If I could be a spokesperson for a brand, it would be Consciously. Shopping feels guiltless when you know the items you are buying align with your values. Consciously is the anti “fast fashion”. All of the brands are hand vetted by founder Maisa Mumtaz-Cassidy to ensure they align with the brand’s values. Bangladesh raised Maisa is an advocate for the fair treatment of factory workers and the advancement of conscious consumerism.
SDS: I’m a huge fan of Consciously, what inspired you to create a virtual sustainable e-commerce platform?
MAISA MUMTAZ-CASSIDY: I’ve spent almost a decade in fashion in various roles including design, marketing and product development. It wasn’t until I entered the garment manufacturing industry in Bangladesh that I fully grasped the magnitude of the systemic problems that exist within fashion. I had experiences where I was in meetings with buyers of large fast-fashion brands who blatantly exhibited their indifference in contributing to the well-being of garment workers. I left every single one of those interactions feeling angry and disheartened, and began contemplating how I could show up in this industry in a way that creates a positive impact.
As I began to learn more about sustainable fashion, I discovered wonderful brands doing meaningful work while creating beautiful products. On the consumer side, I realized that people who do want to shop ethically-made fashion have a really difficult time navigating the space because it can be quite overwhelming. People are increasingly inspired to shop from more environmentally and socially conscious brands. So building a marketplace that makes it genuinely easy for people to shop, with all the brands already vetted, just made a lot of sense – so Consciously was born!
SDS: What are the biggest misconceptions about sustainable fashion and any other myths about ethical clothing you would like to debunk?
MMC: That sustainable fashion is ugly, granola, basic, or made for hippies (which is a problematic thing to say in itself), and that it’s always expensive. Sustainable fashion brands don’t all design with one type of customer in mind – of course there’s variety. I mean if there weren’t, could I REALLY have built a whole marketplace?
The other misconception is that you need to get rid of your fast-fashion items when transitioning to a sustainable lifestyle. DON’T do this. The most sustainable thing you can do is use what you already own.
SDS: As someone who is trying to live more consciously, what are some areas to focus on?
MMC: Start small. You don’t have to make grand changes overnight. Small changes make a big impact. You also want your changes to be personally sustainable, so ease into them to not overwhelm yourself. Some simple ways to start would be to repurpose things you already own (i.e. use the jam jars in your fridge instead of purchasing new mason jars), get creative with your clothing (i.e. learn fun ways to style what you own and make alterations to worn out clothing to give it that fresh new life it so desperately craves.)
Prioritize quality over quantity – this way you’re actually saving money in the long run. Another suggestion would be to use a guppy bag when you’re washing clothes made of synthetic fabrics to catch the micro plastics (which otherwise end up in our water systems, and ultimately our food.) And of course, take good care of what you own to increase its longevity.
SDS: Tell us more about the value system at Consciously, how did you choose them and what do they mean to you?
MMC: The values in Consciously’s sustainability criteria acts as our true north when deciding which brands to bring on board. The eight values we have prioritize environmental and social responsibility. Brands have to match with at least two of our eight values in order to be able to sell on Consciously, and furthermore, the brands must offer elevated, beautiful, timeless styles. Sustainability is an umbrella term that can mean many different things to people, so we vet by different values; then, customers can shop according to what matters to them most.
SDS: How can we better spread the message of conscious consumerism?
MMC: Support mission-driven brands that are doing good in the world through their work/business and share them with your network. Be intentional about the choices you make and amplify organizations and resources that help you on this journey. I always recommend people watch “The True Cost” on Netflix.
SDS: Lastly, what’s coming up next with Consciously? Any exciting updates?
MMC: Lots of exciting things are being developed, but at this moment I can’t share the details too much! I can say we’re launching 10 new brands in June and making some internal shifts that will enable us to offer more brands and categories quicker moving forward. We’ve also just launched our Conscious Creators, Behind The Brand, and Women of Impact series on the Consciously blog that is definitely worth checking out. In the fall, we’ll be opening our marketplace up to a larger audience so keep a lookout!