When you think about the fashion industry and those involved, you may not picture Andrea Plell. Plell is a rare breed with a mission to promote ethical fashion practices and educate the public through her company Ecologique Fashion and REFIX Magazine. Genuine and compassionate about what she does every day from the way in which she treats others to what she wears, her good nature and intention is what draws people to her. In such a fast paced industry based on aesthetic, motion, and ‘the sell,’ it is not often that you meet someone who is more concerned about the impact that it is all having on our environment and ultimately each other.
You wear many hats in the ethical fashion industry: Ethical PR, Conscious Messaging, and Creative Services. How did you begin your fashion career and what led you to where you are today?
I kind of fell into the fashion industry really. I was working in sales and marketing and going to college full-time for business and felt a real drought of creativity and “soul” in my life. As I was previously an avid sketcher, painter, and writer I felt the need for constant expression and that’s when I found art direction and fashion photography- except I wasn’t taking the photos. I started out modeling for local designers and found that I had a knack for artistic concepts, styling, and creating a mood. I soon took a role behind the camera and directing and styling models of my own in order to create artistic scenes for ethical fashion clients who contracted to work with me. Upon graduation from college, I quit my corporate job and moved from Southern California to the Bay Area on a whim to grow my ethical fashion magazine– REFIX. When I arrived in San Francisco, everything happened so organically. I kept meeting more and more eco-conscious artists and designers who were in need of my skills. I also met several people involved in a project to regionalize garment production in Northern California called Fibershed. I am fortunate to have become one element of this effort towards a fashion micro-industry integrating locally sourced materials and Bay Area designers.
You have represented many eco-conscious brands over the years. What are some of the characteristics that you look for in a brand before you get behind them?
First of all, I look at intention. If someone wants to work with me just to make clothes that sell and has no interest in bettering the world in one way or another I have no interest in working with them. I want to work with compassionate people who not only want to sustain their own lifestyle through selling their garments, but to contribute to the lives of others- whether that is through using organic, chemical-free fibers, paying fair wages, adopting zero waste processes, recycling textiles, giving back to their community, etc. etc. I am a big believer in conscious, thoughtful creation- if you’re going to make something, make it well!
When you provide public relation services for a client, is it hard to tell them when they are doing something wrong? What approach do you use to guide a client in the right direction?
I appreciate my client’s efforts and know that they are always doing what they feel is best for their company, so for me it is sometimes difficult to express that they may be doing something wrong. To steer them in the right direction I usually refer them to case studies or other proofs of success when suggesting alternative actions. I’m actually very fortunate to have wonderful clients that carry much trust in me so I don’t often have this issue.
What has been the hardest part about launching your own firm and what advice do you have for start-ups looking to do the same?
Despite prolonged efforts in other past ventures, launching my own business really happened organically for me- where I was meeting people with similar goals at the right times and finding that they needed me and I needed them. I think the hardest part was realizing- “I have my own business, people depend on me” and not having that freak me out. I love helping people and I have a lot of pride in my work, so it’s very important to me to make sure my clients are happy. Showing my clients that I am confident in my work and compassionate about their needs gives them genuine value in working with my firm.
It is obvious you are an extremely creative person. What is your creative process like? How do you relax and take a breather from it all when you know you need a break and do your breathers have much to do with your creative process?
I have a very peculiar and spontaneous creative process. It really comes to me in spurts.
Although most of the planning and coordination happens weeks to months in advance, my most successful creation happens on the spot whilst filming, styling, photography, or editing. When I’m in the “mode” I can go for hours without a breather- my endorphins start pumping and my creative energy feeds me maintaining my focus without the distraction of time. In times where I feel extremely uninspired and have a photoshoot to direct or video to edit, I go to a pile of international fashion magazines, in my living room, or sites like pinterest for inspiration.