Sam Leigh from ecomono

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This beautiful woman is one of the most giving humans I’ve ever met. She’s someone I admire greatly, and I feel very lucky to also have her as a friend.

I’m a big believer in the saying ‘unless you ask, the answer will always be no’ and I met Sam through one of these moments. Earlier this year I was finishing my final semester at University and I felt like I knew nothing about the world of Marketing and Coms that I’d just spent four years studying for.  As I was commuting between New Zealand and Australia to see my boyfriend, I figured why not ask if I could take on an internship of sorts with Sam and her epic biz eco|mono. A simple private message on Instagram that I was super nervous to send I can honestly say contributed greatly to getting the job I have post graduating and also has created a friendship I’m beyond grateful exists.

eco|mono itself is an online marketplace that is home to all your ethical and sustainable monochrome essentials. It’s a place where you are able to shop by your values and support small businesses doing great things.

I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I do this incredible human. Oh and also, if that message you’ve been too scared to send to someone? Do it. 110%.

What made you start eco|mono?
Back in early 2015, I was made redundant from my full time job working in the corporate events world. The next few months following the redundancy I dedicated some time to thinking about what I really wanted to do, what am I passionate about and how can I make that my job?

From there I decided to start a fashion blog dedicated to sustainable fashion as a hobby. I have always loved fashion, fabrics, textures and art, this was a way for me to put my thoughts and ideas in one place and if it helped or inspired others then that was a bonus.

Over the next 18 months, I spent a lot of my time advising my readers where to shop and why, as well as offering style advice. The shop was an addition to the blog and felt like a natural progression.

Now, I run a small online store dedicated to selling stylish sustainable fashion that doesn’t hurt people or the planet.

What is something others wouldn't know about an online marketplace that you think they should?
People today are so used to buying from fashion giants such as ASOS, Iconic, Boohoo and the like. This means customers have become accustomed to same day delivery, poor customer service, buying lots and just returning the items they don’t like… without putting much thought to if they really wanted or needed that garment in the first place.

So, when it comes to running a slow fashion market place I think one thing I would like others to know is, there is actually a nice human sat on the other side of the screen taking your orders, answering your questions and trying to ensure customers have the best shopping experience because… that’s what keeps me up at night.

Shopping from a slow fashion online store allows for much more personal experience so customers should make the most of it.

What has been the most challenging thing you have uncovered since beginning?
One of the biggest issues I believe when it comes to sustainable businesses in 2017, is there is no specific, quantifiable guideline that everyone can follow to what constitutes a sustainable business. Each business may have a sustainable vision and agenda, however, because they may approach it slightly differently it can confuse customers.

I believe over the next few years as people become more aware of their impact on this planet and start to ask more questions, there will be a need to set guidelines to what can be described as an eco and sustainable business and businesses should be held accountable for the information they are publishing.

Within the ethical fashion community, there's a big question that we ask which is 'who made my clothes?'. In the scope of eco|mono, what is the criteria you require to decide brands to stock?
eco|mono has 10 ethical values; Environmentally Friendly, Empowerment, Fair, Homemade, Locally Made, Minimal Waste, Sustainable, Transparent Production, Upcycled and Vegan. When I am approached by brands who would like to sell on our platform I always ask them “which of these three ethical values do you align with and how” and then we do our own investigating.

I have some amazing friends in the industry also, Megan from Walk. Sew. Good was also a researcher for Project Just and has mad skills when it comes to digging up the dirt on brands. Without even asking about specific brands, we have had casual conversations that have completely changed my opinion of a brad – thanks Meg 

Best piece of advice you have ever received?
Now, this isn’t necessarily sustainable fashion related but is definitely transferable. My mum has ALWAYS said to me “Sam, don’t run before you can walk” I have always been ambitious, driven and if I have an idea I want the end result now. I think starting a slow fashion business has actually helped me a lot with that, I buy made to order piece now and I will happily wait 2-3 weeks for them to arrive. Rewind 3-4 years and I would be paying the extra $20 for same day delivery every time.

One tip you'd give to others who are wanting to start their own business?
Just go for it and run your own race. Don’t compare yourself to others and just be true to yourself. There will always be competition out there, just remember there is enough to go around and just stick to your values.

Where do you envision eco|mono in the future?
Looking to the future of eco|mono, I am really excited about working with our brands on various projects to promote cruelty-free fashion, from events, pop-up stores, workshops plus more. eco|mono has organically transitioned from fashion blog to online store in just 12 months so I’m intrigued to see what can be achieved in the next 12 months.

Who or what inspires you to do what you do on a daily basis?
Oh goodness, without a doubt my mum. My mum was brought up in a household that did not have much money or luxuries. At 22 years old she worked three jobs to put herself through University all whilst having a newborn baby…me. She graduated as an Occupational Therapist.

Fast forward 27 years and she now runs a very successful Brain Injury Case Management business in the UK, helping people suffering from a brain injury and their families try to live a normal life. I think she turned from Cinderella into the fairy godmother. I love and respect her more than she will ever know.

Do you have a morning routine? If so, what is it you do to set yourself up for the day ahead?
haha, wouldn’t that be great? No, i don’t. Sorry to disappoint, but I am not a morning person, so I sulk and scowl until I’ve had my morning coffee and then I am usually ready to go by 8:30-9am. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of result for these people who spring out of bed at 5am, meditate, take their dog for a walk and pick up a matcha coffee on the way home…that just isn’t me! Maybe one day, maybe.

One book everyone should read? Why?
I’m not really a book reader, so for me to have picked up this book and actually read it is pretty HUGE (mini pat on the back for me). Wardrobe Crisis: How we went from Sunday best to fast fashion written by the wonderful Clare Press, the book explores the history and ethics behind what we wear.

Clare examines the entire fashion ecosystem, from sweatshops to haute couture, unearthing the roots of today’s buy-and-discard culture. She traces the origins of icons like Chanel, Dior and Hermès; charts the rise and fall of the department store; and follows the thread that led us from Marie Antoinette to Carrie Bradshaw.

I also wrote a blog in this to recommend a bunch of other books that I have heard are amazing.

Are there any other movers & shakers out there in your world that you think people should know about?
Absolutely, my sustainable biz-sis Kira Simpson from The Green Hub, she is honestly an angel in disguise and even more so she is totally unaware of the impact she has on others. I can hand on heart say that eco|mono would not be where it is today without the support of this wonderful lady.

& there you have it, the first online marketplace to be featured and the first online marketplace Beyond the Brand. If you are after the perfect place to start shopping online, eco|mono is my go to.

If you want to check them out for yourself, here’s their website. Or if you want to follow along on their journey, you can follow along on InstagramFacebookTwitter and Pinterest.