Bead & Reel is your one-stop shop for ethical fashion. Founded by stylist and costume designer Sica Schmitz, Bead & Reel is the woman-owne
d, vegan-owne d boutique committed to helping women love themselves and others through empowered and empowering fashion.
Tell us about yourself – familial/personal story, education, and prior work.
I grew up in a very small town in Washington state and then studied art and art history in Oregon followed by fashion design in New York. After graduating, I was hired on an independent film in Seattle as the Wardrobe Assistant and just fell in love with filmmaking and the power of clothing to tell stories. There weren’t a lot of costume opportunities in Seattle so I packed up my car and drove to Hollywood, where (with a lot of hard work) I then spent the next 8 years working in Costume Design for film and television, including the indie hit Safety Not Guaranteed and ABC’s Castle. For about 2 years during that time I was living in a small RV I had renovated, traveling around the country on my way to different costume jobs. It was a very exciting life, and one I gladly gave up for Bead & Reel.
How did you get interested in ethical and sustainable fashion?
The first costume designer I worked under was interested in sustainable fashion long before I’d heard anyone else talk about it. She was very conscientious about including sustainable brands in her projects and it definitely sparked an interest in me, though it would be many years before I got very serious about it. The real shift happened for me in 2013. I had gone vegan around the same time as the Rana Plaza collapse, and both events were making me question what I was wearing. I started trying to avoid leather, wool, and other animal products, while also learning more about what was happening to garment workers around the world. The more I learned about the many, many costs that went into what I was wearing, the more I decided I couldn’t participate in it. I’ve been working in sustainable fashion ever since.
How did your educational/professional experience inform fashion work?
Fashion has always been at the center of my life. I studied it in college and had jobs and internships in every aspect of it throughout adulthood (retail, PR, editorial, fashion design, costume design, and now the founder of a start-up). I don’t think a history in fashion is required to work in fashion, but a passion for it definitely is.
What is the importance of ethical and sustainable fashion designers and companies?
If there aren’t better options (better brands, better stores), then customers can’t make better choices. Sustainable fashion designers and retail companies are vitally important in offering good options to those who are trying to make more ethical purchases.
Sustainable companies are the ones leading the way in textiles innovations, workers rights, animal rights, and business models that benefit the greater good.
Who is a personal hero or heroine within the ethical and sustainable fashion world for you?
I’m a huge fan of Kate Black from Magnifico, though the sustainable fashion world is so full of inspiring people that I could list dozens!
What is Bead & Reel?
Bead & Reel is a one-stop shop for ethical fashion. It is an online boutique focused on eco-friendly, cruelty-free, sweatshop-free fashion, carrying over 60 conscious brands and hundreds of styles. But more than that, Bead & Reel is a lifestyle around bettering our world through our purchases and actions, and we provide the brands and ideas for how to do that.
What are some of its feature products?
We have a broad range of products from clothing, shoes, handbags, jewelry, accessories, and gifts for homes and babies. We feature 13 searchable ethics including Vegan, Made in USA, Gives Back, and Female Founder. Obviously I love all of our products but I especially adore our organic cotton V Bralette, modal Harem Jumpsuit, and organic cotton Bootcut Jeans because of their quality, comfort, and flattering cuts.
What is your customer base – the demographics?
Our customer is an educated, caring woman who values style. She doesn’t shop with us accidentally, but instead because she is actively seeking to make better choices.
There have been large tragedies such as the Rana Plaza collapse, which was the largest garment factory accident in history with over 1,000 dead and more than 2,500 injured. Others were the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire (1911) and the Pakistan Garment Factory Fires (2012). What are the importance of human rights and worker rights in this new movement, and to the garment industry?
Human rights is one of our main focuses at Bead & Reel and also a pillar of ethical fashion. I don’t think it’s a new movement – people have been fighting for garment workers rights for generations, but the massive growth in population and in our consumption of fashion means that now more than ever we must protect the lives and livelihoods of those who make our clothes.
I also view human rights as necessary for self love. If we are not honoring the bodies and lives of others through our purchases, how are we ever going to be able to honor our own body and life? So if you want more confidence, higher self esteem, and to feel more love, start with what you buy. By showing it to others, we are able to show it to ourselves.
Women and children are the majority of the exploited and violated work forces. What is the importance of te status of women’s and children’s rights in the ethical and sustainable fashion world too?
Women make up over 80% of global garment workers, and study after study has shown that when women are treated and paid well, it empowers entire communities. The impacts of basic worker rights are far-reaching and necessary for a more peaceful, more just world.
Similarly, when children – especially girls – are in school (instead of working) it lowers rates of child marriage, leads to fewer pregnancies and less complications, and correlates to lower adolescent diseases and mortality.
If we want to uplift communities and end poverty, we must start by uplifting women and children.
Continued on part two here.