My friend Caitlin Gemmell writes books, reviews the books she reads and writes about simple and sustainable living on her blog. She’s really talented, sweet and totally awesome.
CaitlinGemmell.com | @caitsdreamscapes
She featured an interview with me on her site recently and I wanted to share it with you. I thought it would be a good way for us to get to know each other a bit more and for you to see where Atonement Design came from and the mission behind it.
I'll also start to feature interviews on my site with people and companies doing cool things, so I thought I should start off the interview process with myself!
Here we go:
Q: When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in the fashion world?
A: At 8 years old, I received a jewelry making kit for Christmas from my grandparents. I always loved anything artsy or craft related, so jewelry making was easy to fall in love with. Sewing became a hobby early on and I was drawn to every evening gown I saw. I used to flip through magazines and fashion related books and drool over the gorgeous gowns. I later became obsessed with the Victoria & Albert Museum in London when I lived there for a short stint as a missionary when I was 18.
I knew I wanted to help people, but was torn between pursuing some type of creative business or a career in medicine and debated that into college. Finally, I transferred to Point Loma Nazarene University to study business with an emphasis on non-profit organizations. I learned more about the fair trade movement here and worked for a paper jewelry company that empowered impoverished refugees in Uganda with work that provided them with a sustainable lifestyle and education on entrepreneurial ventures. That job reinforced my lifelong desire to help people through creativity. It reinforced that I could help people through fashion and design and I started pursuing my dream even more. It wasn’t until after college that I began to realize the devastation within the fast fashion industry and got serious about my business. The more research I did on the industry, the more grief-stricken I became and the desire to change it was unavoidable. That’s when I launched the boutique aspect of my business. I wanted to show women that it was possible to be fashionable while living an ethically made consciously sourced and cause-based lifestyle!
Q: What made you wake up to the horrors of fast fashion and inspired you to make a positive change in the world?
A: I don’t remember the exact moment I became fully aware, but I do remember realizing it in pieces. I loved fair trade items back in high school and the story around them, but it took me some time to realize that if products weren’t made in a ‘fair trade’ manor, they may be providing a harmful lifestyle. I’m not saying everything needs to have a ‘fair trade’ label, but I realized when brands were secretive or unclear about their production methods, the truth behind them could be dire. It wasn’t until a little over a year ago I committed to buying clothes that supported a conscious lifestyle and it has been a remarkable transition.
Because of where I’m at with conscious living currently, it’s hard for me to understand the lifestyle I lived before. I used to buy cute clothes without batting an eye. If I liked something, I bought it. I didn’t think about who made it or the repercussions of my purchase. We vote with our dollars each day and I want my vote to empower humanity and support women in raising up the generations to come.
I believe we should implement our values in every aspect of our lives to the best of our abilities and I believe if everyone does their small part, we can change the world around us.
Q: Tell us a bit about the causes you support and why you chose those particular ones?
A: I named my business Atonement because I wanted it to be a source of restoration- I wanted to take everyday actions and make them into something purposeful. When I look for causes and brands to support and carry in my shop, I lean heavily towards those that have the same vision.YIREH is one of the awesome brands I feature in my store. They design beautiful boho clothes that are made by artisan groups in Bali. They pay their employees a fair wage, give them benefits and paid time off and they donate proceeds to the International Justice Mission to fight against human trafficking.
My jewelry line that’s a part of my store also reflects that mission. I’m currently working to partner with an organization that pulls women out of sex trafficking and teaches them jewelry skills so they can build a sustainable income and a new life. They will then make my designs for me and we will further aid in the fight against sex trafficking! My jewelry line will be sold across the USA, and I can't wait!
Q: Where do you see yourself in ten years? What vision do you have for Atonement Design?
A: In ten years I hope to have multiple storefronts that carry ethically made and cause-based products that encourage women to shop consciously. I hope to be a small part in changing the way women think about their purchases and I’ll strive to make people more aware of the supply chains that are currently being used to make the clothes we wear daily. I love fashion, I always have, but I never want to love something at the expense of another woman’s well being- and that’s what the current industry is asking us to do.
I also hope that my line within Atonement expands to clothes, bags, and home goods that can bring restoration and employment opportunities to survivors of human trafficking around the world. I hope these products will not only be carried by my own shops, but by stores across the country. Within these dreams, I also hope that Atonement Design can curate a large community of women that can help each other along this journey of conscious living. It's one that can feel lonely at times, and I hope to guide women into a sisterhood that can make them feel supported and make them feel at home.
Q: What are some of your other hobbies/interests?
A: My husband works in the wine industry here in Sonoma County, so we go to wineries with friends and family a lot on our weekends. It’s a pretty great perk! When I’m not sipping on local wines and brews, I can usually be found baking or in the midst of a craft project at home, traveling to somewhere new with my husband or at a coffee shop with a book or study. I would love to say I can typically be found at the gym in my free time, but unfortunately, that’s not the truth! I hope to one day be an expert yogi and I would love to lead classes!
Q: Is there a particular color palette you are drawn to?
A: I’m currently loving anything rust, gold, evergreen, and deep blue! I want to re-do my bathroom with emerald green accents- but that’s going to be a project for next year :)
Q: How has your style changed over the years, or has it remained fairly consistent?
A: Oh, I’ve always been an odd duck when it comes to fashion! I was OBSESSED with hats when I was a kid and wore berets, wicker hats and the vintage hats that previously belonged to my grandmother- I never left home without one. In middle school, I dressed far beyond my age bracket (and not in a good way). I wore little heels, faux fur pink shawls, broaches and beaded wool sweaters from local thrift shops. I also tried to implement my pink ‘Jesus is my homeboy’ trucker hat whenever it was possible. I wore leg warmers with my skirts before they were in style, and no, I wasn’t perceived as a trendsetter. In eighth grade, I hit my peak of weird. I transferred to a private school that had mandatory uniforms, but of course, I did NOT want to dress like everyone else. So, I purchased bright yellow mary janes, leg warmers, gold eyeshadow, and blue glitter eyeliner. It didn’t go over well at my new conservative Christian middle school- which confused me because I felt God made us different from one another, not to conform to a uniformed population (I've since understood the purpose of uniforms for middle schoolers and I think they can be a great thing).
On free dress days, I would wear my pouffy white skirt that had cowgirl boots printed all over it, a yellow tank top, a pink tank top, a white tank top (I had to layer because it was cool), and a blue T-shirt. The outfit paired so well with my yellow mary janes and leg warmers. Did I mention my grandma was a clown? Literally. She was featured at my early birthday parties- maybe that had something to do with my outfit choices…
In high school, I mellowed out a little bit. I wore Abercrombie and Hollister and other cool kid things, but nevertheless, I couldn't resist a vintage sweater, dress or scarf. Every once in a while, I would be a little more true to my odd self and dress in my thrift store finds.
I’ve since figured my style out a bit more. I still love vintage inspired products, but also love simple bohemian finds that I can accessorize to fit my mood. I love anything I can layer and be easily dressed up or down. I like to think my fashion sense has developed over time for the better- same with my jewelry designs. I loved big chunky statement pieces perfect for special occasions, but I’ve mellowed out there too. Every day can be a special occasion, but they also don’t have to be and I’ve learned to like that variety.
Q: Describe your favorite go-to outfit for an evening out.
A: I love anything versatile! I have a soft spot for dresses that can be worn in any situation by accessorizing and styling it properly. With that said, I’ve been obsessed with the new wrap dresses in my shop and wear my blue Hibiscus Flower Maxi constantly. It’s a beautiful deep blue color with gold flowers that have been hand painted by artisans in India using their traditional block printing technique. I’ll then dress it up with all the gold jewelry I have, making it perfect for any evening out (in California, haha)!
My favorite part about the wraps is getting away without a bra! I hate those wretched things and I’ll happily take any opportunity they can be nixed!
Q: What does a conscious lifestyle mean to you? How are you implementing it in your everyday life? What aspects of your life are you still looking to grow?
A: We’re all created differently and we all have different passions. My journey of conscious living will look different from my neighbor’s and we can all learn from each other. For me, I’m starting with my closet. If I can’t buy products that I know are ethically made, then I try to borrow or buy second hand. Because of where I live in California, I don’t have many pieces suited for cold weather. My husband and I were on a recent trip to Nashville, so I ended up borrowing clothes from my cousin. We have similar taste and she has a lot of sweaters and long sleeve shirts, so for the time, her closet became my closet which minimized my footprint and kept me from buying something that I would most likely never wear again.
I still have a long way to go. On the list are my body, my kitchen, and my environment. Next year I want to implement more health conscious decisions so I can be the best version of myself throughout this process. I’ve been battling health issues over the last couple of years which lead me to large amounts of stress and a LOT of artificial hormone injections. I want to cleanse my body and refocus on healthier meal choices and exercising more.
With our kitchen, I want to focus on buying locally sourced foods, buying seasonal products, directly supporting California’s farmers and growing some of our own foods (well, have my soil scientist husband grow food for us, haha).
Environmentally, I’d like to rid our house of single-use items and eventually buy a vehicle with lower emissions or no emissions at all.
That’s all folks. That was my interview with the lovely Caitlin.
I hope you enjoyed learning more about Atonement and the story behind the brand!