In celebration of Earth Day on April 22nd, we’re kicking off a month of talking about sustainability. Our Girl of the Month for April is Gaby Smith, co-founder of The UpCycle Project and sustainability thought-leader. Her Miami-based company raises awareness on the waste the global fashion industry creates through UpCycling and she’s already grown leaps and bounds in the short time since she launched. We caught up with Gaby, who is Miami-based, to talk about TUP’s mission, her personal style and being a female entrepreneur.
The UpCycle Project has some lofty but oh-so-important goals: “Our goal is that consumers, as well as designers, are attuned to the environmental impact and well-being of the people behind the clothes. In order to have the biggest influence, we felt it was necessary to create a program that exposed students to the unfortunate truths of the fashion industry by providing a hands-on experience because after all, sustainability starts with the designer.” In order to do this, The UpCycle Project partners with design schools like Miami Dade’s MFI and DASH high school by donating materials that are left behind, or fabrics that would have otherwise been discarded. Soon they’ll partner with the prestigious Milan’s Istituto Marangoni to do the same. Gaby says: “We invite established designers to provide mentorship through the creative process. These schools have all come together to disrupt the fashion industry and create collections that are sustainably sourced and ethically made.”
Gaby started The UpCycle Project in 2017 after becoming a mother—and her credentials are rock-solid. After getting an MBA from the University of Miami, she went to Estee Lauder to cut her teeth in a proverbial “corporate boot camp”, but she sees herself more as a serial entrepreneur. Gaby says: “Being an entrepreneur is exciting because I am doing what I love every day, but it also requires sacrifice and discipline to manage my time wisely and focus on things that are aligned to the overall strategy of the project. It has allowed me to meet spectacular creatives who inspire me to create something from nothing. The biggest reward comes from student testimonials to want to create fully sustainable collections.”
Gaby was born in the states but grew up in Venezuela, and she says her style was definitely influenced by her upbringing: “Growing up with two very fashion forward grandmothers, I developed a strong interest in using clothing as a form of expression. As I grew older I started to see my grandmothers’ closets as a “treasure chest” borrowing vintage designer bags and other accessories. I understood that to be stylish the things you wore or bought did not have to be new; the story behind the clothes always had a bigger impact on me.” We love what Gaby is working towards – she encapsulates perfectly what it means to be a Pitusa girl. Luckily for us, the feeling is mutual: “I am so grateful that Pitusa has an interest in raising awareness about sustainable fashion, it means the world to be featured as the April Girl of the Month and celebrate Earth Day Pitusa style!” And she loves our Pima Sundress, “I love how the fabric feels, and how the cut makes it sexy without showing too much. And for a day-to-night situation, she says: “Because I am always on the move, my office attire is pretty flexible, so the Salsa Skirt is perfect for a day of meetings followed by date night.”
Most of us have a hard time taking the first step to making real change: it can be overwhelming to commit to sustainability when it comes to fashion choices. We asked Gaby to give our Pitusa fam some tips to get started, “Most of us are petrified of change, so I suggest taking baby steps in creating a wardrobe full of stories and shopping with intention.”
Gaby’s 3 Tips to Help:
1. Don’t throw away “non-sustainable” clothes. After all, you already bought them and sending them to the landfill will only add to the problem. Instead, streamline your style by separating the clothes that you love, the clothes that you may wear soon and the clothes that you will never wear again (to take to a thrift store or local charity). Get creative shopping your closet.
2. Shop with intention. If you must add new pieces to your wardrobe make sure that the companies manufacturing them stand for what you believe in and focus on quality. When you shop, buy brands that stand for a specific category, such as:
• Sustainable Materials (organic, cruelty-free, carbon neutral, 3-D printed, mindful mining, upcycled, vintage)
• Ethically Made (fair wages, made in the USA, handmade, artisan/community support)
• Social Responsibility Funding (education, child slavery, human trafficking, social community projects, water, literacy, medical aid)
3. Love your clothes. Taking care of old and new clothes is key to increasing their longevity. Be mindful of how you are using the washing machine vs. hand-washing and stay away from the dryer. Hang dry as much as possible.
Our Girl of the Month Pop Quiz:
What’s your star sign? Scorpio to the bone.
Preferred workout? Barry’s Bootcamp Addict.
Style essentials? An organic cotton t-shirt, ripped jeans, and a silk scarf.
Favorite vacation destination/place in the world? Los Roques, Venezuela
Any morning rituals? Drinking a glass of water is the first thing I do when I get up.
Coffee, tea or smoothie? Coffee and more recently Matcha!
Any guilty pleasures? A love affair with Bacon!
Favorite charity? Best Buddies
Favorite cocktail? Bubbles, bubbles, bubbles!
Dress: Pitusa’s Pima Sundress
Jeans: J. Brand
Boots: Stewart Weitzman
Sunglasses: Warby Parker
Handbag: Vintage Dior
Jewelry: Mom’s and Grandma’s