Meet our latest Modavanti Muse. We had the great pleasure to sit down with award winning journalist and sustainable fashion enthusiast Sarah Jones. It's not often that people come to our office looking super stylish in a completely head-to-toe sustainable outfit so needless to say we were excited to sit down and speak with her.
Moda: Let's talk about your incredible career. You qualified for the 2001 Junior Olympic Fencing championship. Do your colleagues know how well you can wield a sword and are they intimidated by it?
SJ: Ha, no they don't and not sure what they would think if they did. I had fun with it growing up. I love sports. I like trying unusual sports and that's a side of me that only my friends know about. I have been taking up motocross over the last two years.
Moda: After rising through the fencing you moved to journalism. What inspired you to take up the pen instead of the sword?
SJ: Actually, growing up I was Pre-med first but when I look back I was always on the path to journalism without always knowing it. At age 13 I wrote a magazine geared towards children and tweens about leukemia to raise cancer awareness. I cold called the American Cancer Society and they agreed to publish the booklet which was then picked up and distributed to patients by American Cancer Society, Cleveland Clinic, John Hopkins Hospital and Mt. Sinai. What attracted me to medicine was uncovering details about the diseases and helping people. It turns out fact finding and helping people through stories are fundamental principles of journalism as well.
Moda: You realized that your passion was journalism, what drew you to it to make a career out of it?
SJ: I love news. News and being a journalist allows me to be a megaphone and a camera for someone else to share their story and their experience. I'm grateful for people who trust me enough to share their story with others. Through their story we can help maintain an informed public. Take for example the nail story (which I was not involved in), it's amazing how listening to one another’s experiences. work have a lasting impact. Take the nail story in New York for example. After the times published that story, Governor Cuomo and the NY State legislature passed immediate protection laws. When I was younger I was involved in (The UN's) Millenium Development Goals as one of the top 100 youth activists against global poverty. Through that experience, I learned the importance of telling under reported stories and how sharing information in an editorially sound way can really help others to make informed decisions. My goal is still to help maintain an informed public, which is the backbone of an efficient society.
Moda: Poverty is a heavy topic. From there you got into human trafficking, a product of poverty and perhaps an even darker subject to tackle. What did you learn?
SJ: I started investigating human trafficking in 2008 again focusing on necessary but underreported stories. Forced labor is the most common form of human trafficking. I focused my investigation on sexual slavery of children but researched various other forms of human trafficking and soon discovered that the fashion industry and chocolate industry are among some of the largest industries built on forced labor. As I expanded my reporting to focus on forced labor, I found myself personally interested in learning more and more about forced labor in the things that I buy like clothes, food and furniture. A lot of our clothing in mainstream fashion are made at the expense of another human being. And as a hardcore (Henry David) Thoreauian I realized that I had a choice.
That I could and would only buy clothing made without slavery or another person's suffering. Global supply chains are pretty complex, but when it comes to fashion, in a lot of ways it can be straightforward.
Moda: So you made the bold and beautiful pledge to only shop sustainably? Incredible! How has it been?
SJ: It takes some work and research, but it's been so rewarding. When moving to New York I actually went to the extreme of making sure that most if not all of the furniture in my house (minus electronics) were ethically and sustainably made. I think the biggest misconception is that sustainable clothing can’t be cute. It doesn't have to be ugly. (Editor's note, Sarah is rocking her outfit!)
Moda: Do people know that you wear only sustainably and if so, what are their reactions? Are they surprised, blasé? Or in awe like we are?
SJ: When I get compliments on my clothing I will definitely bring it up and yeah, people are generally surprised and impressed. Most conversations start with "I love your bag" - then I tell them. Usually they then ask "what does ethically made mean?" That can get into a larger conversation, but I tell them it means that I know that my bag isn't harming anyone. I think friends get most excited when I tell them how how easily and affordably I can put an outfit together.
Moda: On Modavanti, we have 8 badges that certify how something is sustainable? Which badge(s) are most important to you?
SJ: Fair Trade, Made in USA, or Artisan -basically anything that insures people weren’t harmed in the process of making the item. To me it ties into how I want to live my life as a human being. I am totally stoked when I find something that is fair labor and eco-friendly. That's so exciting!
Moda: How do you shop sustainably? What do you look for? What's the process?
SJ: My criteria are finding clothing that is ethically made first, and if it's environmentally friendly too, that's a bonus. The environment is really important, but it bothers me some brands are eco-friendly but not people friendly. I try to only shop in stores where at least some of the items sold are ethically made. That's the first thing that I look for –I will go so far as to look for that oddly placed inseam tag to see where it is made and sometimes will Google the ethical practices of the store on my cell while I’m in there. Then style and then comfort and practicality. Because of my job it has to be something I can travel with and wear in different settings. Casual to dressy.
I shop for work. I look for the 2 or 3 pieces every journalist needs to have. Closed-toe shoes/boots (a bag - I'm obsessed with Angela and Roi). Like stuff that is really asymmetric, different, clean lines, modern, POCKETS. Pockets are so important!
Moda: Glad we are on the same page with pockets... What is your parting words to others out there who are new to sustainability in fashion.
SJ: The one thing that I truly believe and tell everyone is that you have the power of choice. As an informed citizen you can make a difference against companies that use forced labor in unsafe conditions, or bad environmental practices. I really believe that. It's 100% proven fact that if we come together and put pressure on companies and we can create change. It's the principle of economic withdrawal.
Gandhi did it in India against the British with the boycott. Thoreau did it. You have that power. You can vote with your wallet. And with the internet you can find these things. You have the power of knowing. In the information age, it's up to us.
Moda: At a young age, you've already had a distinguished career. What is the story that you feel still needs to be told?:
SJ: There are so many. Countless stories and topics that are underreported. I think some of the stories that are being most ignored are those of the native Americans, the Aborigines in Australia are hugely under reported, stories from civilians in Syria and Libya, the rate of HIV transmission in the prison system, the Rohinygas, the Karen people, stories of the differently abeled. If I had to pick just one story? That's too difficult. But These are stories I will continue to fight for.
Moda: Thank you for your time and a wonderfully engaging interview. Keep up the great work! To end on a fun note, what is your favorite piece on the site
SJ: Angela and Roi. I've had my eye on the red wine Moa Tote.
Also check out Sarah's Top Picks. Use the Promo Code SJREPORTS on Modavanti.com for 10% off her top picks below: