I've known and admired Mallory Whitfield for as long as I've had feistyelle as a business. Her deep dedication to supporting handmade work and indie designers through her shop, Miss Malaprop, is one of the best examples I can think of that lifts up handmade products, eco-friendly fashion, and a passion for one's city (Mallory's a proud resident of New Orleans, Louisiana).
I first learned about her gift for constructing recycled clothing and accessories when she constructed a dress made from recycled FEMA blue tarp. Talk about a statement dress! Her FEMA tarp creations went on to be featured on BoingBoing and Etsy. In addition to being a shop owner and avid blogger, Mallory has also written for a variety of publications and websites, including Antigravity Magazine, StyleList.com, Blogging New Orleans, and Southern Flourish Magazine.
Here's what Mallory had to say about starting Miss Malaprop. Read to the end for her book recommendations for building socially conscious businesses!
Why did you create an eco-friendly fashion brand?
I've always had an interest in the environment and sustainability, even as I kid. And I've always had a love of fashion, mixing and matching, and playing with clothes. So when I started learning how to sew during high school, for me it was about taking apart what already existed and figuring out how to make it into something new and special again. This was the beginnings of my first business: called dismantled. It was a line of one-of-a-kind reconstructed & upcycled clothing.
I still make some of the same stuff today, particularly my favorite denim & lace reconstructed skirts. But I've started working with a lot of other artists too, as now my long-term goal is to open up a brick & mortar boutique here in New Orleans dedicated to handmade goods, independent artists & designers, and eco-friendly fashions. I love supporting small businesses, independent makers and companies that are really trying their damnedest to make a difference in this world.
What makes your company eco chic?
I work with a lot of local artists, as well as artists from all over who are using recycled materials in unique ways. I also try to utilize supplies & services from small independent companies as much as possible, and seek out more sustainable materials wherever I can. For shipping for my online shop, I use the USPS's Cradle-to-Cradle certified packaging, as well as other recycled materials. I also include a sustainable seafood pocket guide from the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch Program in all of my orders. Growing up along the Gulf Coast, I've always felt a deep connection to the water and to wildlife, and ocean conservation and sustainable fishing practices are something that is close to my heart, particularly in the wake of the BP oil spill a few years ago.
Tell us about some of your favorite artists that you work with. What are your favorite pieces that they make?
I'm really in love with just about everything that my friend Taslim van Hattum of Abiqutie makes. She does these beautiful hand-painted earrings and necklaces. She started out using a very lightweight wood that she custom cuts, but she recently started using recycled countertop pieces as well. She's inspired by a lot of world cultures and each of her pieces is one-of-a-kind - I have trouble not keeping it all for myself!
I'm also very inspired by my friend Emily of Sweet Olive Soap Works. She was one of the very first artists whose work I started selling back in 2009. Her grandmother taught her the art of soap-making, so she's been doing it her whole life, and she is so knowledgeable and enthusiastic about soap-making. I've really learned a lot from her. She's also very fussy about her ingredients, and she's committed to sustainability as well. She's always updating her ingredient lists if she finds out something is not as eco-friendly as once thought. And she sources a lot of local ingredients too, including Ponchatoula Strawberries, local beers, and she even grows a lot of the herbs in her own backyard! Her All Souls soap is one of my personal favorites.
What other eco-friendly companies inspire you?
We've got a great foundation of eco-friendly companies here in New Orleans. My friends Heather & Mark of UP/Unique Products and Erin of Zuka Baby are just some of the founding members of something called the Green Light District, which is a group of green-minded businesses in the Lower Garden District that have joined forces to promote sustainability in their businesses.
I'm also really inspired by some of the businesses who have been committed to sustainability since way before it was cool, and have made a huge dent in the marketplace. I love the stories of Ben & Jerry's and Newman's Own. There are great books about each company that document their struggles and triumphs in building socially conscious businesses:
Ben & Jerry's Double-Dip: How to Run a Values-Led Business and Make Money Too
In Pursuit of the Common Good: Twenty-Five Years of Improving the World, One Bottle of Salad Dressing at a Time
What five words sum up your company?
colorful, playful, fun, handmade, eco-minded
Thank you Mallory! We'll add these books to our reading list. :)