I first met Claire in 2019 when she opened her pop-up shop in my suburb of Beaumaris in Victoria. When you entered the store it felt like you were walking straight into an old friend’s trendy (and somewhat envious) boudoir, decorated in muted tones of pink, peach and tan with racks full of colorful and beautifully crafted garments from Australian and New Zealand designers.
As I browsed through her store beaming with delight, I got all touchy feely with the handmade tulle skirts and floral organic cotton jumpsuits (yep, I bought that one). Then Claire approached me with her long legs and wide, warm smile and we began to talk about the products and labels she stocked, the fashion industry as a whole and her passion about environmentally friendly and sustainable products.
She was the first ‘influencer’ I had met and it became clear to me why Claire is as impressive as she is. Her array of awards to date include winning the ‘2019 Good Design Award Fashion Impact’ award, the 2019 Global top 100 Retail Disruptors’ award, the ‘2018 Women’s Weekly Women of the Future’ award and her Eco Blog sits in the world’s top 20.
Here is what Claire had to say about her current superpower, her advocacy for slow fashion and why Julie Bishop ‘is a total badass woman’.
What is your superpower and what do you use it for?
“My superpower is the ability to see the silver lining and the good in every situation”.
Running a business is tough, running a social enterprise is even tougher – especially when we’re in times like these, but I try to focus on the good. Of course, I’m human; the first few days in any ‘crisis’ I act like most people; stressed, scared, worried, emotional, angry… But I’m really self-aware and it takes me a few days of freaking out (a bath, a bottle of wine and a box of tissues) before I reach the ‘ah-ha’ moment and I work out how to get through it. .
I’m a big believer in the saying, ‘everything happens for a reason’, and even though it might not feel like it at the time, everything is unfolding as it should. Take this whole Covid-19 shitstorm for example; I was meant to open a pop-up shop in Hampton the week the restrictions came into place and now we can’t open our doors.
I went to a $0 wage within a matter of days, but it’s forced me to think outside the box and come up with ways to stay connected, stay working and do the best I can with the lemons I’ve got. The downtime has forced me to do the things that have been sitting in the to-do pile for months, and out of all the mess, I’m having conversations with friends, family and my community that I otherwise wouldn’t have had.
Every situation has a silver lining, you just have to see it!
What is the most important ‘value’ you base your work around?
Community. A strong and authentic community is such a powerful thing! I think it stems from my times of need and what other people have done to support me; you never know when you might need a neighbour or a favour from a work colleague.
Amidst all the busy-ness and craziness of modern life, it’s important to retain a sense of community and act humanly, with kindness, and in a supportive way. Without community, we’re just a bunch of people running the rat race, but when we’re part of a community, we can create positive change, survive the tough times, and bring meaning to things.
The Fashion Advocate is built on community. I started this business to create positive social and environmental change, and it’s too hard trying to do that alone, so we bring brands and businesses together. Life is much easier when you’re surrounded by likeminded people to bounce off, support each other, and share in each other’s successes.
If you could choose 1 place to visit in the next 12 months, where would it be and why?
India. The social aspect of my business is about equality and supporting women, and fashion is, unfortunately, one of the worst industries for it. Some women in India earn 19 cents an hour working for fast fashion brands, and they work six days a week with limited toilet breaks, no healthcare and no job security. I can’t justify buying, selling or promoting fashion made in those environments when I wouldn’t stand to work in them myself, so I advocate for the alternative – slow fashion.
Without having been to the epicenter of fast fashion slave labour, India, it’s hard for me to truly understand it though. I’m fighting for women I’ve never met, and I want to change conditions I haven’t even seen firsthand, and even if I never go to India, I’ll continue to do that, but I have something deep inside that tells me I need to go. I guess I just want to tell one woman face to face that we’re trying for her, that we’re doing what we can, and I want her to know that it will change.
Is there a quote you love? What is it?
‘Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.’ Dr. Seuss
Name three women you admire and why? Let’s share the love…
Julie Bishop; I met her last year at the Women’s Weekly Women of the Future Awards when I was a top three finalist. She’s incredible, and in person, she lives up to the hype. She’s real, honest, gentle, kind – while being a total badass woman who has had such an empowering impact for women in the last few years.
My mum; who has taught me everything I know about surviving and thriving in extremely difficult times, and she’s now studying to be a midwife in her fifties. She’s a daily reminder of strength, and she reminds me that no matter what situation I’m in or how hard it feels or when it feels like I don’t have options – that I always have a choice about what I’m going to do.
The last one is a duo, Penny and Sandy from The Studio Melbourne; besides being incredible, funny, positive, extremely talented and amazing women, they just get me. When I’m working with them, they make me feel normal, beautiful, inspired, positive… They’re just really incredible women, and they’ve supported me in the past when I’ve needed it most.
When women support women, we’re unstoppable. They’re an absolute hoot to work with too!
The Fashion Advocate has launched her Positive Vibes Gift Pack Range keep an eye out for Claire’s ‘virtual shopping’ videos this week and her live designer interviews!