June 26, 2020

Student to CEO

Student to CEO.

How I went from a university student to a full-time CEO of my own company.
UnEarthed.co. The UK's first Vegan Marketplace for fashion and cosmetics.

My educational path is somewhat unconventional. At the age of 16 I moved from my tiny town in the UK called Stourbridge, and moved to Saratoga in California to go to college. I have had an interest in Fashion from a VERY young age, I remember I used to sit and trace over models in magazines and draw different clothes over the top of them from about the age of 7, and this interest still remains now. So in College, I took Fashion Design as my major, learnt the ins and outs of the industry, the good, the bad and the ugly, and after 3 years of hustle and holding down multiple jobs on the side I came out with 2 Associate degrees and a 4.0 GPA in Apparel design and Apparel Manufacturing.

Having such a passion for fashion design, whilst learning more and more about how it negatively impacts the environment was quite conflicting for me. I'd been conscious of sustainability since the age of 12, when one afternoon a guest teacher came into my class in primary school and spoke to us about the importance of recycling and quite clearly painted the size of the environmental problem we face as a global population... and that was 10 YEARS AGO!!! and its only gotten worse since. Coming back to my education in California, In one of my lectures we had guest speakers Lynda Groze and Holly McQuillan come in and talk to us about Fashion and Sustainability. Lynda works as a University lecturer in San Francisco alongside being a published author who specialises in Sustainability, and Holly was a graduate of FIT in New York and was one of the first people to research into Zero waste Design in the early 2000's who is now touring Sweden to teach it. She also has a book published on her works in partnership with Timo Rissanen, a well established garment specialist and pattern maker in the US. In this lecture we were told to watch the documentary "The True Cost of Fashion" this was such an eye-opening experience for me and is the moment I really sat back and thought: these are both two things I'm passionate about, and currently they don't pair well. I will make it my mission to one day create a brand that pairs fashion with sustainability, and it benefits the world and is for the greater good. And I can now gladly say I'm well on the right path to doing just that.

After graduating College, I was trying to find work to continue building my portfolio, and through working in retail for Michael Kors, I developed a good relationship with the district manager, who knew of my fashion design work and drive for it and so she put me in touch with the right people in the New York head offices, and I had the opportunity to go there and have an interview to join the company as an entry level Junior Womenswear Designer. An incredible opportunity! - But I was sat in the fancy waiting room that looked out over New York City and all of its billboards, and I thought to myself, how is this going to help me build the empire I want one day? How will this help me marry my passion for fashion and sustainability? The industry is so-fast paced, what if one day I got promoted and the money was good so I stayed and I never truly felt I was fulfilling my two passions and letting them have their moment... And so I turned down the opportunity, thanked them very much for their hospitality and closed that door. I decided in that moment looking out at the billboards of New York that I wanted more for myself than to work for someone else, and if I was going to do that and start my own brand, I had better learn how to sell. And that brought me back to my roots in the UK, to Nottingham Trent University where I studied Fashion Marketing and Branding, to have the knowledge of the creative side of the industry as well as the business side. Because there's no point in being able to design and draw pretty clothes if they don't sell.

That brings me to where I am now, a recent graduate, with a full circle of knowledge of the Fashion Industry. My last year of University and dissertation work saw extensive research reports into Sustainability and different micro trends within that. I watched A LOT, and I mean A LOT of documentaries and read up on so many recently published books and articles and found that to my dismay, the Agriculture Industry trumped fashion, transportation, and energy industries in terms of being the WORST environmentally. After I found out the Amazon Rainforest fires of last year were no accident, I went down a rabbit hole of so many different suuuper scary facts about the industry and how bad it is not only for the environment but for your own health. I found out about red meat being deemed carcinogenic, about growth defects in people from drinking milk... CRAZY things that the mass majority of people are completely unaware of. So I decided as a meat eater at this point to stop and cut it out completely, and so I became Vegan.

I then did further research into Veganism, as I was curious as to how sustainable it actually is to be Vegan, and the findings from that told me that it is considered to be the most sustainable diet there is. I spoke to Vegans as part of this research to find out really if there were problems in the industry or issues they faced being Vegan, as I had recently started that lifestyle too I had come across a few challenges and so it was interesting to see if the participants I spoke with had similar issues themselves. And it turned out there was a HUGE challenge that a ton of us had all found we came across. A lot of people think of Veganism as just a dietary choice, but really it is a complete lifestyle. In the last year Veganism became a trend and Veganuary was the biggest yet with huge corporations jumping onto it and getting involved to bag more money. And what made shopping for true VEGAN products difficult was that some of these brands didn't understand the difference between natural products, animal-cruelty free products and Vegan products, which then made shopping for true vegan products an extremely difficult and lengthy process. It was highlighted in my research that this was most apparent in cosmetics and clothing brands. And that is when UnEarthed.co was born.

UnEarthed.co is the UK's first online Vegan marketplace specifically for cosmetics and fashion, to make shopping for CERTIFIED vegan products in this sector a hell of a lot easier and quicker. Currently the website is in production with a wonderful website developer friend of mine, packaging is being sourced and I am in talks with 4 very big brands about being listed on the site next to smaller vegan start-up companies, so it is an extremely exciting time!! I am so so so excited for it to all come together and be launched I've been working so hard on it to get it PERFECT, and I am in the process of planning the brand Launch party for after lockdown!!!

I will keep you all updated with regular posts on its development!!!

Chlo xoxo

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