OUR FEMALE FOUNDER: Read her story below...
The last time you got dressed to work out, did you pause to consider the quality of life of the women who sewed your activewear? What about the impact your activewear has on the planet?
I never did.
So why am I now sweating my vagina off on the daily, advocating for the slow fashion movement and encouraging active women everywhere to care about who made their workout clothes and what they’re made from?
This is my story of becoming wilder.
Grab a cup of whatever fills your fancy and settle in for an empowering read.
It will feel good in the way helping always does. That is what I am really asking for, on behalf of people and the planet, is for your help. I’m strong as a mother, literally a mother, but I can only do so much. It is going to take a collective effort to turn the activewear industry around and while many assume only big corporations have the power to do anything, that is simply not true.
You have the power. Yes - you.
A big scary thought I know, but taking control and learning to harness that power - becoming empowered - will change lives, so many lives, and being an activewear designer, I don't make performance promises I cannot guarantee.
Firstly though, 'wtf is slow fashion? Is that like a made-up term?' I wish I could claim origin of this phrase but that honor goes to Kate Fletcher, a sustainability pioneer. Slow fashion is a global movement advocating for clothing that's made as eco-friendly and ethical as possible while creating positive social and environmental impact.
Though the slow fashion movement began in the late 80's and it's been almost 5 years since I wrote this story, still virtually no activewear brands are in alignment with slow fashion values.
Activewear is one of the largest and fastest growing industries, worth 350 billion in 2020. The negative impact this industry has on the planet and people is staggering, and while many brands now advertise charities they give back to or products they make in sustainable fabric, in "look at us doing good" type campaigns, on deeper investigation it's apparent almost no brands are attempting to ensure environmental and ethical processes from start to finish.
There is a new term for these pseudo do-gooders - it's called 'Greenwashing'. Greenwashing is the term for influencing people to believe a product is eco-friendly and ethical when it's not really. However, this is not a brand-slam. In my opinion, any brand attempting to do better deserves our love, support and encouragement. Like signing up for a marathon, it doesn't matter how slow you go as long as you cross the finish line. They are trying, cheer them on, every last one!
Now more than ever, consumers and creators need to come together and support each other in figuring out how to reduce consumption while protecting people, at any cost. It's not an easy thing to solve, but the buy-now-pay-later plan we're on for cheap clothing has interest and will cost even more when mother-nature mails out the bill.
So, will you help me empower women with slow-fashion activewear, so we call all feel as good about where our activewear comes from as we do about ourselves after a good workout?
Your playing small does not serve the world... as we let our own light shine we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.
W H A T D R I V E S M E
As a young girl I suffered from classic low-self esteem. Fitness to me meant fitting in; setting impossible weight-loss goals and self-image standards. Not until my late twenties did I grasp that if it were more fun – and my goals deeper than the kiddie pool – that I might want to do the activities I was forcing myself to endure.
Today, instead of losing weight I aspire to gain achievement and instead of looking good I aim to feel good. These two changes in my way of thinking have made me fitter, lighter, healthier and happier than ever before.
I am also one of those people who knew exactly what they wanted from a young age. My desire to become a fashion designer began in grade 7 and I achieved an A+ in every relevant class until by senior year my highschool was inventing new sewing courses just for me. By 2006, armed with a Fashion Design Diploma and 4.0 GPA I listened to advice to gain experience in the industry before launching my own line. I accepted an internship that lead to a full-time position with a local brand, where I became comfortably stuck for eight years. The more I learned the more afraid I became to branch out on my own. The apparel industry is one of the hardest with the lowest profit margins; those who succeed seem to do so by the suffering of others and shady methods.
Finally in 2014, growing tired of monotonously designing for someone else, I convinced myself that I could do it better and took the risk of quitting my job to start my own company. The timing was right to be a part of the sustainable fashion movement, and like most made in North America brands I claimed and marketed myself as being ethical, thinking that's what a controlled minimum wage and safer working conditions meant. I was on the fast track to success, so I believed.
I founded Bewildher Fitwear to align my dream job with my desired lifestyle, to inspire myself and other young women to feel more joy in the pursuit health and wellness. What better way than a reminder you can wear everywhere? To start out my clothing was all about fun prints and bright colors; T-rex onesies and kale pants. I was making a lot of women very happy.
While inadvertently encouraging the suppression of others.
FACT: Approximately 80% of garment factory workers are women. Industry standard is to pay minimum wage or only slightly above, an income level that falls below the poverty line in almost every major city where they're employed, including in Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Ever looked at someone’s occupation and thought how do they do that job and sleep at night? It’s actually pretty easy to turn a blind eye and sleep soundly when your dream career is at stake, especially when being told you are doing nothing wrong. Why face facts when you can pretend you don't know?
CORE VALUE: BE CONSCIOUS
I will wake-the-f-up and be aware of and respond to my surroundings.
As reality would have it, like most start-ups (90% of which fail) I wasn’t on the easy road to success nor able to do it better.
I was on the really f@%#ing hard road to being massively in debt and becoming increasingly aware of how unethical minimum wage is and how wasteful it is to stock excess inventory. I had been trying to operate a traditional clothing company, the way I'd learned through my work experience, while also trying to stick to my morals and was failing miserably at both.
Sorry Mom and Dad, your 30G investment is a pile of clothing the world doesn't want stacked up in my living room.
Three years into my venture, yet to pay myself a dime, I was eight months pregnant and beyond burnt out. I decided to accept defeat and quit, joking I'd become a romance novel writing dog walker, Googles top two highest paying easiest jobs. "She loved the way he woofed at her with his big furry..."
“Normally I would tell my clients to put on their big girl panties” said my business coach “but I think you need to take a break.”
My current situation had even my paid cheerleader telling me not to show up for awhile. I cancelled my latest collection, deciding to trust the universe as it sucker punched my dreams. The worst is yet to come, it was saying, and you need to clear your plate.
My partner and I were living through a renovation nightmare, after purchasing what turned out to be a completely rotten mobile home. One tiny hole in the wall lead to sleeping in a complete tear down. Some days there were no walls, some days no roof. While most couples are trying to finish the baby room we were trying to finish the entire house.
On my due date two bright orange stickers appeared by our front door. “Stop work” said one. “Do not occupy” said the other. We were being evicted by the jurisdiction of Squamish.
Worst. Day. Ever.
W H A T D E P R E S S I O N F E E L S L I K E
At the same time all of this was happening I was starting to experience episodes of pre-partum depression, and let me tell you, my outlook on depression is completely changed.
Admittedly I was one of those "snap out of it" thinkers, and "you can't help those who won't help themselves." I now know you can't snap out of it, and yes you can help by providing the right support.
I also know using the phrase "I'm so depressed" when you can't do something is a misrepresentation of this mental health issue. I want to share what depression really feels like, for those who have never experienced it, because it's not what I thought and I "get it now" why raising awareness is so important. You know those days when you feel mopy, tired, you want to do stuff but you're feeling lazy and can't bring yourself to move? It's not that, that just means you're tired and need a break so relax for a day or two and you'll feel better!
Depression is different. To put my experience into perspective, imagine the most motivated person you know (maybe that's yourself) completely lost in a thought train where every aspect of life holds no meaning. Everything you do is meaningless, you serve no purpose and no one will miss you when you're gone. "Why do anything? Why even bother living anymore? Maybe I should just drive off the road, no one will care" said my looping thoughts.
It's hard to picture, which is why its so important to try, because this is what it really feels like. It wasn't even scary, these thoughts made perfect sense.
At a time in my life where I had more reason to live than any other, the pending birth of my child, I felt worthless and suicidal. What's more, while spiraling down these thought trains, I could not help myself get out of them. I couldn't tell my thoughts weren't normal. It wouldn't be until afterwards, once my hormones had balanced out, that I'd gain perspective again. Thankfully, due to all of the recent awareness for depression, I was able to understand what was happening to me and take comfort in knowing it was temporary.
If I could give one piece of advice to anyone suffering from depression or trying to help someone who is, it would be to find purposeful work that helps and holds meaning to others. There is nothing more motivating than doing good for others and knowing someone can better exist because you do.
R I S I N G T O T H E C H A L L E N G E
Despite the challenges I faced I am one of the lucky ones. I had family to turn to for help and within 24hrs of being kicked out of our place my dad had purchased a camper and parked it in our driveway - we were officially tiny home residents. That’s when a shocking thought occurred to me, a question that inspired the re-branding of Bewildher into a slow-fashion initiative, what if I didn't?
QUESTION: What if you were an immigrant worker with a family that depended on you and no one to turn to when the worst that could happen actually did?
That's the sound of my big girl panties slapping my thigh. I was back in business. Suddenly I could see quitting wasn't the answer. Who would I be helping? I had found my purpose, my passion, my reason to do everything I do.
Once you know what you stand for decisions are easy to make.
- Jon Gordon
I decided to flip fast-fashion the bird and do the dead opposite of what the industry was trying to force me to do. I would:
- Stay local where I can ensure safe working conditions
- Hire a better-quality factory that actually pays fair wages
- Resolve to design the best quality leggings possible
- Make each print limited-edition instead of mass produced
- Stand behind my product with a no questions money back guarentee
- Afford to do all of the above by asking my customer to pre-order
Just a simple switch to pre-order only would reduce my brands material and financial waste so significantly I could not only do everything listed above, but also lower my price and give back in more ways. It was brilliant, ballsy and turns out it even has a name; it's slow-fashion.
You know that "I can do it better" feeling? Here's my theory. It's not because we ARE better, it's because we believe in our future self. We know that with time and effort we will be, and we're giving ourselves permission to let our light learn to shine.
All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste, but there is this gap! For the first couple of years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not… a lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap and your work will be as good as your ambitions.
M Y B E S T W O R K
If was going to ask my customer to pay up front I was going to need to make promises, like delivering them the best leggings ever, and stand behind those promises with a no questions asked money back guarantee. That meant putting forth my best work, whatever it takes. I quite literally drafted legging pattern after pattern, sewed prototype after prototype. Each time they weren't perfect I would start over again.
And again. again. again. again. again. again. again. When is the last time you tried making something eight times?
The experience of not settling for "good enough" taught me to face problems and fix them, willingly and without hesitation, to not let set-backs derail me from the end goal and to know putting in your best effort is worth it in the end, even if the outcome is different than expected. In fact, the outcome is often far better.
Whatever it is, go the extra mile, amazing opportunities and self-awareness await there.
W H O C H A N G E T H E W O R L D ? G I R L S.
What do you want? Most people name a career and that's a good place to start, but what's motivating your career choice? What's motivating your motivation? What's the deep down knitty gritty reason of why you do the things you do, why you want the things you want? How did those goals get on your list? Break it down to your deepest desire then take a step back and analyze what you think the reason is, then break it down one step further. What do you want? Why do you want it?
EXAMPLE: I want to be a fashion designer, because I want to make clothes that make women feel confident, because confident women will aspire to do more, because successful women will inspire and empower other women, because empowered women will have life-changing impact on our world, because I want to change the world.
Because I want to change the world.
Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, our greatest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
- Marianne Williamson
Your turn! Try asking yourself what you want over and over until you arrive at the heart and soul of what’s really driving you. To be good at something. To inspire others. To give back. To have an impact. To empower others. To change the world?
Funny we should have that in common... here's a thought, why don't you help me change the activewear industry and I'll help support you in any way that I can, like with sweet discounts and giving back on your behalf?
M O V E M O U N T A I N S W I T H M E
Here are some easy ways to help:
1. Read about my refer a friend badassador program.