Natalie Shehata: A Creative Woman With A Conscience
tommie magazine is a new online indie mag for ethical and sustainable fashion and living, at its simplest description. I found the platform via Instagram (per usual) and was immediately intrigued by the mission, aesthetics, and execution of this amazing new media and fashion site. Natalie Shehata, the founder, editor, and stylist, among other things, of tommie was an absolute pleasure to work with for this interview. She, like me, lifts others, who also work toward making the world a better place, up through her platform. Natalie likes to call them 'creative women with a conscience'. I had the pleasure of digitally communicating with the Australian creative, and we talked all about sustainable fashion, the new tommieplatform, and how people like me and you can start to consume ethically. This is Pink Things's first interview in a while, and I promise it's a goodie.
Sarah Sickles for Pink Things: Can you tell me about yourself?
Natalie Shehata, Founder of tommie magazine: I’m an eco fashion stylist based in Sydney, Australia. An eco stylist is someone who uses sustainable and/or ethical clothing alternatives to style and create outfits. For me that usually includes pieces purchased from vintage stores and secondhand items sourced from thrift shops (we call them op shops in Australia), flea markets, and garage sales.
I’m also the founder, director, editor, and stylist behind tommie magazine, ‘the destination for creative women with a conscience’ — a new online community of mindful media that challenges mainstream fashion and traditional media content through topics of ethical and sustainable style, slow living, and storytelling.
Pink Things: Okay, so what is tommie mag? Why did you start it?
Natalie Shehata: I started the tommie platform out of frustration as a freelance stylist who wanted to see change in the industry. I was looking for an opportunity to tell editorial stories through the lens of slow fashion and, although the creativity and storytelling are there, mainstream fashion magazines don’t accept these editorials — there aren’t products to advertise and monetize on their end — and they don’t see the value in publishing editorials for the sake of craft and storytelling. As someone who has always been an advocate and ambassador for slow fashion, I felt the need to shine a light on secondhand clothing.
tommie is telling the visual fashion stories I’ve always wanted to tell, knowing that the items have been created with thought, care, and a moral conscience. In doing this, tommie also showcases brands and designers committed to the slow fashion movement through a zero-waste approach and environmental awareness.
Part of the tommie platform is the ‘tommie shop’, where I hand source and curate an online store — you don’t need to compromise style when buying secondhand. This shop serves as an educational tool into the sustainability of fashion by investing your money into a circular fashion economy — through purchasing secondhand; you actively make the choice not to buy new. It’s important for me to show that you can be stylish whilst not harming or damaging people and our planet.
Another motivation for starting the tommie platform, and why it is specifically targeted towards women, is the stereotype that women in the creative, art, and fashion industries are frivolous. That is how the slogan, ‘creative women with a conscience’, was born. tommie engages with women who are actively committed to making this world a better place through their creative pursuits and endeavors — they care about people and the planet over profit. They are women who want to do better by being better. I wanted to give these women a voice and space to showcase their work.
The final dimension of the tommie platform is community, consciousness, and inclusivity. I want to create a safe, non-judgmental space for women to share their experiences — we can only grow and evolve as humans when we allow for this vulnerability and truth.
Pink Things: Why did you decide on a publishing platform?
Natalie Shehata: I consciously decided on an online digital magazine because a physical magazine would compromise the philosophy of sustainability by adding another product to the world. tommie is a multi-disciplinary site with in-person events and a podcast coming soon; so an online platform seemed to make the most sense. Also, I want the content to be easily accessible for all people — to create an inclusive community where you can visit the site and take from it what you need at any given time.
Pink Things: What are some of your goals with tommie?
Natalie Shehata: I hope to prove that secondhand fashion is all about style and individuality — you don’t need to compromise. I also want to create a platform for diversity and break down the stereotypical beauty standards of conventional magazines. The tommie platform is all about inclusivity, whether that is through showcasing different shapes, sizes, aesthetics, or differing viewpoints on life.
Pink Things: Who are some of the people you feature? Why?
Natalie Shehata: tommie features women in any creative field who are conscious of Mother Nature and challenge the status quo. tommie features these women in ‘creative women with a conscience’ conversations and they explain how to prioritize ethical and sustainable fashion and slow living, and, in doing so, affect positive change in their professional and personal lives. tommie gives these pioneers a space to communicate their mission and philosophy.
Pink Things: Tell me about how you got into slow fashion.
Natalie Shehata: Slow fashion is the only fashion I’ve ever known. When I was growing up I never really looked like anyone else and I was never one to ‘fit in’ per se. This very much reflected in the way I dressed and what I chose to wear. I was quite eclectic and would pattern clash a lot!
I grew up in an under privileged household where the majority of my clothes were hand-me-downs or purchased from thrift stores and from a very young age it was instilled in me to have respect for my belongings. I was very conscious of my clothes because I knew I wouldn’t get a replacement. I actually credit becoming a stylist to this disadvantage because I had to be more creative.
So, as someone who has never worn fast fashion, I feel as though I have a stylist’s obligation (the communicators of fashion), to change the way fashion is perceived. I’ve made a promise to myself to no longer take on styling jobs that require using brands that aren’t ethical or sustainable. It doesn’t make sense that in my personal life I don’t buy or wear this kind of fashion, so I’m not going to sell or advertise it. And I haven’t broken that promise.
Pink Things: What are your thoughts on fast fashion in comparison?
Natalie Shehata: I think the biggest issue with fast fashion is disposability. The nature of fast fashion is garments that are not made to last or wear well. This very idea creates a throwaway society. We don’t look at our clothes as pieces that have potential for longevity, neglecting the value.
Fast fashion is an environmental issue as well as a human rights issue. Many of the people who are working in production are exploited; working in unsafe conditions and being grossly underpaid for the work they do. Also, 80% of garment workers are female, so we need to address the fact that fashion is a feminist issue. Your cheap dress costs someone somewhere.
Society, in general, is very disconnected and doesn’t question who makes our clothes, where they are made, what kind of processes and techniques are used to make them, or how many resources are used in their making. There are definitely shifts and changes happening around sustainability awareness, but it’s not really something that is addressed and discussed on a mainstream level.
Pink Things: I love that you’re building a community of educated and environmentally conscious creatives through events. Can you comment on the importance of community to you personally, to tommie, and conscious consumerism?
Natalie Shehata: Community is definitely important to me and something I really want to facilitate through the tommie platform. The idea behind the “community” section is to really put into practice what I preach on the site and see the fruits of my labor come to life in the real world through discussion, collaboration, connection, and idea generation. It’s by sharing that we grow and learn from one another and improve upon our daily habits and behaviors. I hope that conventional ways of thinking will be challenged through the hosted talks, interactions, and other events tommie has in store.
Pink Things: What are your thoughts on the color pink in relation to sustainable and eco-friendly creativity?
Natalie Shehata: The decision to include pink as a part of the tommie branding was definitely a conscious one. I wanted to showcase that although the platform is a space for important issues and the content revolves very much around authenticity, integrity, and substance, you can be a woman who is an advocate for socially conscious issues and like the color pink. It doesn’t take anything away from your intelligence or integrity as a woman.
Pink Things: What would your advice be for anyone starting to seriously think about their eco-footprint and how to consume ethically?
Natalie Shehata: One of the first things people want to do when they start out on an eco-fashion journey is consume perfectly. There is no such thing as a brand that is perfectly ethical or sustainable and trying to strive for this perfection can lead to what’s referred to as ‘eco-fatigue’. So, instead of trying to consume perfectly, strive for mindfulness and intent — whether it be with food, fashion, beauty, or anything else.
As confronting as it may sound, as long as humans exist on this earth, we will need resources to survive, and in doing so, this costs us the planet we live on. This doesn’t mean, however, that we should be careless and reckless in the way we consume. Here are some helpful things you can do:
Look at who you already have in your wardrobe and do a closet cleanse.
As a stylist, I always say, “If you haven’t worn an item in the last year, you’re never going to wear it again.” Donate these clothes to a charity of your choice — they’re bound to be loved by someone.
A great way to introduce yourself to eco conscious purchasing behaviors is to hit up your local thrift store, vintage store, weekend flea market, or garage sale. A lot thrift stores are affiliated with charities, so not only are you diverting clothing waste from the landfill, but your money goes to those less fortunate — it’s a win-win for all!
Learn the craft of mending and repairing.
So many people throw things out because of small mishaps like a button falling off. Get acquainted with a sewing kit and learn simple repair skills that will see your clothes last longer.
One of the reasons people say they don’t purchase clothing from brands that are certified as ethical or sustainable is because they are more expensive. This isn’t untrue, but there should be a mentality shift around our shopping behavior. If you’re looking at cost-per-wear, sustainable items will actually last a very long time. My advice is to acquire fewer things, and have them be very good quality.
Choose a value system when you’re shopping.
As mentioned, no brand is perfectly ethical or sustainable and very rarely is one both. Pick something you are passionate about. If you are concerned about the environment, then sustainability should be on your mind when shopping. Are they organic and eco-friendly? Some fabrics to look for are organic cotton, organic bamboo, tencel/cupro, and items that are made from recycled plastics.
If you’re shopping from an ethical perspective, you’ll look for brands that offer transparency around a value-based system. Make sure that workers are paid fair wages, animals are treated with dignity and care, and that the brand is an equal opportunity employer.
Pink Things: Is there anything you would like to add?
Natalie Shehata: Remember there are no rules in life when it comes to individual style and don’t forget clothes are all about fun!