In Her Clutches is a regular feature where we spotlight women who inspire us. In Her Clutches = In Her Bag. What is she in control of? What does she have on lock?
I've known Mariam Sarkis since we were in elementary school. As adults, I've watched and admired her journey grow as a creative entrepreneur. To me, she's a real fashion OG. Literally! Her style is unmatched. She also has a big heart, and she cares about people, social impact, and worldly issues. To know her is to adore her!
Name: Mariam Sarkis
Business name: stylesbymariam vintage
Title/Role: Founder, Curator, CEO
In business since: 2015
Location: Markham, Ontario, Canada
What inspired you to start your business?
Honestly, I wasn't looking at the time to start a business. I began collecting vintage and unique finds and realized I enjoyed searching for new gems and just had the desire to share them with others, so I started selling them.
How do you balance home life, work life, and your fashion business?
Finding a balance is tough if fashion is your side hustle. Carving that time out of a busy schedule can be difficult, but I recognize that it's in my court, and the choice is mine! Right now, it's something I do as a passion project when I have time or a new idea. And I’m okay with that. The best way for me to really get the most from my business at the moment is doing pop ups when I can where I'm able to meet new clients. With Covid that has taken a bit of a turn, but in the summer when outdoor markets are a bit safer, you’ll definitely be seeing me at a couple of markets.
What was your all-time favourite vintage find?
This one is really hard because I honestly love so many different things, from very flamboyant, colorful and fun, to very minimal and practical. I guess my favorite pieces are the ones where I've seen or felt the client was so excited about the purchase. That happened a few times with more of my unique pieces such as a neon printed housecoat/jacket, and a Versace Jeans orange tweed pleated mini skirt. My favorite find for myself is my maxi crochet dress from Gadabout in Toronto.
What was the most fulfilling collaboration you’ve worked on?
I've recently worked with Janielle McKoy who is a trailblazer in the Toronto fashion scene - she works for City Line as the fashion expert and has been gracious enough to feature my pieces and shop on the show. We did a photoshoot as well which was really fun and rewarding, but she's also just been so helpful and has taken the extra step to advise me since she has more experience, even though she doesn't have to. I appreciate her a lot!
What was the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself as a business owner?
I think the most important thing I've learned is that it's never just about the business. Having a business and doing something I truly care about is just a small piece of the pie. For me, my business will be meaningful to me if it's a vessel for action and change in whatever form that is, like donating portions of my sales to causes that I care deeply for. My goals are not always aligned with the business itself, but rather what I can do to make a difference in the lives of others. How will I and my business be remembered, besides the clothes? In the current state of the world we live in, I think that is something that is more important to me than the business.
How can we be responsible fashion consumers?
This one is hard because I try to be sustainable but we all get tempted, right? But honestly I believe we can all be more responsible fashion consumers by just slowing down our consumption. IT'S HARD. Especially if you are like me and get bored after 4 seconds. Still, I do tend to think hard about purchases I make and ask myself some questions such as: is the item practical? Will I get bored of it quickly? Is it comfortable? Will it fill a gap in my wardrobe? Do I need this item? Is it interesting?
What do you currently have in your clutches? (ie: What are you in control of in your life right now as a woman and business owner?)
Life is hard. There is very little that is easy about it. I try to tell myself that everyone who has succeeded at building something did not do so without challenges, business or personal. For the most part, it's up to you to overcome said obstacles and take whatever control you can. Carving out time, thinking about next steps, and setting goals are all in my control. There are definitely external factors that can come in to play at any time that can take control away, but there are ways around most problems. To me control means "what can I do with what I have"? At the very least, I have control over my vision, my ideas about what I want from my business, and my life goals.
What is the future of fashion?
I truly do believe the future of fashion is small, local, upcycled, handmade, secondhand, and vintage. The reality is there is too much going to landfill right now, and too much going to developing nations (which stifles their own possibility for self actualization and economic prosperity). We have to shift the way we think about fashion as things you can just buy and donate later when we get bored. Unfortunately, it's not that simple. It is a fact that the fashion industry disproportionately impacts womxn of color (who make most of the clothes we wear), often under terrible working conditions and to the detriment of their own health and well being. Even if we replace 50% of our fast fashion purchases with sustainable/vintage/second hand/whatever, I think the global impacts would be huge. Swapping clothes with friends is a great way to freshen your wardrobe. I think so many avenues are already available; we just have to spend some time and look for them or organize them, before impulsively buying everything new.
I may not be one of the amazing people who knows how to make/design/upcycle anything, but I think the world is definitely moving in that direction. We kind of don't have a choice. Shop small. I know it's not easier than shopping at Zara; trust me. You have to research brands, sometimes (most times) they are online only, or they sell out in the most popular style(s), or sometimes it's just too expensive. Vintage and second hand have become more accessible than ever and are affordable options. I personally find it more fun, too! However, if you have the means to purchase sustainable brands, do it. They're so cool, and have such unique and interesting things about them and will always be a conversation piece as well. I know lots of brands are using recycled materials like water bottles and bamboo to make clothing. If that's not the future, I don't know what is!
(This interview was originally told to me in late 2020, and edited in March, 2021. Sorry, Mare, for taking so long to publish it on my blog!)
Feature image by Kei Scampa c/o Pexels
Blog image designed by Andrea Pascual