We were first introduced to Sica Schmitz during the time the True Cost movie came out. Sica was doing a lot of marketing for the film and even held a screening, which we could not attend because we were across the country, but we did watch that night in Brooklyn thanks to her enthusiasm.
It always feels like such a breath of fresh air to find people like Sica, who not only get what you are trying to do, but are 10 steps ahead you!
Sica Schmitz founded Bead & Reel, which is a place you can shop for ethically made clothing, be it Vegan, upcycled, made-in-America or whichever 13 of her ethical criteria is of importance or interest to you. Purchases from Bead & Reel go towards a different charity, which rotates each month. Sign up here for information on the next ethical fashion show Sica will host, not the least of the projects on which Sica is working!
ML Dreams: Sica Schmitz, Founder and Curator of Bead & Reel, Los Angeles, CA
madeLOKAL: What was it that caused you to start to evaluate on your own clothing purchases?
Sica: While in fashion school and then during my career in costume design I was vaguely aware of many of the problems within the fashion industry, and while they made me uncomfortable I managed to ignore them for much longer than I wish I had. There wasn't one specific "ah-ha!" moment that led me to start to reevaluate my own purchases, but instead it was the cumulation of lots of small realizations about the huge human, animal, and environmental cost to the clothes that we buy until ultimately I decided that I couldn't in good conscience participate in that kind of fashion anymore. I try to remember that with everything we do at Bead & Reel: most things aren't changed overnight, but planting the seeds that allow people to make changes when they are ready is so important.
madeLOKAL: How did you choose 'Bead & Reel' as your company name?
Sica: Most people think it's just random words I threw together, but it's not! I wanted something unique, gender neutral, and meaningful. I was an art history major in college and have always loved art and wanted to subtly include that in my company. I came across the architectural motif called bead and reel and loved how it combined my love of fashion and film (bead and reel) with art.
madeLOKAL: You held a 'True Cost' screening when the movie first launched. Was there any notable conversation post film?
Sica: Yes! We actually had quite a few costume designers at our screening and many of them came up to me afterwards absolutely shocked at how much they hadn't known about what was happening in the fashion industry. They all expressed the desire to change how they shop for their film and television projects, and that was so exciting.
madeLOKAL: Describe the ethical criteria for which you shop.
Sica: The ethical criteria for which I shop are the same that I use to choose what to carry in Bead & Reel: being thoughtful to people, animals, and the world. Everything must be sweatshop-free, vegan, and eco-friendly or giving back (or preferably both!). Additionally, for my own personal purchases, I only buy things that I absolutely love and plan to wear 100 times, since textiles waste is a huge issue I am trying to avoid contributing to. Through my journey into ethical fashion I've learned to create relationships with meaning pieces instead of buying disposable "junk" and it really has changed what I want to buy.
madeLOKAL: What do you think are the most challenging categories to shop for in terms of meeting your ethical criteria?
Sica: I find each individual category quite easy to shop, I think it's the "and" that makes it more challenging. Vegan AND sweatshop-free can be challenging, fair trade AND organic can be challenging. Challenging, but not impossible! It's also why I think it is so important to support and shop from the designers that are going out of their way and making these more challenging kinds of products, and why I get so much pride carrying them at Bead & Reel.
madeLOKAL: What is the most rewarding part of Bead & Reel?
Sica: What I love most about Bead & Reel is the ripple affect it has. I get to make a difference every day in my own small way with our products and stories, which helps our customers make a difference in their own small way with what they buy and learn, and it creates ripples of change. We don't have to do huge things to change the world, just small things every day that inspire others to do the same.
madeLOKAL: I read that you were a Costume Designer in your past life. What was the most memorable costume on which you worked?
Sica: When I was working on the TV show Castle we had an episode that took place at a comic book convention and we created a robot costume out of cardboard recycling that I brought from my home!
madeLOKAL: Do you have pets of your own and are there any animal causes that are particularly close to your heart?
Sica: I absolutely love animals and am a bit of an aspiring crazy cat lady. I have adopted many cats in my life though I currently don't have any pets of my own right now. Being an entrepreneur takes up so much of my time and I know that it wouldn't be fair to have an animal that I couldn't give my full attention to, but I very much look forward to when that changes!
Fortunately I still get lots of time with animals. I have many stray cats in my neighborhood and work with Kitty Bungalow to TNR (trap - neutral - release) and I actually just did a photoshoot last weekend with Echo Bark and Bead & Reel to help their shelter dogs find forever homes. I also sponsor 2 cats at Peninsula Friends of Animals and help with costumes at Kitty Bungalow's annual CATbaret fundraiser, along with making a point of having Bead & Reel's Charity of the Month be focused on animal welfare every other month. Animal adoption and ending animal testing for cosmetics are both things I am very involved in and are very close to my heart.
madeLOKAL: Can you share the most important fact you think everyone should know about Vegan shopping?
Sica: That it's so easy and stylish!
I could horrify you with facts about where fur comes from, the affects of leather on the environment, and the human rights abuses within animal agriculture, but all of that is easily available information for those who want to know, so instead here's my favorite fact: with vegan fashion you don't have to sacrifice style, quality, cost, or other lives.
madeLOKAL: How easy or hard is it to have a 100% Vegan wardrobe
Sica: It's much easier than you would think! Vegan fabrics are incredibly innovative and often superior to animal derived products in terms of quality and durability (not to mention more compassionate and usually kinder for the environment). Faux has come a long way and you can easily get the look and feel of leather, fur, silk, wool, and down without using any animals. There are so many vegan fashion bloggers, vegan designers, and vegan stores (like Bead & Reel!), that once you start looking for vegan style you'll discover it's everywhere.
madeLOKAL: If your dream could come true, what one item would the world stop buying?
Sica: Animal products. In our modern world they are entirely unnecessary, and I think we're getting closer to this shift happening. How exciting!