One of my favorite aspects of living/writing/creating in this ethical fashion industry is crossing paths with people who are doing amazing things.
Monica Rojas saw a major problem in the fashion apparel world. A 10-year-industry veteran, Monica was deeply affected by the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in 2013, and decided to make some life changes. In her quest to build a sustainable wardrobe, she had a difficult time finding brands who were transparent about their sourcing and manufacturing – while maintaining the ‘modern aesthetic’ she was looking for. One thing led to another and she decided to focus her efforts on creating a platform for independent designers who were producing garments in an ethical way.
Today she runs Belvele – a San Francisco-based shop selling modern, stylish goods for the ‘conscious consumer.’
Belvele caught my eye because it’s a shop after my own heart: chasing sustainable and ethical fashion without sacrificing style in the process. At Belvele, style and ethics go hand in a hand and are not mutually exclusive. How refreshing!
I caught up with Monica, to dive a little deeper in to her thoughts on why people shop the way they do. Some of her ideas took me by surprise, including her strategy on how to get people onboard with ethical fashion
“We want to make it easy to find ethical fashion that you want to wear.”
S+S: What obstacle(s) do you think most people face when they consider ethical fashion? And what would you say in response?
Monica: For most people, the whole idea of ethical fashion seems unnecessary. Very few are aware of the devastating affects this industry has on people and the environment. For those who are aware, the most intimidating factors seem to be the increased cost and not knowing how to get started. The first thing I recommend for people who are interested in changing their shopping habits is paying closer attention to their current wardrobe. You can get more wear out of your clothes if you simplify by donating items you no longer use and organizing your closet to know what you have. Knowing how to take care of your clothes also makes a big difference. Washing your clothes less often (such as bottoms and jackets) decreases your environmental footprint and keeps your clothes looking new longer. My next recommendation for adding new pieces to your wardrobe is to shop resale and vintage. When you decide to purchase a new item, taking the time to research it helps ensure you really want and need the item. It is worth investing a little more into garments that offer higher quality and versatility.
What do you think is a ‘solution’ to fast-fashion? Or a baby step?
I am happy to see a few fast fashion brands using organic fabrics for at least part of their offerings. However, the whole concept of fast fashion, and the idea of making fashion disposable, is not sustainable. In addition, if those brands truly cared about ethics more than their public appearance, they would use sustainable fabrics for all their products, and they would not continue to use garment factories that pay less than a basic living wage and put workers’ lives at risk.
It seems like the public doesn’t take an interest in activism until it affects them personally. Take the organic food movement for example. People got involved when they realized they had skin the in game – that conventionally produced food could have an adverse affect on them or their children. How do you think we can reach that point in the ethical clothing movement?
Honestly, I am not sure that focusing on fashion’s adverse side effects is the true solution to get the majority of the public on board. Some people don’t respond well to a feeling of guilt. I think the real key is to make slow fashion cool. At one point it was quirky or weird to watch what you ate, and now it’s practically trendy to Instagram your kale and quinoa. The best way to get those around you on board with ethical fashion is to make them feel good about it. Tell them how much you love your super-soft organic cotton tee, or how cool it is that your new dress was made by an independent designer, and produced in Austin, TX. That’s when they will see the value in building an emotional connection to their wardrobe, and investing in pieces that they want to wear time and time again.
Where does the name Belvele come from?
Belvele’s logo is centered around a V shaped like an equilateral triangle, to represent the three factors that, in my eyes, represent good fashion: design, craftsmanship, and sustainability. These are the things I look for when considering a new designer or a new garment for our product assortment. The name “Belvele” is a play on two french words meaning “beautiful veil”.
What inspires you in your day to day life?
Moments like our True Cost screening inspire me. Meeting entrepreneurs who are channeling their hard work and talent to bring something positive into the world. Having friends or complete strangers tell me that I have motivated them to change the way they shop. Starting a business is much more time-consuming and overwhelming than you can really wrap your head around until you have done it. But it’s worth it, knowing that my effort is going into something that I believe in. I hope that, even though I am just one person, I can influence others to start a ripple effect for positive change.
Paint a little picture for us: your favorite outfit meets a perfect afternoon?
It is common knowledge that I am a fan of weather that allows me not to wear pants. My ideal day is one warm enough to wear an effortless slip-on dress with sandals and spend an afternoon at the beach or have a picnic in a park, surrounded by friends. I look forward to doing exactly that this summer…
I love it!
Monica and the team at Belvele have generously decided to give away a Summer Ferns Shift Dress to one lucky Seasons + Salt reader!
This dress is by Make it Good, a Portland-based line, and is 100% cupro – which drapes like silk but washes like cotton. The hand-painted fabric is a subtle blush-on-marine combo. Perfect for a summer afternoon at a city park or dipping your toes in the ocean.
1. Head over to Belvele and sign up for their newsletter (scroll down).
2. Browse through their collection of women (and men’s!) clothing and pick your favorite item.
3. Comment back here letting us know you’ve done #1, and share #2 with us.
The contest closes Sunday, May 29th at midnight, and the winner will be announced here the following day.
This post is in partnership with Belvele. As always, all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Seasons + Salt possible, and more importantly, make world a better place! 🙂