What is conscious consumerism? Join us and find out why it is more important than ever. Fashion’s heavy hitter, Julia Gall sits down with our founder, Alexis Kashar to chat about what it means to be a conscious consumer in the world of #fashion, the status of #inclusivity in fashion, and much more.
Julia Gall is a stylist, writer, and creative consultant covering all things fashion, style, and sustainable living based in New England and New York. She has previously held positions at magazines such as Marie Claire and Interview.
Julia Gall: I'm good. I'm great. So nice to see you again, and hi, Dylan. Hi.
Alexis Kashar: Hi Dylan. Okay, everybody is here. Great, thank you both so much for joining me today. Oh, how's your Monday going?
JG: My Monday has been very busy. How about you?
AK: Yes, I mean as it should be, I think, right? We always hope for a more relaxing Monday, and that never seems to come true. But welcome Julia Gall, we're so excited to have you on with RoseBYANDER today and thank you so much Dylan for interpreting. So I think today is going to be an awesome chat, a great conversation. So I wanted to start by telling everybody a little bit about who you are, but it might be best if you do that. So why don't you just start off with a little bit about your background, and how you got into the world of fashion.
JG: Yes, sure. So I have been working in this industry for, I actually realized that I have been working professionally in this industry for 20 years when I started writing for my school. I mean, I’m sorry, the local regional newspaper where I grew up in New Jersey, I was writing for the teen section there. And I basically pitched an article, because I really wanted to meet a boy band. So I wanted to interview them, and I ended up writing a story about it, and then I just kind of was like oh, this is very cool, this kind of job gives you access to cool places and people that you may not otherwise, and I love meeting people and I love telling stories, so it was the perfect job for me. And from there, I went to school at Northeastern University in Boston, and I studied journalism there and studio art. I then did a bunch of different internships for different publications in Boston and New Jersey, where I grew up. And then, I ended up going to New York, where I took an internship at W magazine and worked for a stylist who was the fashion director there at the time. And basically, I kind of, you get into this crossroad of do you go with the pictures or do you go with words? And I love both, the pictures are the photoshoots and the things that go inside the magazine, all the beautiful pictures and there's so much action on set, that I felt like that was really the spot I needed to be in. So I worked with stylists for years, and then I returned to my roots in journalism studying, I mean, sorry, I started at Interview magazine, sort of like going back into a full-time position and I was there for several years and then I went to Marie Claire, and finally just left actually last week. So I’m embarking on a freelance schedule now for the time being, so I’m really excited to style, do a lot of writing, and contribute creatively to many different brands and publications. So I’m excited about this.
AK: So just a quick question before we hop on to our real topic for today's conversation. I mean, what advice would you give to somebody who is hoping to break into the world of fashion, styling, journalism? Where does that person start? I mean, you said you had a lot of internships, I guess, how does a person know which direction to go, which direction to take?
JG: You kind of can't know until you really experience it. So I think the best thing you can do as an intern, or somebody who wants to kind of learn is definitely to think about places that in companies that you think you're really interested in because your passion for that brand or that specific publication will really help drive your interest, and kind of what you want to take on. But then from there, you just pay attention to what's going on around you and just observe other people working, get to know the lingo, get to really understand what the different roles of everybody at that particular place are, and kind of see where you can fit in or also what kind of path you want to go within there. You have to really pay attention.
AK: Yes, right. That makes total sense. I mean today, I wanted to touch on the topic of conscious consumerism, and that's a term that I don't think many of us are actually that familiar with. But clearly, it's been part of your journey as evident from your work history and your journalism. So I’m wondering how you arrived at that area of interest and what it means to you specifically. And then also just how consumers should be thinking about their shopping habits and that concept.
JG: Absolutely. I think conscious consumerism really means aligning your purchases and what you're buying day-to-day with your everyday values. And for that, I mean for everyone it's very different. But I think overall gen z is super vocal about this already. I think there's a generation who's really ahead of thinking about this, and they want to make sure they're supporting brands that they know a lot about or kind of not supporting corporations that don't align with their values. But I do think that 2020 was the year the majority of people understood the human connection to their consumption. I think whether that was supporting American-made businesses, to help boost the economy, or being more aware of overconsumption and its effect on the planet, are understanding the story behind a small business owner. I think consumption really shifted to about what's in front of us, thinking about what's in front of us and not really just buying something just because it's convenient or easy, but really thinking about who am I supporting here and where's the power of my dollar leading this economy.
AK: So for the average person, the average consumer, it's coming to the understanding that your single dollar actually makes a difference. I could be supporting a single dollar, I mean, a small business owner with that single dollar, or a corporation, and so people sometimes think that you know their dollar is not going to make a dent in the movement, but it does.
JG: Yes, it really does. And I think that also speaks to obviously inclusivity in this pillar, because I think that just to be conscious is also to be a bit more awake, a bit more aware of your surroundings, having a stronger understanding of your power in your choices that you make, to make sure that you're contributing to an equitable system, especially an equitable economy and understanding that the companies that you're purchasing from really do make a difference. If you want to support businesses from disenfranchised communities or ones that have been maybe overlooked, you can make a huge shift. I think there definitely is power in the multitude of people who are doing this and really supporting, I think an economy that can be much more, I think, evened out and dismantling the idea of like a very old-fashioned way of thinking that's just you go to the store, you pick up whatever and that's what it is. But with the internet and understanding social media, there are so many ways to know who's making the things that you need on your day-to-day basis or shifting hey, there is a cool brand that I’d rather support because their founder speaks to me and my story, and I relate to them and I understand them and I want to support them. I think it's much more fun to shop this way than to just buy something because you like the way it looks, or because it's affordable. I think there are ways and again, not everybody can easily contribute to being able to make those choices just due to accessibility, and what they're able to do. But I do think that understanding how something is made and who's making it, really is important for consumers going forward.
AK: Right, agreed. I mean, especially in the U.S, over 90 percent of our businesses are small businesses. So I think there are a lot of opportunities out there to be diverse in your shopping choices, and who you're supporting. And you mentioned inclusion, and I’m wondering what's your take. Well, to me inclusivity and inclusion mean including people of different disabilities, races, gender, the whole gamut. I mean clearly, I am part of the deaf and disability community. So I’m curious what your take on how the fashion world is doing in terms of really being inclusive? And do you think I mean, where do you think we're at on that continuum, and what still needs to be done to improve the fashion world being more inclusive?
JG: Okay. I think that is a very complicated and layered question, but I will do my best to give you my observations and as an industry professional, to see the work that I know is happening, and what I also know is not happening. I think we definitely, the fashion industry as a whole, have a lot more work to do to be more inclusive. I think that the modern idea of the fashion industry kind of started as this exclusive thing that only caters to a certain kind of people, but as that, I mean modern by like 100 years ago when department stores and publications kind of started. I think that obviously, it's a massive industry, I think almost a trillion-dollar industry, if not over a trillion-dollar industry, which includes the entire world, and the people in that world are majorly diverse. So I think the idea of something being exclusive or too cool, so it's like part of a club, I think it is getting really old-fashioned and I think people want to see themselves represented because they want to spend time in places. And if they notice that a brand is not representing them whether it's behind the scenes and on the boards of companies, or being an employee of a company, or if you're not represented in advertising or the celebrities that they're addressing, people are going to notice and they already have been. I think people take to social media and call these things out, and I hate the idea of shaming a brand into doing it, but I think that has been an effective way that brands have really been put under pressure to do it. But now, I think it's definitely top of mind where it hasn't been I think in the past, I would even say the past decade, a lot has changed in the past two years for sure that I’ve seen. But I do think when you see a lot of, I think, how can I explain it? Like outward change. Like in ad campaigns and brands kind of getting behind certain inclusive movements, I think that you really also want to see what's happening behind the scenes, who's taking the seats at the table? And I think there are shifts happening there. But I do think that it can be even better, and I think just having this momentum going and the new generation of fashion professionals and the new generation of consumers are really going to be pushing for this change, and I think companies are going to really have to change everything to keep up with those demands.
AK: Yes, I agree. I think your point about the outward face is changing, I think that's definitely true. But we also have to make sure from the top-down and the bottom-up that change is occurring, because that change that happens behind the scenes is just as important, right? So you can take an interpreter budget out of a flower budget, from a different organization. Like we need to be creating line-item budgets for inclusivity and accessibility, and that can happen across industries, not just the fashion industry. But accessibility really needs to be part of every organization's budget and mission. I mean, I’m saying it's going to happen, that's my goal, it's going to happen one day.
JG: I agree. And I think just drawing more awareness and talking about it.
AK: But I really appreciate your take on inclusivity, I do, that's all. But what were you saying, Julia?
JG: No, I think what you were saying about making sure budgets are included, and just making people aware that's the thing, it's like if you don't have the experience of thinking about these problems in your own life, you don't think about including them in your budget, you don't think about putting it on the platform. I think that people are going to just have to be constantly reminded until it's part of their practice.
AK: Yes. I mean, often, when I’m asked by an organization, how do we become more accessible? What's the first step? And they often say like the fastest way is to put it in writing, we offer ASL interpreters or we offer X accommodations. And then, the gatekeeper that gets those calls, they'll be aware that you do offer these accommodations because you can put it down in writing and you can do everything in the world to be more accessible, but if the people that are the gatekeepers aren't trained, it's worthless. So I think that's the first step though, is to put it in writing and then make sure people are trained. But okay, let's get back to fashion.
AK: So we had talked a little bit about 2020, that was the year that people started kind of to shift their thinking around conscious consumerism. I think now, people are freer to be themselves to show who they are through their fashion choices, and I think that's one reason why we as a company wanted to make our pendants available to the world, is to let people use their I love you pendant to express themselves. So I would love to get your thoughts on personalized jewelry, personalized fashion, and where the industry's going.
JG: Absolutely. I think jewelry is sort of one of the most fun ways to express yourself, only because it's super personal. I don't know if it's just because it's very small or if it's very, it's also kind of expensive, you really wanted to make sure it means something to you, probably more than any other accessory or piece of clothing you're going to wear. I think that people are really looking to make jewelry feel like themselves, and I think it's because it's a really great conversation starter and it's a great way for you to share a little hint or a preview about yourself to the world and sort of, kind of share a little glimmer of this is what I’m into, this is who I am, this is what I believe in or what I represent me as a person, rather than probably any other piece of clothing.
AK: Yes, right. I mean, for me personally, obviously, I’m deaf and I’m a member of the signing community. So often when I leave the house wearing my pendant, somebody will see it on me and they immediately know something a little bit about me. They might not know I’m deaf, but they most likely know I’m part of the signing community, or they know that I love and appreciate inclusion, and so it is often a conversation starter for me. I honestly didn't have any of these conversations until I started wearing my pendant. I mean, I became more connected to the world in so many unexpected ways. I mean, it's been such a gift for me personally. I have the opportunity to be myself, show who I am, and I mean, it's just so amazing how all of these unexpected connections can come out of a piece of jewelry.
JG: Yes, absolutely. I think that there are so many like me who love wearing mine, I mean, truly I absolutely love it.
AK: It looks beautiful on you.
JG: Thank you so much. It's not saying just like I love love, and I love you, and I’m celebrating that, like a heart can have a similar sentiment. But this is showing me that I love you and I accept you, and I accept people who are different from me, and I accept those differences and celebrate them and that's what I love so much about you. I think that to me, it's a whole other layer of conversation without even having to say that much.
AK: Right, yes. I totally agree with you. I mean, I’m biased, obviously, but putting that aside, I mean I feel like I love you, I mean you see so many athletes do it when they're leaving their stadiums, they're signing it to their fans. They use that symbol to connect quickly with anyone. And my whole goal is to bring love to the world, through a common love language.
AK: And I’m looking forward to the day when this, I love you, replaces the heart.
JG: Yes. To me it's more of an emotion, it's more emotional. It is like what you said about a connection, where you feel like you're putting words, you're putting a movement, you're putting an expression to what you're wearing and what you're putting out into the world. I think it's so positive, and I’ve received so much feedback personally myself. And like you said those little stories and those little interactions that keep happening, really do make a difference. So I do think it's bigger than just dependent, I will tell you that.
AK: Agreed. How did you become interested in ASL?
JG: It's funny, I feel like it was always kind of something where, in music class, when I was younger, we learned how to sign as well as singing a verse in French or Spanish, it was sort of this kind of like subtle immersion I suppose. And I always thought it was just so interesting and fascinating. And when I went to Northeastern, sort of by happenstance, my roommate was studying to be an interpreter, and she was like it's a very rare opportunity that northeastern offers would kind of think about taking it. I was fascinated by that, and she's like I’ll help you, and it was definitely a challenge. But it was so interesting to me, and to me, it's not even just learning the language, it was really understanding and having a deep appreciation for the deaf community and deaf culture, and really understanding these nuances almost more than other languages I’ve taken in high school and other things, because there is such respect to understanding that and a responsibility when you learn ASL, to understanding how to communicate in the deaf community.
AK: Yes. I mean, you said it all, and ASL really is beneficial for your mind, you're using a different part of your brain that you don't usually use, the hand-eye coordination. I think it benefits students who want to learn other spoken languages as well. I think it's one of the most beautiful ways to express yourself, whether you're using it secretly or out in public. I remember when I was in elementary school growing up, I was the only deaf kid in my class, and the other kids used to say show me the alphabet. And basically, all of them learned how to spell the alphabet, and so we would chat across the classroom using this secret language because we would chat behind the teacher's back. And I think that's a pretty common experience that a lot of people in the deaf community have. So I think it's just one of the beautiful ways to connect with others.
AK: Yes. Well, I really appreciate you joining us for this conversation today. Thank you so much for sharing your experience, your love for the language, and everything else that you do.
AK: I mean, you are really making a difference in the world I have to say.
JG: Thank you. Thank you so much. I mean, I love our friendship, and I love being able to chat with you today. It really was a highlight and kicked off my year in a very positive way. So thank you so much for having me, thank you. I love you too.
AK: Thank you.
JG: All right, bye.
AK: And thanks to everybody who joined us today, have a good one.
Want more? Watch the full interview of Julia Gall and Alexis Kashar on our Facebook here. Accessible in American Sign Language and voiced.