I’ve always loved fashion. As a kid, I would put together the loudest outfits I could imagine, pairing stripes with polka dots, and bright pinks with neon yellows. I had no regard for taste or style, I just wanted to have fun. I’d put layer on top of layer, ensuring that I had the most amount of fabric on as possible. I loved looking like no one else, and I loved that no one else looked like me.
As I got older, that began to fade away. I started dressing like everyone else, even when the trends didn’t flatter me. I forgot that fashion was a means of expressing myself, and got fooled into buying the latest trends in attempts to “fit in”.
This led to a lot of fast fashion shopping sprees, much of which never left my closet. From high waisted skinny jeans to crop tops to leggings, there were so many trends that I tried and failed to embrace. I didn’t feel good in any of it, but I thought it was what I was supposed to wear. As I started to find my way back to my own sense of style, I began learning about the world of sustainable fashion. Like many New Yorkers, I knew fast fashion was bad. I wanted to shop sustainably, but often was disappointed by how boring and expensive the options were. I won’t name names, but many sustainable brands are catered towards a limited audience, with a specific sense of style (or more often, a lack thereof), at a particular price point. It’s a lot of organic fabric and recycled cotton. It’s a lot of beige and cream based neutrals. It’s also a lot of lies and greenwashing.
I quickly grew exhausted by the sustainable fashion world, where all you needed to do was throw some leaves on your marketing and you were deemed a green brand. I wanted there to be a fool-proof way to claim something was sustainable, and I wanted to find sustainable clothing that I actually wanted to wear.
With the hopes that there were other consumers out there like me, who wanted to shop sustainably but didn’t like the big name brands who were curating “green collections”, I knew there was a need for a guide to this world of slow fashion.
So I launched The Butterfly Club. It started as a blog where I’d write about small and sustainable brands who were pioneering the slow fashion movement. From upcycling thrifted finds to utilizing deadstock fabric, there were hundreds of brands creating truly beautiful, one of a kind pieces- they were just hard to find. I’d spend hours each day, while working retail, searching for brands, researching how they made their products, and writing about them. Each month, I sought out to discover 9 new brands. I would feature them on my site as a “verified brand”, meaning they passed my test of sustainably- they were 1) something I’d want to wear, 2) made by hand / utilized recycled materials / designed by a minority / created with people and the planet in mind. Extra points if they were in a brick & mortar location or were family owned and operated (because old school works- it’s not all about Instagram).
And then COVID hit. Retail stores throughout the city began closing their doors, and I was suddenly furloughed alongside thousands of other New Yorkers. With an unprecedented amount of time on my hands, and a blossoming interest for this new industry I had just discovered, I decided to take a huge leap of faith. I reached out to all of the brands I had featured on the site and asked if they’d be interested in being part of a pop-up curated by The Butterfly Club. Much to my surprise, many were interested. With the holidays steadily approaching, these small brands were disappointed to be missing out on their usual holiday markets, which had been cancelled because of COVID. Relying on the holidays for a chunk of their annual sales, brands were desperate for a channel to reach new customers.
After a surprisingly successful holiday season, we turned our pop-up into a permanent retail location. To date, we’ve welcome 50+ brands, from small batch cocktail kits to all natural skincare to hand sewn clothing garments. My hope was to create a space for genderless, inclusive and affordable fashion. A space for anyone and everyone to come in and find something beautiful, something they’d never seen before, something they’d cherish.
Opening a retail store amidst a global pandemic has certainly come with its bumps along the way. There have been countless moments of doubt, but each of them have been met by a sense of relief when a new customer walks through the door. While this year has been particularly hard on small businesses, it has also informed and enlightened an entirely new age of consumers who are now empowered to shop small and to shop slow.
Slow fashion comes in so many shapes and forms, but ultimately it’s about taking time to create and taking time to purchase. If we all just slowed down and took time to learn about the brands we were supporting and the products we were purchasing, the world would be so much better off.
At The Butterfly Club, we’re not about guilting people into shopping sustainably. We’re focused on reminding consumers that fashion is an opportunity for us all to differentiate ourselves from one another. To dress as we did when we were kids, when we didn’t care what was cool, when we wanted to stand out instead of fit in.