Maddie Gubernick: Replacing Fast Fashion with Slow Shopping
Hi everyone, Spiffy here, your one and only interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth. I’m thrilled to be talking to an entrepreneur working to make the world a better place. Please welcome Maddie Gubernick, co-founder of the start-up, The Butterfly Club. Are you ready to be enlightened?
Spiffy: Well Maddie, I’m super curious to hear all about The Butterfly Club! Can you tell me what it is, and what challenge you’re tackling?
Maddie: I’d love to Spiffy! At The Butterfly Club, we're focused on reducing endless and meaningless consumption. We believe that shopping can be a powerful vehicle for voting with our dollars. We work to empower consumers to shop more sustainably by supporting small brands and businesses that are creating beautiful, one-of-a-kind products, designed with people and the planet in mind. If we all shop slow, we have the opportunity to turn consumerism into a force for good.
Spiffy: Slow shopping versus fast fashion — I’m starting to get the idea! What exactly motivated you to focus on this?
Maddie: I’ve always loved fashion. As a kid, I would put together the loudest outfits I could imagine, pairing stripes with polka dots, and bright pinks with neon yellows. I loved looking like no one else, and I loved that no one else looked like me. As I got older, I fell into the trap of fast fashion and lost my sense of personal style. With the hope of finding the spirit I had as a little girl, I wanted to create a space that celebrated individuality, while supporting small and sustainable brands.
Spiffy: I can see that spirit shining through! Can you tell me how you and The Butterfly Club are working to create a more equitable world?
Maddie: Well, Spiffy, every brand we feature is evaluated using a metric we designed for ensuring sustainability. The metric favors brands that are owned and operated by minorities, utilize recycled materials, are engaged in their local community, and consider people and the planet as stakeholders. By creating a sustainable marketplace, we’re empowering consumers to shop their values. From racial injustice to climate change, there is a range of issues tied to consumerism that can be tackled by more informed spending.
Spiffy: I had no idea! This sounds so crucial to the future of consumerism. Could you tell me about any recent milestones that you’ve reached?
Maddie: For much of 2020, The Butterfly Club was just a blog. We used our website to feature small and sustainable brands who passed our metric. In November, we had the opportunity to open our first brick-and-mortar retail location in NYC. This milestone has not only had a tremendous impact on our business but also on our growing community of conscious consumers. Our store has given us the chance to engage with customers in a way unlike before. We have made huge strides in our mission of empowering consumers to shop slow.
The Butterfly Club’s General Store, in New York City. (Image courtesy of Maddie Gubernick)
Spiffy: I always need to ask, have you had an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up?
Maddie: Definitely, Spiffy! When I first opened the General Store, there was a weekend where I didn’t have a single sale. I felt unbelievably defeated and was worried that the huge leap of faith I had just taken to open a retail space during a global pandemic was a massive mistake. After a moment of panic, I did my best to remind myself why I had set out to do this in the first place. I promised myself that I wouldn’t let sales determine my success, and I would remember that my impact wouldn’t always be quantifiable by dollars.
Spiffy: That's amazing, Maddie! One more question: I believe you can learn from anyone and I love lessons from kids. Do you have any lessons you’ve learned from kids lately?
Maddie: A few weeks ago, a family visited the store. The 10-year-old girl was excited to find a hand-sewn top, as she had just learned how to sew and wanted to start making clothing herself. While speaking with the family, it became clear to me that the kids of the next generation are going to be the most responsible consumers and creators. To me, this girl symbolized an entire era of consumers who want to make and fix, as opposed to shop and discard, and it gave me hope.
Spiffy: That’s the kind of hope we all need right now. Thanks for taking the time to share your experience, Maddie. I, for one, am inspired!
Maddie Gubernick is the co-founder of The Butterfly Club, a community of conscious consumers and small business leaders. Her work is focused on sustainability and entrepreneurship. (Nominated by ImpactHub NY)
© 2020 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Jill Landis Jha. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s stories of founders building a more equitable world at www.ladderworks.co/blogs/spiffys-blog