Finding Connection through Slow Fashion
If you’d have told me a year ago, when I was awaiting my Master’s diploma in the mail, that my first job post-graduation would be setting up traveling jewelry displays in direct sales, I’d have laughed right in your face.
But, here I am, 14 months later sitting at my desk with browser tabs full of graphics for the eight Trunk Shows I have lined up for Noonday Collection as we launch our fall line this month.
I have loved Noonday Collection and supported the company as an enthusiastic patron for the last five years. Yet, every time the opportunity presented itself to become an Ambassador I thought, “I love the products, but I don’t care about fashion enough to rep for them.”
In my mind, fashion was something that I was not allowed to care about.
It focuses on surface-level beauty.
It reduces women to who we are on the outside.
It’s a billion-dollar industry that gives nothing back to the world.
And, so on…
As a woman committed to raising daughters who care more about their minds than their clothing, I could not possibly work for a fashion brand. Right?
Over the next five years, I booked Trunk Show after Trunk Show with my local Ambassador, Kiersten. With every Trunk Show and every conversation, she broke down these unspoken, mostly unconscious barriers in my mind.
I slowly began to realize the difference between fast fashion and slow fashion.
Slow fashion, put simply, is a fashion movement that seeks to produce ethically made items created in safe work environments where workers receive fair wages and are treated with dignity and respect. In many instances, the slow fashion movement is also aiming for community development, minimal waste, repurposing items, and longer-lasting products.
Being a person who is passionate about social justice, this new side of fashion intrigued me. As I dove deeper into it, I learned how B-Corp companies, like Noonday Collection, are working together with people in their communities to spur economies, create jobs, combat poverty, forge communities, and bring people into dignified work that provides sustainable wages and honorable occupations not just for individuals but for families all over the world.
My interest was officially piqued.
I began slowly replacing my day-to-day products with items I could find in local, small businesses and Noonday Trunk Shows.
One by one my daily favorites have found their way from based in mass production to based in homes, families, and people whose names and stories are now part of my own.
And, you know what the most unexpected result has been?
I have made so many new friends.
First, there is Charity, who has overnight become an indispensable friend in my life. Charity is a small business owner who created a boutique with her daughter, Eisley. The pair of them are the girl party I didn’t know my house was missing. They make clothing and hair accessories and such a simple decision to dress my girls in Bows By E apparel has brought a friendship into my life that is so edifying. Our daughters became fast friends and we went from buying bows to, “wanna see Space Jam 2 tomorrow?” in an instant.
And, of course, there’s the local food scene! Jani’s handmade pastries at Heritage Bread Company are some of the best I have ever had. And Walkie Talkie Coffee?! I dare you to find a more fun set of baristas and a more unique coffee menu. It is not possible. These local spots are Northeast Ohio gems.
Then, there’s Stacey, Julia, Liga, and Denise: fellow Noonday Ambassadors and women I barely knew or didn’t know at all 10 months ago but in the last week alone have laughed with, cheered on, sat across the table from, and trusted with my children. We have made COVID care packages, prayed for each other’s families, checked on each other’s kids, and spent hours laughing over Nerd cluster candy and trying to figure out how to pry a phone out of a ring light.
However, the most important and unexpected relationship change of all is the one with my own daughters. Five years ago, Kiersten showed up at my house and set up an amazing display of pretty things that captivated their little girl minds. They dressed up in her jewelry, made wish lists, and asked one thousand questions. As Kiersten answered, my girls started learning how their decisions impacted the world around them.
They heard about Jalia in Uganda and Sunita in India. They learned about upcycled bullets and watched videos about fair trade. They heard Kiersten’s stories of traveling to Vietnam and Guatemala and meeting the very people who made the pretty things they were wearing.
One evening as I was working on promotional materials for our online marketing, my oldest got out of bed and came to sit with me. She began browsing through Noonday’s Vimeo channel watching video after video in the Style in the Making section. She was amazed at the work of our Artisan Partners and sat next to me captivated by their talents. After about 30 minutes of watching videos, she informed me that she hopes she can be a Noonday Artisan when she grows up.
The partnerships forged between Noonday and our Artisan Business Partners are so truly dignifying that my first-grade daughter aspires to be an Artisan Entrepreneur when she grows up.
My little girls are growing up knowing a fashion world that is such an anomaly I had to dig to find it. Yet, at 6 and 5 years old, it’s all they’ve ever known.
I thought fashion was only surface level?
How could purchasing cute accessories have led me to a passion for supporting local businesses and teaching my daughters entrepreneurial skills?
How could learning layering techniques for boho style trends have led me to raise funds for rescuing women, locally and globally, from sex trafficking?
How could hosting a Trunk Show to get a gorgeous bag have led me to friendships and belly laughs during the most isolated season our world has seen in recent history?
As with all things in life, our experiences are what we make of them.
If you want dinner to be easy, you can always hit McDonald’s. But, if you want it to be a healthy and edifying experience, you can find a recipe, take a trip to the farmer’s market, invite people over, and have a physically, emotionally, and spiritually fulfilling meal with friends.
It’s the same with fashion.
On the surface, these accessories pull my outfit together and make me look less like I just rolled out of bed with these ripped jeans and an oversized plain black shirt. In reality, my shorter-chained necklace was made by a woman discovering her value as she tries to leave behind a life of lies and abuse and discovers she is worth more than rubies.
The truth is, this longer necklace brings me to tears as I think of the hands that carefully crafted it and how every time I share her story, it empties my cup to fill hers. And these gorgeous, cobalt blue leather earrings? Yes, they’re a hot trend this fall, but they’re also a reminder to pray for the nation of Haiti where they are made. To remember the political turmoil our Haitian brothers and sisters are living in and the repercussions that have on every day of their lives.
Every adornment to our bodies tells a story.
Fashion is only as superficial as we make it.
So, here I sit in the same place I was just 14 months ago anxiously awaiting the arrival of the mail. Only this time, it’s a yellow package with Noonday Collection as the sender that I and a house of little girls are anxiously anticipating.
Meet Rachel Hunka
Rachel Elyse Hunka is a professor at Malone University and has a master's degree in Global Leadership from Fuller Theological Seminary. She is a writer and content developer for Propel Women, Bloom: Women in Church Planting, and the Tribe Collective. Rachel is also the Founder and Director of the Absurd Conference, a national conference that exists to see a reconciled world thriving in a celebration of Kingdom Diversity, and co-host of the Bless Up Podcast. Rachel lives in Canton, Ohio with her husband and three daughters. You can follow her on Instagram (@rachelelyseh) or find her podcast at absurdconference.com/go-