Kestrel Jenkins | Conscious Chatter
Kestrel Jenkins - Conscious Chatter
Where what we wear matters
"Storytelling is massive - it's how you present your brand to the world and how potential shoppers make initial assumptions about who you are."
Kestrel is a storyteller who believes fashion + ethics can thrive together. She is the founder of Conscious Chatter, a podcast that looks at the fashion industry from every angle, from style and aesthetics, to pollution, circular systems and education. I cannot recommend this series of interviews and stories with industry professionals enough, its informative and each week is a surprise. We flipped the table and asked Kestrel some questions to get her views on fashion, and sustainability within the industry.
Kestrel, Where did your interest in the issue of sustainability in the garment industry come from?
I've been interested in the environmental movement since I was a kid. My parents were really into the outdoors, birding and travel. As kids, my brother and I spent most of our time running around outside, exploring and learning about the natural world. Consistently, we were having intense conversations about environmental issues around the dinner table.
In college, I studied Global Studies, International Journalism and Women's Studies. Through these programs, I learned a lot about the flows of products, ideologies, and people - how they move around the world, impact people and the environment along the way, and vice versa. After graduating, I was really enthralled with the idea of working in fair trade, because it was a business concept that made sense to me. I was living at home and trying to figure out my next move, when my mom got a catalog from a Wisconsin-based "fair trade fashion" company. She was like, "Kes, what about fashion?" There was a lightbulb explosion in my mind, and I went to town researching my face off online. I had been fashion and clothing obsessed from a small child - it was my self expression and how I shared my art with the world. I then discovered People Tree, the pioneer in fair trade fashion, and knew I had to find a way to work with / learn from them. After constantly following up with their managing director, I was given the opportunity to intern with their PR department. This experience was priceless, and helped pave my own route into the industry.
You’ve recently recorded your 100th episode, congratulations! I’ve been listening to you since the beginning, and love the that way you bring a diverse range of voices to the conversation each week, looking at things from a different perspective. If you look back over the last 2 years, whats really stood out for you, what's been a highlight?
Thank you! It's pretty wild, realizing that we're beyond 100 now, and headed almost into the 3rd season of Conscious Chatter. For me, I have been learning nonstop, and I think that's what has helped me keep this going - I always want to learn more, know more, see more perspectives to help me piece my own ideas together. The highlight has been realizing that brands, individuals, shoppers, nonprofits, writers, artists and more want to collaborate - they are craving more overlap, more connection and more opportunities to work together to push the industry forward faster. Realizing this has been motivating, and it gives me hope for what lies ahead.
Working in the industry myself I know that there are so many layers and complexities involved, and the barriers to change are many. You’ve spoken to a broad cross section of the industry; designers to CEO’s, social businesses to textile recyclers, academics to influencers. What do you think are some of the biggest challenges that the industry faces in becoming a more sustainable, more responsible industry?
Back to my previous answer on collaboration. While I do believe that so many of these distinct players are craving that collaboration, there's not a simple formula to put all the pieces together. The current challenge is bringing these different knowledge sets together into cohesive systems for change.
Things seem to be shifting in 2018, with sustainability & responsibility in fashion gaining a lot of momentum. Are there any innovations or new business concepts on your radar that you are excited about and think have the potential to really bring about change to the way we make and wear our clothes?
There are so many initiatives, projects and endeavors going on all over the world, which is unbelievably exciting, but also a bit overwhelming sometimes to understand how things are coming together. Fashion For Good is doing impressive work bringing different players in the space together through their innovation platform + visitor exhibition in Amsterdam. They were built upon the idea of collaboration - not only are they bringing together everyday people through their exhibition space, but they are also bringing together the up-and-coming innovators and helping integrate them into the current fashion system. Also, there's a super interesting project happening in San Francisco - it's a group of scientists who have developed a way to convert methane gas into basically a biodegradable polyester ... that can be spun into yarn. They are developing the details, but it's something that absolutely intrigues me.
How important do you think the use of storytelling is as a way for brands to engage and connect with their customers? Have you seen this done well/are there any brands that you think do a great job of this?
Storytelling is massive - it's how you present your brand to the world and how potential shoppers make initial assumptions about who you are. From my perspective, visual storytelling is the most important nowadays, and while many brands are improving upon this, it's still an area the conscious fashion industry needs to step it up on.
Can you tell us how the knowledge you’ve gained about the social and environmental impact of fashion has informed your style and the way you shop for clothes. Do you buy new clothes, recycle or repair, rent them. What about the importance of personal style, where does that fit in?
Personal style is my creative outlet. It's how I get the artistic part of myself engaged and inspired. It literally feeds my soul. :) I'm always learning about another layer of the system that puts up red flag, and at times that can be defeating when you love clothes. However, while I used to be super extreme on what I would buy, I am now slightly more lenient, but I buy way less. And, I also only buy things if I LOVE them. This allows me to only add pieces to my wardrobe that are going to really get a good life with me, and are going to get worn many times over the years.
As fashion lovers and clothes wearers, in your opinion whats the best thing we can do to lower our own footprint when it comes to what we wear?
Utilize the pieces you have, revisit them and try to reimagine unique ways of layering them or wearing them in different ways. This makes me feel like 1 piece is actually 3 or 4 pieces sometimes.
Are you working on any new projects at the moment that you want to share with us?
I am working on a new brand called Left Edit with my business partner Holly Olson. We are still in the R+D stage, but are hoping to have more to share this fall.