This Mother's Day, we've interviewed our founder, Marci Zaroff, who also happens to have birthed the term "ECOfashion." After three decades pioneering global change in food, fashion & beauty, Marci's infectious positivity inspires everyone she meets. We hope we can capture it here. Enjoy!
Happy Mother's Day! How has your role as a mother shaped you as an ecopreneur?
As the mother to two organically-raised millennials, I've tried to live by the Native American proverb: “We do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children." I want to leave the world a better place for future generations and my vehicle for that transformation is fashion. Being a mother makes my actions all the more important and meaningful.
What inspired you to coin the word "ECOfashion"?
When I was in high school, I got Best Dressed; I always loved fashion. It was just one of my passions. After getting a business degree, I created a school in New York City that was one of the first places that people could go to learn about health and wellness, Gulliver’s Living and Learning Center.
One day one of my clients said to me, “You’ve turned us on to organic and natural food and beauty products. What about fashion?” There was definitely a missing link in the wellness equation. I decided to do some research and learned that 60% of a cotton plant actually goes into the food stream. I was dumbfounded by the many impacts of conventional cotton, like being the most heavily-sprayed agricultural crop. I wondered why I couldn’t find any organic fashion that I wanted to wear. Everything was crunchy, frumpy, boxy, beige, and boring. As a fashion lover, I had an epiphany of, “How do I marry these two worlds?” It was an ultimate white space opportunity and led me to launch my first apparel brand, Under the Canopy.
Did you have any mentors as you moved through your career?
While I was running Gulliver's Living & Learning Center, I met the founder of Aveda, Horst Rechelbacher, at an environmental conference. We bonded immediately. He said, “Let’s join forces. Let’s connect the dots of beauty and food.” So we opened the first Aveda concept salon in New York at the school, which had moved to its own Midtown home, also with an organic café, a national magazine, and a professional ‘health coach’ certification program — known today as “The Institute for Integrative Nutrition.”
Horst was a true visionary and a guiding light in my life. Not only was he using business as a force for good, but he was living proof that "alternative" philosophies, such as Eastern thought, plant intelligence, and indigenous concepts could actually form the foundation for a mainstream, successful company. One of the critical things that Horst inspired in me was that educating people about the environment starts with great design. Despite the fact that environmental impact is front and center in everything that I do, I have never forgotten that key lesson about the importance of aesthetics and visceral appeal as a conduit to activate change.
What do you think is the #1 change an individual can make in their lifestyle for optimum impact?
As much as you can, buy organic. Consumers have the power of voting with their dollars. Look at the organic food movement as an example. We have a collective power to change the world. By choosing organic products, we are transforming the soil, air and water into that which can continue to sustain life.
Thank you for bringing up organic. Why, exactly, does it matter so much?
Funny you should ask-- I just posted about this on Instagram for Textiles Day. [see right] Organic is not a trend or marketing ploy. It's a long-term solution. Our skin is our largest single organ and primary organ for absorption. Conventional cotton is riddled with toxic fertilizers and pesticides from the agricultural product itself, not to mention chlorine bleach, formaldehyde, heavy metals, and all the other harmful chemicals that are added in the dyeing, finishing and processing of a cotton textile. Since we are not just what we eat, but also what we wear, our choices absolutely make a difference on every level to our health and wellbeing. Organic agriculture can actually rebuild soil, reverse climate change, enhance the lives of the most vulnerable global workers and save water. YES, style... AND substance. Wear the change you wish to see in the world. (And also share what you learn with your friends-- and follow me on social to keep the learning journey going!) @marcizaroff
Where is your happy place?
I often say India is my happy place. I can't be there all the time and in fact, I had to delay my most recent visit there and it was extremely hard. In actuality, anywhere I'm living in truth, following my heart, having a sense of passion and purpose, being real, and being connected is my happy place. Those things just come easier to me when I'm in India, which is also where we grow and sew YES AND. When I'm in resonance – when my personal and professional values are in alignment and I'm living consciously and with integrity – I'm happy. Happiness comes from feeling grounded within.
What is your favorite quote?
“Work is love made visible,” by Kahlil Gibran. If you love your work, it’s not work, it’s love. And in the words of Gandhi, we must “be the change we wish to see in the world.” We are in this together, so individually and as a collective consciousness, we must design a positive, healthy and sustainable future for all.
How did you came up with the name "YES AND"?
As both an entrepreneur and consumer, I believe that products and services should strive to give people a way to buy what they love and seek, while ALSO making a positive difference to human and planetary health. There is a misconception that these two concepts are mutually exclusive. Life should not be about compromise. We shouldn’t have to settle for better-designed clothes or better-tasting food if they result in harm to our world. The ECOrenaissance (the movement I explore in my book with the same name) is about getting more — more value, more beauty, more health, more joy.
If we can experience life — with more delicious and nutritious food or more stylish and responsible fashion — while also regenerating the health of our planet, that is the ultimate win. It is how I live my life, and I want to share this vision with others.
Thank you, Marci, for sharing your light with us! Reach out if you have other questions at email@example.com!
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