Who: Suzanne Rae
Occupation: Founder and designer of Suzanne Rae, a Brooklyn-based women's ready-to-wear brand specializing in sustainable materials, locally made goods, and slow fashion.
When and why did you decide to pursue an eco-conscious practice?
I was reading Walden by [Henry David] Thoreau while working on a concept for a collection, which is essentially on simple living with nature, and it really struck a chord with me. This was in 2009, before I officially launched my line. In accordance with this concept, I started researching environmentally friendly practices in fashion. It's just something I decided to keep working with.
What was your lifestyle and practice like before the switch?
I've always been interested in earth-friendly and sustainable practices. Aside from the newspaper, the only other activity I participated in my high school was the environmental club. I guess I've always felt like if you know about how something should be, or if you know something is right, why wouldn't you do it?
How did you educate yourself in being eco-conscious?
I'm basically self-taught. A lot of research, working with interns who are studying sustainable fashion in school and also learning from my peers. I have many designer friends who also work sustainably and ethically, and we all support each other and exchange notes.
What sort of obstacles do you face in your day-to-day life and within your industry?
It's tough in fashion because it's about prioritizing things and understanding what is natural versus what is sustainable versus what's ethical—and how to achieve all three. It's an ongoing challenge not just for me, but for everyone else. And it's also a challenge sometimes with aesthetics. My line isn't terribly "eco"-looking, and I don't want it to be. But there are new innovative fabrics and practices that I try to stay on top of. For example, we are working with an Italian innovation called Newlife which is basically a fiber made from recycled polyester or recycled plastic bottles. It's really cool, and a lot of mills are starting to use it, and it fits my aesthetic perfectly.
How has your life benefitted from your decision? Have there been any downsides?
Definitely no downsides. If anything it has made me a more conscientious person who believes that every little bit counts—and that's good for me, my 3-year-old daughter, and everyone else on this planet.
What do your peers think of being eco-conscious?
I think they think it's cool. It makes sense and is necessary. It doesn't cramp their style, but rather, enhances it.
What is one simple thing we can all, no matter what lifestyle we lead, do to be more eco-conscious?
Don't buy fast fashion. All the money spent on all the fast fashion things we buy can be put together to buy timeless, quality pieces. Anything that is well designed, no matter how loud or crazy, is timeless because you'll want to have it forever. It's a tough habit to break out of, but it is really true.
Suzanne wears Bite Beauty, Amuse Bouche Lipstick in 'Taro,' available at Sephora.