We had a little chitchat with Sam Leigh, a woman who turned her fashion blog into a hub of ethical and sustainable brands.
When she was made redundant from her corporate event job, Sam had a major shift in perspective. She asked herself what her passions were and how she could turn them into her bread and butter, so she started a fashion blog. This progressively and organically turned into Ecomono and boy, are we glad it did!
What made you start eco|mono?
Back in early 2015, I was made redundant from my fulltime job working in the corporate events world. The next few months following the redundancy I dedicated some time to thinking about what I really wanted to do. “What am I passionate about and how can I make that my job?”
From there I decided to start a blog dedicated to sustainable fashion as a hobby. I have always loved fashion, fabrics, textures and art, this was a way for me to put my thoughts and ideas in one place and if it helped or inspired others then that was a bonus.
Over the next 18 months, I spent a lot of my time advising my readers where to shop and why, as well as offering style advice. The shop was an addition to the blog and felt like a natural progression.
Now, I run a small online store dedicated to selling stylish sustainable fashion that doesn’t hurt people or the planet.
What is something others wouldn’t know about an online marketplace that you think they should?People today are so used to buying from fashion giants such as ASOS, Iconic, Boohoo and the like. This means customers have become accustomed to same day delivery, poor customer service, buying lots and just returning the items they don’t like, without putting much thought into if they really wanted or needed that garment in the first place.
So, when it comes to running a slow fashion market place, I think one thing I would like others to know is, there is actually a nice human sat on the other side of the screen taking your orders, answering your questions and trying to ensure you have the best shopping experience, because that’s what keeps me up at night. Shopping from a slow fashion online store allows for much more personal experience so customers should make the most of it.
What has been the most challenging thing you have uncovered since beginning?
One of the biggest issues I believe when it comes to sustainable businesses in 2017 is there is no specific, quantifiable guideline that everyone can follow as to what constitutes a sustainable business. Each business may have a sustainable vision and agenda, but because they may approach it slightly differently it can confuse customers.
I believe over the next few years as people become more aware of their impact on this planet and start to ask more questions, there will be a need to set guidelines to what can be described as an eco and sustainable business, and businesses should be held accountable for the information they are publishing.
Within the ethical fashion community, there’s a big question that we ask which is ‘who made my clothes?’. In the scope of eco|mono, what is the criteria you require to decide brands to stock?
eco|mono has 10 ethical values: Environmentally Friendly, Empowerment, Fair, Homemade, Locally Made, Minimal Waste, Sustainable, Transparent Production, Upcycled, and Vegan. When I am approached by brands who would like to sell on our platform I always ask them “which of these three ethical values do you align with and how?”, and then we do our own investigating.
I have some amazing friends in the industry also. Megan from Walk. Sew. Good was also a researcher for Project Just and has mad skills when it comes to digging up the dirt on brands. Without even asking about specific brands, we have had casual conversations that have completely changed my opinion of a brand. Thanks Meg.
Best piece of advice you have ever received?
Now, this isn’t necessarily sustainable fashion related but it is definitely transferable. My mum has ALWAYS said to me: “Sam, don’t run before you can walk.” I have always been ambitious, driven and if I have an idea I want the end result now. I think starting a slow fashion business has actually helped me a lot with that. I buy made to order pieces now and I will happily wait 2-3 weeks for them to arrive. Rewind 3-4 years and I would be paying the extra $20 for same day delivery every time.
One tip you’d give to others who are wanting to start their own business?
Just go for it and run your own race. Don’t compare yourself to others and just be true to yourself. There will always be competition out there, just remember there is enough to go around and just stick to your values.
Where do you envision eco|mono in the future?
Looking to the future of eco|mono, I am really excited about working with our brands on various projects to promote cruelty-free fashion, from events, pop-up stores, workshops and more. eco|mono has organically transitioned from fashion blog to online store in just 12 months so I’m intrigued to see what can be achieved in the next 12 months.
Who or what inspires you to do what you do on a daily basis?
Oh goodness, without a doubt my mum. My mum was brought up in a household that did not have much money or luxuries. At 22 years old she worked three jobs to put herself through university all whilst having a newborn baby (me). She graduated as an Occupational Therapist.
Fast forward 27 years and she now runs a very successful Brain Injury Case Management business in the UK, helping people suffering from a brain injury and their families try to live a normal life. I think she turned from Cinderella into the Fairy Godmother. I love and respect her more than she will ever know.
Do you have a morning routine? If so, what is it you do to set yourself up for the day ahead?
Haha, wouldn’t that be great? No, I don’t. Sorry to disappoint, but I am not a morning person, so I sulk and scowl until I’ve had my morning coffee and then I am usually ready to go by 8:30-9am. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for those people who spring out of bed at 5am, meditate, take their dog for a walk and pick up a matcha coffee on the way home, but that just isn’t me! Maybe one day, maybe.
One book everyone should read? Why?
I’m not really a book reader, so for me to have picked up this book and actually read it is pretty HUGE (mini pat on the back for me). Wardrobe Crisis: How we went from Sunday best to fast fashion written by the wonderful Clare Press. The book explores the history and ethics behind what we wear.
Clare examines the entire fashion ecosystem, from sweatshops to haute couture, unearthing the roots of today’s buy-and-discard culture. She traces the origins of icons like Chanel, Dior and Hermès; charts the rise and fall of the department store; and follows the thread that led us from Marie Antoinette to Carrie Bradshaw.
I also wrote a blog on this to recommend a bunch of other books that I have heard are amazing.
Are there any other Movers & Shakers out there in your world that you think people should know about?
Absolutely: my sustainable biz-sis Kira Simpson from The Green Hub. She is honestly an angel in disguise, and she is totally unaware of the impact she has on others. I can hand on heart say that eco|mono would not be where it is today without the support of this wonderful lady.
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