I thought I was on my way to really making it: I had just been hired as marketing director for a boutique global fashion brand based in Hong Kong. It was 2007 and I was on top of the world.
With one month’s notice, I sold my car and hopped on a plane from New York to Hong Kong with 2 pieces of luggage - one suitcase full of shoes. Soon I was flying business class to cities around the world organizing press events and photo shoots. It was fancy, and I worked my ass off.
But the fancy job sucked the soul and sunshine right out of me. Everything and everyone in my work environment was toxic to my health: physically, mentally, and spiritually. The work culture was shallow and manipulative. The traits I needed to thrive were those that didn’t make me happy nor a better person. What I thought was my dream job turned out to be one of the most trying periods in my life, but it was pivotal and it changed the course of my life. I put in almost two years, then I quit.
I vowed never to veer so far from my true self.
After 10 years of various attempts to find my place in fashion, I realized that I had to align my professional life with my personal values or I would never be fulfilled.
These personal values include being of service to humanity, entrepreneurship, discovering wild places, and cultivating a deep sense of self respect, integrity and love. Some of these are simple things; others are almost impossible to find in a job.
But then I remembered Mike Korchinsky of Wildlife Works, who had hired me years ago to help produce a fashion and environment event that was attended by Al Gore.
Mike founded a wildlife conservation company that employs seamstresses in rural Kenya to make fashion for the western market. This is what I was looking for! I reached out to him at a serendipitous time. He recently closed a round of funding and was ready to revamp their retail business.
He took me out to visit the factory at their Kenyan wildlife sanctuary located in the savannah. The expat management team was warm, wild and worked hard -- with their hands and their hearts. I fell in love with the local children and the culture of the rural Kenyan community. The local employees respected each other and knew the importance and impact of their work.
We worked full days and drove to lookout points in the bush for sundowners, the safari happy hour. We watched wild elephants roam through their natural homeland as the sun set on the savannah’s horizon.
Being in the presence of these huge, sentient, prehistoric animals in their natural habitat, I felt the core of my body sink into the depth of the earth and life’s origins.
This is what life is about. This is what living should feel like.
To keep these factory jobs going – jobs that replace poaching and deforestation – I dove deep into the world of ethical production. The deeper I got, the more heartbroken I became to learn how the global apparel production industry pollutes our planet and violates basic human rights and safety.
I started to change my consumption habits in all areas of my life. I stopped buying plastic bags and plastic wrap. I purchased everything more consciously, and slowly. I asked myself: do I really need it, and is there a more sustainable solution?
Then Rana Plaza in Bangladesh collapsed and killed over 1,100 people while they were making clothes for the biggest brands in the world. The cat was out of the bag. Consumers were asking brands for accountability and the demand for ethical fashion grew.
This tragic event instantly mobilized my activist spirit. A friend and I launched the Sustainable Fashion Alliance and organized events to educate consumers and convert conventional brands.
When I met Josh, he was discovering the same distressing facts about the corporate fashion machine. He entered the fashion world cold, after years in ocean conservation work. We connected deeply over the same values that I had vowed to keep close to mind and heart. We shared the same fervor for adventure, travel and beauty.
We first started designing the changing poncho because we needed it for our beach adventures. We continued designing it because we wanted to show like-minded people that there is a better way to consume. We realized that we were designing Marlin Ray, the brand, as a natural extension of our collective life experiences and spiritual values.
We hope you join our journey to discover how to live, work and play a little better for the planet.
Read Josh's story here.