to being more sustainable in your life. What I am doing might not work for you, and there might be other things that you do.
It isn't something I am tired of hearing but it's like how do we address it so that people do not feel so overwhelmed that they don't even start?
"You don't have to completely do a full 180 overnight. There are small things you can do to lead up to being more sustainable in your life. What I am doing might not work for you, and there might be other things that you do"
- JeLisa Marshall
What is the best part about your work?
What keeps you going at the end of the day?
Shyanne: For me it is knowing that I am at least attempting to make a change. I feel like there are not a lot of people that have even tried to do something different or try to change how fashion is re-interpreted in a mainstream culture.
So even me just working and sharing what I can with the people I already know or trying to help people understand where money is going and other brands they can shop at is making a small difference. I really enjoy helping people through that.
Sophie: You said this as well Shyanne but just seeing people wearing your clothes is the most amazing feeling. It is still so surprising to me at the beginning you are just thinking "my friends are so nice." And now people send me pictures that they are always wearing and I am so happy that I have found a product that really resonates with people… It adds fun and creativity to lives that are pretty monotonous right now.
Alex: We call it a stranger sale when someone we don’t know buys one of our products.
Stephanie: as soon as it comes through I'm like "where do they live!? How did they find us!?"
Stephanie: But one thing that is really making it worth it for me is the community of people that we have made… When we started I joined a Patreon of different makers who had so much experience and that has been so cool to connect with other makers and then have different collaborations with different artists … it is such a creative way to engage with other people during such an isolated time."
Alex: that is helpful if you are starting out… finding a community where you can talk to other people or bounce ideas off of or find a safe space in your creative process is pretty important:
Steph: "it can be intimidating to get into a new art form. You are scared to ask questions. So finding an open community that believes there is space for everyone where everyone is supported and everyone can succeed is so important. That can keep you going on days when it isn't as rewarding."
Alex: "I think we find value in creating the art too. When we think about it from a society perspective there is a sense of "good art" that it has to be this certain level of quality or aesthetic for it to be considered valuable or worthy. For us getting to create something and share it is impactful, that people like it is an extra bonus. Even if at the end of the day no one saw what we were making, the experience we had making it brings us joy."
"For us getting to create something and share it is impactful, that people like it is an extra bonus.
Even if at the end of the day no one saw what we were making, the experience we had making it brings us joy."
- Alex Deane
Is there any advice you would give a reseller who is just getting started out?
Shyanne: Two things to add to that. Like what Sophie was saying now that I am making a conscious decision to know where my clothing and these pieces come from it makes me feel much more empowered in my presence on this earth and that is an indescribable feeling…
And about meeting new people! I don’t know what I thought about social media when I was in school but when I started branching out and trying to promote different things I met so many people I would have never met from all over the world…Even though we hear so many bad things about social media… there is actually so much power in staying connected and meeting people, that is a really cool transformational experience for me which is something that is very rewarding."
Sophie: It is so fun to find a new small business on Instagram and just be like "Oh my gosh there stuff is so amazing." I get inspired by their art and there is just so much space for small brands… I love the idea that there is so much space for small brands.
Hannah: I have so many other vintage resellers and cool fashion people who are so supportive on every post and I have never seen them in person but I will do the exact same thing when they post on their page!
And another thing to echo what you are all saying is that I just love fashion and I love it so much that I want to see a world where it is truly more sustainable and ethical, so I am going to keep holding the industry accountable and do everything in my power to change the mindsets of the people around me and that is really what keeps me going is that
I want to see a world where I can love every part of the fashion industry. Not just the creativity, but the whole way in which clothing is made which is not something we can say at this moment in time.
JeLisa: With COVID and 2020 a lot of the things that we already know because we believe in secondhand fashion are being brought to light for other people that have been more removed from the making process…
Every day I see the stuff that is happening and I want to make a change and so I feel guilty because I am contributing to it but also at the same time I am in a better position to make a difference because I know a lot of these things that people don't think about before they put it on themselves. So I feel responsibility to share that experience and that knowledge with other people and that is really what keeps me going
Hannah: Fashion is a gender issue, it is a race issue, it is a privilege issue, and we
Have entered a moment in time where these conversations are becoming more mainstream and I see fashion fitting right into that.
Fashion is part of climate crisis, it is part of black lives matter, it is part of the feminist movement so to me it makes so much sense to include fashion in that conversation but not everyone is aware of why that is true. So that is something I want to keep including and keep reminding people of as well
JeLisa: And how do we do that in a fun way right? We all have fashion and we all need to wear clothes and we want to look cute and how do we tell the whole story?
"it's not about being perfect, it's about working together towards being better" - Sophie Poukish
Sophie: there are parts of my job that I am not good at, and I like that… Trying not to be too hard on yourself - I talk about this with my family like "the thread I am using! The elastic I am using! I want to be the most sustainable!” It is going to be a slow process and that is fine don’t be too hard on yourself.
it’s not about being perfect, it’s about working towards being better.