Little Rock-based designer, Korto Momolu spoke with Econistas about what it means to be sustainable in fashion and how to incorporate that into her line with Woman Grow. Read more to hear what she’s learned thus far from being a designer, a mom, and eco-friendly entrepreneur!
Moises Mendez (MM): Why did you start using sustainable fabrics? Was there something in the industry that inspired you to start using these fabrics? Was it the texture of them that that feel better? What was the inspiration behind that?
Korto Momolu (KM): I feel like as a designer, as a consumer as well, I’m contributing to a lot of the things that clothing and fashion are contributing to our world disintegrating in front of our eyes, so I feel like I have to do my part. I can’t fix it myself. But if I can make the conscious decision to use better fabric, that’s my way of putting my two cents in the bucket, you know, and they’re not ugly fabrics, not bad. We use them every day. But maybe if I use more of them if it’ll help. [The fashion industry] all decided to make that conscious decision to say, hey, let’s use these products that are way less harmful to the environment, to our earth, to help our grandkids and our great, great, great grand actually have a place to live. If we don’t, they’re not going to or they’re going to live in a very polluted place where their lifespan will be 25, 30 max. I do think it was a social responsibility thing first more than anything.
MM: Do you think that high fashion is contributing to a lot of the plights in the world because of like climate change?
KM: Yeah, we are heavy jean-buying society. I have to admit I love denim. It’s easy and it’s changing with time. But in order for it to change and look different and look cool, they have to do so much to it. I think people just need to be more aware and figure out how can we still have these looks and not have to harm the earth as much. Some people may want to deny it happening. But climate change is real. We’re in the middle of winter and this is a beautiful sunny day here today in Arkansas and it’s February. We should be freezing right now.
MM: What are some ways that you’ve incorporated eco-sensitivity into your daily living?
KM: With the fabric, I’m using now and I recently just, I have to admit, just started really heavily recycling at home and if I catch anything in the trash, I’m like ‘Who put this in here?!’ I’m teaching my children to be a little bit more socially responsible in that way, where it’s not just something that mommy does or something we have to all do for the future. I have kids that I’ve kind of taken under my wing now. So if my son runs out of his clothes that don’t fit anymore, I have somebody who I can give that to, as well as my daughter’s [clothes] and we don’t just throw stuff out, we find someone to give it to and pay it forward.
KM: I’m actually mentoring two girls right now who are trying to make a sustainable line of denim. It’s a struggle. But I’m kind of in it with them to give them some advice throughout the way to see if they can really make it happen. So I think just I’m open to new things. I think just being open to new things and ways you can help.
MM: What would you say in your own words, is the difference between ethical, sustainable and eco-friendly? Do you think there’s a difference in which one would you use to describe your brand?
KM: I think they’re all married. There are married to a certain degree, I think, ethical period is this the thought before you even start anything. With eco-friendly, it’s the choices you make the conscious decision to make ethical materials. But they all have to be together You can’t just do one. you can just get up every day and so I’m just gonna recycle my plastic bottles but then buy heavily intoxicating denim. You can’t do one because one erases the other every time.
MM: On the topic of activism, who are three activists that you would like to dress and what do you envision for them?
KM: Wow, I think all my activists may be dead.
MM: I mean, you can still pick them!
KM: No one really, I mean you have people who are doing stuff now but I feel like the activism that I was kind of attracted to the ones that were about social change or like the Mandelas of the world. I just feel like they don’t exist anymore. We don’t have any Malcolm Xs or have any more Mandelas. We don’t have too many Mother Teresas, and I just feel like because of that our world is like running amuck right now. You have your feminist, we have this and that but I just feel like when we’re not talking about treating each other good as a whole and no one that just comes to mind right now that just does it for me that is focusing on that. There are individual people who say stuff on it, but no one’s dedicating their life to live like they used to be and I feel like we use the word activist and we give each other, we give ourselves these titles, but we’re not doing it. So looks like everyone’s gonna be naked because I’m not dressing anyone.
KM: I feel like during the 50s in the 60s and early 70s they’re willing to put their life on the line for. I don’t really feel like there’s anyone right now willing to die for their cause. They’re just doing it for the gram. They’re doing it for the numbers, or for the features, but they’re not doing it because they believe it to their core and they’ll die for it. That doesn’t exist anymore.
MM: Do you have any celebrities in mind that you would like to dress and envision something for them?
KM: I love Oprah! Oprah is like my hero. Aquarius, too. I love a lot of the things that she’s done with her life. Okay, but mostly where she’s chosen to use her money. I think she’s one of those people where she has put her money where her mouth is, and she hasn’t done it for all the reasons other people do it. She does it because it’s important to her and because it’s important to her is now changing so many different lives. She’s not just doing it here in America, she’s gone to Africa and help so many people there. So definitely Oprah is on my top choice.
KM: I love Ellen! She’s kind of one of the people I feel like she’s all about helping everybody understand that you have to treat people well. It doesn’t matter what you look like. I can respect that from her. She’s always the same person. She’s been doing it forever. So it’s not something that she just started doing because of this or that. I really feel like she’s a good person and she has a good heart and she wants to just help everybody one good deed at a time. I love her energy.
KM: Those are definitely my top two, I guess you could throw Beyoncé in there because she’s doing good things too. I mean who wouldn’t want to dress Beyoncé! She’s using Her platform for what it’s supposed to be for is that I totally have a lot of respect for her.
MM: Just out of curiosity, what color would you put Beyoncé in?
KM: Definitely yellow, yellow is my favorite color!
MM: Okay! I was thinking the same exact thing!
KM: I mean she looks good in pretty much everything. I haven’t really seen so many things that she looks like crap in. I think everybody looks good in yellow to a certain degree.
MM: When you started your business for having as long as you have, what are some things that you learned that you would have liked to know when you first started?
KM: Oh man, I mean that it wasn’t going to be an easy road. When I started. I was in my 20s I was invincible and nothing could stop me I could conquer everything and then I thought, ‘Oh wait, maybe I can’t do that.’ I think that there’s no age or amount of years that you’re going to just check and be like I’m successful now as a business owner like I don’t know that ever really comes for anybody because I feel like everybody still has growth even like really big companies still need to grow. Growth is something that once you feel you have no need to get better or changed, I think you really may just need to quit and start something else. When you can’t grow, you’re not living. Life throws you curveballs. I wish I had known then that I could just do it my way. I wish I knew then and had the confidence to know I could do it my way and not quote-unquote, by the book because I think the book fails you because that book is in that isn’t going to cover everybody.
KM: There are certain chapters that needed to be in the book that we’re missing that maybe should have been there for me or for john or for Susie. So we get through it and you do it this way. Every formula isn’t going to work for everyone. Sometimes you have to adjust the formula. I think we’re teaching our kids how to fail if we don’t teach them that this might be the formula but you might have to adjust it for you.
We asked Korto more questions, read the rest of the interview on Hueish!