Who: Stephanie Hepburn
Artist’s chosen location for Interview: Rue de la Course (1140 S. Carrollton)
Q: What is something you always feel entangled with even if it is not part of your everyday life?
A: Sustainability. Sustainability touches every aspect of my life, both professionally and personally. It can mean that I go for a run because it’s healthy and can help sustain me (these decisions impact our short-term and long-term sustainability) or it can be that I (try to) put my kids to sleep early because I need their bodies to sustain them throughout the next day. Sustainability also has vast cultural and global implications.
Something I found really interesting when I decided to open Good Cloth is that when people thought about sustainability, their initial reaction was to think about the environment. There are word associations that we make throughout our lives. When people hear the word ‘sustainability’ they often also hear ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘green.’
When I think about sustainability, yes, I think about the environment, and I also think about people. When it comes to Good Cloth, I often think about the relationship between marginalized groups and globalization. There are cultures that have been preserved for hundreds of years and with globalization taking so much precedence in our lives we want to make sure that we sustain those cultures. I also think about the sustainability of women, specifically artisans and designers. Through Good Cloth, I aim to help women attain financial independence and work to close persistent gender gaps in leadership, design, and science. Yes, there is science in fashion!
I often think about sustainability within our own culture as well – what we can and cannot sustain. We put such an emphasis on production in the U.S. We are constantly go go go go go, and we focus on how much we can cram in a single day. A lot of the times, that’s how I measure my own success, and I don’t think that’s sustainable.
Q: Whose words do you often find give you clarity?
A: My kids. They are so succinct and direct. There is no song and dance with them or caution. They say exactly what they mean, which I find so incredibly refreshing.
When people are like that as adults I think they’re jerks [laughing], but when kids are like that I love it. I, and society, give them so much more leeway.
They also think about things in a very unfiltered way, so it doesn’t have judgment. That’s the difference between kids acting so bluntly vs. adults. Even when adults don’t mean to have that judgment or even when they don’t have it, we as listeners perceive there to be judgment because of our past experiences. As kids, we don’t have that.
My kids are constantly giving me clarity and perspective when I need it most.
Q: What’s your take on humans, privacy, and connection?
A: I think that’s one I’m still navigating. I’m one of those people that’s both an introvert and extrovert. It all depends on the situation as well as my mood. If I’m in a writing mode, I’m going to isolate myself because I need to be in a different space.
There are these times when you have to disengage in order to engage. When I’m in the writing zone, I don’t want anyone near me; yet, my intent is to connect to my audience, so in this strange way people are still present.
On top of that, so much is in the public now. We have social media, which is this weird sphere where we’re so public without even realizing it. When you’re running a company you have to be a bit more public. My personal Facebook wall is more candid than the one for my business, but both tug on the same thread—the social media world prompts us to share some of our private moments, and yet, as users, we want to ensure that we keep our private lives private.
It raises the question, ‘Who are these people who are reading our information?’ They can be associations of associations. You don’t really know them, and that concept of safety has been mutated. We feel really safe with social media, and then something happens and we’re shocked. It feels like a private sphere, and it’s far from it.
Q: When do you feel like you’re on the right track?
A: I wish I could say I have a strong gut instinct about the right choice or decision, whether big, small, or cumulative. My gut instinct is often enmeshed with a strong desire to please people, which is often my internal measure of success. ‘Do people like it? Do people like me?’ I am a people pleaser to the max. I am also someone who does whatever I want to do. Obviously, that’s a strong contradiction. [Laughing].
I want to say what I want to say – and do what I want to do – and still have people like me. That doesn’t always work out.
There are times when I feel very strongly about something, and I’m going to say it. There are going to be people that don’t like me for saying it, and that also applies to what I do. I have a very strong ethical compass that is completely my own – it is not to judge anyone else – and that doesn’t always jive with everyone else’s lives. Although I try to actively not judge others, I’m frequently worried that I’m being judged by others.
Sometimes sticking with my instinct sounds great, but it’s often entangled with my other personal quirks.
Q: What’s the thing on your to-do list that never gets done, but always goes on your next to-do list.
A: Historically that has been self-care. That is changing, though, because after awhile your body demands self-care. I tend to put my physical self on the back burner. I think back to the time when I was writing my book about human trafficking. It took six years to write, and during that time I also had a daughter. While that was going on, my priorities were my family and my book, but not really me. Then I had my son about three years ago and launched Good Cloth when he was a year old. Family and work took priority, so I didn’t etch out that essential space for me-time. I’m an extension of my family, of course, but I didn’t specifically take care of myself.
In order to take care of your life, you have to make self-care a priority, and I didn’t. I don’t know if I was too tired or it’s that I felt guilty about prioritizing myself – a common issue in so many women’s lives, regardless if they have children or not – but that was always on my to-do list, and that is always something I moved to the next day.
That’s not the case anymore. Even if it’s 10:00 p.m., I will do something for myself – whether that’s yoga or reading or having some quiet time. Whatever I need during that day, I make sure that I take the time for that.
You can check out Stephanie Hepburn’s shop, Good Cloth online, and you can also follow her on Instagram and Facebook. You can also check out her books: Human Trafficking Around the World: Hidden In Plain Sight, and Conversation with my Daughter about Human Trafficking.