An Interview with Sica Schmitz of Bead and Reel (Part Two)

Children are the most vulnerable population. Women tend to have less status than men in societies including the right to decent working conditions, decent pay, to vote, and so on. What is the relationship between the need to implement women’s rights and children’s rights?

I think women pay a vital role in changing the fashion industry and the world. According to MIC, women make up 80% of fashion purchasing power and yet account for 0% of apparel Fortune 500 CEOS. Women need more leadership roles and to have their voices heard, and other women can demand this with how they shop by supporting women owned businesses. I believe that by having more equality in positions of power it will lead to more concern for garment workers and benefit the entire supply chain.

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Child labour and slavery are problems, major ones. These include children throughout the world. Tens of millions of children in the case of child labour and a few million for child slavery. How can individuals get the word out about these other rights violations?

I think it’s up to us as individual to fix this until we are able to get legislation to catch up. Fortunately we live in a time where there are a lot of information and resources out there, including Trusted Clothes, Project JUST, and a variety of Fair Trade certifications. These are great places to pick up information, find sharable articles, and discover brands to support. But before worrying about others, make sure you are using your own purchasing power to make responsible choices that exclusive child labor, both supporting the brands that don’t use child labor, and avoiding the ones that do.

How can individuals, designers, fashion industries, and consumers begin to work to implement those rights so that these vulnerable populations in many countries of the world have better quality of life?

Everyone should remember the power of their dollars. Every time we purchase something, we are voting for or against the practices it supports. If we want to protect vulnerable populations, we have to support companies that empower them, and take our money away from companies that exploit them.

If you’re a consumer, write to the companies you like and ask them “Who Made My Clothes?” If you’re a designer, get involved in your supply chain. We each wear clothing everyday, so we each have a role in fixing the fashion industry and protecting the vulnerable.

What topics most interest you?

I’m fascinated by textiles innovations and passionate about vegan fashion, empowering women, and giving back. As a Costume Designer, I am also very interested in the stories we tell with our clothing, and specifically, how we can tell more loving stories about ourselves through what we wear (hint: ethical fashion plays a huge role in this!).

Handmade dolls by Jessie's Place, a Fair Trade Nonprofit community center in Rwanda that educates and employs mentally and physically disabled individuals, teaching that a disability of the spirit is far worse than one of the body.

Handmade dolls by Jessie’s Place, a Fair Trade Nonprofit community center in Rwanda that educates and employs mentally and physically disabled individuals, teaching that a disability of the spirit is far worse than one of the body.

Did you have a mentor in this work?

I didn’t really know anyone in sustainable fashion when I first started working in this space, so I figured it out myself as I went. I’m sure a mentor would have definitely helped!

Have you mentored others?

I have never had a designed mentee, though I have advised many students and individuals wanting to get into sustainable fashion, and try to remain a source of information for my customers, clients, and anyone who wants to join me in changing the world.

What are the importance of mentors in the fashion world for professional, and personal, development?

Mentorship is a wonderful concept, and I think especially in the small (but growing) world of sustainable fashion, the more we can help and encourage each other, the more it will benefit all of us.

From personal observations, more women than men involve themselves in the fashion industry by a vast margin of difference at all levels. Why?

Women are the dominant employees and spenders in fashion, though men still hold the most positions of power. I think there are a lot of reasons for this. So much of a woman’s worth is placed on our physical appearance, and what we wear is a part of this. It’s deeply ingrained in us starting at birth that our identity and value is tied to how we look. Billions of dollars are spent trying to get women to buy fashion (specifically women, since they spend more on fashion then men do), and so I think a lot of women do develop deep feelings for it. We all “love” fashion.

Additionally, culturally, women are not typically encouraged to pursue STEM careers, and jobs within fashion are easily accessible to those with degrees and backgrounds in art, design, sales, or marketing.

Shalom means "peace," and the Shalom necklace peacefully pairs dignified labor with natural elements

Shalom means “peace,” and the Shalom necklace peacefully pairs dignified labor with natural elements

What personal fulfilment comes from this work for you?

Ethical fashion is the most fulfilling career I’ve ever had. Getting to devote my time, money, and life to helping empower women, protecting our environment, saving animals is an absolute dream come true. Every day, I get to hear personal stories about how ethical fashion has changed someone’s life – or many lives. And it changes my life every day too.

What other work are you involved in at this point in time?

Bead & Reel is my full time job, though I still do personal shopping and styling for sustainable clients. I’m a writer for Vilda Magazine and the Fashion Editor the Ethical Style Journal. Through Bead & Reel, I am active in various projects including our quarterly clothing drive for vulnerable women and our annual Fair Trade Fashion Show. This week, I’m focusing on our #EthicalBlackFriday initiative.

Any recommended authors or fashionistas?

I actually recently wrote a blog post about this! I highly recommend Kate Black and Elizabeth L. Cline, and also definitely encourage everyone to out the Ethical Writer’s Coalition for great bloggers and writers in sustainable fashion.

Any recommended means of contacting Bead and Reel?

I’d love to continue the conversation! You can write me at hello@beadandreel.com or sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date on events, blog posts, and what’s new.

Any feelings or thoughts in conclusion based on the conversation today?

Thank you so much for the honor of getting to talk about sustainable fashion! Fashion is only as beautiful as the values behind it, and I’m so thrilled to be a small part in changing the values.

Thank you for your time, Sica.

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About the Author

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping and gardening, and runs In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

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