Wearwell’s Co-Founder, Emily Kenney, chats with April Serrano, Mata Traders’ Wholesale Manager based in Chicago, to talk about book recommendations, upcoming designs to look for, and her journey into ethical fashion.
Emily: Very excited to be chatting with you, April! What about Mata Traders’ mission motivates you?
April: I love and appreciate the partnership between Mata Traders and our production partners. To know that what I'm selling and representing is founded upon mutual respect of people and love of good design not only feels good, but aligns with my own values...that is a huge win-win!
Emily: That’s also one of my favorite things about Mata. How did your interest in sustainable fashion begin?
April: My origin story (borrowing from my husband's comic book nerd-ery) started with a trifecta that occurred over many years. The first aspect started with being taught to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Throwing away less was always important to my family. Back in the 80s and 90s, thrifting wasn't always the most "fashionable" thing to do, but we always loved the treasure hunt that it was (and still is!). This journey continues to be put into practice as I learn from other brands and Instagram accounts that post about aspects related to sustainable fashion.
The other two factors were two books that I read while I was living in South Korea. The first was Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade - And How We Can End It by David Batstone and the other was Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism That Serves Humanity's Most Pressing Needs by Muhammed Yunus. I was shocked and angry to be learning that slavery still existed. Both books referenced that business can be for social good, and that stuck with me when I returned to the United States. A Chicago-based organization, Traffick Free, used to hold fundraising running race events. Someone at a race I participated in told me about a company who sold ethically-made dresses, and that’s when I became a Mata Traders fan. Once I learned about Mata, I started learning more about how the wider fair trade community integrated sustainability into their core values.
Emily: I’m going to have to add those books to my reading list. What’s one piece of advice you would give someone who is just beginning to build their sustainable wardrobe?
April: Start small and in manageable ways. Building a sustainable wardrobe often takes time. I get lots of inspiration on steps to take from people on Instagram!
Emily: Absolutely! Sustainable fashion can be overwhelming when you’re just starting to learn about it, especially since it can be described in so many different ways. After years of working for an ethical and sustainable brand, how do you personally define “sustainable fashion”?
April: To me, sustainable fashion means wearing what you already have, seeking out secondhand options, and intentionally buying new items from retailers and brands who produce items that respect and take care of both producers and the environment.
Emily: I couldn’t have said it better myself! Switching gears a little, how do you describe Mata Traders’ aesthetic in 3 words?
April: Vibrant, fun, unique!
Emily: What are your favorite styles from Mata’s recent collection?
April: Oh, that's a hard question, but my favorites are: Yashvi Dress Primrose, Alexis Mini Dress Poppy, and the Eve Sleeveless Dress Sedona Stripe.
Emily: What’s next for Mata Traders - any exciting sustainability initiatives, new designs or styles, or growth that you’re looking forward to?
April: I love getting to see what our Design and Production teams are working on a year or more in advance of when items come out. Some things are just samples and won't end up being produced, but I saw yoga pants on a mannequin the other day and was thrilled! There’s been mention of sweaters being a possibility at some point - holy moly, that got me excited, too! We'll see what comes down the pipeline with the partnership we have with the production partners in India and Nepal.
Emily: Oh, sweaters and yoga pants from Mata! I can’t wait to see what makes it to production! Anything else you want to share with wearwell’s community?
April: We LOVE partnering with wearwell and being part of your community — thank you for having us!