Why I'm Here

Posted by Audrey Ekman on

Hi! It's Audrey, Spoils of Wear's summer intern.

Jill's been applying gentle pressure on the subject of me writing a guest blog post for a good two months now. I kept putting it off because, up until about a week ago, I really had no idea as to what in my life I felt emboldened enough about to actually warrant writing a blog post on.

But a gathering of extended family over the 4th of July weekend where I had to explain over and over again what exactly I'm doing with my summer and why in the world I'd be willing to commute an hour to St. Paul every week to work for free made the subject of my first blog post immediately clear - Me! Lol. Well, more accurately, my interests, passions and what I'm doing here. 

I've loved the idea of working in the fashion industry for as long as I can remember. As a kid, romanced by countless chick flicks at sleepovers and my Teen Vogue subscription, a career in fashion seemed like the ultimate game of dress-up. As I started to pick out my own clothes during annual back-to-school shopping trips, I remember the goal always being to get as many fabulous new clothing items as I could with the money my mom allotted me.

But as I grew up and learned more about the industry, I found it to be decidedly less fabulous than it once seemed. 

Watching The True Cost my junior year of high school was what really jolted me into awareness about how ugly the fashion industry is at its core. A year earlier, I had become vegetarian after learning about how horrible the meat industry was for the planet, and similar concerns about the global effects of the western world's obsession with churning out the latest trends scared me into a full-on boycott of fast fashion.

I bid goodbye to my days sifting through the racks of H&M, Urban Outfitters, and Forever 21. I decided, much like swapping veggie burgers for hamburgers the year before, I would simply only buy ethical and sustainable fashion instead from that day forward. Easy enough, right?

Wrong. This was so difficult for me at the start!! I felt lost and confused in the ethical and sustainable slow fashion world, where everything felt entirely too minimalistic and grown up for my 17-year-old taste (not to mention completely out of my budget).

Enter: secondhand clothing. I'd never thrifted anything besides costume pieces and white elephant gifts before, but when I started to search the Goodwill for things I'd legitimately wear I found out how much fun it was. Later on, as I had less and less time to spend perusing the bins and racks at thrift stores, I found curated vintage stores and pop-up markets in the Twin Cities. I was figuring out how my wardrobe could better reflect both my values and style and it felt awesome to make that change for myself!

When I started college at the University of Minnesota in the fall of 2017, I was enrolled in the business school because that seemed broadly applicable and I still had no idea what I wanted to do post-graduation. I found my first-year business classes on the subjects of Economics, Calculus, Accounting, Statistics, and Management to be incredibly boring. I craved a level of creative stimulation that was missing from these pre-requisite business classes, and decided to take a class for fun when I built my schedule for sophomore year to give me something to look forward to after Introduction to Financial Reporting (because: blah).

This class was called Fashion, Ethics, and Consumption, and it reawakened my early interest in a career in the fashion industry. It also opened my eyes to the ways in which I could apply all of my boring business classes for good. 

Among some of the most impactful topics we had conversations around in this class were past disasters like the Rana Plaza clothing factory collapse, India's Citarum River (aka the most polluted river in the world), and the dried-up Aral Sea in Uzbekistan. All of which could have been avoided if the fashion industry had put people and the planet before mass production.

It's so easy to feel powerless when examining an issue that involves millions of people all over the world, and by the time I took this class I had definitely realized that altering my own personal consumption patterns alone would not bring the level of change the industry needs.

But I believe that fashion as a business is known for its creativity and dynamism, and that as consumers are becoming more and more clued into what is masked by fashion's glamorous facade, change on a global scale is being demanded. And that, to me, is pretty motivating.

That semester, we had a slew of awesome guest speakers from wildly different backgrounds. Perhaps most importantly for me was a small business owner with a sustainable boutique in St. Paul... bet you can't guess who that was! A few months of following along on Jill's Instagram later, she posted about needing an intern for the summer. I jumped at the opportunity to get hands-on experience in a store that aligns so well with my interests, and have been here since April! 

I've gained so much invaluable experience about retail, sustainable fashion, and marketing's function in a small business. I've gotten to open and close the store on my own, learn how to merchandise, create email marketing campaigns, attend a market and play the role of a buyer, create social media content, meet amazingly interesting and inspiring people, and pet SO MANY adorable dogs (!!!!). There's still so much coming up in the next month and a half that I get to learn and experience, and I can't wait!

So yeah, dad, I'm riding the light rail during rush hour every week to get here to work for free, but I really don't think a price tag can be put on the experience that I've gotten here at 1566 Selby Ave.

I am convinced that this is the future of fashion. Ethical, inclusive, diverse, women-owned, local, and sustainable.

Cheers to being a part of that!