From fashion designer to Youtube blogger: Interview with Kelly Coe of Living Consciously with Kelly
For my latest interview I connected with Kelly Coe, a blogger from Atlanta who founded Living Consciously with Kelly, a sustainable fashion & lifestyle Youtube channel. A former fashion designer, Kelly started her channel to help inspire people to be more thoughtful with their clothing & lifestyle choices. I virtually connected with Kelly to chat about her sustainable fashion journey and what she hopes to do to advance the sustainable fashion conversation in Atlanta. Here is a summary of our conversation:
Good to (virtually) see you again, Kelly! Thanks again for featuring me on your channel. What inspired you to start it?
I wanted to inspire people to be more conscious & thoughtful with their clothes. I used to work as a fashion designer, designing custom dresses for birthdays, parties & weddings. After 5 years, I didn’t feel myself doing meaningful work anymore. Around that time I watched The True Cost, and that opened my eyes to the unfathomable things in the fashion industry that are kept under the rug. A light bulb went off, and I realized that by spreading awareness, I can use fashion for good, in a way that can help peoples’ lives and the planet.
So many peoples’ journeys start with watching The True Cost! I’m so grateful to the people who made that documentary. What are some habits that you would encourage people to adopt when it comes to their closet & their lifestyle?
Definitely shopping second-hand. Extending the longevity of their clothes. Being thoughtful when it comes to their habits – not perfect, not trying to be 100% zero waste right away, but giving their decisions a second thought. We’re used to immediate gratification & Amazon’s two-day shipping times – but there’s no need to rush, it’s ok to wait & take a few extra minutes to do the right thing.
I would also encourage people to learn how to sew. Many people have a ton of clothes in their closet that they don’t like or wear. If you can sew, you can remake things into pieces that you love and can wear for a long time. To me, this is the best part of sustainable fashion – building a quality wardrobe where you love everything in it.
How long did it take you to learn how to sew?
It took me about 3 years to be able to make simple pieces professionally, and 7 years to do my first big project – my sister’s bridesmaid dresses. Sewing such a helpful skills, you never know when a strap will break when you’re at a fancy event! It’s also hard to find brands that fit perfectly, & if you can sew you can adjust the garment or remake it into something that’s exactly right for you.
What’s your favourite upcycled piece?
The very first one I made, a dress that I made into a top. Once I knew what I wanted to do with it, the actual sewing took me about 6 hours over 2 days. I love that I have a piece that nobody in the world has, that’s super cool. I wasn’t sure how other people were going to respond when I posted a photo on Instagram, but people said they really liked it.
Is that the same top that you’re wearing in the ThredUP campaign that was on a billboard in Times Square?
Yes! I posted a photo of me wearing it on Instagram & ThredUP asked if they could potentially use it in a campaign to promote Second Hand Day (August 25th). I said yes and ended up on a billboard in Times Square! It was fun to get that visibility at this early stage of the game.
So cool, congrats! And did you encounter any challenges on your sustainable fashion journey?
When I started looking into sustainable fashion, I came across H&M’s Conscious collection. I trusted the brand, I’ve been shopping with them for many years, so when I saw the collection, I thought everything was great. It was only later that I realized that the composition of most pieces was less than 50% eco materials and that all of the pieces that I bought were under $30 USD. How are they able to pay someone a living wage AND account for their expenses and profits for less than $30 USD? They’re cutting corners somewhere, and unfortunately it’s at the point of the garment workers’ wages.
So yes, in the early days I was a victim of greenwashing. Now that I’ve been through it, my radar’s up more when I find a new brand. I know companies will be vague, they’ll redirect, they’ll make excuses & will try to mislead and greenwash me to make a sale. I gather info to avoid that, and as a consumer I put more emphasis on only purchasing from brands that are truly sustainable at every stage of their operations.
And last question – what’s your vision for the future of the sustainable fashion scene in Atlanta?
Atlanta is a great creative city – there are lots of artists, designers, photographers, stylists, showcases, fashion shows, it’s great to be in a city with such amazing talent. But the sustainability piece isn’t that prominent here. A challenge for me is finding my local community – I have more sustainable fashion friends online than in real life! I would love to organize a conference in Atlanta where like-minded people can gather and listen to speakers, take part in DIY workshops for sewing or mending, and go to dinner or brunch to minge and connect. Maybe once the pandemic passes!