One of the main themes of a conscious closets lifestyle for me is the joy that comes with every piece of clothing I wear on a daily basis. There is joy in knowing that all of the people behind the garment are truly excited about all the little details that go into creating it. From the design, to weaving the threads, to creating the prints — that joy certainly rubs off on me when I finally get to wear it.
The stories behind makers are always so fascinating. So when I got the opportunity to sit down with Symbology Clothing founder Marissa Heyl, I was reminded of the joy of story once again. I am super excited to share her story with you, and also some of beautiful dresses she has created for summer and fall. I think the joy in wearing them is quite apparent. Take a look!
Johanna: Marissa, what prompted to you start Symbology. Give me the history.
Marissa: It started back in high school when I visited a 10,000 Villages store in Raleigh, where I’m from. I fell in love with these beautiful textiles, scarves, and jewelry they carried. That’s when I first learned about fair trade and read about how these women could support their families because of what they made from selling these items. Figuring out how to use my fashion habits for the greater good was a very intriguing thing for me.
A few years later, I ended up going to India and visited with some amazing artisan groups and saw the incredibly transformative power that fair trade can have. I also just loved the textiles and envisioned using my passion for fashion design with human rights, especially women’s rights.
Johanna: That’s awesome. What does Symbology mean and how did you come up with that name?
Marissa: Symbology is celebrating our shared humanity. It comes across through our motif or symbol that is at the center of every collection. I decided to design the brand aesthetic around the fact that through my trips to India and SE Asia, Africa, and South America, I saw a lot of overlap among those disparate cultures. They had shared symbols that also had shared meanings, even though they had never come in contact. And I think that just speaks to the humanness that we all have shared desires, hopes, and aspirations.
Johanna: I love that.
In a time where it feels like there are a lot of fractures in our different cultures, Symbology means, for me, our connectedness. Symbology celebrates all that we have in common, but it does it in a unique and beautiful way through your design.
I talk a lot on Conscious Closets about the Marie Kondo method of wearing only things that bring us joy. What we wear during the day often reflects who we are or how we feel on the inside. Knowing that an article of clothing enslaved someone, or did massive damage to the earth, sucks an element of joy from me if I wear it. So, what I love so much about your dresses and design is not only that they are stunning, but knowing they are empowering women is really cool.
Marissa: It’s also pretty distinctive, it can be challenging in terms of saleability. But it’s a statement piece when you wear a Symbology dress or top. And you are making a statement in more ways than one. It’s almost like a conversation piece. If you wear a Symbology dress to a party, it will start a conversation for sure.
In a time where it feels like there are a lot of fractures in our different cultures, Symbology means, for me, our connectedness.
Johanna: I felt very joyful when I wore your dresses. I didn’t want to take them off. And it does start a conversation.
When someone stops me to ask about my dress, then I get to talk about how it was ethically made and why I love it. Which brings me to my next question. I get push back quite a bit from people who think starting a conscious closet is just too hard. It’s too expensive, or they just don’t want to wait for the clothes, they want their clothes now. What would be your advice to someone as a first step to making the change to a more conscious closet?
Marissa: Ask questions when you do go shopping when you’re at a place like the mall. That helps get the conversation going. Ask them if they know what the factories are like or where the fabrics came from. There are also so many more great resources online like your blog (Conscious Closets) or The Good Trade, that help us brands get the exposure we need.
But it comes down to picking a few pieces that are investment pieces, styling them in different ways, and then showing people how you can take one piece like a tunic or something and make it more versatile. For me, I love the funky prints, but I definitely think about the longevity of the pieces I design. I just don’t want to design another black top. There are great companies making basics, like Elegantees, but Symbology provides something different.
If you want that special dress to wear to a party, a wedding, or a special occasion, then that’s what we provide. But you do have to be more intentional because we just aren’t as visible. You have to look for us. And you do have to plan. It’s a shift to taking things more slowly.
Johanna: You are about to launch your fall line. Do you have a favorite piece?
Marissa: We are playing a lot with sheer for this collection. I really like our symbol, and I’m excited because it’s our strongest collection to date. It’s a celestial theme which, in so many cultures, carries this meaning of the divine, of a celestial mother goddess, and that’s what we wanted to show. I like the black dress that you love and are wearing. And it’s also cool that star prints and sheer fabrics are on trend this fall, so that really works well.
To shop Symbology for yourself and to find out more, check out Marissa’s shop and follow on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Images via Brian Tropiano