Fellow Canadian Ana Wang is the founder of The Good Closet, a new online shopÂ and studio for planet-friendly clothes, accessories, gifts and other beautiful things. She also writes for the Huffington Post Canada and is one of the co-founders of The Ethical Writers Coalition.Â
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your fashion background?
I graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor’s degree in Fashion and Technology. I almost dropped out at the end of second year because I sort of had the thought that fashion to me wasn’t as “magical” as I thought it was, mainly because it felt like we were all just creating more stuff to turn to waste on the planet and people were valuing their clothes less and less with the rise of fast fashion. In my eyes it had become a systemized, destructive and wasteful industry. I was so close to switching to computer science, and didn’t do it at the last minute because I hadn’t deferred my scholarship and I didn’t want to pay for another 4 years of school, basically. That’s my practical side speaking.
After I graduated, I worked in several industries on the periphery of fashion, but never really in the crux of it. So I never experienced the idea that fashion people are mean, uptight or shallow, like media portrays fashion people to be. Every place I’ve worked has been pretty relaxed, intimate and positive. (I’ve worked in lingerie, bridal and childrenswear doing marketing and product development.) I sort of accidentally fell into marketing, ecommerce and the startup world, without any marketing or business background. I’m not really sure how; I’ve just always been fascinated by consumer psychology and technology.
When Huffington Post launched their Canadian edition, I was invited to write for them. And that became a platform for me to start writing about sustainability on a broader level. For a while I was a fashion copywriterâ€”I worked with clients ranging from startups to award-winning brands to new designers. I also had a fashion line, which is where I first experimented with this idea of minimalism meets novelty.
These last 5 years have been me just trying to figure out where all my skills intersect, and how it relates to what I can give the world, which led me to create The Good Closet. I never would’ve thought that I’d get into building a retail brand. I honestly just felt sort of left out as a consumer, and I think a lot of other girls do too.
What inspired the idea for The Good Closet?
I had a conscious fashion blog for a while and The Good Closet was the name of the directory I had that showcased tastemaking brands in sustainable fashion and beauty. It just grew from there. The people who were always pitching to me to be featured seemed to be boutiques, and I had always discounted the idea of opening a store myself because: “But I’m a designer!” It doesn’t sound as enticing to someone who likes to be the creative to instead be the seller. But more and more I started to feel like the curator than the creator. If people are already making such great things, I can try to help to build awareness instead of just trying to add to the noise.
I really appreciate new things, seeing new ways that people can do things and make them better. And the rate at which I was wanting to share other people’s things quickly outgrew my own need to make my own stuff.
What really made me think that I should be selling instead of blogging was because I couldn’t think of a single place that embraced both novelty and sustainabilityâ€”conscious companies seem to have a very homogenous look, and while there are a lot of people who love that look, I just got bored with it, and I knew there had to be something different to appeal to girls like me, people who don’t necessarily only wear beige sweaters and white shirts and sack dresses.
I almost never see actual people wearing these sack dresses, but I feel like they’re the main dress shape for sustainable designers. I do love white tees though, and of course most of the time I’m wearing basics, as we all do, but where’s the fun, colourful, special stuff?
What’s your goal for the company?
It’s part of my own personal goal for myself I guess, which is to break the idea that frivolity is shallow and can’t be meaningful. I’d love to create what I refer to as a modern fashion brand, one that doesn’t feel stuffy, isn’t condescending, is a little bit playful, and is down to earth while still maintaining a sense of elegance, fantasy and luxury.
I would like to be able to entice and appeal to girls who maybe aren’t sustainably minded consumers at the moment, but just can’t help themselves when they see all the beautiful things we carry. This is what I think about all the time, because you can’t really solve the sustainable issue in fashion by only selling to people who don’t buy much and are extreme minimalists, and along those lines, we’re trying hard moving forward to curate more affordably priced items that fit the vision. Going into 2015, that’s something I’m becoming more conscious about, to try to achieve this goal.
I also want to build a win-win community between us and the brands we work withâ€”vertical retail is a hot topic in startups right now, so for a while there was this idea that brands and new designers had that retail was dead, and boutiques are sort of this side nuisance in that formula. As with everything in life, I think it’s really important to strive for win-wins all around. So that’s the big overarching goal, always.
And then of course, it would be really awesome if one day this vision could evolve beyond myself tinkering on my computer. That would be a big deal, when it gets big enough to bring in other brains and hands.
What is the curation process like for The Good Closet?
I actively seek products and I’m always looking for new designers. They have to have something that stands out, even when you take out the eco aspect. The designs have to stand on its own.
I learned from working at a retailer managing e-commerce that you can’t just buy what you like, unless you have massively appealing taste, and that’s not necessarily the same thing as having “good” taste, whatever that is. It’s just having the same taste as a lot of other people. So keeping in mind the vision and feel of the brand, I try to curate brands that a) make you feel something when you look at it b) make you feel something when you touch it and c) are involved in a vision of sustainability.
Right now it’s common to see new boutiques stock the more well-known names in sustainability, but I really try to go for the designers that aren’t overexposed as sustainable designers. So that way people who are in the space can find something new to love, and not feel that we’re just another boutique selling the same designers. Where’s the fun in that?
Aesthetically The Good Closet veers towards clean lines and minimalist forms, but bold colours and a kind of sensuality that makes clothes literally feel good to wear.
I also think about giftability (not a word, I made it up). I want everything to feel like it could be a gift, either to yourself or someone else. A treat.
What are some of your favourite designers and why?Â
I love Stella McCartney and Anya Hindmarch as luxury brands. Historically, I’m a big fan of Madeleine Vionnet and Coco Chanel, who were rivals, both very different, but both really, really amazing. And then there are so many great sustainable companies out there. My wardrobe is 95% made up of Reformation, American Apparel (very polarizing brand at the moment, but they’re often the only place I can think of when I want something colourful), Everlane for my daily t-shirt uniform, and vintage/thrifted. But once in a while, I’ll discover a new designer and they’ll make something that I love, and that’s the other 5%.
What can readers/shoppers expect from The Good Closet in the future?
We’re trying to create something that’s both smart and playful, and doesn’t take itself too seriously, so part of what we’ve done is a weekly round-up of interesting articles that respect that. It’s mainly long-form articles that really go in-depth on topics in fashion, beauty, celebrity, creativityâ€”you know, all the frivolous things.
I think there’s this idea that if you care about fashion or beauty, that you’re shallow, or that if you dress a certain way, that you can look “smarter” than someone else who dresses or looks another way. Our newsletter aims to provide reading material for Sundays that makes you feel like you can be everything you are, and pursue your frivolities, dress colourful, wear makeup, if you feel like it. And still be well-informed and curious about the world.
Do you ship from Canada?
Yes! I know duties and customs are a nightmare for a lot of Canadian shoppers. Our prices are in USD and CAD, and we do import everything into Canada. No extra duties or customs, and free shipping over $75. Most of the brands we carry we’re the first in Canada to do so, so that’s very exciting.
Shop eco-friendly products at The Good Closet.Â