The Healthy (Conscious) Interview: Elim Chu
Something you probably don’t know about me? Fashion was my first love, before food.
As a kid in Terrace (16 hours drive due north from Vancouver), I spent my weekends watching Fashion Television and sketching (very poorly) the clothing I saw. I knew exactly which day Vogue arrived in my local corner store, and I would scrounge up the $3.75 I needed to buy it. I am pretty sure the clerk thought I was buying it for my mom…but it was 100% for me.
With the arrival of fast fashion, the thrill of being able to afford fashionable clothing sent me into a tailspin. I spent my 20s trying so hard to stay on trend that I ended up with bags of stuff I never wanted to wear again. In my 30s, the arrival of kids has made me realize how little I want additional stuff in my life…the more streamlined my closet became, the easier it was to get dressed – and the happier I was with how I looked.
Which is why you need to meet Elim. I met her this fall at a Wimmin Collective event, learning about her journey as Stylist No 1 at Lululemon to her eco-conscious, anti-stuff approach to getting dressed. Since we are all being whipped up into a Black Friday frenzy right now, I thought it was the perfect time for a gut check about how we spend our money…and how we re-evaluate our relationship with getting dressed.
As someone who loves fashion, but finds the ‘more, better, different’ ethos that drives it at odds with her values, I was immediately struck by your approach to mindful consumerism. Where did this all start for you?
It all started when I moved from a detached home with multiple closets into a 500sq. ft. one bedroom apartment with my husband. In an effort to be a good roommate and share what little closet space we had, I downsized 3 full size closets and the experience was both liberating and depressing.
Liberating, in that I was forced to free myself of clothing I didn’t like or want and depressing in seeing the VOLUME of clothing I had been accumulating. Having so much storage allowed me to collect without much consequence.
If I didn’t wear something, it would get pushed into the back of a drawer or closet. It also allowed me to shop indiscriminately because I wouldn’t see everything I owned in one place. It was embarrassing to count that I had over 100 pairs of shoes.
Our move was 4 years ago and I still continue to edit and refine what I own. If I’m buying something brand new, it HAS to have purpose, I can see the “101” different ways of wearing it and LOVE how I feel in it.
Buying clothes can be an interesting touch point for women (and increasingly, men!) at the intersection of body image and self-care. But you have a really empowering message around getting dressed…can you share that with us?
I don’t know many places where we can enjoy life 24/7 in our birthday suits so in the meantime I’m all about choosing the next best thing: clothing that makes me feel good. What I love about this filter for “feeling good” is it’s unique for everyone. It can be the rise of a pant, the feel of a certain kind of fabric, the fit of a shirt or a color.
The filter can even have more depth than what is seen by the eye. Maybe it’s knowing that the item was ethically and sustainably manufactured or having personally met the maker. At the root of it, it’s taking the time to tune into our own opinions over others for how we choose to clothe our distinct selves.
What are some ways that conscious, fashion-forward humans can indulge both of their desires?
The saying “enjoy responsibly” is one I’ve come to apply to clothing. Being conscious doesn’t mean I’m not exploring trends or satisfying my wants, it’s just done with more thought these days. If there are pieces that I can style for a trend and are already in my closet, (tip: trends cycle so yes, it’s probably is in my closet) I’ll try it. If they aren’t, I reflect on whether it’s a necessary purchase and one I’ll still love even after its Instagram moment has passed.
I’d also define for myself what it means to be “fashion-forward” and play within that. I’ve done the “latest and greatest” and the experience left me more at at odds with my wardrobe, which is a stark contrast to now where I love every item I have.
As an entrepreneur, are there any self-care rituals that you use to restore and re-energize?
Journaling or drawing for at least 10 minutes a day has been really helpful in calming my mind when I’m stressed.
Deleting the Instagram app off my phone for a few hours or days at a time is also something else I actively practice when I’m feeling overwhelmed by news.
For the holidays, what’s on your wish list…and what do you recommend we consider for our wish lists for a more sustainable season?
The older I get, the smaller my wish lists look. I’ve also noticed that my wants have become less tangible. It’s wanting good health, time…that sort of thing.
My tips for a more sustainable season: give moments. Memories 100% outlast things.
To learn more about Elim, visit her website or her Instagram feed.