Ariana Whittingham interviews Stephanie Saxton for Ecocious
Founder and creative of Salty Sea, Salty Collective and Slowly Golden brands, Stephanie Saxton hasn’t been afraid to take a risk, or put in the hard work to make her dreams come true. At only eighteen she made the plunge to move from home in Canada to the other side of the globe to embark on her new life and many adventures in New Zealand. When Stephanie launched Salty Sea in 2018 she immediately made heads turn at NZ Fashion Week (that same year) and even left an impression on Youtube reaching over a million views!
The Salty Collective is Stephanie’s flagship store, located in her hometown Waihi Beach, in New Zealand. The Salty Collective has become a destination for customers wanting to shop conscious and ethical brands. This is why we had to join forces with Stephanie… “Slowly Golden” is the sister brand to Salty Sea. It was founded with the intention into how women meet their day and celebrates the slow moments that sweeten life when we pay attention. This beyond talented woman doesn’t stop there! Stephanie also designs uniforms for the New Zealand Woman’s Synchronized ice skating team for their international competitions and is also currently documenting a cabin build from start to finish with her partner Buddy Harwood. The couples three dogs, an overnight pack, and the ocean are never too far away.
Ariana: What does being sustainable mean to you personally? How did this influence your choices when creating the Slowly Golden Endless Summer collection?
As someone who has created a lifestyle that centres around celebrating time in nature... whether it’s hikes around New Zealand, being out on the boat with Buddy, or time at our local beach with our three dogs, I knew that whatever I created had to be about moving towards not only a mindset around sustainability, but sustainability in action too. I wanted what I wore on my adventures to be part of what keeps nature beautiful so I needed apparel that was made to last, from natural materials, and styles that were timeless. You can see this in how versatile Slowly Golden is with pieces that women actually want to wear, wear well, and wear often. Our favourite clothes are almost always determined by how they make us feel, so designing a range that moves through life with us (ideally at a slower pace) was an important sensation to evoke. It’s this concept that really captures sustainability to me because when we slow down a little we consider things a lot more, and we have the space to make decisions from a meaningful place that matches the values we have with how we show up in the world.
Ariana: Your products are designed in New Zealand and ethically hand-crafted in bail to create a sustainability process that champions women in enterprise. Please tell us a bit more about this and about your manufacturer and how different the conditions are to a fast fashion factory.
The best relationships in this industry are forged over many years because much of design is such a trial and error process. I’m so proud of what we’ve been able to create hand-in-hand with our manufacturers in Bali. We’ve tried to consider the entire process of creating a socially responsible brand and this had to start with the people (not just machines!) making the garments. We have been able to partner with a team who has created a production environment that means women can work from home and therefore be there for their families as well. Even our offcuts are made into comfy beds for the stray dogs in Bali. We also take our time to be really certain about what we are making so that the end product, tried and tested by real life wear, is one that is worthy of the time that goes into it. We also consider quantity of production, which is always a learning curve for any designing brands. We continue to work towards the concept of timeless pieces, that therefore don’t meet the traditional models of the fashion industry and go on sale to reduce overstocked items. We want our customers to ask more of their clothes than a single season. I truly believe that what we wear each and everyday shouldn’t be a mystery, and we continue to do the work to increase awareness about what sustainability really means.
Ariana: Your campaign is beautiful, tell us the story behind it and who you envision is the perfect "slowly golden" customer. What does this collection mean to you and what can we expect to see in the future from slowly golden?
I live and love an active lifestyle, and yet what I noticed was that it’s too easy to speed through life from one highlight to the next. As well as the grand adventures, there are so many moments of quiet joy in each day that I wanted to remind myself and others about. Those feelings of mindful moments that are equally important to how we take care for and connect with ourselves. Taking time to apply moisturiser, notice a sunset, enjoy a cup of coffee in the sun, a good book, all these mini moments are the golden pieces we miss if we don’t pay attention. Slowly Golden, an ode to moments of slowness and self, was about saying yes to more moments fully experienced. We wanted what women wore to enhance connection to nature through natural fibers and easy wear, and to be effortless so they can focus on the moment in front of them. The Endless Summer Collection has been so wonderfully received, and we loved capturing many moments during our 70’s inspired style shoot in a classic bach and beach setting. Slowly Golden is about women celebrating all the pieces that connect to make life full and meaningful, one sunrise and sunset at a time. Slowly Golden is such a sweet addition to my life, and continues to teach me about slowing down to take purposeful movement forward, sometimes a little messy, always surrounded by good friends, and making memories that last a lifetime.
Ariana: If someone reading this wanted to start making changes towards a more sustainable lifestyle what advice or tips would you give them on their journey?
Get curious! Start by considering what is important to you and how doing and having what you love may have either a positive or negative impact on the places you enjoy such as the beach, forests, even your own home. Pay attention to the clothes you do have and why you bought them, and of course, why you love your favourites. Sustainability is a lot about slowing down all the consumption we do in a fast-paced globalised world. By making what we do buy a lot more meaningful to us, and by being aware of the process of how it reaches
our wardrobes, we can make little changes that add up as we support brands making big changes too.