From Army to Sustainable Fashion: Dani Alvarado’s Journey to Start Sustainably Kind Living

Wearwell's Co-Founder, Emily Kenney, chats with Dani Alvarado of Sustainably Kind Living about her journey in sustainable fashion and her tips for sustainable living.

Emily Kenney: Hi, Dani! Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to start Sustainably Kind Living.

Dani Alvarado: I swear, every time I answer this question, I think to myself: should I tell everything or just jump to the good part?! It's a long and winding road that got me to this place in my life and, most notably, to this career path. I was born and raised on the south side of Chicago and left for the military to fly around the world at 20 years old. I felt very stuck in my hometown and family life (even though it was full of love and care) and I left within two weeks of signing a contract. I trusted my gut instinct that day and promised to always listen to her from then on.

Fast forward 17 years, and here I am, writing this from a Mediterranean Island, some 6,000 miles from all of my family and friends, as a USN Veteran and now CEO of Sustainably Kind Living, mother of two (with one more on the way!), and self-proclaimed outdoor couch potato (because my office is my couch and I constantly keep it outdoors to feel closer to nature).
Dani Alvarado, Sustainably Kind Living | Wearwell sustainable, eco-friendly fashion and accessories

I left the military (gut instinct) to travel Asia and Europe (gut instinct), which eventually led me into the embrace of a human and a country (Italy) that I fell deeply in love with, and it was there where I became a mother, a wife, and an Earth advocate. I did not learn how to be sustainable from Instagram or pretty photos. I learned from giving up all luxuries and comforts of my past life in the US to live a humble and simple life in a small village in the mountains.

It was here I learned what sustainable living truly meant: living within our means, making our own food, bartering, trading, mending, repairing, and going without luxuries like dryers, air conditioners, and cars. We lived as janitors in an elementary school and even as gatekeepers in an Italian cemetery. I learned a lot and was humbled. I scraped by and through all of this, I started to write about my journey and never stopped. My gut told me to write and that's what I still do to this day. And that is how Sustainably Kind Living was born.

Emily: Wow, I love how life takes twists and turns, but following your gut is always a good idea! If you could describe your sustainable fashion philosophy, what would it be?

Dani: I dress for my real life - not for my "wish" life. I work from my couch and take beach walks. I'm not going to a Met Gala or fashion show any time soon. Know thyself and dress accordingly. 

And also - be content with who you are. There's nothing wrong with the mom-life, couch-life, stained-apron, sweaty-brow life. There's a saying that I love from The Princess Diaries: “Life is pain, your highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” 

Dani Alvarado, Sustainably Kind Living | Wearwell sustainable, eco-friendly fashion and accessories

Emily: I love “know thyself and dress accordingly” - I will remember that one! What do you think is the biggest misconception about sustainable fashion?

Dani: That fast fashion in a closet is unsustainable. This is a terrifying concept considering most of us have fast fashion from years past in our closets. We need to rewear those pieces until their life is over (and mend if you can make it last longer!). The idea that we have to be perfect to be sustainable can really cause disaster. 

I cannot tell you how many times readers and friends have asked if they should just get rid of all their old fast-fashion purchases (it's 90% of their closet!) to swap with sustainable fashion. We had to dedicate about a month to this topic in 2022. Now, mind you, if you are looking to go the organic clothing route due to allergies or health concerns, then finding a new home for your old fast-fashion pieces is a good idea. But for the sake of sustainability - it is not necessary. 

Dani Alvarado, Sustainably Kind Living | Wearwell sustainable, eco-friendly fashion and accessories

Emily: Absolutely, wearing and what you have is the easiest sustainable step people can take. And the same approach applies to kitchen and home goods - use what you have for as long as possible! What’s a sustainability hack you think more people need to know?  

Dani: If you're like most of the Sustainably Kind Living readers, you will have a lot of old fast fashion pieces in your closet. My biggest hack is to build a capsule wardrobe (I like to do two seasons, but if you're a super fashionista, four seasons could be great) and use your old pieces in the closet to help build the base. Once you have it all written out and it's clear where the holes are in your closet (think pencil skirt, crop jacket, blazer, etc), then you will want to fill those gaps with quality secondhand pieces or new sustainable fashion pieces. I personally love to buy sustainable fashion secondhand - the prices are amazing.

Emily: If you could give fashion brands a piece of your mind about sustainability, what would you say?

Dani: If you're a USA or Canadian brand and you are not going above a size 2XL, you've got work to do. And while we are on the inclusivity topic, let's also not forget how vital gender-neutral options are as well. It's 2023, folks!

Dani Alvarado, Sustainably Kind Living | Wearwell sustainable, eco-friendly fashion and accessories

Emily: YES! It’s really a no-brainer to our team to carry inclusive sizing and gender neutral options. We started offering sizing up to 5X a couple years ago and are constantly working to expand our size offering to be as inclusive as possible. What’s next for Sustainably Kind Living - any new things that you’re looking forward to?

Dani: Our beautiful team is constantly expanding and we are looking forward to launching our new directory at the end of this year. We also just went through a whole rebranding with the amazing team at Terra Digital in Canada (we love them) and are thrilled with the results. I'm not much of a "hustler" so that's really all I got on the books for 2023. 

Emily: Congrats on the rebrand and team growth! Anything else you want to share with wearwell’s community?

Dani: Trust your gut in everything - even when it comes to sustainability. If it feels icky or off or too good to be true - it's because it is. 

Inspired and ready to shop with brands that align with your personal mission? Shop by your values at wearwell.

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