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Women Who Inspire

In Conversation

With Rachael Wang

 

Rachael Wang is a creative consultant, stylist and advocate for social and environmental justice. She is also a dear friend and longtime collaborator of the brand who is equally committed to creating a more just and sustainable fashion industry. Most importantly, she is a woman who inspires me, and I was delighted to speak with her about our work together, sustainability paradoxes, and what gives her hope.

Mara Hoffman: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

 

Rachael Wang: I am a stylist and a creative consultant. I consider myself a very sensitive person. I move through life by feeling and that's my guiding star through work and personal relationships. I love nature and the outdoors.

MH: Let's talk about how to balance the feelings part in this industry. We met each other because we were both at the same nexus of heartbreak and hope for something better within the fashion industry. How do you take care of that feeling part while also being vocal and active for change?

 

RW: That's a good question. I haven't figured it out. It's a constant work in progress. I think it's really about taking time—when you need it—to pull back. It's so easy to disassociate while working. When you work to integrate intentionality into your work, you're more vulnerable in your workspace, and I think that takes a toll. So, I think it's important to take breaks and to recalibrate.

 

I also think choosing carefully what types of projects you work on and with whom you work is important. The people that you surround yourself with in work either energize you or suck the energy away from you—I guess like any social interaction. But with work, especially with creative work, it's so collaborative that it's really important to work with other people that encourage ideation and create a safe space to be free with ideas and creation, as opposed to being closed off to that. That can be really exhausting and draining, to constantly be pushing against a wall. I think it's important to find people that are open to creating and collaborating at the same level that you are.

MH: What's your decision-making process? Is it a quick, instinctual “yes” or “no”? What's your process for saying “yes” or “no” to a new client, project, or an energy ask from you?

RW: I can do an immediate gut response if I'm meeting the client in person, or if I'm making a decision creatively, and I can see the space or the talent that I'm working with. If I'm working remotely, I have to do research because it's harder for me to get a read on [their] energy, for lack of a better term. And, like I said before, my feelings are my guiding light. I really trust my intuition.

MH: Let's jump to the big "S" word. Let's talk about sustainability, one of the many things that we have synergy around. I think that we both exist in the duality of conflict and hope with it. After many years of being in this industry, what does sustainability mean to you at this point?

RW: I think that the word is hard. The initial intention behind it has been lost because it's been used and abused, but I still believe in, and have hope for, incremental progress. I believe that the industrialization of fashion is not able to be fully sustainable. But I do think that we can move towards lower impact on the environment, better impact on workers, and addressing issues under the umbrella of sustainability. I do see so many brands, big and small, making changes where they can. The term “sustainability” has become quite trendy, and that has motivated a lot of brands to think about what it means and how they can implement it. On the one hand, there is green washing, but on the other hand, you have people thinking about what sustainability means to their brand that never would have thought about that. I have to believe, and I have to hope, that any change towards being more intentional is positive change.

MH: So, we met and started working together because we had a few people being like, "You two need to get together." Probably because we're both in fashion with similar philosophies. But for our first project, we made a funeral together. Do you remember that?

RW: Yeah. It's so interesting thinking about how our first time working together was that presentation, because when I think back to that time, I feel like we already had a trust. Or maybe we wanted to trust each other. I think that we both believed in each other's philosophy and wanted to let go into trust. But I think it's very symbolic of what we believe in and the work that we do, that we started with the funeral. We love to burn it down and start again, and I think that that's very symbolic to start at the end with a new beginning.

MH: Yeah, I think about that and how perfect it was for us to begin there. It was such a meaningful one for me, and so meaningful for you to come in, and the story behind it, or the word, the mantra, was: let it go to let it grow. I think we were all in that place at that time of needing something new to grow from what felt like a lot of things dying around us.

RW: It was a very public and formal first project to work on. It was a Fashion Week presentation, so I can imagine it took a lot for you to relinquish control to collaborate with someone. Ultimately, there's a lot of respect that we have for each other, and what I love is that we're really honest with each other and it makes me a better stylist to hear feedback from the person who created the brand. That's how we find the essence of the brand. This way, we can get in there, and I can understand and learn and we can grow together, which I think is really one of the beautiful aspects about collaborating together.

MH: Me too. Okay, so is there something that has been passed on to you, either that you've read or a piece of wisdom that has carried you and you come back to?

 

RW: I do. My uncle, who worked in the fashion industry on the business end for decades, once said to me, "Rachael, don't ask, don't get." And I was just so taken by that because it was not how I moved through life. That was not intuitive to me. I'm a much more subtle person. But I realized in order to be someone who owns her own business, who wants to stand for something, stand for many things that I believe in, to be able to communicate my ideas, I needed to have some strength to draw from. I think about this advice a lot and it empowers me and encourages me to speak my truth.

 

MH: And then, self care. Do you have a particular practice, or modality, or something that you come back to to restore?

 

RW: For me, it's more emotional than physical. Though physical practice is a big part of my lifestyle. I practice yoga and I love hiking and walking in nature. But, for me, it's more knowing when to withdraw. It's less about going and doing a physical exercise, or going and meditating, because I do all these things. I find that I'm able to care for myself best when I just ask, “Have I taken on too much? Do I need to scale back?” I have the tendency to take on too much because I am a perfectionist. I think sometimes self care is not going somewhere or doing something, it's just knowing how to scale back and knowing when to just take on less. Sometimes it's just being alone.

MH: Last question. What are you hoping for?

 

RW: I really hope that, in all relationships, playing games, or putting up a front, or puffing up and behaving in a performative way, can fall away, and that we as a society can become more vulnerable. I want us to continue to break down the barriers that we put up between each other so that everyone can just have a little bit more compassion for the flaws and the beauty and miracles that we all have and act upon every day. And I think that just giving each other that grace is going to allow the space that we need to grow in the right direction.

*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity

 

READ MORE: Behind Our Fall 22 Campaign

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