Tiller’s founder, Kathleen Sheppard, sat down with Valeria Sarto to continue our Female Founders/Creators spotlight. Valeria launched Fashionability Collective to promote sustainability in fashion as well as to help sustainable brands achieve their creativity goals.
Tiller: Tell us about yourself!
Valeria: My name is Valeria and I’m the founder and creative director of Fashionability Collective. I was born and raised in the tropical city of Miami Beach, which has definitely influenced an environmentally conscious drive in me. When I studied in Boston at Emerson College, social issues were raised often and I started to introspect on how conscious actions played a role into being a positive catalyst. I always loved fashion but never considered it to be a career path, so I studied Communication Studies and double minored in Art History and Photography to introduce something more creative. My college didn’t have any fashion-based courses, so I started working with a fashion magazine on campus. That really allowed me to hone in on that craft and I knew I wanted to be in that world.
T: What sparked your interest in sustainability, fashion & photography and what was the inspiration that led you to start Fashionability?
V: I went to a movie screening for River Blue, and it was the first time I heard about the unsustainable and unethical aspects of the fashion industry. That sparked a personal conscious movement in myself, and from there I started dressing more and more sustainably. A lot of people always asked where I got my shoes, my dress, my pants, etc. My answer was usually “I thrifted it!” As I sort of embodied sustainability in my way of dress, the question was then where I shopped sustainably. The concept just rolled off my tongue when talking to a friend, simply creating a platform where people can find sustainable brands and the best thrift shops in the city.
T: Tell us about Fashionability - what are you currently doing with your brand and what are you hoping to do with this platform moving forward?
V: I started it in my junior year of college and I wanted it to be more visual platform simply showcasing these brands. As a photographer, I knew I wanted to merge that into Fashionability. Currently, we’re divided into four segments:
- Sustainable Brand Directory: The one stop destination to find multiple conscious brands but also create thrift shop guides by city. I hope that when people travel, they’ll check them out and instead of their usual shopping day, they can make the sustainable choice and thrift at some sick places!
- Shop: As opposed to a lot of people who hate to sift through racks at a thrift shop, I adore it… I love to find unique pieces and have always wanted to have a curated shop of my own. I decided to open Vintage+, a segment of Fashionability, where you can shop vintage pieces + unique pre-loved beauties.
- Styling Studio: Basically a personal stylist service. If you’re drooling over a piece but the brand isn’t sustainable or it’s too expensive, we’ll help you source it sustainably and at your price point. We can help put together a capsule collection for you, help you clean out your closet and consult you on how to sell pre-loved pieces, etc.
- Content Creation Studio: We work with conscious brands to create content for campaigns, their next drop, social media content. Whatever they need really.
New to the platform is our finds and moments shop pages. Our finds page is a curated selection of sustainably sourced pieces that we love, and we also style looks together for life’s moments.
All in all, I genuinely just want the platform to be all encompassing, whether that’s to discover new brands, to shop sustainably from a trusted sourced, get styling inspiration, or help develop content for your own brand.
T: What was the most difficult part of starting your own business, particularly as an artist/creator? What has been the most interesting and/or rewarding?
V: Starting it was the easiest, my energy was full out there and ready to make it happen. Continuing to build and focus on it, with all of life’s obstacles, trying to find a job to make a steady income in the meantime, is when it can get hard. Sometimes I have so much to do like updating the website, creating fresh content, researching new brands, pitching to brands and press outlets, that I don’t even know where to start. But all in all, I love what I do and I love the message I’m pushing so that’s the most rewarding, especially when others help to uplift me and FC’s message and tell me to keep going because I have something unique.
T: How have your previous experiences shaped Fashionability and what makes Fashionability so unique?
V: My previous experiences, in freelance photography and at the first company I worked at, allowed me to learn new techniques in creating interactive content but mainly that to be fulfilled I have to create for something that I believe in. That pushes me to actively work on Fashionability even if it’s just one day at a time.
Fashionability’s unique selling point is that there’s not really anyone trying to create a singular platform for discovery, shopping, inspiration and community building.
T: What advice would you give other young women who aspire to launch a brand/company, particularly in art, sustainability and/or fashion?
V: My best advice would be to just go for it, just start and don’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed. It will happen, but to just take it one step at a time. While you have to envision what the future of it looks like, don’t focus on that. Create a plan and focus on the first actionable item you can do to make your future goal a reality.
T: If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
V: Honestly, to chill out. To be patient and to trust myself. Everything will happen at the right time that it’s meant to. If I push too hard now, I’d just burn out. Steady wins the race.
T: What does the future hold for Fashionability? What are your goals and what's coming next?
V: I hope, once everything goes more back to normal, that we can host events and pop-ups to engage the community. The future is bright and it is sustainable, so my goals are to build brand awareness so the platform truly becomes a good resource.