Q + A WITH POPPY BARLEY

 
 
 

WHAT GETS YOU OUT OF BED IN THE MORNING? 

I jump out of bed at 5am - I love mornings. I'm pretty selfish with my time between 5am-8am - I run/workout, I drink coffee, I read the news, I walk my dog with my husband – I only do things that make me happy. Then, I spend my working hours doing work I believe in alongside talented people I admire. The future motivates me - the unknown and the possibilities. Everyday, I’m optimistic a breakthrough will happen.

WHAT IS POPPY BARLEY TO YOU?

In the beginning, Poppy Barley was about re-thinking the footwear industry to create better fitting boots. Now, I see Poppy Barley as re-thinking how people feel about stepping into a pair of shoes. In our society, we give very little thought to things we buy/own. Every time, someone chooses a Poppy Barley product, I want her to feel part of creating a better future for our environment and people. My sister (and co-founder) refers to this as Poppy Barley being a platform for good. There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with this vision – always considering the environmental, human and social outcomes. And it has to start with designing beautiful shoes, because ultimately we only buy what we love.

 
 

WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP TO CLOTHING? 

I love clothes. What I wear conveys my mood and confidence. In my twenties, I started to dress more for myself (and less exactly like my friends). This stage was hugely experimental and I shopped cheaply all the time. In my late twenties, I began to care more about quality over quantity and started shopping more conscientiously instead of throwing my dollars at fast-fashion stores. Truthfully, I still buy way too many clothes. I want to love vintage shopping, but my patience is low. I like the idea of capsule wardrobes, but it doesn’t feel playful enough for me. And buying a new dress gives me a rush of excitement. Simply, I focus on only buying items I love (and therefore buy WAY less), support designers whose values match my own, and invest in quality. I tend to reach for these pieces because I feel good about myself when I wear them.

WHAT DO YOU THINK IT WILL TAKE FOR CONSUMERS TO BEGIN QUESTIONING WHERE THEIR CLOTHING IS COMING FROM AND HOW IT'S EFFECTING OUR EARTH? 

Brands and designers need to start the conversation. When it comes to clothes, most people don’t know the questions to be asking. When Justine and I started Poppy Barley, I became more aware of how my clothing and footwear choices impacted the environment and the lives of people making the product. We stood in factories. We met the workers. We visited tanneries. Every business decision was rooted in our values, and we discovered quickly the tradeoffs of every decision. We were close enough to the supply chain to ask a lot of questions. We witnessed both cringe-worthy practices and environmental innovations in factories that will positively change the future of fashion.

Brands are best positioned to be transparent about how fashion impacts our planet; we need to educate our customers.   As a brand, it’s an intimidating dialogue because the current way we manufacture goods is so imperfect (even for brands being mindful of the environment). The future belongs to those brands bold enough to say, “this has to change and here’s our vision to make it happen”. I have to believe that being transparent leads to awareness and education; and ultimately change.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR TIPS + TRICKS FOR CONSUMERS TO HELP CHANGE THEIR MIND SET ON CLOTHING? 

Hold up an item in your closet and ask yourself – Do you know how the fabric was made? Where it was made? Who made it? How much the person was paid to make it? How much did you pay for it? Be curious and ask a lot of questions to yourself and brands. With answers, find your comfort level with brands/designers. Then vote for those brands by swiping your credit card when you buy clothes/shoes.  

Start by buying less – think fewer, better. Owning less is the simplest place to start and has immediate positive impact on the amount clothing that ends in landfills. Don’t try to maximize your clothing budget (i.e. buy as many pieces as possible within your budget). Instead consider, what it may look like to buy 1 or 2 pieces with the same budget. When on a budget, consider hosting a clothing-swap with friends or buying gently used clothing. Your closet will slowly transform into fewer items and more pieces you really love.

And, be gentle with the process – change takes time.