pink things magazine interviews tommie magazine founder 'Natalie Shehata'.
pink things magazine founder Sarah Sickles interviews Nat - eco stylist, founder + editor of tommie.
the destination for creative women with a conscience
1. Can you tell me about yourself and offer some background info about yourself?
Okay, so what is Tommie Mag? Why did you start it?
I’m an eco fashion stylist based in Sydney, Australia. An eco stylist is someone who uses sustainable and/or ethical clothing alternatives, to style and create outfits. For me personally that usually means vintage pieces purchased from vintage stores and second hand items sourced from thrift stores, (we call them op shops in Australia) flea markets and garage sales.
I’m also the founder, director, editor and stylist behind tommie magazine ‘the destination for creative women with a conscience’ – a new online community of mindful media that challenges mainstream fashion and traditional media content through the topics of ethical and sustainable style, slow living and story telling.
The platform was started as a result of being a frustrated freelance stylist who wanted to see change in the industry; I was looking for the opportunity to tell my editorial stories through the lens of slow fashion (with second hand clothing) and although the creativity and story telling was there, mainstream fashion magazines weren’t accepting of these kinds of editorials because there wasn’t any product to advertise and monetise on their end – hence they didn’t see the value in publishing editorials for the sake of craft and story telling. This was disheartening for me as a stylist because I only wanted to use clothing that had integrity, to tell stories - using pieces of clothing that were mass produced and made in sweat shops didn’t align with my values or moral compass. As someone who has always been an advocate and ambassador for slow fashion, I also felt a need to shine a light on second hand clothing, as there can be such a stigma with wearing pre-loved goods.
People have always asked where my clothes are from, and are shocked to hear that I’ve been able to make something old look so good, or that items were found on the racks of thrift stores.
Part of the tommie platform is the ‘tommie shop’, where I’ve hand sourced and curated an online store, to show people that you don’t need to compromise style by buying second hand; and in fact, I actually think the best outfits are those that are second hand because you have a much wider range to select from – you have different decades to choose from, you have different shapes and colours to play with! It’s the ultimate creativity because you can dip your toes into so many different eras and play with fabric, texture and size!
By curating this shop it also serves as a form of educational tool into the sustainability side of fashion; by purchasing second hand you’re actively making a choice not to buy new, where virgin materials have been used, but rather investing your money into a circular fashion economy - where items are being reused, recycled and reinvented. By supporting second hand you’re preventing items from becoming landfill and you’re using your purchasing power as a consumer to vote with your dollar on what practices are important to you. Sustainability and style aren’t looked at in isolation when it comes to fashion with me, and I’d never compromise my moral outlook for an outfit or piece of clothing, so it’s important for me to showcase how you can be stylish whilst not creating harm or damage to people and our planet.
Another motivation for starting this tommie platform, and why we are specifically targeted towards women, is because of the stereotype there tends to be with women in the creative, arts or fashion industries often referred to as frivolous; which is how our slogan ‘creative women with a conscience’ was born.
We speak, engage and meet with women each and every day that are actively dedicated to being of service, and are committed to making this world a better place through their creative pursuits and endeavors. And who much like myself, care about people and the planet, over profit. We wanted to give these women a voice and space to showcase their work; women who want to do better, by being better and in the process are leading female change-makers and pioneers in their respective fields.
The other dimension of the tommie platform is to create community, consciousness and inclusivity. I really wanted to challenge the idea that women are in competition with one another, and this mentality that ‘we are our own worst enemy’. The women who are featured in our ‘creative women with a conscience’ conversations are thoughtful, kind, compassionate and loving individuals and I really wanted to highlight through this platform a sense of belonging and empowerment, but also the vulnerabilities and insecurities we share at the same time. The women featured on the platform are very candid in not only revealing their achievements, but also their struggles as well. And I think sometimes we as women struggle with wanting to be perfect, or always doing the right thing - so I wanted to create a safe, non-judgmental space for women to share their journey and experiences, as I believe we can only grow and evolve as humans when we allow for this vulnerability and truth.
2. Why did you decide on a publishing platform? How is it different from every other indie mag out there?
I consciously decided on a non printed, published magazine and an online, digital magazine instead, as producing a physical magazine would compromise the mission and philosophy of being a sustainable magazine if I were to add more product into the world like traditional monthly magazines. This has been a hard decision for me personally, because I love printed books and magazines, and I love to collect these physical forms of artwork. Down the line when there is some kind of funding, I’d like to look at ways to get tommie published on a carbon neutral paper stock as a special, yearly addition.
The other reason for choosing to have tommie online as opposed to in print, is that I wanted to make the content easily accessible for all people – I wanted to create an inclusive community where you can visit the site and take from it what you need at any given time. tommie is a multi-disciplinary site with the podcast coming soon, the tommie shop, the ethical & sustainable fashion editorials, the creative women with a conscience conversations and the in person events and workshops; so an online platform seemed to make the most sense when it came to being able to deliver our message across difference mediums. Everything is self funded, managed and directed by me at this stage – I haven’t commissioned anyone else for any part of this project, except for my friend, Megan McKean, who I worked closely with to create the tommie branding.
The magazine is very indie in the sense that I’m responsible for all parts of the site; I organise the meetings with interviewees and carry out the interviews, I source all the clothing for the store and curate and style it– I do all the location scouting for the tommie shop, I model the tommie shop product, I designed the website myself and all creative content is developed by me – so it’s kind of a one woman job at the moment! I think this is important in the beginning so I can work on the vision and really fine-tune the mission and philosophy in these early stages before including anyone else. This platform was started purely for non-monetary pursuits; I don’t believe in not paying people for their work, and because the site isn’t making money, there are no other members of staff at present. I do envision the platform growing, and I’d love to be in a position to provide other ‘creative women with a conscience’ a paid job as part of the tommie team.
3. What are some of your goals with Tommie? What about your ultimate vision of what Tommie could be?
I hope to prove that second hand fashion is all about style and individuality and that you actually don’t need to compromise style by wearing preloved pieces. Our fashion editorials will exclusively feature only ethical and or sustainable fashion brands as well as vintage and/or second pieces, so with these pieces of clothing, we’ll tell the visual fashion stories we’ve always wanted to tell, knowing that the items have been created with thought, care and a moral conscience. In doing this we’ll also showcase the brands and designers that are committed to this slow fashion movement through a zero waste approach and overall environmental awareness. We also want to create a platform for ethnic diversity and break down the stereotypical beauty standards of conventional magazines; our platform is all about inclusivity whether that is through showcasing different shapes, sizes, aesthetic and our differing viewpoints on life. Our ‘creative women with a conscience’ logo defines all the work we do here pretty simply – giving women a voice and opportunity to show that you can be a creative woman as well as a woman who has a strong moral compass and wants do better, by being better through leadership, innovation and entrepreneurship.
4. Who are some of the people you partner with or feature? Why?
We feature women in any creative field – not limited to any one specific area, who are conscious of mother nature through their daily behaviours and want to create a better world to live in. The women we feature are dreamers, story-tellers, activists’, fighters, humanitarians, creative and artists – and are challenging the status quo through their messaging and communication. We feature these women over on the tommie platform through Q & A format, in the ‘creative women with a conscience’ conversations and these women explain how they prioritise ethical and sustainable fashion, slow living, sustainability, and in doing so affect positive change both in their professional and personal life.
These women value things like:
- Ethical and sustainable fashion
- Slow and mindful living
- Innovation, entrepreneurship and community
- Environmental awareness (zero waste living)
- Creative Consciousness
- Collaboration and connection
We give these leading change makers and pioneers’ a space to communicate their mission and philosophy.
5. Tell me about how you got into slow fashion.
Slow fashion is the only fashion I’ve ever known. I grew up in an under privileged house hold where we didn’t have a lot of money, so the majority of my clothes were purchased second hand from thrift stores or were hand me downs from family members. I actually credit this disadvantage to becoming a stylist because you actually have to be more creative when your outfit isn’t perfectly merchandised for you like they are in fast fashion stores and there are mannequins every where telling you how you should style a piece of clothing; what you should wear it with and what accessory you should team it back with. When you’re in a thrift store and you have racks of things to look for, it takes patience, imagination, skill and stamina to sift through racks and visualise how pieces will transform into an outfit. But I think it’s a skill not only unique to stylists or fashion bloggers, it’s a certain kind of fitness that can be learned by anyone, it just takes practice. The more you look, the more you learn about fabrics, shapes and silhouettes. And you realise what your favourite thing is to hunt for – so you’ll immediately be attracted to *THAT* section of the op shop. And you’ll scan looking for that particular piece. I’m very much into print and colour, so I always scan the room for where the rainbow is at!
My mum is a very big op shopper, and also someone who likes to revive things or see the life in things – so she’d always be looking for things on the side of the road when people had those really big clean up days and would come home with a new piece of furniture or an appliance that was as good as new! My mum also loved buying jeans and handbags from op shops when I was growing up; I feel as though the majority of denim in her wardrobe is from the thrift store! My family bought a lot of things second hand, so we’d spend our weekends at auctions, flea markets and garage sales. I love a good garage sale trail! Where I live in Sydney’s inner west – which is kind of the equivalent of Brooklyn, New York – we have lots of young people move in and out of apartments and people always leave things on the side of the road. On any given week you’re bound to find a bicycle, because riding over driving is preferred in the city here.
My mum definitely was an advocate for slow clothing; from a very young age it was instilled in me to have respect for my clothes. I’d get second hand school jumpers and tunics from the uniform P&C shop (parents and citizens) and they’d be my only one I had, and Mum would make sure she washed them for me so they were fresh every day. I was very conscious of my belongings from a young age, because I knew I wouldn’t get a replacement, so I’d be very careful when I took off my jumper at school and put it straight in my bag. I think this kind of consciousness is lost on kids these days because they know their Mum or Dad will buy them replacements from Target and other cheap department stores. Parents these days are quite time poor, so instead of washing every day, they’d prefer to buy cheap, disposable shirts for their kids so that the day-to-day routine is more convenient. It’s more cost effective for parents to buy cheap school essentials than to sit there and mend and repair things that are wearing out, which is quite said as we’ve become out of touch with what clothes mean to us.
I think it’s really important that young children and teens are exposed to slow fashion; with the rise of fast, fashion trend based chain stores, I think we have an obligation to teach children about the harmful effects of fast, disposable, one use fashion. Because of the rise in social media, teenagers are actually finding it harder to engage in this slow clothing mentality because they feel as though they need something new, hip and on trend for ‘content’ on their social media feeds, which is just so upsetting. The digital world and fast fashion go hand in hand, and I think bloggers and influencers have a responsibility to be teaching the younger generations about the value of quality and individuality and the ethics behind clothes.
When I was growing up I never really looked like anyone else around me, and I was never one to want to ‘fit in’ per se. This very much reflected in the way I dressed and what I choice to wear. I was quite eclectic and would pattern clash quite a lot! These days when you walk down the street, you see groups of girl wearing virtually a uniform – they’re all dressed in the same pieces. They’re walking advertisements for these bigger fast, fashion brands, and there’s no sense of identity, creativity or imagination. It’s completely copied from the visual merchandising displays, the runway, celebrities and the pages of magazines.
I worked as a visual merchansider for a few years as a freelance stylist in shopping centres around NSW and would dress mannequins in the middle of shopping centres. A lot of the outfits I’d source, style and dress would sell out from their respective retailers – as someone who has never worn fast fashion, I felt I had an obligation as a stylist (the communicators of fashion), to change the way fashion is perceived. I made a promise to myself that I’d no longer take on any styling jobs where I had to use brands that weren’t ethical or sustainable – it didn’t make sense that in my personal life I didn’t buy or wear this kind of fashion, so I wasn’t going to sell or advertise it! And I haven’t broken that promise to this day1
7. What are your thoughts on fast fashion in comparison?
For me personally, I think the issue with fast fashion is disposability. The very nature of fast fashion means things are not made with the intention to not last or wear well because they are made with poor quality fabrics, which in turn means the clothes have very short life cycles. This very idea creates a throw away society, where you are wearing your clothes to fulfill a one off intended purpose, to never be worn again. This means we’re not looking at our clothes as pieces that have longevity, therefore neglecting the value of clothing when it comes to quality, history and story telling. The longer you have a piece of clothing, and the more you wear it, the harder it is to just throw away and engage in this one use mentality, because you’ve attributed a certain sentiment to it. You’ve now worn it on different occasions, and for different purposes and you’ve given life to the piece. The garment now has history and story attached to it, and these are the pieces that are harder to get rid of. These are the pieces that are handed down from generation to generation, are mended and repaired so its lifecycle is extended. When we invest in pieces like this, it actually means we don’t invest our money in new, disposable pieces because number one the need isn’t there and number two, the attachment to this item is so strong you actually don’t want to replace it.
This is the clothing that needs to be made, not disposable, one-use items. When it comes to our clothing, as a society we are very disconnected to questioning and be curious about who made our clothes, where they were made, what kind of processes and techniques are used to make them and actually how many resources are used to make them. It’s interesting because we all wear clothes, yet we don’t seem to (as a society) have mindfulness about something we carry out on a day-to-day basis. There are definitely shifts and changes happening in our society when it comes to our clothing, but it’s not really something that is being addressed and discussed on a mainstream level.
The issue with fast fashion clothing is both an environmental issue as well as a human rights issue. Many of the people who are working in these factories where fast fashion is produced, are exploited. They’re working in unsafe working conditions and are being grossly underpaid for the work they are doing; barely making a living wage, let alone a minimum wage. 80% of garment workers are female, so we need to address the fact that fashion is a feminist issue also.
It takes 2720 litres to make a t-shirt, which is the equivalent of 3 years worth of drinking water – this isn’t how we should be using our natural resources; to then think that this item is worn once and then thrown away is quite alarming. Then to be replaced by another more ‘on trend’ tshirt. We need to change the way we shop and the way we look at clothing – to then think that these very thirts are made in garment factories where women are being paid $58 USD a month doesn’t sit right with me. Your cheap dress costs someone somewhere, even if you’re not experiencing it first hand. It may cost someone their life, or cost the environment because of issues like inks running through the river streams in these third world countries.
9. I love that you’re about building a community of educated and environmentally conscious creatives through events. Can you comment on the importance of community to you personally, to Tommie, and conscious consumerism?
The tommie community section on the platform is an informational tool to let you know when we will be holding events and workshops in real life. It’s quite an important element, and one that I’m really excited to see take off. The idea behind this is to really put into practice what we preach on the site and see the fruits of our labour come to life in the real world through discussion, collaboration, connection and idea generation.
The tommie site really explores this idea of slow and sustainable living through creativity; so the in person meet ups are a way to disconnect from the online cyber world and develop those meaningful relationships with other women face to face. The vision of the events and workshops are to ultimately create community in a non-judgmental and inclusive way.
Community is definitely something that is very important to me, and something I really want to facilitate on this platform as I think it’s only through sharing where we can grow and learn from one another and improve upon our daily habits and behaviours. When the insecurities and baggage of competitiveness and ego are removed, it’s actually quite amazing what we can do when we work together. Through these events and workshops I hope that people from all walks of life will attend, offering differing perspectives and experiences and that conventional ways of thinking will be challenged through education, hosted talks, interactions and other events we have in store!
10. What are your thoughts on the color pink in relation to sustainable and eco-friendly creativity?
It’s so interesting because growing up I actually really hated the colour pink, I think for me it was one of the those things again where I wanted to be different, so my favourite colour was purple. When I was a kid all my friends loved the colour pink, except for me - and now that I’m an adult, I love the colour pink. I think when I was young, a lot of people judged me as being this superficial person based on my external appearance, so I felt I needed to go against those beauty stereotypes and like this more mysterious colour that wasn’t typically associated with being traditionally feminine and pretty.
Now that I’m older, I don’t care about these traditional stereotypes when it comes to colour and I have so much in my wardrobe that is pink! The decision to include pink as part of the tommie branding was definitely a conscious one as I wanted to showcase that although the platform is a space for important issues and the content revolves very much around authenticity, integrity and substance, you can still be a woman who is an advocate for socially conscious issues and still be playful, childlike and like the colour pink! It doesn’t take anything away from your intelligence or integrity as a woman.
11. What would your advice be for anyone looking to start thinking more seriously about their eco-footprint and how to consume ethically? Any starting out pointers? Any brands or shops that you really recommend?
One of the first things people tend to want to do when they’re starting out on an eco fashion journey is to consciously consume in a perfect way. This can be quite daunting, as there is no such brand that is perfectly ethical or sustainable – and trying to strive for this perfection can lead to what’s often referred to as ‘eco-fatigue’. I experienced this when I started out on my journey and it can be emotionally, physically and mentally draining. When you learn about the harsh realities of what’s involved behind the scenes of your clothes, you don’t want to inflict any kind of harm or suffering onto people, animals or the planet. Instead of trying to consume perfectly though, strive for mindfulness, thought and intent instead – whether that be with fashion, food, beauty and everything in between. As confronting as it may sound, as long as humans exist on this earth, we will need resources to survive, and in doing so, this costs us the planet we live on. This doesn’t mean however we should be careless and reckless in the way we consume. Some helpful things you can do is to have a look at who you already have in your wardrobe and do a bit of a closet cleanse. As a stylist I always say if you haven’t worn an item in the last year to two years, you’re never going to wear it again. Donate these clothes that are no longer serving a purpose in your wardrobe to a charity of your choice – they’re bound to be loved by someone. Learn the craft of mending and repairing; so many people throw things out because of small things like a button falling off, get acquainted with a sewing kit and learn these simple skills which will see your clothes last longer. One of the reasons people say they don’t purchase clothing from brands that are certified as ethical or sustainable is because they are more expensive. And this isn’t untrue, but I think there needs to be a bit of a mentality shift with our shopping behavior. If you’re looking at cost per wear, then these items will actually last a very long time – for example if you’re buying a pair of shoes from Target that are most likely made out of synthetic in comparison to a pair of shoes that are artisan made, and made out of leather – the latter is going to last years and years in comparison to one season with the former (if you’re lucky). My advice is to acquire less things, but of the items you do own, have these be very good quality.
Another tip is to choose a value system when you’re shopping; a passion point. As mentioned, no brand is perfectly ethical or sustainable - and very rarely both. Pick something you are passionate about; if you are concerned about the environment, then sustainability will be at the forefront when you are shopping. You will look at how we recycle materials, what fabrics are used to make clothing, are they organic and Eco friendly? The origin of dyes and how we can upcycle used materials. Some fabrics to look for are organic cotton, organic bamboo, tencel/cupro and items that are made from recycled plastics.
If you’re shopping with an ’Ethical' perspective you’ll look for brands that offer transparency around a value based system; making sure that workers are paid fair wages, animals are treated with dignity and care, equal access to employment for women and minorities; products that are often made ethically are made in developed countries where the original traditions of artisans are utilised.
A great intro into more eco conscious purchasing behaviours is to hit up your local thrift store, vintage store, weekend flea market or garage sale. The added benefit of shopping at thrift stores is that a lot of them are affiliated with a charity, so you’re not only diverting clothing waste from landfill, but the money goes to those less fortunate and in need – it’s a win win for all! If you’re shopping at a local market you’re generally choosing to support locally made product and your choosing with your dollar to support small business.
Do a clothes swap with your friends and get creative with your outfits; you can create so many outfits without having a huge wardrobe – remember there’s no rules in life when it comes to individual style and don’t forget clothes are all about fun, so don’t be afraid to mix and match!