14/01/2012

Coffee and Heels People: Ginger Burr, Total Image Consultants

I am so excited to present the first-ever Coffee and Heels interview!

For some time now, I've been looking for interesting people in the fashion industry that are setting new standards and promoting a more compassionate lifestyle, and Ginger Burr certainly does that. A stylist and image consultant, Ginger has dedicated her life to helping women find their own style and express their personality through fashion. She launched Total Image Consultants in 1987 and has since then helped many women (brides-to-be and transgender clients among them) to communicate through style.

One interesting thing about Ginger is that she's one of the world's very few vegan stylists (in fact, I haven't heard of any others. If you have, let me know!). This was of course the part I wanted to focus on when I interviewed her:





  1. How did you decide to become a vegan stylist?

I actually became a fashion stylist first (25 years ago!) and the vegan came later – about 6+ years ago. I haven’t eaten red meat for 30 years but believe it or not, no one had ever told me what it meant to be vegan. If they had I would have done it in a heartbeat. Instead I happened upon the information when I was doing some research about where our food comes from. What I learned horrified me!

For instance, I had purposely never eaten veal but I did eat dairy. And, when I learned that eating dairy contributes directly to the veal industry I was so upset! All those years I had been sending veal calves to slaughter by eating cheese and ice cream, etc. I pretty much went vegan on the spot. I could no more have put another morsel of dairy in my mouth than slaughter the calf myself. It was just not an option to keep doing what I had been doing.

So, how does this all relate to being a vegan stylist? Well, because my career is in the fashion industry and because I knew that being vegan was more than just what I eat, I realized that I needed to approach all aspects of my life from a compassionate perspective. That meant no longer wearing leather, wool, silk, or down (and I had never worn fur, so that was not an issue at all). Surprisingly, with the exception of my leather shoes and handbags, most of the wardrobe was already cruelty-free.

Then, I knew, in order to be true to my values and live my life with integrity I had to incorporate what I had learned into my business as well. Are all my clients vegan? No. Not by a long shot. Are more and more of my clients leaning in that direction, welcoming information about what it means to dress with compassion and even thanking me for educating them about stylish vegan alternatives that no animal had to suffer and die for? Yes!


  1. Who are your vegan clients? Where do they shop, what do they do, how old are they?

The majority of my clients (all women) are over 40. They are a segment of the population that has been unabashedly ignored by the fashion designers and are feeling lost. This is true for my vegan clients as well as my non-vegan clients. My vegan clients shop in all the same stores that non-vegans shop – that’s part of the beauty of it.

Nearly every store has vegan options. What surprises me is that people are surprised to hear this. They think that “vegan” clothes are made out of some bizarre fabrics but the truth is that everyone has cruelty-free garments in their wardrobes – often many more than they would imagine. It is often a surprise for them to learn that fabrics like cotton, nylon, rayon, modal, linen, etc. are all free of animal ingredients and as a result are vegan-friendly.


  1. How do you work with them? Describe the process of creating a vegan wardrobe.

The process of creating a vegan wardrobe is the same as creating a wardrobe and personal style for anyone – it’s just that we then pay very close attention to fabric content when we are shopping.

My focus with all of my clients is first to look at who they are at a deep level – what makes them special – and then help them understand how to reflect that in the clothing choices they make. In addition, color is critical as is fit and learning how to complete an outfit in a way that feels beautiful to them.

The learning curve for each person is different. When you add in the cruelty-free aspect it just means taking a little more time and looking closely at what something is made of to be sure no animals were used. It becomes second nature after a short time.

And, when the going gets tough and you can’t find the right non-leather handbag or you fall in love with a pair of fancy leather shoes, just reminding yourself of ‘why’ you are doing it – to alleviate animal suffering – will keep you from “cheating.” That’s what did it for me. The thought that my cheating would cause unimaginable pain to another being was enough to encourage me to keep looking for a cruelty-free option.


  1. What do you think about the future of vegan fashion? Does it look bright?

Oh, yes. Absolutely! When I became vegan just over 6 years ago there were so many fewer options. Non-leather shoes and handbags were harder to come by, and now there are so many options everywhere at every price point. It’s amazing and so heartening. More and more of my clients are saying…”I’d rather not buy a winter coat made of down.” Or, “Could you recommend a fun handbag that isn’t leather?” It is clear, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this is our future. Sure, it might take a while, but with each person who expresses this desire to purchase clothing and accessories that are free from animal cruelty, we get one step closer, and that’s what it’s all about.


  1. What are some must-have pieces for a good vegan wardrobe?

I think any wardrobe needs great boots (vegan, of course!), well-fitting jeans and an awesome trench coat (thankfully, both jeans and many trench coats are made out of vegan-friendly fabrics). People can also get my special list of: “10 Elegant Essentials to Complete Your Wardrobe” when they subscribe to my nurturing beauty newsletter here: http://www.totalimageconsultants.com/subscribe.shtml


  1. Do you have any tips on where to shop cruelty-free fashion?

The good news is that nearly every store (except specialty leather stores or wool sweater stores) have vegan options all the time. So, whether you shop at a department store, specialty store or on-line there are plenty of great options and it’s growing!


  1. Do you have any advice for someone who wants to become a vegan stylist?

We definitely need more stylists who have an awareness and consciousness about how much animals suffer in the name of fashion. The more we can spread the word, the more people will learn about the atrocities that are committed so they can have a special pair of shoes or a coat.

My advice, is become a great stylist – understand your market and what they want, get great training in the basics of fashion and style and keep your message clear. Don’t worry about offending non-vegans. I’ve learned that many people want to know more about compassionate dressing – they just didn’t know it was something they needed to think about. And, when it is shared in a kind way they are thankful.





I think that the fashion world definitely needs more people like Ginger. . She has mastered what many of us cruelty-free fashionistas for a long time thought was impossible: proving that stylish and cruelty-free could go together. To me, it's so amazing to read that even her non-vegan clients are gaining interest in a compassionate style (and lifestyle) thanks to her. That's truly inspiring! 

5 comments:

  1. Grym intervju! Intressant och inspirerande! Bra jobbat :)

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  2. Sofie: tack! Var jättekul att intervjua henne, hon var så¨trevlig.

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  3. Great interview! & I totally agree, there needs to be more cruelty-free designers and brands out there!


    The Urban Umbrella
    xoxo


    http://urbanumbrella.blogspot.com/

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  4. Wow, this sounds so cool :) What a great interview. Congrats on it being your first. It was very informative and interesting. Great questions (and answers!) I'd never heard of a vegan stylist before.

    Love & Cake,
    Amber

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  5. Thank you Amber! Neither have I, this is why I wanted to talk to Ginger. She's really nice and I think she gave very good answers!

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