An Interview with Jill Matthews - Sutton + Grove
1. The first thing that had me stop at your Instagram page was your photos and the color tones you use. Oh my oh, my! The second thing after perusing around was noticing that you blog about conscious fashion. Why did you start blogging about this niche?
My husband Luke and I started our blog Sutton + Grove out of a time of discovery. We both took a first-year course together in International Development a few years back and the things we learned about the history of the world economy, the imbalance within the global north and south (first world/third world) and the connection to consumer responsibility, really shook us and spoke to us both. It was then that we entered a serious discovery period; watching documentaries, finding inspiring organizations, socially good businesses and other people who were wanting to make shifts towards a more conscious lifestyle. It was during this time that we started our blog as a form of accountability to our journey and a place where we could learn about new brands, organizations and people that are making it their mission to do good and make changes in our beautiful world. It’s been a wonderful journey thus far, and we’re only getting started!
2. The name Sutton and Grove. How did you come up with that and what does it represent for you as a blog/blogger?
Well, Sutton ave (for luke) and Grove st (for myself) were where each of us lived on the east coast when we were first discovering ourselves, our hearts for others and wanting to contribute somehow to a global good. We didn’t know each other then, but this discovery period (we are always in discovery as you can tell ha) was done for each of us during the same year and area of the country more than ten years ago. When we started thinking of a name for our blog, it was fitting for us to use these geographical references to our past as a representation of discovery and coming together in a like-minded way. So it does have a personal meaning, however in general Sutton + Grove to us also represents self-discovery, greater purpose and meaning to individuals wherever you may be geographically, as well as the coming together and unity between us all! In a nutshell.
3. How many brands have you worked with and which type of brands do you lean more towards? e.g. clothing, accessories etc. or brands that give back versus ethically made.
Well, we started our blog winter of 2016 and since then have worked with probably over 50 brands or so. We started it with the intention to primarily promote ethical and sustainable fashion so mainly clothing and accessories since the fashion industry is something I’m very passionate about. However, we are hoping to expand our features to incorporate eco-travel since we are going on some travels that will take us around the Eastern hemisphere for quite some time. So definitely keep us on your radar and stay tuned to what we have in store starting this fall/ winter.
4. Who takes your pictures and how did you learn to curate your feed so well.?
We do all of our own photography, videography, editing and content creation. It’s a lot of work, but we love it! Personally, I’ve had a passion for photography and visual presentation since I was young. I learn through visuals, so visual storytelling has always been a way of expression for me. I’m always learning and growing and I’m constantly saving inspo pictures on IG or Pinterest, and discovering new muses that have great pages that inspire my feed. But it takes time, research and testing different looks to get my feed to where it is and our blog to look the way it does. One helpful tip: download an Instagram organizer or collage app to help plan out what your layout will look like before posting. I usually have at least three or four rows planned out on any given day and rearrange them with new content as I need to. That way I can make sure the overall looks stay consistent to my style and the pictures are laid out the way I want them to! I use Postvu but there’s a whole bunch of other apps out there if you just google them.
5. Do brands reach out to you based on your imagery and layout or because they know you?
I think it’s a little of both. I spend a lot of time on Instagram searching for new brands, liking and commenting on their pictures mainly for my own discovery. I often buy products and promote them because I just like them, and there have been a couple times where the relationship was built as a customer that turned into a collaboration with the brand. To me, if it’s all about finding work then it’s not authentic anymore. I want to get to know brands for myself and from that if a collaboration happens then great and if not, then I have a new brand and product that I can support as a conscious consumer. And the brands that do reach out to us, we spend time researching, asking questions and making sure their product fits with our style and branding too because we want to be as true about our reviews and sharings as we can!
6. Is there a particular company that you give back to? Do you consider your blog giving back and helping out? Reaching more audience and creating awareness for those brands you work with.
I think both my hubs and I would consider Sutton + Grove to be a business blog that is contributing to social and environmental good because of what we promote, support and write about. For us, there isn’t any one company that we give back to and support and we like it that way because the community and connections we’ve made with all the brands and organizations we have worked with or written about are doing great things in their own way. Being apart of a larger group makes me feel so much more connected to the world. And we hope to connect first hand with some of these businesses, artisans and organizations on our travels starting this fall as well so we can gain a closer connection to them.
7. Living a conscious lifestyle - for you, is that both internally and outwardly? How do you navigate this?
Totally both! When we were first trying to decide what description we wanted to give our blog, we were researching different terms like sustainable and ethical to find the right fit. Both of these terms were strong words that we align ourselves with but for us, we needed something that could be seen as almost an umbrella term to the rest. That’s when we decided on CONSCIOUS because it represents awareness from a mindset on the inside that will outwardly express through your actions. Our START HERE page on our blog is our attempt to answer the question related to this, ‘What is a Conscious Lifestyle’. For me, just doing something because it’s “right” isn’t enough and when you aren’t aware of why you are doing something, or what you are doing it for, making changes in your life won’t be authentic or even stick. It all starts with being aware of who we are, what we are doing and most importantly the impact we as individuals have on the world around us particularly when it comes to consumerism!
See for years we’ve been conditioned from history to think that doing good is directly helping the poor, doing good charity work overseas, providing for the local homeless, all the actions that make obvious differences. But what we often don’t recognize is that the world functions on a capitalist world system and a lot of the issues related to this need in the world come from years of exploitation of resources from the environment and human labor for capital gain, primarily for those in the global north (ie. North America, Australia, Europe, UK). So we can contribute and do good through helping the need that is obvious BUT we can also contribute to global good through consumerism.
If you watch the well-known documentary The True Cost, one of the factory managers in a sweatshop in Asia, explains that demand comes from consumers wanting lower priced items, which leads to a pressure on the company to accommodate, which leads to cutting costs in production which leads to lower wages for the workers.
This cycle starts and ends with the consumer. If we want lower priced items or quickly produced food, that’s what we get. But if we as consumers demand healthier products, transparency in manufacturing, sustainable practices implemented in businesses, fair wages for workers, then that’s what we’ll get. So the power is really on us, regular everyday consumers. That’s what moves me and challenges me because we as normal North Americans can help shift culture and make changes that affect a historically global imbalance right from our own wallets, computers, homes, and neighborhoods.
8. So your blog is not just a blog that features pictures of you in your outfits but it’s an actual resource for people. Can you explain this to us and why you wanted it to be this way?
It’s closely connected to the discovery of our own social and environmental responsibility as individuals and the power we have to speak up about it all and help others see how they can contribute to this change as well through conscious consumerism and intentional living. We are all global citizens in a great and beautiful world, and the closer we can get to seeing that we each have a part to play, encourages us to promote brands, write the stories of inspiring people and organizations that are doing their part and hopefully within it all inspire someone else who stumbles on our social channels or blog, to do the same. Luke and I may not inspire someone else, but maybe an organization that we spotlight or a blogger we interview might. That’s why we still like to share more than just our own experiences and lifestyle on the blog because you never know what will spark inspiration for someone!
9. As you know, our company connects the socially conscious consumer with brands that give back. What has your favorite story been when partnering with a brand/brands?
This is tough because I feel like everyone that we connect with has such a unique story as to why they came to where they are individually, and what sparked them to start the great businesses and brand they have now and how they connect with their consumers. But what I would say is that during the discovery period that got Sutton + Grove started, there were a few brands and organizations that inspired me immensely and I wrote a recent blog post featuring all of them that you can read here titled ‘9 NGOs & Ethical Brands I First Loved’.
10. What would you like to see more of as a conscious fashion and lifestyle blogger? Companies doing more good, being more open to giving back opportunities, bloggers talking more consciously etc etc.?
It’s all a journey, and I really love it when companies and bloggers are transparent about that. I grew up in a religious community and the one thing that I always had the hardest time with was how high the standards always felt to live such a noble, honest and upright life. We are all human, have our own flaws and journey to walk down and when we can allow each other the freedom to be open and honest about where we are at, instead of always attacking and putting others down for where we aren’t, then I think the world can be a good place to live in and change can happen. So I would say, I’d want to see more transparency within businesses (like Transparent Tuesdays from Everlane that they do on their Instagram story) to read more stories and reason for why people do what they do or brands are what they are (kickstarters are so inspiring for this reason) and to answer questions we as consumers have openly and honestly. To me, that’s where I believe greater shifts will take place for the good, as they already are!