Kate Hall from Ethically Kate on sustainable fashion

Ethically Kate interview

Kate Hall from Ethically Kate. Image by Nectar Photography.

Kate Hall aka Ethically Kate is a woman on a mission to educate as many people as possible about how to live sustainably and in an environmentally friendly way. It’s a deeply held passion of Kate’s and one that she’s taken to the internet with, creating her popular blog Ethically Kate and enthusiastic Facebook and Instagram accounts. On them she candidly documents her journey whether it’s featuring her latest ethical fashion and beauty finds or sharing her thoughts on composting, phasing out plastic or reducing waste.

As awareness of sustainability has risen globally so has Kate’s audience expanded with more people interested in how they can change their habits and adopt more thoughtful practices. For Kate, it’s not just something she talks about online. As a 22 year old, she lives and breathes it in her daily life, alongside her husband who has also adopted a sustainable approach to life. It hasn’t all been easy as she’s honestly shared online, but the trial and error of finding new ways of doing things has been an adventure and challenge that Kate is embracing and rolling with.

Kate is also a fashion fan (favouring ethical and sustainable labels of course) and attended her first New Zealand Fashion Week last year which she also documented for her followers. She’s attending again this year which is pertinent considering the event will be focusing on sustainability and more ethical and sustainable brands will take to the runway. The fashion aspect of being sustainable is a particular passion of Kate’s and she has gained a great deal of knowledge on how to shop mindfully and create a sustainable wardrobe on a budget.

We caught up with Kate to find out how she came to create Ethically Kate, her tips to make your wardrobe more sustainable and how she really feels about those brands who greenwash.

How did your interest in sustainability and ethical fashion come about and how did it turn into your blog Ethically Kate?
A few things aligned at the right time in my life, being the right age and stage of life. I’ve always grown up in quite a progressive family and thinking everyone composts and second hand shops. I have been much more aware of my habits than other people since I was little. We went to Mongolia when I was 9 and we lived there for a year and a half. You grow up a lot and you see a part of the world and understand we have a global community to support. My family encouraged me to question everything and the environmental process.

Watching The True Cost in August 2015 was a big thing for me as fashion is something I’ve always loved. I was the 5 year old wearing 7 outfits a day. I consider myself a caring and kind person and I couldn’t continue like this. From that moment I watched the film I decided to do it 100%. Looking into it and researching and not buying anything until I had the answers. You can’t ask those questions just on clothes though, then its food and everything you buy and how it affects the planet. I used to laugh at people who pout online and influencers and now that’s what I do online but I started sharing because I couldn’t not. I have a space which is Instagram and I had to share. Our clothes don’t just appear. So I started talking and found people want to listen.

You never know what’s going to be inspirational and how people are going to take things. It’s been four years of going with the flow really and now I’ve realized there’s lots of different avenues I could take but education is going to be my main focus.

Ethically Kate interview

Kate with some of her favourite NZ clothing.

Speaking of education how do you feel about greenwashing and those big brands claiming they’re sustainable to be on trend and get that consciously minded shopper when what they’re doing actually isn’t sustainable?
I suppose it’s quite contradictory. For me slow fashion is consuming a lot less, ethical fashion brands need people to buy their clothes. It is funny when you see H&M do these things but at the same time it’s about buying less clothes. It is a hard balance though because you do want to support those big brands to change but slow consuming is the way we will get somewhere and how we will reduce the impact and harshness of the fashion industry.

It is hard because all the brands that I work with and promote I want to shout their names and then mention that it’s ‘if you need this’ which is not a good salesperson but it’s a more sustainable sales pitch. I love my clothes and I love repairing them and having an intimate relationship with them. Everything can look great on and it’s what you’re going to wear and enjoy.

New Zealand Fashion Week has chosen sustainability as a focus for this year’s event, what do you think about that?
It’s so mind blowing to think that that’s the main topic for our national fashion week. It will be fascinating to see how it plays out. I’m much more involved this year and I’m really looking forward to it.

I’m excited to see what the brands do too. I get so conscious lately of people doubting brands when any change is good change. You see brands get beaten up instead of being encouraged which doesn’t really help anyone. Sustainability is becoming an essential topic for everyone.

Who are your favourite local brands?
I have a few, my main favourite is Kowtow, of course. ReCreate, The Loyal Workshop, Tamga designs (from Canada), I wear a lot of Kowtow, Standard Issue too. Most of my jewellery is from Bohome and Roam. Xaura the Label, they’re brand new. Dorsu who make from remnant fabric and their clothes are a lot more affordable.

How does price play into the discussion about getting people to shop sustainably?
One of the issues is people getting used to the higher, true cost of clothing. So it’s good to recommend them brands that are more affordable. When I started I was still studying and when you’re on a low student income you wonder how it’s going to work. Ethical fashion would just be fashion if the prices were the same.

You can shop second hand for main pieces, or just buy basics. Or just not consume, I just stopped buying clothes. You stop and you find that you’re still clothed.

I think price should definitely be something we consider, it has to be economical for the consumer. A lot of people want to buy sustainably but if you didn’t buy 4 or 5 garments you could buy one that you could love and care for. When you break it down it does seem irrational and strange that we haven’t thought more about his consumption concept.

I did the minimalist challenge last year, we did it for a month. On the first day of the month you gave away one thing, on the third you gave away three things. It was nearly 1000 things. We’re in this consumer age and my mum said that at my age she wouldn’t have had that much to give away. Prices have been pushed so low and it’s such a small portion of our income that we expect to spend on clothes but it shouldn’t work like that.

Ethically Kate interview

Kate trying out ethical beauty products for her blog.

What are your tips for people who want to make their wardrobes more sustainable?
Start by doing your own wardrobe audit, you can’t know where to shop and what to do without knowing what you already have. Go though and work out what you don’t wear and figure out items that you’ve been looking for to make your wardrobe more versatile. I did this with my mum and mother in law and when you go through everything you become a bit more enthused and grateful for what you have. If I don’t go out shopping for the next three years I’m not going to be naked!

Make some rules around your consumption based on where you’re currently at and then change it slowly. Say you shop every Saturday for your weekend outfit maybe start by buying twice a month, then in six months go to once a month. Or turn one of these shopping experiences into going to a second hand shop.

Top tips:

Ask yourself ‘how can I shop more responsibly or save up for things I need?’

Look at what you have and then understand what you need.

Change your current habits lessening your consumption over time.

Don’t throw your whole wardrobe away as that’s not sustainable either.

Repair things and doing clothes swaps.

Follow people on social media that you like and make more responsible garments.

Think about a garment for a month before you buy it, chances are if you’re still thinking about it a month later you’ll want to buy it and keep it.

Lastly, don’t rush into all of these things, you can go slowly.

Which people and accounts do you recommend people follow on Instagram for sustainability inspiration?

Ethical Made Easy – Jasmine is great and shows what accountability was like for her as she was changing her habits.

Clare Press – She’s actually my mentor, she stayed here while she was writing her book. Her podcast has exceptional knowledge on sustainability.

Sustainably Chic – one of the original bloggers, she is hugely inspirational and has a lots of knowledge of fabrics.

Eco Warrior Princess – I’ve been following her for about 7 years, her blog gets political so it’s about the economy and fashion.

The Green Hub – Super real, still fashionable, presenting sustainability in an accessible and beautiful way.

A lot of people talk about social media being quite negative but we have to give it credit for how positive it can be too.

What makes you excited about the future?
I get excited when I hear there’s more education in schools and that hopefully as the education from that younger generation grows ethical fashion will just be fashion. I’ve been talking at high schools and seeing their passion makes me hopeful that their generation will get it right. When I was at high school there was much less focus on it. Four years ago when I started talking about it and sharing people weren’t sure what the heck I was on about whereas now they can grasp the concept.

It has to start with education, people aren’t going to pay more for an ethically made dress unless they know why. I’m excited that the education and awareness is spreading. That young people are caring and that bigger brands are getting on board and creating change. The bigger brands are always going to have money so boycotting them isn’t the answer. It’s more about how can we help them change. It’s a fine line between supporting the small brands and offering to help the bigger ones.

If I want to buy something I have a right to know how it was made but it’s a mind shift to regain that kind of power. You can make a difference and you can ask brands to change.

Ethically Kate interview

Kate practicing yoga on the beach.

Images by Nectar Photography.