Q+A: Juliana Diez Barroso Pérez

Q+A: Juliana Diez Barroso Pérez

Posted by Danielle Campbell on

So Jules, tell us a little about you.

I’m Juliana Diez Barroso Pérez. I'm the founder and owner of Curate, an online boutique focused on eco-conscious and ethical fashion. I was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, a small city on the border of Texas and Mexico. I'm a bilingual Mexican American and proud. I graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Public Relations and then earned my master's degree in Business Analytics from Southern Methodist University. After graduating, I worked in advertising for about a year before starting Curate. I love traveling and definitely consider myself a foodie. On evenings and weekends, you can either find me in the kitchen, cooking with my husband, or at the art studio, learning how to create ceramics.

How did your interest in fashion and business start?

Fashion and business have always been a big part of my life. My mom is an artist and total fashionista, and my dad is an entrepreneur and businessman. Growing up, I was constantly looking up to them and fusing the two. Looking back at my childhood and early adulthood, I can see how both their career paths intertwined and led me to my own path. For as long as I can remember, I always dreamed of working for a big fashion brand or magazine. I have pictures from when I was little where I put all my shoes out on the floor and took photos of them just for fun. I even tried fashion blogging for a while in college. Safe to say, I’ve always loved fashion.

As far as business, I remember being really interested in my dad's business calls. I would always eavesdrop and wait until he hung up so that I could ask him all about it. I was really curious about how things worked, how decisions were made, and how a business ran. I liked the idea of being able to create something and then share it with others.

What about the intersection of sustainability and fashion? How did that begin?

The first time I learned about sustainability and the impact of human behavior on the environment was when I took a course at UT Austin called Communicating Sustainability. The class was focused on what sustainability is and how to communicate environmental initiatives by utilizing public relations and advertising tools. During and after the course, I implemented eco-friendly practices into my daily lifestyle, but it was all pretty basic. I recycled when I remembered, I tried eating less meat, taking quicker showers, and creating less waste, but it just didn't seem like enough. I couldn’t get the questions out of my head: "What can I do to implement more eco-friendly habits into my daily routine? I know that I recycle and use less plastic, but what more can I do?"

And then it hit me. I thought, "What about my clothes? Where is it coming from? How is my clothing impacting the planet?" I dug deeper and learned more about eco-friendly brands, clothing manufacturing processes, the fast fashion industry, the amount of waste created by the production of clothing, etc., and I quickly realized the massive negative impact of the fashion industry on the environment. I knew that I wanted to start shopping more consciously and evaluate a brand's ethics before making a purchase, but it turned out that the idea seemed easier than it actually was.

And that's when the idea for Curate was born.

Yes. After graduating from SMU’s master’s program and working in the advertising industry, I realized I had an itch to create something of my own. I kept coming back to the idea of sustainable and eco-friendly clothing. I wanted to build a responsible wardrobe, so I started doing a bunch of research on slow fashion brands and where to buy eco-friendly clothing.

The more research I did, the more I realized it was really hard to find one place where I could shop from a bunch of environmentally and ethically responsible brands. I found a few online stores that offered this, but not many that suited my style, needs, and price point. The clothing was either not stylish enough or crazy expensive, making it difficult to shop at just one store. That's where the idea for Curate came from. I wanted to create a place that offered fun and stylish clothing that was made with the Earth and people in mind.

What is Curate's mission? How about core values?

Curate's mission is to provide a one-stop-shop where people can find multiple eco-friendly and ethical clothing and accessories brands. We want to make it easy to shop for a responsible wardrobe. Our core pillars are made up of the following: 1. sustainable practices, 2. ethical labor, and 3. giving back to Mother Earth. With us being an online-only boutique, it’s important that our packaging and shipping materials are made with recycled and/or eco-friendly materials. We’re also very excited about our partnership with One Tree Planted, where we donate one tree to be planted with every order. Since our launch in September of 2020, we've donated over 300 trees.

How do you choose which brands to carry?

A lot of research goes into selecting the brands that we partner with at Curate. Each brand is thoughtfully hand-selected based on how their values and business practices align with ours. We make sure they implement either of the following into their clothing production: ethical labor or ethical labor and eco-friendly practices. We look into each brand's standards and procedures – what exactly they do to create their garments sustainably, and how they keep the earth and people in mind. We also utilize sources like Good On You, The Good Trade, Conscious Fashion Collective, and various eco-conscious lifestyle and fashion bloggers to discover new brands.

What are some of the processes and/or standards that Curate’s brand partners practice?

All of the pieces we carry are made with ethical labor practices. The brands we've partnered with are committed to paying their employees a living wage and providing safe and ethical working conditions. The majority of the brands that we carry participate in various sustainable practices when it comes to the fabrics, dyes, and processes used to create their items, like using recycled materials, reducing their water usage, recycling water and cleaning it before reintroducing it to drain systems, eliminating the use of toxic chemicals, utilizing a low waste design process, limiting fabric waste, producing garments in a wind-powered factory, donating to organizations that support green initiatives, and much more.

I feel like some people might be used to buying clothes at a lower price point. What is the reason for Curate's pieces having a bit of a higher price point?

This is a really good point. Most consumers are used to lower prices when shopping for clothing than what they'll see at most eco-friendly/sustainably-made clothing stores and brands. Most fast fashion brands use manufacturing practices that ignore environmental and ethical standards, like fabric waste, water pollution, use of harmful chemicals, and cheap and unethical labor. This helps them keep their costs low, but typically, it comes at the price of our communities and environmental resources.

When these companies produce in mass quantities, it can result in a vast number of garments that are produced but never sold. Eventually, these pieces end up in landfills, going to waste. In order to produce clothing more cost-effectively, companies also opt for cheaper materials and fabric dyes, which can then result in toxic chemicals being pushed into our water systems, which then affects our water supply, and therefore the environment in general. Another major part of why the typical consumer has become so accustomed to inexpensive clothing is because a lot of these companies produce their clothing in factories that do not enforce strict and safe labor standards and/or a living wage to their workers, which is how they are able to produce garments at such low labor costs.

At Curate, because we partner with ethical and eco-friendly brands, this results in a higher price point. The brands we partner with pay their workers living and fair wages. They are mindful of their impact on the environment and utilize sustainable production practices. Because these practices require more effort and care, they result in a higher price point as well. 

What would you say to someone thinks sustainable and ethical fashion tends to be boring or unexciting?

I would say NO WAY! I think this notion of sustainable and ethical fashion being boring is totally false. Once you dive deep into the world of responsible fashion, you'll soon see there are so many brands and so many styles to choose from. Check out our variety of garments, and you'll see that sustainable and ethical fashion is just as—and I would argue even more—exciting than fast fashion. It’s more exciting because it has the added element of being created with more heart and mind for the Earth and its people than brands that are only concerned with making a profit. There are so many brands out there now that produce amazingly beautiful eco-conscious and responsibly made pieces that span all types of styles. From everyday basics to loud, statement pieces and everything in between. It makes me really happy to know that the world of slow fashion is growing more and more and so many talented designers and brands are getting involved in this movement. It makes your clothing choices so much more diverse and fun.

Are there any trends you’re particularly excited about for the upcoming fall and winters season?

I am OBSESSED with the preppy/collegiate style that's been all over the place. I had a really preppy stage growing up where all I wanted to wear was collared shirts, so this trend speaks to my inner preppy girl. I love the crisp and clean look of it, but also love the effortless look of pairing jeans with a white collared button up underneath a sweater and some loafers. Add a coffee in my hand (in a sustainable, reusable mug of course) and insert me walking down the streets of New Yorksuch a chic, boss babe moment. On the other hand, I also am really into pairing baggy pieces with chunky boots—think boot-cut jeans, an oversized, baggy sweater like the Sona Knit Sweater by Jan N' June and some platform boots. This is what I love about fashion—your style doesn't have to fit into a perfect box. You can go preppy one day and more relaxed the next. I'm super excited to tap into these trends with Curate's pieces with our Fall Edit!

Jules wears the Sona Knit Sweater in Griege

What are your hopes and dreams for the future of Curate? And what about the world of sustainable and ethical fashion in general?

My dream is for Curate to become a go-to shop for people looking for responsibly-made clothing. I'd love to expand Curate into multiple categories, like men's, children's, and beauty. We do have a big addition coming to Curate that's currently in the works, so you'll have to stay tuned to see what that's going to be! I'd also like to learn more about and get involved in clothing design and eventually introduce our own Curate line someday.

I'd also like to see it be commonplace for more brands and designers to embrace sustainable materials and practices and commit to ethical labor standards. However, my biggest hope for the world of sustainable and ethical fashion is simply creating more awareness and providing education on the topic in general. In my personal experience, not a lot of people really know about sustainable or ethical fashion is, so the more people we can expose slow fashion to, the better.

The future of slow fashion and our affect on the environment is really up to all of us. The more we can educate ourselves and those around us on how to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle, the more we can create a positive change in our lives and help protect the planet we live on.

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