First off, how were you introduced to the blogging community and when did you decide this is something you want to be part of?
MM — I attended a fashion camp the summer after my freshman year of high school. There were a bunch of really inspiring speakers and we did a lot of fun projects, but my absolute favorite day was when bloggers came in to talk to us. I had never heard of blogging before then and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. I knew immediately it was something I wanted to do. I started Tunes & Tunics the first week of my sophomore year in high school and it’s still going strong!
This year you added the ‘Sustainability & Style’ portion to your blog. For our readers who don’t know about you yet, can you tell us a bit about that and how that came to be?
MM — I took two classes last fall that focused on the environment and sustainability by chance— a freshman writing seminar focused on issues with sustainability and a general education environmental studies course. I got wrapped up in all very quickly. I went from knowing very little about sustainability to spending a majority of my free time researching, especially about sustainability in the fashion industry. I just knew I couldn’t go on shopping and living the way that I did before I learned everything. Basically, Sustainability & Style is my sustainable shopping / conscious consumerism initiative. I started tracking every piece of clothing I buy and thinking more about things like why I buy certain items, where I buy them from, and how sustainable they are. In most sections of my blog posts for the rest of the year I am going to include either information that struck me about sustainability and ethics in the fashion industry, information about a brand that is killing the game, or tips for shopping more sustainably. My overall goal is to expose people to these problems in the fashion industry and inspire them to become more conscious consumers.
What was your life like before being a blogger or even before living in the West Coast where you decided to start ‘Sustainability & Style’?
MM — Fashion has always been a passion of mine, so starting a blog only made me more excited about the industry. Back in New York, I went to Manhattan a lot. It was only a short train ride away from home and it was really exciting for the two years or so. After a while of spending weekend afternoons in SoHo and Midtown I got bored with the city, so I stopped adventuring. A big shift in my life occurred when I started to college, as happens with a lot of people, and it has definitely had an effect on Tunes & Tunics. In its early years my blog only revolved around what I was wearing. When I came to the West Coast I started exploring a lot more and naturally I began to incorporate that into my posts. I started taking more photos of things other than myself and talking about more than just what I was wearing. Looking back now, coming to the West Coast almost marks the beginning of me starting to think more about the big picture, and Sustainability & Style just naturally came next.
Since about two months have passed, what have you noticed about your spending habits or about the fashion industry in general that you didn’t realize before?
MM — The past two months have been insanely eye opening. I’ve gotten the chance to reflect on my spending habits and I learned a lot about myself as a consumer. I quickly saw that in the past I was an impulse shopper, and if there was a sale or a special deal I would always walk out of the store with something. I guess because I’ve learned a lot about incentives in my business classes so far this year and I’m more conscious of the quantity of the clothes I buy, I’ve stopped feeling so inclined to take up these offers. Something about the industry that I learned was that there actually are a number of brands that are sustainable or ethical, or both, they just aren’t vocal about it. This makes me a little bit upset, because I feel like if a brand is spending time and money to ensure their products have a positive impact, their customers should know that, too. This circles around to companies being more transparent. All brands should be clearer about how their products are made so consumers can shop more consciously.
You’ve lined up your goals for 2016 in your January blog post. Are there any goals that you feel like need to be added or modified since then?
MM — I quickly realized that shopping 100% sustainably in 2016 was an impractical goal for my first year of being a conscious consumer. The more I researched brands the more I saw that there is a range of sustainability practices in the industry: some companies have a statement on their website, some have detailed year by year reports of their sustainable actions, and some have special conscious sections of their websites or stores. So for this year, I’m only going to buy from brands that show they either are sustainable and ethical or are working towards reaching those labels. I have to give credit to the brands that have seen a change is necessary. I also just wrote a post about an addition I’m making to the goals I made in January. When I first started out I was blaming the industry a lot— I was getting angry at brands and the industry in general for not thinking about the environment or their workers. But I realized that there is much more power in the hands of the consumers. Brands respond to the decisions and actions of their customers. If we start showing that we care about sustainability and ethical treatment of workers, whether that be vocally though social media or by buying elsewhere, brands will be forced to respond. So a goal I’ve recently added is to stop blaming the system and start taking more action and being more vocal about how I feel in terms of sustainability and ethics in the fashion industry.
What’s been the most difficult thing you’ve noticed since you’ve started your sustainability initiative?
MM — I think the most difficult thing I’ve noticed is that there just isn’t a lot of information out there about sustainability in the fashion industry. I really have to dig through the depths of Google and search for the side pages of brand websites that talk about their supply chain management and sourcing practices to get information. It’s not only frustrating for me as someone who genuinely is interested in learning about how brands are dealing, or not dealing with sustainability and ethics, but it’s also not fair for consumers to be so unaware of how the clothes they are buying are created. Brand transparency is so important and it isn’t done enough.
What are your thoughts running through your head now before you go and make a purchase when you’re out shopping at the mall or maybe even in the grocery store?
MM — Whenever I go buy clothes now I literally get flashbacks of images and statistics from “The True Cost”, the documentary about the fast fashion industry that first introduced me to sustainable fashion. This documentary has really changed how I look at shopping and I am a lot less inclined to buy something because of it. When I started this initiative I was only thinking about clothes. Accessories and shoes didn’t even cross my mind, not to mention other products like food and school supplies that also have an impact on the environment. I can’t help but feel hypocritical for doing everything in my power to shop sustainably and ethically and at the same time not thinking about sustainability in all other parts of my life. I’ve started wasting less food in the dining hall, correctly soring trash and recycling (and compost when available), and even eating less meat.
How do you go about maintaining a blog and juggling school at the same time?
MM — Going from high school, where my sister was always around to be my photographer and my schedule looked the same most days, to college, where my schedule is different every day and midterm season lasts all semester, has definitely made keeping a consistent posting schedule difficult. But I feel like once you find something you passionate about doing, it becomes a regular part of your schedule. I even put blog work into my planner, alongside my schoolwork and club meetings. I absolutely love running Tunes & Tunics so I always find time to work on it, even on my busiest days.
Where can our readers go to find more information about the social, environmental and even social affects of the fashion industry?
MM — The documentary, “The True Cost” is a MUST watch. It focuses entirely on the environmental and social effects of the fashion industry. It’s only an hour long and it’s on Netflix, so you have no excuse not to watch it! The True Cost’s website also has a boatload of information, as well as interviews with people who are doing great things in the industry. There’s also a great, and entertaining, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver piece called Fashion on YouTube where he talks about fast fashion and how it’s not as great as it may seem. I also have a Sustainability & Style tab on Tunes & Tunics called “Want To Know More About Sustainable Fashion?” where I post links to any websites, articles or videos that talk about conscious consumerism and sustainability in the fashion industry.
If you’re not blogging or studying for finals/editing papers/etc. What can we find you doing to relax?
MM — This is where the “tunes” part of Tunes & Tunics comes in— I turn on my music when I need to relax. Whether I’m dancing the stress out in my dorm before getting back to studying or sitting on my bed and chilling, music has always been relaxing for me. When Spotify doesn’t do the trick, I whip out my ukulele. I taught myself to play a few years ago and playing the ukulele instantly calms me down. I also like sitting outside in the freshman quad or in the campus center, catching up on the latest Women’s Wear Daily news and seeing what’s happening on all of the social medias.